rioflections

Musings and reflections on daily news and events in Rio de Janeiro

I predict a riot March 31, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — rioflections @ 11:07 am

RTE Radio One, March 30th 2014 - Audio at 09:40

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“Ever since it was announced that Brazil would host the soccer World Cup , there has been much speculation as to whether the south American giant could actually pull it off. Now with the clock ticking loudly, it’s still hard to call. 

With just over two months to spare, stadiums are not finished, and there are bulldozers everywhere. Airports have been ripped apart, and roads torn up – ten minute car journeys are now taking hours. Brazil is like a badly run building site.

Traditionally laid-back, Brazilians are  worried. The wave of street protests that exploded last year, bringing massive cities to a standstill, prey on the minds of city and state governments. The population is angry – too much cash is being spent on football stadiums, while hospitals and schools struggle to provide basic services.

 The Confederations Cup, a sort of mini World Cup hosted by Fifa last year was an unmitigated disaster, as millions took to the streets and violent clashes between protesters and police officers were beamed all around the world.

A report recently leaked to Brazilian media suggested major security concerns in half of the host cities. Here in Rio de Janeiro, where the World Cup final will be held, on July 13th, the report cited “a difficult relationship between public authorities and society.”

Public confidence in policing is at a record low here, as cases of brutality continue to ooze across social media. Just last week, a mother of four was caught in the crossfire between police and drugs traffickers in a favela in the north zone of Rio de Janeiro.

Leaving the scene, the woman’s body was seen dangling from the boot of a police car, suspended by a piece of clothing. She was dragged along for about 300m. According to the officers, they were bringing her to hospital, but she died along the way. Sadly, this is not unusual in Rio’s poorer communities, where death and disappearances at the hands of police are the norm. What made this case unusual was that someone filmed the scenes, which went viral online.

The UPP, a pacification project, which placed police in favela communities for the first time in decades is falling apart, with increasing attacks, as drugs traffickers attempt to reclaim territory. Many residents preferred when the teenagers with guns were in charge – at least they knew the rules.

Dissatisfied with policing, some groups are taking the law into their own hands. A homeless teenager who tried to rob a bike in a leafy neighbourhood recently, found himself stripped naked and tied to a post with a bicycle lock around his neck, by a vigilante group calling themselves the Justiceiros. Many applaud their actions. “A good thief is a dead thief”, they say.

And, to further complicate matters, many workers unions are threatening to drop tools during the World Cup. There’ll be no World Cup, they say. Last month, Rio’s bin-men went on strike during Carnaval. Rubbish piled high on Rio’s streets, while glamourous Samba dancers jistled their glittering costumes. Days later, the mayor conceded, and gave them a 37% pay increase. Now, everyone eles wants to follow suit.

Brazil hoped to capture the world’s attention, by hosting a World Cup, and Olympic Games within a two year period. But, now it looks like it bit off more than it can chew, with social unrest spewing under the heavy make-up of sparkling new Fifa stadia.

When Pope Francis came to town last year, the city of Rio bearly coped with the massive crowds of praying pilgrims. The army lined the streets, but there were still some embarrassing slip-ups. With hundreds of thousands of beer-drinking football fans about to descend, many predict a riot.

For World Report, this is Sarah O’Sullivan in Rio de Janeiro.”

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Hearing Michael Lynn October 22, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rioflections @ 2:03 pm

Coverage of the case of Irish solicitor Michael Lynn in Irish media, by Sarah O’Sullivan

 

Sunday Times, Ireland

1st September 2013

 

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Sunday Times, Ireland

8th September 2013

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Sunday Times, Ireland

20th October 2013

 

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Morning Ireland, RTE Radio One

22nd October 2013

Click here to Listen

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Michael Lynn Passport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where is Amarildo? August 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rioflections @ 3:02 pm

World Report, 18th August 2013, RTE Radio One (audio 1:41)

Rio de Janeiro has changed. Four years ago, using a mobile phone in public was asking for trouble. Now, everyone walks around using smart-phones, after a booming economy and an ambitious public security campaign in the cities favelas brought relative peace to the city.

But, the protest movement that has erupted here decries any positive spin. After police came down hard on protesters outside the Maracana football stadium in June, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets.

No-one expected such a public uprising, and a myriad of police forces, trained for urban warfare, continue to try to quash popular movements with rubber bullets, and tear gas. A running joke here is that police use rubber bullets on the protesters, but real bullets within the favelas, of low income squatter settlements.

Where is Amarildo?” was the message hackers displayed on the website of State Governer Sergio Cabral’s political party last Monday.  The father of six was last seen a month ago with members of the UPP, a pacifiying programme that introduced policing to communities ruled by drugs traffickers for decades. Homicide rates have dropped dramatically, though many say that’s becasue the police are killing fewer.

The night Amarildo went missing in Rocinha, a favela pacified two years ago, security cameras and gps systems on police cars stopped working, as they regularly do during offensives against protesters on the city streets. Amarildo’s family say police have threatened to kill them unless they stop making noise about the missing brick-layer, presumed dead.

All favela residents are treated as criminals by police, complained one Rocinha resident. He said people in the favela continuously go missing, mostly at the hands of police.

Amarildo is one of 35 thousand people gone missing in Rio state in the last six years. Arbitrary killings by both police and drugs traffickers are commonplace, and both sides enjoy a level of impunity. Living in a favela, you are subject to the “lei do silencio”. You see nothing, you hear nothing, and you say nothing. No-one dares disobey.

Brazil’s periphery is finding its voice. In June, police chased a group of car-jackers along Avenida Brasil, Rio’s main highway, and into a nearby favela, Mare, due for imminent pacification. When a police officer was shot dead, his colleagues went on a knifing rampage, reportedly killing 12 favela residents, many inside thier homes. Word reached the social networks, and protesters arrived on the scene en masse, resulting in a police withdrawal, previously unheard of.

In Sao Carlos, another pacified favela, a police officer claims that colleagues maintain list of young people they plan to kill. One teenager there said officers accused him of being a drug dealer, and threatened to kill him. When the 15 year old showed that all he had with him was a kite and a sandwich, the police placed marijuana, cocaine and dog faeces in the sandwich, and force him to eat it.

In Sao Paulo, a 13 year old schoolboy is accused of killing his entire family at point blank range two weeks ago, going to school, then coming home to shoot himself. The boy dreamed of being a hitman, or so the story goes. But, neighbours insist the child is innocent, and it emerged last week that his mother had recently refused to participate in a cash machine robbery plan, an reported her colleauges to superiors. A television presenter said on air that he thought the family were killed by police. His son has since recieved death threats.

Rio remains chaotic, and the city strained to contain crowds of well-wishing, non-drinking pilgrims during the pope’s visit last month. Peaceful protests are scenes of urban warfare. What to expect when the world spills all its drunken football fans onto this postcard pretty city for next year’s World Cup? Only time will tell.

For World Report, this is Sarah O’Sullivan in Rio de Janeiro.  

 

Rio chokes with the Pope in town August 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rioflections @ 2:28 am

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Brazilian authorities were taking no risks last Saturday, as an estimated three million congregated at Copacabana beach to attend mass with Pope Frances.  The army were called in to provide security (as most other police units were busy containing ongoing protests in Rio de Janeiro).  One couldn’t help but wonder whether the Brazilians were flexing a bit of muscle, as the Pope was dramatically whisked away from Copacabana, at 90 miles an hour, while a massive security detail (many with their identity tags concealed) outnumbered the amount of pilgrims on Avenide Princessa Isabel.  Throughout his visit, the Pope’s security detail called the shots, choosing to spend maximum time amongst the people, even when this meant leaving the Pope virtually security-less on his first day in town.  “You’ve had your fun, Papa.  Now, we call the shots.”

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What security threat, if any there was on Saturday evening, is difficult to tell.  The little Fiat car that Pope Frances normally moves in was relocated to the end of the Copacabana avenue, and according to security forces, the Pope planned to travel via the Pope-mobil before changing cars.  As he left the area, a small group of bishops and priests walked down the avenue on foot, before being hastily pushed to the side by baby-faced soldiers.  The Pope then sped by in a different car, at break-neck speed, swiftly followed by an empty Pope-mobil.

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And the blackened out van that was soon afterwards escorted down through Copacabana with armed escort?  State Governer Sergio Cabral, afraid to show his face going home, as protests continue outside his home in neighbouring posh district Leblon?

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Radio report on papal visit to Rio, broadcast on Irish National Radio RTE One, Sunday 28/07/13 (Audio 07:05)

Pope Francis will sleep soundly on his flight back to Rome tonight. The 77 year-old Argentinian has been busy since arriving Rio de Janeiro last Monday, to commemorate World Youth Day.  It was fitting that the first pope to come from the Americas, would come here on his first official state visit.  Hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world converged here last week.  

A man of the people, and a champion of the poor, pope Francis wanted toned down security during his visit here.  He wanted to stay close to the Brazilian people.  But, this seemed inept when his driver took a wrong turn in downtown Rio during rush-hour.  Six security guards on foot battled to fend off crowds pushing their way towards the open window of the small Fiat car, before they found the official route again.  Un-phased, the pope smiled and waved through it all.

The papal visit here came directly after the Fifa Confederations Cup, a World Cup warm-up that was marked by a massive protest movement in Brazil.  The protests continue daily. 

Scenes of violence erupted just minutes after Pope Francis left the governers Palace last Monday.  Protesters chanting “tomorrow will be different” had tear gas and rubber bullets rained on them after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at police.  Speculation on the ground, and mounting video evidence, suggest an un-uniformed police officer may have thrown the fire-bomb, thus giving the green light for an offensive against protesters. 

French woman Ingrid Le Van was shocked when police pointed a gun at her, and ordered her to leave the area, after she witnessed a photographer from Agence France Press be beaten to the head by police officers.  Media giant OGlobo, reported that the photographer had been injured by protesters, while independent media journalists broadcasting live from the protest were arrested for “inciting violence”.

A Civil police officer, double-jobbing as a taxi driver to supplement his monthly wage of €436, said police had infiltrated protesters to try to weed out vandals in their midst. He said violent scenes on the streets were the result of poor training. Police in Rio are trained for urban war against drug traffickers, he said. Learning to shoot, and fill in forms, sums up their training before they hit the streets, he said.

The pope told young Brazilians to keep up the fight against corruption, as he visited a pacified favela community known as the “Gaza Strip” because of its former reputation for bloody shoot-outs between rivalling gangs.  Earlier, he defended to right of baptism of children of single mothers. And, he criticised plans for the legalisation of drugs, advocated by some south American leaders, while visiting a crack treatment centre. Drug traffickers are “merchants of death”, he said.

Worries about Rio’s ability to host large events and handle large crowds were heightened on Wednesday, as tens of thousands got stranded on their way to Copacabana beach for the opening mass of the church’s World Youth Day.  Rio’s Metro system choked as crowds attempted to get to the beach, leaving commuters and pilgrims stuck in carriages and stations along the route for two hours. 

There will be a huge sigh of relief once Papa Francisco is airborne.  Security slip-ups and infra-structural failures have marked the papal visit, and done little for confidence in Brazil’s ability to host massive crowds.  With the World Cup less than a year away, now the panic really sets in. 

For World Report, this is Sarah O’Sullivan in Rio de Janeiro.

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Time for the Irish Spring? August 1, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rioflections @ 7:30 pm

Here in Brazil, no-one can believe the magnitude of protests, which in recent weeks brought huge cities to a standstill.  Brazilians unhappy?  What?

Brazilians don’t really fit the typical protester profile.  Are they smiling and samba dancing down the boulevards?  (In some cases, yes actually).  But, for what?  A €0.07 bus fare hike?  Most of the middle class protesters don’t even take the bus.

I’ve lived on and off in Rio de Janeiro for the past few years now.  It’s a wonderful welcoming country, aesthetically delightful, and swiftly advancing economically.  Hosting privileges for the World Cup and Olympic Games were to be a panacea for the South American giant, cementing Brazil’s coveted place on the global contenders list.  Foreigners are flocking here, and investment keeps rolling in.

But, life is complex here when you step out of the postcard.  Zombie-faced children beg for centavos to feed crack habits (if they haven’t already robbed you).  The chasm between those who have and those who don’t, verge on criminal and corruption is endemic.  Bureaucracy is grisly and service ghastly.

Anti-World Cup sentiment emanated from the recent FIFA Confederations Cup games, and a certain tension filled the air.  No-one saw this bullet coming, and no-one knows where it will land, or who it’ll take out along the way.  For now, authorities are trying to keep a lid on things by arresting protesters, beating up journalists, and making sure to transmit cleansed messages through the mainstream media.  (When police beat up a foreign journalist, OGlobo reported that he was injured by protesters).

Brazilians and the Irish have a lot in common, and living here, I often note parallels with home.  Watching this uprising, I wonder if the Irish have the spirit to rise up against the system.  Will there ever be an “Irish Spring”?

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Pondering this recently, I suddenly remembered that even Mother Nature gave the concept a miss this year, with repressive snowstorms brutalising the most daring of daffodils, who struggled to show their flowery placards to the world.

Googling the concept, I found it already belongs to a major international cosmetics company.  Yes, “Irish Spring” is the brand name of a deodorant soap, first marketed by the Colgate-Palmolive company in 1972.

39 years before the Arabs even considered it, Palmolive had copy-righted the phrase for the Irish context.  Did they foresee a period of dis-content?  Market research probably predicted tumult in the 1980’s.  But, there was a mass exodus instead.

Randomly, Irish Spring soap bars were known internally as “Ulster Fragrance” up until the 1990s.  After the peace process, marketers branched out, introducing products like “Speed Stick” (an attempt to get in on the burgeoning house music scene?).  They now have a product called “Icy Blast”, as if the Irish need that.

Brazil’s going through a big boom at the moment.  We Irish will never forget “de boom”.  Housing prices here are going through the roof.  Check.  Credit is easy (though not cheap), and commercialism is sky-rocketing.  Hell yes, we were all on that train.

Last month, I chatted with a formidable Brazilian woman, of Bolivian parentage.  “The Brazilians,” she explained, “are ignorant.  They sit around all of the time complaining about this, complaining about that.”  But, they will never organise themselves to do anything about it.  “This country has so many ugly sides”, the tirade continued, “but nothing will ever change.”  We Irish, too, have been known to have the odd moan.

Laughing, she phoned me a week later, after 100,000 Cariocas (Rio de Janeiro natives) took to the streets in a peaceful protest.  “I might be wrong,” she conceded.  “Imagine!”  Two days later, there was three times that many on the streets of Rio.  Protests continue in cities and communities, big and small, all over Brazil.

What began as a demonstration against bus fares surging quicker than burgeoning inflation rates, escalated into a mass (but largely leaderless, and non-partisan) uprising, with demonstrators demanding a pick ‘n mix of improved public services, an end to corruption, free transport, an impeached president, the mayor’s head on a stick.  The list goes on, protests continue, and police are clamping down with an iron fist.

Living in Ireland during 2011, I really thought revolution was in the air.  No-one was happy, for a plethora of reasons…  blanket bogs, household charges, special needs, pay cuts, septic tanks, and dirty hospitals – everywhere I turned, someone was blowing their fuse about “the state of the nation”.

There were some protests, but generally poorly attended, to my eye (granted, I didn’t go to all), and with little media coverage.  The revolution was not televised, because it never started.  A Facebook page calling for a revolution in Ireland claimed to have material mysteriously removed.  Here in Brazil, Facebook seems most compliant with authorities, as pages and events disappear from the social networking site daily, and users complain their personal details are being doled out to the man.

In Ireland, the Occupy movement, which had many thinkers within the ranks, as well as global amplitude, was quickly and easily shrugged off as hippies looking for free lodgings.  A collective sigh of relief for the lads with the brown envelopes.

Are all the Irish rebels already in the ground?  They banned smoking, and we didn’t blink as we stepped out into the cold.  The collusion of church and state got some furrowed brows, but little more.  The massive sell-off of our oilfields to Shell?  Ah sure, what harm?  Bank bail-outs?  A rolling of the eyes, and a knowing look.  “Bankers, sure we always knew they were ….?”  Cue the tumbleweed.

Rio de Janeiro is the type of place where people sip beers in the local, and wax lyrical about all that is wrong with the system.  But, your typical Carioca (Rio native) is politically ambivalent and votes the same guys back into office, missing the logical leap between voting (which is mandatory here), and the policies which follow.  Sounds at all familiar my Irish comrades?

A former Brazilian president, impeached for corruption, now holds a seat in the senate here.  He didn’t even have to do a Six-One teary interview to get his voters back on board, like our good friend Bertie.

Irish guilt is a crippling handicap.  New taxes and levies are introduced every day, so that bondholders can be paid off to the tune of millions of euros.  The population are nauseous watching services (and salaries) taking the cut.  But, it’s the nausea of the child who ate too much cake.  It feels yuck, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it may be self-inflicted.

Some say the population is docile because of the government’s fluoridation programme, which dumbs down the feisty Irish on the auspices of helping us look after our teeth (internet sources suggest Hitler used fluoride to retain calm in concentration camps), while others blame so-called “chem-trails” in the sky, dumping agro-toxins on us from above, as we innocently take photos of the lovely “jet-streams” from below.

According to the Irish National Teachers Organisation, new teacher’s take-home salaries have dropped by more than 20% in the last four years. Here in Brazil, teacher’s salaries were hacked by 40% in one northern state.  Protesters barricaded the responsible governor in a bank foyer for hours, demanding his impeachment.  Imagine Irish teachers doing the same with education minister Ruairi Quinn?  He’d have them for lunch.

Everyone in Rio is talking about the protests, and many aren’t sure what it means.  Bus fares hikes were rescinded quickly when the demonstrations took hold, but it was already too late. The giant has awoken, and now protest groups are busy planning moves for next year, when Brazil will host the World Cup, and election-time comes round.

The bus fare hike was the straw that broke the camel’s back here.  Not so in Ireland.  Bus fares have been increasing rapidly as the recession continues.  In Dublin, basic fares rose by €0.50 in 2011 (4.5% hike), by €0.20 in 2012 (another 16.5%), and by €0.25 this year (up another 18%).  Not as much as an armchair riot.  Bus fares will not the catalyst be.

What will it take to get the Irish on the streets?  We gorged on the fat of the Celtic cat, but for how long must we pay?  Roll on the Spring.

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Civil Disobedience: Rio June 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rioflections @ 7:10 pm

Many neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro were without electricity yesterday afternoon (Sunday), for periods varying from twenty minutes to several hours.  Not that unusual in this city, where services are pretty paltry, to say the least.  Power outages happen, especially when it rains.

But, with all that has been going on here in Rio de Janeiro in recent weeks, many were nervous yesterday.  What happens when it gets dark?  Will the city remain in darkness?  Who cut the lights?  The protesters?  Fascists?  The city itself?  There is a tense air in Rio, as people wonder what will happen next.  People are nervous.  The protests are all anyone can talk of.

More protests are planned for this week, with another major rally scheduled for next Thursday.  The first big out-pouring of Carioca support came last Monday (20th), when 100,000 people filled Rio Branco in downtown Rio de Janeiro.  Rallies of this size are unheard of in laid-back Rio, and Rio Branco had only ever seen crowds of such magnitude for massive Carnaval blocos.  The streets were filled with people dressed in white, holding flowers, and various placards, pleading for better education, better health, less corruption.  The list goes on.  Many were mobilised after watching images of police repression on the streets at recent, smaller, protests.

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It was a hair-raising experience to be there, and to be part of this peaceful uprising, the biggest protest seen since the impeachment of Fernando Collor in the early 90s.  Very few police were visible on the night, and all was calm.  It was amazing, positive, heart-warming. So, Cariocas do care.  At Cinelandia, images began to appear of protesters in Brasilia climbing on top of the National Congress building there, met with rapturous applause.

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Rumours of vandalism at the nearby legislative assembly building, ALERJ, put a slightly bitter taste to the whole thing.  Who, as part of that crowd, had decided to do this?   Police trapped inside the building, according to OGlobo.  Don’t let yourself down now Rio.

But, images and footage emerging seem to show a tear gas offensive on a crowd of university students sitting on the steps, singing the National anthem.  From then, chaos.   And, chaos that got people worried.  Anyone who had considered participating that was watching images unfold from home, must have been glad they didn’t go to the city.

But, three days later, Rio got out onto the streets again. This time, there were an estimated 300,000 people on Avenida Presidente Vargos, though some put that number closer to the one million mark.

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In the interim days, there was some confusion.  Would the rally go all the way to Maracana football stadium as had been originally planned?  No, just to the Prefeitura building (city hall).

The Spain-Tahiti match was underway, when Rioflections landed at Maracana to scope things out.   Security was tight, and a grand ring of roads surrounding the stadium were sealed off.  No-one would pass.  There were hundreds of police there, Military Police, BOPE, CORE, CHOQUE DE ORDEM, National Force – everyone was armed, and waiting for their next orders.  Testosterone was palpable in the air, as rifles were readied, and guards waited, batons in hand, waiting, waiting.

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Once the protest march got close to the Prefeitura building, a small group to the front ran towards Maracana.  When the first road was sealed, they returned, and tried for another.  When this seemed impossible, they reverted to the Prefeitura, to join the rest of the crowd.   There, around thirty police on horseback formed a line in front of the building, with a small handful of armed cops behind on foot.  Within the grounds of the building, there were around 60/70 lined up in full riot gear, again waiting, waiting.

For around 20 minutes or half an hour, nothing happened.  Different groups chanted and protesters brought their placards to the front, to wave in front of the police, and the gathered media.   The air was tense, and a panic came from somewhere in the crowd.  People ran, leaving several pairs of flip-flops on the asphalt.  But, it came to nothing.  Someone had caused a startle somewhere, but it was nothing.  “Don’t run, don’t run,” shouted several protesters.  “Let’s all sit down,” shouted another.  A few sat but people were too nervous at the feet of the police horses.  They needed to know there was a way out.

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And then the bangers were fired.  The same ones that are used in favelas to warn of police in the proximity.  Three loud bangs, followed by one louder one.  These were thrown directly underneath the feet of the horses, causing the animals to startle.  A couple of police on horseback ran in through the crowd of protesters, but then returned to the line-up again.  The same thing continued.  Police forming in a line, banger thrown, reaction from police, in through the crowd, and then back again.  By the fourth time, the horse-back police were ordered out, and galloped away at top speed.  Civil war began.  Tear gas offensive, on any grouping of people in sight.   Armoured vehicles rolled down the city streets.

But, who throw the bangers, that started everything off, is the big question?  Many people here suggest that infiltrators were planted, as a dirty political tactic to damage the integrity of protesters, and to make people too afraid to carry on.  One rumour is that that ‘someone’ went into favela communities and paid them R$500 to come down, and trash as much of the city as possible.  For sure, there were different elements in the larger group.  There were people wishing to wreck the place, and there were people wanting to fight, physically, against the authorities.  But, these were of the minority.

As the police action became more and more intense, several protesters came in front of them with white flags, with their banners, begging for the police to stop.  Lights were cut on Presidente Vargos, adding a more sinister air to proceedings.  Apparently, security cameras also went on the blink.  Coincidence?

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The action went on for hours, and police used very excessive force against the population.  They were acting under orders, of course, but the display was cowardly.  Using tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets, they pushed the crowd back, away from Maracana, into the city centre proper.  The BOPE were there, fuzils in hand.  Apparently, Brazil has run out of tear gas, and has had to buy some in from Angola.  The new gas is twice as potent, and double the legal strength.   Why did Brazil run out?  Because, they had sold all their stock to Turkey, to quash the protesters there.

This is the voice of Zoë Roller, from Califronia, who has live in Rio for two years…

“I just got back from protesting alongside 300,000 people in downtown Rio. At one point we joined a group of people holding Brazilian flags and waving peace signs at a line of riot police, who responded by shooting tear gas bombs directly at us. We tried to take shelter with some beer vendors in a side street, and watched a parade of trucks and armored vehicles drive by.

The police caught some of the fleeing protesters, pinned them down, and tear gassed them. As we watched, a few more policemen ran over to us and searched as at gunpoint. Luckily they let us go, muttering “Fucking university students!” Later, after almost everyone had dispersed and we were looking for our friends, a police car passed us in the street, made a u-turn, pepper sprayed us, and drove off.  And that sums up our evening.”

Walking along the path taken by the violent clashes between protesters and police, was like Armageddon.  Traffic lights were flattened to the ground, as were bus stops.  Complete carnage.  Rioflections passed a small group of protesters, in discussion with two Choque officers.   It was heated, but pacifistic, and everyone was having their say.    Five other officers watched from their motorbikes, not impressed with the dialogue.  As their colleagues left the group, the protesters began to chant, and immediately received a barrage of tear gas.

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No-one was immune.  The streets were filed with groups of police hunting down small groups of protesters, to gas them.  It was like one of those nasty computer games.  They even went into a hospital spraying people there.  The fumes went all the way up to the seventh floor, according to doctors on duty that night.

In nearby bohemian part of town, Lapa, people who had attended the protest, and fed when it got hairy, were enjoyed a few beers on the way home, when police circled the area, not allowing anyone to leave, and launched tear gas into the restaurants.  The shutter came down, and people remained inside, with the gas.  It was better than being out there, one witness said.

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Conspiracies about political infiltration become less unlikely, when you stop to consider the potential implications of real social change here in Rio, in Brazil.  Who really wants change?  The people, of course.  And, who doesn’t?  The fat-cats who have been milking the system, creaming money intended for public services, buying votes, bullying their way to where they want to be.  Is it likely that they’ll just give up, and roll over?  The violence that marred Thursday evening left people scared.  Mission accomplished, if that was the idea behind it.

Police repression has been going on for many years, particularly in the favela communities.  Such acts go largely unreported, due to a sense of helplessness within the favelas, and a planned ignoring by the powers that be.  As with many things here in Rio, when things come to the asphalt, they get more attention.  Will there be any reprimand for police officers?

President Dilma finally opened her mouth on Friday night, when she addressed the nation.  You’re right, she said.  Congratulations for standing up to what you believe in, she added.  But, we will not tolerate violence, of any sort.  (Even police?).  I will ensure that 100% of cash earned from pre-salt finds will be spent in Education (she has already tried, and failed to deliver on this promise).  Now, let’s get ready to enjoy the World Cup.

Her message was short and sweet, and didn’t cut it, according to many here on the ground.  She will now meet with individual governors and mayors, to try to come up with solutions.    Her work is cut out, let there be no doubt.  Even with the best political will in the world, the corruption here runs so deep that it would be hard to break.

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We can but hope.  Now, we wait to see what will happen next Thursday.

Meanwhile, the revolution has gone into cyber-space.  While hackers are busy trying to infiltrate various official sites (though sometimes they are just copying sites, using similar addresses, to make it look real).   Brasilian intelligence forces are in turn trying to infiltrate social medias sites, and many have already been removed from Facebook.  The revolution continues online, said one commenter last night, as 7,000 people tuned into Marcelo Freixo’s live Twitcam last night.  Freixo, who ran for mayor of Rio last year, and who works in defense of human rights has appealed for all denunciations to be sent to him for investigation.

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Rio Protests in Photos June 17 2013 June 18, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rioflections @ 4:08 am

 

Calm before the storm

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