Tropa de Elite: Embedded Political Commentary on NGOs

Time will tell whether the emergence of the quasi government is to be viewed as a symptom of decline in our democratic government, or a harbinger of a new, creative management era where the purportedly artificial barriers between the governmental and private sectors are breached as a matter of principle. — Kevin R. Kosar, “The Quasi Government: Hybrid Organizations with Both Government and Private Sector Legal Characteristics” (Congressional Research Service, February 13, 2007)

A ONG DO PSDB QUE TRAFICAVA DROGAS NA FAVELA (YouTube). A videblogger notes a detail in the blockbuster film Tropa de Elite that I noted myself in passing: Some embedded political commentary.

No filme Tropa de Elite existe uma ONG que faz supostamente “trabalho social” numa comunidade favelada do Rio. Mas a rigor é abrigo de “playboyzinhos brancos” que servem de “mulas” para colocar a droga na Universidade e nos ambientes bem-nascidos da Zona Sul, e comitê eleitoral tucano disfarçado. O “dono” da ONG é um candidato a Senador da República, cujo número é 451 — número do TSE para os candidatos do PSDB.

In the movie [Elite Squad, as I think they mean to call it in English –Ed.], there is this NGO that is supposedly doing “social work” in a shantytown community, but in fact is a front for “little white playboys” who are shown working as mules moving drugs onto the university campus and into well-to-do neighbhorhoods in the Zona Sul — and is also a campaign committee for the PSDB political party in disguise. The man who controls the NGO is a federal senator, whose ballot number is 451 — a number assigned by the federal elections tribunal for the PSDB.

The Senator’s name is Magalhães — possibly a reference to the late Antônio Carlos Magalhães. Whose son and political heir, notoriously, died of an overdose of Bolivian marching powder.
In that scene, you see the head of the NGO pushing campaign literature and materials on two characters, one of them a BOPE trooper, the other of whom later winds up executed by the “dono do morro” — the drug trafficker who controls the community where the NGO works, and for whom some of the volunteers are indeed shown distributing Bolivian marching powder, under cover of the organization.

The most scathing indictment of NGOs as vehicles for governance arbitrage, money-laundering (including laundering of criminal proceeds into political slush funds) and machine politics is still Sergio Bianchi’s “How much apiece, or do they sell it by the pound?” (Cuanto vale, ou é por kilo?)


I have spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out just how realistic or exaggerated the situations depicted in that film might be, and am starting to conclude that that kind of stuff really does go on.

A recent “creative accounting” flap at Petrobras involved the use of fictitious contracts with NGOs —  ironically, organizations with a contract with the state government to offer courses on the so-called New Public Administration or “new public management” — to launder the proceeds of kickbacks allegedly paid to secure drilling platform maintenance contracts.

The overall contract between the state and the NGO was legitimate, it is reported. The scheme turned on the NGO’s contracts with fictitious third-party outsourcers set up by an accountant for one of the firms involved and the head of the NGO. Who were in business together.


See also

If it is an NGO or nonprofit foundation, it must be up to good and noble purposes, right? That’s folklore, too — even though many NGOs undoubtedly are taking donor money and applying it efficiently to the clearly defined pruposes they have promised to apply them to, I hasten to add.

The best ones are the ones with the most open books, I tend to find.

Try to discover who funds the transparency-themed Brazilian NGO Contas Abertas [“open accounts”], for example. I have tried. It ain’t easy.

It seems that find that out, you have to fly to Brasilia, locate a certain registrar’s office, and have a very long and complicated file number jotted down for the clerk there. “For our friends, anything; for our enemies, the Law.”


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