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Commentary: Brazil and the calamity of Santa Maria
Published on February 9, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jean H Charles

I am known for harboring strong sentiments about Brazil. In my last and only visit to Brazil, I was appalled by the hypocrisy of Brazilian society. Brazil, Haiti and the MINUSTHA. The sordid slums close to the splendid beach and magnificent hotels at Ipanema; the black population, which is half of the entire population, has garnered so far only two black heroes, the football player Pele and the Supreme Court chief judge Joaquim Barbosa, while Brazil claims discrimination has no place in the land. The school teacher at the beach who told me her salary was so meager that she had to engage in selective prostitution to supplement her income.

Jean Hervé Charles LLB, MSW, JD, former Vice-Dean of Students at City College of the City University of New York, is now responsible for policy and public relations for the political platform in power in Haiti, Répons Peyisan. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol
A giant Carnival, well marketed all over the world, where the personal participation and the sense of renewal are at best minimal compared with the full participation in Trinidad and Tobago, or Roseau, Dominica. MINUSTHA in Haiti, led by Brazil, which represents a elephant in a living room, proud and happy to be there, without a clear mission, end game or visible output. (Albeit a negative one: Cholera that infected half a million people and killing 7,000).

To validate my sentiments, an incident that caused the deaths of some 235 college students at the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, Brazil, made the point. Upon police investigation the mass destruction of the young men and women were due to two callous reasons, the organizers bought the cheapest pyrotechnics not intended for indoor celebration; the booster at the door closed the exit door because he thought the clients who were trying to escape the inferno did not or will not pay their drinks at the bar.

In fact, the concept of “the good citizen” emanating from each citizen is the lacking ingredient in the economic revolution operated by Lula for Brazil that demanded a seat at the table of the world’s major policymakers.

Yet Brazil is trusted with events with world proportion -- the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the World’s Fair in 2016. I am sure Brazil will try to compete with the Jones from London or Peking, the last two venues for the World’s Fair. It may even succeed; I have found Brazil a large self sufficient country that speaks its borrowed but strange language, Portuguese that could represent a third way for itself Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Haitian experience was a deception. Trusted by the world community with the task of helping the small island nation to play its redemptive mission in the world, the Brazilian contingent reflects the Brazilian society, a make believe one, ambitious enough to play in the big league but not ready to engage into the manual task of loving and supporting each other.

Haiti is usually an eye opener, as Amy Wilentz in Farewell Fred Voodoo put it aptly, the island nation and its people is a welcoming and accepting place where you find yourself. I am watching the Brazilians wasting their time and our time in Haiti. If Lula succeeded in the economic revolution in Brazil, I am expecting Dilma Rousseff, his successor and pupil, to realize the spiritual revolution, one that would connect the people with themselves and their less fortunate brethren.

She is well equipped for that task, a revolutionary with bourgeoisie pedigree honed in the best classical French education in Brazil, she has pledged to help Brazil to grow economically with inclusion and social mobility.

Yet, she must go faster to include 16 million people out of a population of 190 million that still live in extreme poverty. The social network program offered in Brazil, Latin America and Haiti is more a slogan than a program. Brazil, like its twin sister Haiti, might be one of the most unequal countries on the planet. Out of a population of ten million people in Haiti, nine million of them live in extreme poverty.

I am not discerning an emergency program to lift that mass of people into the bliss of middle class status soon. It is getting late, because watching the number of Haitian children in school, in particular the large number of girls, I am seeing in the near future a Malthusian intergenerational calamity.

By comparison, either China or Singapore and its neighbor Malaysia have engaged in a more robust program of eradicating extreme poverty in less time, with targeted programs aimed at the individual where he is with his level of education or the lack thereof.

The incident of Santa Maria is a cry of alarm for Brazil to take its leadership role with a stronger hand. A seat at the table of the big players must be earned on the field with results that cannot be obtained by faking leadership capabilities. The Brazilian soldiers, well armed on the streets of Haiti, have better duty to do either in Haiti or in Brazil teaching the lessons of citizenship to a population ready to enter into the realm of living together without the abyss of extreme inequality.

Investing in each citizen with incubation to business acumen, citizenship dexterity and social awareness of the rights and privileges that go with living in common are some of the skills that create great nations. Dilma must prove that her past revolutionary credentials, a thousand times honed and retooled by an excellent family background, should suffice as Prime Minister Lee of Singapore has done to lift his country and his region into the bliss enjoyed by South Asia. He has created opportunity for all through the economic path, not a social safety net, which can sink the net because those eligible are to numerous. Believing that each citizen or Belonger is a potential resource for the country and for the region is the way to go to create a prosperous nation.
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Paco Smith:

I found this article rather interesting.


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