Picture Brazilian Exuberance – A Land of Contrasts

In a special supplement of 20 pages published on 14 March 2008 the British daily The Guardian draws up a balance of Brazil and Rory Carroll the writer of the article “Land of Contrasts” comes to the, as he calls it, “striking conclusion”, that “Brazil, best known for soccer, samba and sensuality, has become a serious economic player.”
Well, let’s start first of all to say, that in Brazil The Guardian is not seen as an estimable journal in regard to reporting about Brazil. So no one was surprised to see the political commentators and columnists rolling one over the other to make this article and his writer laughing stock. And I must say they have a point. Let’s have a look at some of the paragraphs of the article which I combine with the comments of Thomas Traumann, one of the most respected political bloggers in Brazil.

Let’s go back to Rory Carroll’s article in which his first paragraphs already are leading to his “striking conclusion”.
– quote –
Picture Brazilian exuberance and odds and you are not thinking economics. This, after all, is the land of carnival.
But picture this: a country where investment inflows are running at record levels, where exports of everything from soy to biofuels are surging and where the incomes of rich and poor alike are rising and driving a consumer boom.
Not quite as attention-grabbing as a beauty queen wearing just a smile and a feather, granted, but it adds up to a striking conclusion. Brazil, best known for soccer, samba and sensuality, has become a serious economic player.
– unquote – (italics by me, as the original text said: “are”, I corrected it into “and”)

It looks like as if Rory Carroll, The Guardian’s Latin America correspondent, before he reported to the The Guardian arrived in Brazil for the first time in his life after just having given credentials to all the funny stories about Brazil which are obviously the only ones printed by the Western press. He is the typical prime example of the Western journalist trying to become popular with dulled stereo-types. Thomas Traumann has to say this about the first paragraphs:
The article begins with the typical “gringo” (bloody foreigner) surprise: The country “best known for soccer, samba and sensuality,” has turned into an economic potency. A fact the British Financial Times and The Economist concluded already more than a year ago. And Rory Carroll continues with another cliché when he reports: “As well as footballers and samba it is exporting cars and planes, notably the executive jets and passenger liners of Embraer.”

After some paragraphs of senseless gossip the article, as could be expected, hits the low life of so many Brazilians:
– quote –
Hike up into the favelas, the notoriously lawless hillside slums, and …….. Rory continues
Gang warfare and police brutality remain embedded here, as does extreme inequality. Some shantytowns, with their legions of street children and shacks of wood and plastic, could pass for the more impoverished parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Except that overhead there are helicopters ferrying the super-rich to shopping appointments with Gucci and Jimmy Choo.
– unquote –
With a little more journalistic digging The Guardian could have known that the shopping centre Daslu, which is the one Rory Carroll refers to, is close to bankruptcy, as Thomas Traumann writes in his column. And Rory Carroll is obviously not aware of the fact that the economy in the favelas is growing at a rhythm only seen in China and India and certainly he did not execute a little bit of research regarding the implementation of the PAC (Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento – A program to accelerate the economic grow) in Rio’s favelas, representing a R$ 1 billion (Euro 400 million) federal investment. The program has infra-structure investments planned in the three largest favelas. The works include broadening and paving the streets, recuperating and installing sanitation installations, building homes, schools, health care stations, and recreation areas. And it is not a farce; the works are in progress at this moment.

Another quote:
In the same vein some western diplomats credit Lula with raising Brazil’s prestige but not its influence, partly because he lets Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez shout as regional spokesman. A permanent seat on the UN security council is still a dream.
– unquote –
It is true that one of the wishes of Lula is to have seat on the UN Security Council, but not at any price, as he has been pointing out to Condoleeza Rice visiting him a few days ago. Lula is adamant, doesn’t like to pronounce himself as the Latin America leader. His is, and all other Latin American heads of state recognise him as such. But Lula knows that being the head of state of the most powerful nation of Latin America, and not only economically, an outspoken leadership of Brazil might cause turbulence with the neighbours. In the recent conflict between Ecuador and Columbia, it was after all the Brazilian Secretary of State Celso Amorim who brought parties together. Never in the past has a Brazilian president been travelling around so frequently as Lula. But he refuses to implement the Western political attitudes, which require condemnation of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Lula prefers the silent diplomacy, the leadership appointed by nature, the pragmatic way of confronting problems, the Latin American way, diplomacy with a smile, which the West is not ready to accept or to understand, which sees Brazil still as Charles de Gaulle typified it years ago: “This is not a serious country”.

Rory Carroll’s report for The Guardian is a collection of “gringo” clichés, statements and “old news”, never updated and never infused by local feeling. He might be The Guardian Latin America correspondent but he was never close to the Brazilian daily life.
Although published on March 14, 2008 it seems to have be written quite some time ago, as it states “Lula was enthusiastically voted back into power last year,…” , while the elections were in 2006 and not in 2007.

One statement, Rory Carroll makes at the end of his article, is true, although dulled:
“It used to be said that Brazil was a country with a great future condemned to its eternal contemplation. That future has not arrived, not quite yet, but it is closer now than it has been in generations.”

When you want to read the full article, click: “Land of Contrasts”

When you want to read the daily political blog (in Portuguese) of Thomas Traumann, click here