Monday, November 29, 2010

Class Warfare

From what I can judge, by scanning European and American newspapers on the internet, the coverage of the violence in Rio de Janeiro this week has been pretty extensive.
But I do have something to add, something you are unlikely to have heard about unless you live in Brazil. First, though, for those of you who might have skimmed over the press coverage, here’s a résumé of the situation:

The great favelas of Rio de Janeiro, home to hundreds of thousands of the underprivileged, have long been infested by drug gangs. So numerous and powerful are these gangs that they’ve assumed virtual control of their neighborhoods. Until now, the law-enforcement establishment has lacked the manpower to suppress them.

And not all of the residents want them to.

The drug gangs support crèches, community activities and samba schools. They pay kids to act as lookouts and offer (illegal) employment opportunities to many.

But now, finally, an operation is underway to break their stranglehold on their communities.

SWAT units from the civil, military and federal police forces, working together with elite units from the Brazilian military have launched an all-out attack.

The photo above shows the arrival of more ammunition. In the last week, they’ve fired a lot of it
Some folks say the government has been compelled to act because Brazil will play host to both the Football World Cup, in 2014, and the Olympics in 2016. And, if tourists stay away, the investments currently being made won’t be recouped.
Others say the politicians took the initiative because violence has begun spilling out of the favelas and into the neighborhoods populated by the privileged and influential. And the privileged and influential aren’t about to stand for that.

And then there are those who think it’s been done to benefit the folks who live in the favelas. (They’re few and far between – and I’m not one of them.  The politicians have had years to better the lot of the innocent in those favelas - and it’s not just coincidence that they’ve chosen to do it now.)
Okay, so much for the situation. Now, for what I wanted to tell you about.

It’s this, a statement issued by a joint committee representing the three principal (and rival) drug syndicates. It begins by asking that Rio’s poor join with them in their struggle against “police repression” and the “cowardly spilling of blood”. They ask that people take up arms and show their support by shooting at buildings and imported automobiles and by looting businesses, shops and markets.
They decree that “for every innocent poor person who dies at the hands of the police, two rich people will die.”
They further decree that “for every member of a drug syndicate who dies, two policemen and their families will be executed.”
They go on to blame the “middle classes” and the “rich” as the root causes of the troubles “because they’re the ones who buy the drugs.”
And call for a revolution against those “who wear suits and neckties.”
It remains to be seen whether the gangs are going to be able to recruit enough people to make good on their threats.
But this document is nothing less than a declaration of class warfare.
And it’s scary.

Leighton - Monday


  1. Good God. Not just class warfare, but a potential unraveling of society in general.

    Good luck and stay safe.

  2. There are fast becoming far too many places in this world for inclusion on the US State Department's Travel Advisory list. Scary is an understatement.

  3. Lord Acton, a Roman Catholic member of the British peerage, is famous for his comment,
    "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority.... There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it." Lord Acton's statement was in response to Pope Pius IX's promulgation of papal infallibility in 1870. It holds true of the politically powerful and those who control the economy of a nation.

    Brazil isn't like the United States. The poverty in the favelas is beyond the understanding of people in the US and in western Europe. Brazil is a predominately Catholic country whose hierarchy has supported the wealthy and powerful over the poor and the oppressed, thereby denying the teachings of the Christian churches. The poor have few on their side. Liberation theology was crushed by John Paul II whose focus was on eastern Europe and the destruction of the communist governments. Liberation theologians saw common cause with the socialist/communist groups and the pope saw it as support of an atheist doctrine. He crushed it and,in doing so, abdicated his role as an arbiter of moral responsibility.

    Drug gangs grant their members respect through fear. That manifesto the gangs issued is no different than those coming from the middle east. It is a declaration of terrorism aimed at those who have from those who have not.

    There is an element of truth to the belief of the gangs that the rich and the middle class are part of the problem. The US is the single largest importer of illegal drugs from Mexico and South America. A product only generates profit if there are buyers so the US is an open market that funds murder, kidnapping, and terror as ordered by the drug lords.

    The situation in Brazil is more than scary; it is a movement to destroy the fabric of society. Why would the very poor and the not very poor turn their backs on the means by which they can become so rich so easily?

    As Jeff posted, it seems that Brazil is not safe for those perceived as wealthy. Having American roots in Brazil may become as dangerous as having American roots in Iraq. Perception outweighs fact.

    When does discretion become the better part of valor?

  4. Typical holier-than-thou drivel. What we transported the principals to an American city? Would the police still be engaging in class warfare? Americans such as the the writer might consider keeping their culturally imperialistic attitude to themselves and let Brazilians sort our their own problems. Where is it written than Americans know best? The evidence points to the contrary. No longer able to police the world, they now try to lecture the Third World to death. What a nice way to win hearts and minds.

  5. "They decree that “for every innocent poor person who dies at the hands of the police, two rich people will die.”
    They further decree that “for every member of a drug syndicate who dies, two policemen and their families will be executed.”

    ccastelar: The author of the post explains the extreme poverty of the favelas and the drug gangs that have taken over. He mentions that the statement issued by the coalition of gangs encourages the poor to launch a revolution by killing those who wear suits and neckties. How is this not a declaration of class warfare? The men and women in suits are viewed as those in control of the financial, political, and cultural aspects of a society. The term upper class doesn't just refer to those who have money; it also refers to those who have the education to make changes in society.

    How is it culturally imperialistic to find the killing of any human being abhorrent?


  6. Castelar,

    I don't think you understood what I wrote.

    When I referred to class warfare, I was not referring to the police or the military.
    The invasion of those favelas was long overdue.

    I was referring to the declaration made by the CV, ADA and TCP.

    If you were unable to understand what I wrote, which you clearly were not, you should have, at least been able to understand the document in Portuguese.

    Inciting people to kill "ricos" and shoot at "carros importados" is clearly an incitement to class warfare.
    And my comments thereupon are, in no way, "culturally imperialistic".

    But thank you for one thing: you have just expressed, better than I ever could, the attitude of Brazil's wealthy minority.

    I have no intention of trying to win either your heart or your mind.
    I consider you a lost cause.

  7. When gangs become wealthy and powerful enough to mount, or at least threaten, a political insurrection, I'm less inclined to see it as class warfare than as a symptom of a government being fatally corrupt and disorganized.

    Brazil doesn't seem to be anywhere near that, yet. Certainly not as far gone as Mexico, where whole cities are now controlled by cartels.

    I hope something good comes out of the Mexican example: it scares similarly dysfunctional governments into building somewhat honest, effective police and court systems.

    And maybe it'll help scare the American body politic into dropping the ideological posturing and getting back to work.


  8. PS--I forgot to mention that, in addition to effective cops and courts, there have to be effective social and economic systems that spread the wealth and the opportunities.


  9. The leaders of the drug cartels are themselves 'ricos,' who became so by taking advantage of the lack of effective cops and courts and social and economic systems. Their success grows out of chaos and thrives on chaos. This declaration is aimed at creating more chaos and making themselves more powerful. They pose as defenders of innocent poor victims. Yet if they are successful in recruiting for their war on the 'suits,' more and more of the poor will be bleeding in the streets, while the cartel leaders lounge by their pools and discuss ways to launder their blood money billions to support their luxurious life styles. Is there anything we can do but weep?