Weeks away from the World Cup and not too far from the Olympics, whoever is lucky enough to be attending one of these events will obviously be expecting enthusiastic and everlasting carnivals, beautiful and joyful dancers, a lovely weather and a city ready to receive only around 500,000 football fans. Let me update you, this was yesterday April 22nd in Rio de Janeiro: ( See pictures above).
Rio de Janeiro, probably the most widely known Brazilian city and expected to receive thousands of visitors from all around the world in less than two months exactly the Brazilian reality. Rio de Janeiro is a city full of tourists throughout the whole year, advertised for its carnivals, warmness and lovely landscapes. At the same time, is plagued with “slums” which cannot ever be compared to its meaning in the UK. “Slums” in Rio de Janeiro mean a “community” or a bunch full of half-destroyed houses, prostitution, drug trafficking, criminal bands, murders and do not even bother asking how many schools or medical care centres are there, because they are none. Around half an hour away from these places one could find big stadiums being built, roads being repaired and cleaned for the upcoming tourists and one can only wonder: HOW IS THAT? There is money for stadiums and roads but not to feed Brazilians? Of course, the well-known argument that we remember from the London Olympics comes out of the mouths of Brazilian politicians too: Tourists will bring money to local businesses, tourism improve the economy etc … Now, for starters, we must understand that people living in these slums are not educated nor owners of any sort of businesses (apart from maybe a drug one) or even speak English. Furthermore, is you were a tourist I will strongly advice you NOT TO go there under any circumstances. From this, and much more, we can already understand that this will not bring any sort of benefit to Brazilians and probably will even end up harming tourists.
Having understood this, when this reality is translated to the Global Political Economy the true meaning of “development” arises. Brazil is regarded as a rapidly developing country, with its GDP growing fast and an economy that is open and ready for business and investment; a country known for its “social approach” since Lula’s government and a country that has been able to use its soft power effectively and its amazing resources to overcome times of crisis. However, under my eyes, this is just a bad attempt to develop rapidly, to increase numbers on a screen, and attempt to be just another western state. The reality is Brazil is far from development. Brazil is a country ever year more unequal, more unfair. A country that prefers to invest in a World Cup rather than on its people; the only capital a country truly owns. At the end, losers are Brazilians but let me say, not every Brazilian. Not the Brazilians that are able to speak several languages and travel around the world, or Brazilians living in the centre of Rio enjoying how their roads get even better. The true losers are Brazilians in the slums, Brazilians that do not speak a word of English, Brazilians forgotten and pushed outside the city, Brazilian that regard from above (slums are mostly built on the top of hills and mountains) how the city “develops” and they don’t with a confusion background mixed with the sound of the joy of carnivals and the pull of a trigger.
Ana Maria Franco
Middlesex University, London.