Roger Cohen writes: The world is moved by Team Refugees at the Olympics in Rio. They are greeted with a standing ovation at the opening ceremony. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, not a man given to extravagant displays of emotion, is all smiles.
President Obama tweets support for these 10 athletes who “prove that you can succeed no matter where you’re from.” Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, posts a video on Facebook in which she speaks of the world’s 65 million displaced people — the largest number since World War II — and says they “are dreaming bigger because you’re doing what you’re doing.”
Who could fail to be moved? These are brave people. They have fled anguish in search not of a better life, but of life itself. In general, you do not choose to become a refugee because you have a choice, but because you have no choice. Like Yusra Mardini, the 18-year-old Syrian refugee from a Damascus suburb, who left a country that now exists only in name, and reached Germany only after the small boat bringing her from Turkey to Greece started taking on water in heavy seas. She and her sister Sarah dived into the water and for more than three hours pushed until it reached the island of Lesbos.
In Rio, Mardini won her heat of the 100-meter butterfly, but did not advance due to her inferior time. Still, hers is a remarkable achievement.
Yes, the world is moved by Team Refugees. Yet, it is unmoved by refugees. [Continue reading…]
— UN Spokesperson (@UN_Spokesperson) August 6, 2016
The Guardian reports: For the first time in Olympic history, 10 athletes will compete at Rio 2016 for the Refugee Olympic Team in a move designed to bring global attention to the magnitude of the worldwide refugee crisis.
After the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, announced in March that a team would be selected, 43 were identified as candidates and 10, displaced from South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, have since been picked in three sports – athletics, swimming and judo. The athletes will march with the Olympic flag immediately before host nation Brazil at Friday’s opening ceremony.
Bach said: “These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the world. The Olympic anthem will be played in their honour and the Olympic flag will lead them into the Olympic Stadium.
“This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world, and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis. It is also a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society. These refugee athletes will show the world that, despite the unimaginable tragedies they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.” [Continue reading…]
UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency: Each day war forces thousands of families to flee their homes. People like you, people like me.
To escape the violence, they leave everything behind – everything except their hopes and dreams for a safer future. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency believes that all refugees deserve to live in safety.
Add your name to the #WithRefugees petition to send a clear message to governments that they must act with solidarity and shared responsibility.
Niko Besnier and Susan Brownell write: The parade of athletes in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games often evokes strong feelings of national pride. After the 2012 Summer Games in London, the Armenian National Committee of America sent a letter of protest to NBC’s CEO and president, Stephen Burke, to complain about the short shrift Armenia received from the commentator, who only said four words about their country: “Armenia, now walking in.” Their grievance paled, however, in comparison to the Olympics-related protest that took place in 1996. Thousands of Chinese people and organizations in the U.S. and elsewhere collected US$21,000 to buy advertisements in prominent newspapers protesting the fact that NBC commentator Bob Costas mentioned human rights abuses, doping allegations, and property rights disputes as the Chinese delegation entered the stadium for the parade.
About a billion people are expected to watch the opening ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games on television on August 5. For most people, the highlight will be watching their country’s athletes walk proudly into the stadium behind their national flag.
The parade of athletes displays a neat world order filled with proud, loyal citizens. But nations are not really the clear political units presented in this happy family portrait. Beneath the surface is a mess of transnational wheeling and dealing by power brokers as well as athletes seeking to get the most reward for their hard work and talent—for themselves and for their families and friends.
In the last few years, well-heeled Persian Gulf states have attracted athletes from other countries by offering them money, training facilities, and the possibility of qualifying for the Olympics more easily than in their home countries. The diminutive but oil-rich emirate of Qatar, for example, has until now played a very modest role in world sports. But in recent years the country has made huge investments in sports and adopted a liberal citizenship policy for athletes. The Qatari national handball team, which reached the finals at the men’s 2015 Handball World Championship, had only four players originating from Qatar on their 17-person squad — the rest had been recruited from overseas. By our calculation, more than half of the 38 athletes who will represent Qatar in Rio were born elsewhere. [Continue reading…]
Robin Wright writes: Samia Yusuf Omar, who was lithe to the point of frailty, sprinted her way to momentary fame at the Beijing Olympics, in 2008. She was one of two athletes on the team from war-torn Somalia. Only seventeen, she’d had no professional coaching, and had dropped out of school in the eighth grade, after her father died, to help care for five younger siblings while her mother peddled produce. She practiced at a bombed-out stadium in Mogadishu. Female athletes were rare in Somalia, and she faced harassment and intimidation from Islamist militias. In Beijing, she dared to run without a hijab. Virtually no one in Somalia was able to watch her compete — no TV station carried the Olympics, and many Somalis had no television or electricity, anyway. Omar’s running shoes had been donated by runners on Sudan’s team.
Omar competed in the women’s two hundred metres, a middle-distance race. Beating her personal record, at 32.16 seconds, she still finished last — so far behind that the camera couldn’t keep her in the frame — but the crowd roared when she completed the race.
“We know that we are different from the other athletes,” Omar said in Beijing. “But we don’t want to show it. We try our best to look like the rest. We understand we are not anywhere near the level of the other competitors here. We understand that very, very well. But, more than anything else, we would like to show the dignity of ourselves and our country.” [Continue reading…]
Most of the headlines in recent weeks have focused on Brazil’s troubling political crisis. But the country is also in the midst of a deep economic recession.
The economy has been shrinking since the second quarter of 2014. It contracted by 3.8 percent in 2015 and is expected to shrink by a similar amount this year. Earlier this month, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said it sees the recession continuing into 2017.
Yet it was only in 2009 – in the middle of the global financial crisis – that the Economist magazine featured a story entitled “Brazil takes off,” with a photo of the Corcovado – the iconic statue of Christ that overlooks Rio de Janeiro – launching like a rocket. That article emphasized why Brazil deserved to be one of the “BRICs” – the rapidly growing economies including Russia, India and China that now account for nearly 25 percent of global GDP.
How could the outlook for Brazil have changed so rapidly? Is this sort of boom and bust unprecedented or a recurring theme in Brazil’s history?
In this article, we provide a historical perspective on the current economic crisis, relying on our own scholarship and years of analysis of the Brazilian economy.
Bruno Cava writes: The fall of Dilma seems to demand an obvious reading on the part of the left. Again in the history of Latin America, a national-popular government is overthrown by the neocolonial elites. Again, the geopolitical attempt to build an alternative axis to the imperialism of Washington, this time through the BRICs, ends up crushed by a restoration of the conservatives. The history of coups d’etat again returns to the stage in the subcontinent, and an echo is heard of the coups of 1964 (Brazil), 1973 (Chile) and 1976 (Argentina), and the military uprising against Chavez in Venezuela (2002), or again the so-called “soft coups” against Zelaya in Honduras (2009) and Lugo in Paraguay (2012). This time the victims have been the largest mass party in the Americas, the biggest domino piece that now threatens the entire wave of progressive governments. There are more than enough signs to reinforce that interpretation. Taking to the streets in favour of the Partido de Trabalhadores (PT) are Lula, the MST (Movimiento de los Trabajadores Sin-Tierra, Landless Workers’ Movement) and a pantheon of leftist intellectuals, along with stars and red flags, exposing the immediate ramifications of the coup and denouncing it.
The end of the Workers Party’s 2003 to 2016 hold on federal government affects the current situation of those who feel themselves to be directly involved in the project. Regardless of what this “project” may mean, to admit its collapse is interpreted as the end of a worldview. As truncated and full of contradictions as it may be, when the curtain falls to end the petista play, the feeling that manifests is a mixture of melancholy and rage. So great was the hope placed in the PT that the present moment feels like the end of an era, and, shipwrecked with it, the left, progressivism, and every possible horizon of struggle. Future, present and past come together at a point where everything appears to gain depth and everything is put in doubt: not only who occupies the governmental seat will be decided, but also the social gains of the past two decades, the institutional legacy of the 1988 Constitution, and the memory of the struggles against dictatorship.
During the impeachment vote in Congress, parliamentarians repeatedly invoked sacred values and patriotic institutions in dramatic speeches. A deputy praised a torturer colonel of the 1964 regime, another proclaimed the end of the “lulopetista dictatorship” grounded in the Bolsa Familia (Family Allowance programme), described by another deputy as “creating paid vagrants”. Time constraints also impelled the opposing deputies to invoke the martyrs of the resistance, from Zumbi, the insurgent leader of the slaves, to Olga Benário, the communist deported from the Vargas dictatorship to the Third Reich and subsequently gassed. The dramatised scenes of the Brazilian parliamentary representation’s tableau vivant sounded like successive blows of theatre, jumping uncharacteristically from scene to scene.
It should provoke at least curiosity, in those less easily persuaded by histrionics and melodramatic effects, to qualify as a coup the procedure carried out under the country’s presidential constitution, foreseen precisely for the removal of an elected president, when the procedure itself is carried out to the letter and under the supervision of a supreme court composed of eleven members, eight of whom proposed by the PT governments. Or, that the person who will take the place of Dilma, if the impeachment is confirmed in October, will be the vice president who was elected along with her in 2014 and 2010. More than two thirds of MPs in both Brazilian legislative chambers voted to open the impeachment process, with an interval of nearly a month between the first and second deliberation, during which time government forces exercised their defence in forums and media and in the appropriate bodies, before which appeal after appeal were filed, in a microscopic dissection of the ritual. [Continue reading…]
The Intercept reports: Brazil today awoke to stunning news of secret, genuinely shocking conversations involving a key minister in Brazil’s newly installed government, which shine a bright light on the actual motives and participants driving the impeachment of the country’s democratically elected president, Dilma Rousseff. The transcripts were published by the country’s largest newspaper, Folha de São Paulo, and reveal secret conversations that took place in March, just weeks before the impeachment vote in the lower house took place. They show explicit plotting between the new planning minister (then-senator), Romero Jucá, and former oil executive Sergio Machado — both of whom are formal targets of the “Car Wash” corruption investigation — as they agree that removing Dilma is the only means for ending the corruption investigation. The conversations also include discussions of the important role played in Dilma’s removal by the most powerful national institutions, including — most importantly — Brazil’s military leaders.
The transcripts are filled with profoundly incriminating statements about the real goals of impeachment and who was behind it. The crux of this plot is what Jucá calls “a national pact” — involving all of Brazil’s most powerful institutions — to leave Michel Temer in place as president (notwithstanding his multiple corruption scandals) and to kill the corruption investigation once Dilma is removed. In the words of Folha, Jucá made clear that impeachment will “end the pressure from the media and other sectors to continue the Car Wash investigation.” It is unclear who is responsible for recording and leaking the 75-minute conversation, but Folha reports that the files are currently in the hand of the prosecutor general. The next few hours and days will likely see new revelations that will shed additional light on the implications and meaning of these transcripts.
The transcripts contain two extraordinary revelations that should lead all media outlets to seriously consider whether they should call what took place in Brazil a “coup”: a term Dilma and her supporters have used for months. When discussing the plot to remove Dilma as a means of ending the Car Wash investigation, Jucá said the Brazilian military is supporting the plot: “I am talking to the generals, the military commanders. They are fine with this, they said they will guarantee it.” He also said the military is “monitoring the Landless Workers Movement” (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, or MST), the social movement of rural workers that supports PT’s efforts of land reform and inequality reduction and has led the protests against impeachment. [Continue reading…]
Middle East Eye reports: Brazil has apparently rebuffed Israel’s nomination of a settler as its next ambassador in a move Israel says will damage diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Dani Dayan, a 60-year-old who lives in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Shomron, was nominated in August as Israel’s new ambassador to Brasilia.
However Brazil has yet to endorse the Argentina-born diplomat’s appointment, following lobbying in Brazil against his nomination and protests to President Dilma Rousseff about Dayan.
Ambassadorial appointments must be endorsed by the host nation – a process known as an agrément. However, if no endorsement is forthcoming within two months, it is understood that the choice has not been accepted.
Dayan was a senior member of the Yesha Council, an umbrella organisation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and Brazilian activists are worried that approving his selection would be seen as supporting Israel’s settlements, which are illegal under international law. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: Brazil’s reluctance to accept an Israeli ambassador who is a West Bank settler has led to a standoff with Israel now warning it could downgrade diplomatic relations.
The appointment four months ago of Dani Dayan, a former head of the Jewish settlement movement, did not go down well with Brazil’s left-leaning government, which has supported Palestinian statehood in recent years.
Most world powers deem the Jewish settlements illegal.
Israel’s previous ambassador, Reda Mansour, left Brasilia last week and the Israeli government said on Sunday Brazil risked degrading bilateral relations if Dayan were not allowed to succeed him. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: More than half the myriad tree species in the Amazon could be heading for extinction, according to a study that makes the first comprehensive estimate of threatened species in the world’s largest rainforest. Among the species expected to suffer significant falls in numbers are the Brazil nut, and wild cacao and açai trees, all important food sources.
The world’s most diverse forest has endured decades of deforestation, with loggers, farmers and miners responsible for the removal of 12% of its area. If that continues in the decades ahead, 57% of the 15,000 tree species will be in danger, according to the researchers. [Continue reading…]
Wagner Moura writes: As a child growing up in one of Brazil’s poorest regions, I was used to seeing well-off families take in girls from poorer ones to come live in their homes and be brought up as one of their own. This was seen as an act of kindness. It was only much later that I came to see it for what it really was: these young girls, who would do all the domestic chores all day long in return only for food and a roof over their heads, were in fact modern slaves.
There are 21 million modern slaves in the world today, most of them women and girls hiding in plain sight in poor and rich countries alike – 7% of today’s slaves live in North America or the European Union. From trafficking and sexual exploitation to work in private homes, agriculture, fishing, construction and manufacturing, modern slavery is not only a crime, it is big business. It generates some $150bn in illegal profits every year, according to an estimate by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Poverty is at the root of it, as is lack of awareness by both victims and the general public. Forced labor affects the most vulnerable and least protected people, perpetuating a vicious cycle of poverty and dependency. Women, low-skilled migrant workers, children, indigenous peoples and other groups suffering discrimination on different grounds are disproportionately affected. And many victims don’t even consider themselves to be slaves – working to pay off a debt passed down through generations, or being a servant in a private home from dusk to dawn is the only life some have ever known. At the same time, you may be eating food picked by modern slaves, or wearing clothes made with slave labor without realizing it. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: With bows, arrows, GPS trackers and camera traps, an indigenous community in northern Brazil is fighting to achieve what the government has long failed to do: halt illegal logging in their corner of the Amazon.
The Ka’apor – a tribe of about 2,200 people in Maranhão state – have organised a militia of “forest guardians” who follow a strategy of nature conservation through aggressive confrontation.
Logging trucks and tractors that encroach upon their territory – the 530,000-hectare Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Land – are intercepted and burned. Drivers and chainsaw operators are warned never to return. Those that fail to heed the advice are stripped and beaten.
It is dangerous work. Since the tribe decided to manage their own protection in 2011, they say the theft of timber has been reduced, but four Ka’apor have been murdered and more than a dozen others have received death threats. [Continue reading…]