Rio: A Reply to “The New Dictatorship”


Letter to Diego. Intrusive Globo photo popup interface is apparently designed to prevent you from actually viewing the image. This can be worked around. The house ad that appears there — “Every Sunday, an extra section for free in O Globo — is cross-branded with the tattoo: it uses a font similar to the lettering style on the man’s back. Globo: Your existential pain is part of our branding strategy.

I agree entirely with the Governor. The parallel power is savage. But what is the power of the State, then? … With the call-out, the headline and the quote from the governor, the newspaper once against is legitimating the policy of armed confrontation, defining the shantytowns as a fortress of criminality and justifying acts of extermination by the police. If the logic of war applies, then deaths come to be treated as collateral damage, a necessary evil. Such is the logic of the state that is defended by the press. –Marianna Araújo

Marianna Araújo of Fazendo Media comments on the investigative series launched this week by the O Globo daily of Rio de Janeiro under the provocative title of “The New Dictatorship.” See

Her criticism seems to be that the sympathy this reporting generates is used to support inhuman solutions to the plight of shantytown dwellers. And indeed, that series on the favela used by BOPE as a headquarters and training ground is a pretty strange notion of a model community.

The favela remains off the grid. BOPE uses it as a training ground for Army operations in Haiti — and a film set — but the overlap between police, paramilitary protection rackets and politics does not get addressed. The model defended by O Globo is essentially the “model village” concept from the Vietnam War. And, says this commentator, the doctrine of “destroying the hamlet in order to save it” lurks in the background of O Globo’s editorial line as well.

When I lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, our neighborhood was used to film scenes of martial law in New York for the film The Siege, about terrorist attacks on our city. Tanks and APCs on Manhattan Avenue. The predominantly Polish neighborhood — people who came to this country to get the hell away from tanks on the streets and run hardware stores and kielbasa factories — were extremely upset, I remember. The scenario was fictional, but the fact that a freaking tank was parked outside the local diner was all too real.

Imagine living in a community under the protection of armed men who use your streets to learn how to hunt down and kill other people like you. It looks a lot like state-sanctioned warlordism.

But anyway, you read it. I clip to file pra inglês ver. There’s some wordplay here that requires more thought by the translator than this translator — all translations on this blog are draft-quality exercises in translation at the speed of typing — has to give, so I will just fudge my way through it for the time being.

Costumo dizer entre os amigos que a “grande imprensa não decepciona”. Explico-me. O uso corrente da palavra decepção tem o sentido de desapontamento, frustração. Por isso, a afirmação pode passar a idéia de que estou sempre de acordo com o que diz a grande imprensa. O que não é verdade, claro. Acontece que a palavra decepção vem do latim deceptio, que quer dizer engano. Ou seja, para sentir-se decepcionado, é preciso que se tenha expectativas, positivas ou não, e que estas não sejam correspondidas. Como as minhas expectativas sobre a grande imprensa brasileira não são das melhores – e não o são por acaso – ela não me decepciona, não me engana.

I like to say among friends that “the major new media never disappoints.” Let me explain. The common definition of the word “decepção” is disappointment, frustration. So my statement might convey the impression that I am always in agreement with everything the major news media says. Which is obviously not true. It so happens that the Portuguese word decepção comes from Latin deceptio, which means to defy expectations. That is, in order to be “deceived” in this sense, you have to have expectations, positive or otherwise, which are not met. And as my expectations of the major news media in Brazil are not the highest — and not without reason — it never surprises me, it never defies my expectations.

Esta semana, no entanto, pensei estar à beira de uma decepção. Há alguns meses fiquei sabendo que repórteres do jornal O Globo estavam fazendo uma série de matérias sobre favela e violência. Esperei o pior, claro. Principalmente, depois da cobertura dada à recente operação no Complexo do Alemão. A isso, junte-se o tratamento que o jornal dá à questão das remoções, defendo-as abertamente, como política de urbanização.

This week, however, I thought I might be bordering on a surprise. For some months now I have been hearing that reporters from O Globo are doing a series of reports on shantytowns and violence. I expected the worse, of course. Especially after the coverage it did of the recent police operation at the Complexo do Alemão. To that, add the treatment the newspaper has given to the issue of evictions, defending them openly as an urban planning policy.

Foi, portanto, esperando o pior, que sentei-me para ler o jornal de domingo (19/08), quando foi publicada a primeira matéria da série. Fiquei surpresa com o que li. Contrariando minhas expectativas, a reportagem era bastante completa, tinha fontes diversas – o comum é que a polícia seja a única fonte – e não continha os corriqueiros estereótipos que corroboram com a criminalização da pobreza. Uma coisa que me chamou a atenção foi que os jornalistas tocaram de forma clara e direta numa das feridas que mais incomodam o governo do Estado quando se fala em segurança pública: a violência e a corrupção policial. Ainda que o governo teime em tratar os casos de policiais violentos ou corruptos como exceção, sabe-se que não é bem assim. E isso ficou claro quando a reportagem mostrou que em alguns casos os moradores se sentem mais ameaçados pela polícia do que por organizações criminosas.

It was, therefore, expecting the worst that I sat down to read the Sunday O Globo, which published the first installment in the series. I was surprised by what I read. Against my expectations, the reporting was quite complete, based on a vareity of sources — usually the police are the only source cited — and avoided the usual stereotypes that tend to reinforce the criminalization of poverty. One thing that called my attention was the fact that the journalists touched clearly and directly upon one of the wounds that most pains the current state government when it talks publicly about public security: violence and police corruption. Even though the government may tend to deal with cases of violent or corrupt police as exceptions to the rule, they know it is not so. That is made quite clear when O Globo’s reporting showed that in some cases residents feel more threatened by police than by criminal organizations.

O jornal traça, ainda, um paralelo entre os desaparecidos no período da ditadura militar (136, em 21 anos) e as pessoas de quem não se sabe o paradeiro nas favelas cariocas (7 mil, em 14 anos). O Globo mostra em números o que as organizações de direitos humanos e movimentos sociais vêm falando há anos: a política de enfrentamento e extermínio não vai contribuir para a redução dos índices de violência. Se assim fosse, com tanta gente desaparecida e, claro, morta, a tendência era algum tipo de melhora. E nem adianta o argumento de que isto é resultado, apenas, das ações dos criminosos ou das milícias. Os depoimentos na reportagem mostram que não são. Para o cenário caótico em que nos encontramos, colabora, também, a polícia; seja extorquindo, abusando do poder ou simplesmente matando sob a desculpa de estar combatendo o crime. Por isso, para mim, não há dúvida de que adotar uma lógica de guerra e invadir as favelas matando indiscriminadamente não é o melhor caminho para se pensar a segurança pública.

The newspaper also draws a parallel between persons disappeared during the military dictatorship (136, in 21 years) and those who have disappeared from Rio shantytowns (7,000 in 14 years). O Globo shows in hard numbers what human rights groups and social movements have been saying for years: The policy of armed clashes and extermination are not going to help reduce violence. If they could, the trend would be for violence to decrease, with so many dead or disappeared. Nor does the argument succeed according to which that this is a merely a result of criminal and militia activities. The persons interviewed by the paper demonstrate this clearly. In the chaotic scenario in which we find ourselves, the police also play a part, whether by engaging in extortion, abusing their power or simply killing people on the pretext that they are combating crime. For this reason, in my  view, there is no doubt but that adopting the logic of war and invading the shantytowns, killing indiscriminately, is not the best way to think about public security.

Como há muito não acontecia, fiquei satisfeita com o que li no jornal. Mas, ainda era cedo para dizer que me decepcionei. Afinal, tratava-se de uma série de matérias e aquela era só a primeira. Qualquer conclusão só deveria ser feita no próximo domingo. Acontece que não deu para esperar. Apresso-me para escrever sobre o tema, pois o jornal de hoje acabou com minhas boas impressões.

As has not happened for a long time now, I was satisfied by what I read in the newspaper. But it was still too early to say that I my low expectations had been overcome for once. After all, this was a series of articles and that was only the first of them. No conclusions show be drawn until next Sunday. And as it happens, I did not even have to wait. I am commenting early on the topic because today’s newspaper has put an end to my positive first impressions.

A reportagem, como nos dias anteriores, está excelente. Isso se deve, principalmente, aos bons depoimentos que tratam do tema central da matéria: moradores de favelas que passam a viver exilados.

The reporting, as on previous days, was excellent. This was principally due to the fine interviews conducted on the central issue of the article: Shantytown dwellers who have been exiled from their communities.

A coisa começou a mudar quando li, na capa, a manchete: “Quando fugir da favela é a única solução”. E logo abaixo: “Tráfico leva moradores ao exílio”. Primeiro equívoco. Não é apenas o tráfico que faz com que moradores de favela tenham que fugir de suas casas e viver escondidos. A afirmação omite, também, o fato de que muitos moradores fogem e não podem sequer denunciar seus agressores à polícia, pois correm o risco de serem entregues por ela. A chamada persiste no erro, citando apenas o tráfico como grande vilão e conclui com uma fala do governador Sérgio Cabral: “essas atrocidades mostradas pelo Globo são reais. Esse poder paralelo é selvagem”.

Things started to change when I read the headline on the front page: “When leaving the favela is the only solution.” And just below: “Traffic drives residents into exile.” First error. It is not only the traffic that forces residents to leave their homes and go into hiding. That statement omits to mention, as well, that many residents have to leave without being able to go to the police to testify against their assailants, because they run the risk that the police will betray them. The callout persists in this error, citing only the traffic as the villain of the piece, and concludes with a quote from Governor Cabral: “These atrocities shown by O Globo are real. This parallel power is savage.”

Concordo plenamente com o governador. O poder paralelo é selvagem. E o poder do Estado seria o que, então? Será que o governador acha pouco essa selvageria e por isso manda o caveirão? Será que o governador só ficou sabendo dessas atrocidades pelo Globo? Será que ele ainda acha que policiais bandidos são coisa rara? Quantas atrocidades, como a do Alemão, o governador pretende cometer para acabar com as atrocidades reais?

I agree wholeheartedly with the governor. The parallel power is savage. But what is the power of the State, then? … With the call-out, the headline and the quote from the governor, the newspaper once against is legitimating the policy of armed confrontation, defining the shantytowns as a fortress of criminality and justifying acts of extermination by the police. If the logic of war applies, then deaths come to be treated as collateral damage, a necessary evil. Such is the logic of the state that is defended by the press.

Fiquei incomodada com a capa do jornal. Sabemos que a maioria das pessoas não lêem as reportagens, lêem apenas os títulos. Com a chamada, a manchete e a fala do governador, o jornal, mais uma vez, legitima a política de confronto, definindo as favelas como um espaço que serve de reduto para criminosos e justificando ações de extermínio da polícia. Se a lógica é de guerra, as mortes passam a ser tratadas como efeito colateral, um mal necessário. É esta a lógica do Estado e defendida pela imprensa.

I was disturbed by the newspaper’s front page. We know that most people do not read the reporting, but simply skim the headlines. With the call-out, the headline and the quote from the governor, the newspaper once against is legitimating the policy of armed confrontation, defining the shantytowns as a fortress of criminality and justifying acts of extermination by the police. If the logic of war applies, then deaths come to be treated as collateral damage, a necessary evil. Such is the logic of the state that is defended by the press.

Lógica que é defendida de forma escancarada no editorial desta edição. A primeira frase mostra bem o que vem pela frente: “Embora seja uma doença urbana disseminada pelo país, a favelização virou a cara do Rio”. Mais abaixo o jornal conclui que “a favela nada tem de romântico e idílico. Mora-se quase sempre mal (…)”. Fico imaginando quantas vezes o cidadão que escreveu este texto foi a uma favela para fazê-lo com tamanha certeza. Não é preciso morar na favela para enxergar o belo que há nelas, para admirar a alegria, a criatividade e solidariedade que há entre os moradores – bem diferente do individualismo que reina nos condomínios da zona sul.

That logic is defended nakedly in the editorial of O Globo’s Sunday edition. The first sentence gives us a very clear idea of where we are heading: “Those it may be an urban plague that has spread throughout Brazil, favelization has become the public face of Rio de Janeiro.” Lower down, the newspaper concludes that “the shantytown has nothing romantic or idyllic about it. Life there is almost always bad.” I am trying to imagine how many times the citizen who wrote this visited a shantytown in order to confirm that self-assured statement. You needn’t live there to perceive that there is something lovely about the shantytowns, the creativity and solidarity of the residents — quite different that the individualism that reins supreme in the condominiums of the Southern District.

A expressão “doença urbana” mostra bem o lugar de quem escreveu. É doença para a elite racista que mora de frente para a praia e é o patrão que explora os trabalhadores que vivem nas favelas. É doença para a classe média imbecil deste país, os “papagaios de telejornal” que querem “que se exploda a periferia toda”, como bem resume a música de Max Gonzaga – o clip está no Youtube e vale a pena ser visto (URL).

The expression “urban plague” [illness] betrays the position of the writer. To the racist elite that lives on the beachfront and the boss who exploits workers who live there, shantytowns are “a plague.” They are a plague to the imbecilic middle class of this country and the “TV news parrots” who want to “blow up the whole urban periphery,” as Max Gonzaga’s song puts it so succinctly. You can watch that on You Tube.

De resto, o próprio jornal se desmente. Algumas páginas depois, na coluna do Ancelmo Gois, podemos ver dados de uma pesquisa feita pela professora Alba Zaluar. A pesquisa revela que 85% dos moradores de favela não gostariam de deixar sua comunidade. Se a mesma pergunta fosse feita em bairros de classe média, este número jamais seria tão alto. Afinal, Ipanema, Leblon e Barra da Tijuca são o sonho de consumo de “todo mundo”. Ou quase todo mundo, como mostra a pesquisa. Mas, como pode a favela não ter nada “de romântico” e tanta gente gostar de morar nela? Contradições da grande mídia. Ou melhor, mentiras da grande mídia.

As to the rest, O Globo’s own reporting contradicts this view. A few pages earlier, in Ancelmo Gois’s column, we read data from a survey done by Prof. Alba Zaluar. The survey shows that 85% of shantytown dwellers would not like to leave their community. If the same question was asked in the upscale neighborhoods, the response might be just as high. After all, living in Ipanema, Leblon and Barra da Tijuca is the dream of “everyone.” Or almost everyone, as the survey shows. But if these communities have nothing “romantic” about them, why do so many people want to live there? Contradictions of the news media. Or better, lies of the news media.

O que o editorial do Globo faz é defender a política do governo do Estado, a política da elite, que a classe média avaliza, sonhando um dia morar na Vieira Souto. Para isso, o jornal usa, como argumento, a realidade cruel à qual os moradores de favela são submetidos. Pois, são eles as principais vítimas, não só da violência, mas da ausência do poder público, da exploração do trabalho e da concentração de renda. Para O Globo, o problema da nossa sociedade resume-se à existência de favelas. É o ditador da mídia questionando a ditadura nas comunidade populares. É o jornal burguês fazendo-se de paladino dos pobres favelados. Com certeza, a grande mídia não me decepciona.

What the O Globo editorial does is defend the state goverment’s police, the policy of the elite, backed by a middle class that dreams of someday moving to Vieira Souto. To this end, the paper bases its argument the cruel reality to which shantytown dwellers are subjected. After all, they are mainly victims, not only of violence, but also of the absence of public services, of workplace exploitation and the unequal distribution of income. In the view of O Globo, the problems of Brazilian society is summed up by the existence of shantytowns. It is the media dictatorship questioning the dictatorship of popular communities. It is the bourgeois newspaper posing as the knight in shining armor of the poor shantytown dweller. Once again, the major news media does not disappoint me.

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