A Danish journalist has uncovered some shocking allegations about how the Brazilian cities where the World Cup matches are currently underway have chosen to “clean” their streets of homeless people, especially street kids. It forms part of an overall critical look at how the neo-corporatist World Cup agenda has run roughshod over the locals in those cities. Everything from cablecars being built over favelas where people have lived for decades, to insufferable gentrification, to allegations of death squads roaming the streets, gets an airing here. It really puts the lie to the common canard that Brazil is a “racial democracy”, since most of the suffering has been borne by the poor and non-white people of the land.
And the allegations of state-sanctioned murder squads, if true, signify a shocking holdover from the days of the US-backed military fascist dictatorship that seized power in a not-so-bloodless coup in 1964 and later murdered the legitimately elected president, João Goulart. The same that also kidnapped and tortured the current president, Dilma Rousseff, when she was a young Marxist guerrilla. Those kidnappers, torturers and murderers cut their teeth on homeless people even before the coup that unseated Goulart, receiving instruction in their ugly craft from US police and military officers and spies. And their methods clearly live on in the municipal police and armed forces of present-day Brazil. Remember this?
Dan Mitrione, the police torture instructor discussed in this short clip, was fictionalized slightly (as “Philip Michael Santore”) for the movie State of Siege. Before his posting to Uruguay, where he was captured and eventually executed by the Tupamaro guerrillas, Mitrione spent time in Brazil…and there is a memorably horrifying scene in that same movie showing naked men — beggars yanked off the streets — being tortured and electrocuted on stage in a massive lecture hall filled with military and police officers. Those same officers have not been cleansed out of the Brazilian police and armed forces; on the contrary, their methods have survived and flourished with complete impunity. In other words: In Brazil, Dan Mitrione still lives.
Every Brazilian who’s been asked about how they feel about the World Cup seems to say the same thing, whether it’s expats interviewed by the Deutsche Welle in Germany, or my Brazilian friends here on the other side of the pond. They love soccer, but they hate the World Cup and all the upheaval it brings, from gentrification to an uptick in child prostitution on the streets…and of course, death squads. All agree that the money spent on building and renovating big stadiums was a waste, and that it should have gone to social programs. Healthcare, education, social housing. And that street people and favela dwellers should not have been expelled and killed, as they apparently have been. But it would appear that local mayors — or perhaps we should say, local death-squad capos — disagree. Bullets are so much cheaper than giving some “worthless” street kid an education, food, a home, and a good job. Somehow, human beings just don’t merit that kind of consideration when there are big bucks at play on the soccer field.
It is shocking that a president who was once a victim of this same insanity could turn a blind eye to its continuation four decades later. Let’s hope that Dilma finally does something about this. Just don’t look for anything to start happening while the World Cup is still on.