The fastest growing sector of the international arms industry is what are referred to as “Riot Control and Public Order Weaponry.” One of the world’s largest international suppliers of these weapons – Condor – is based in Rio de Janeiro, and has expanded its business by 30% in the last 5 years. Condor supplied many of the weapons deployed in uprisings in Egypt, Turkey and Bahrain, where the products were repeatedly used against protocol and to systematically torture people.
Condor secured itself an exclusive $22 million contract as part of the security budget for the World Cup and provides Brazilian security forces with 27 different categories of “non-lethal” weapons of repression including rubber bullets, tear gas, tasers, light and sound grenades. Condor has an exclusive deal with Brazilian Defense and Security Industries Association: “That means all public defense and security public institutions, such as the Brazilian police, may purchase without a government procurement process,” says investigative reporter Bruno Fonseca.
Condor categorizes its products as “non-lethal” despite a growing number of deaths of both protestors and bystanders as reported by the UN. The categorization is important because it allows Condor to circumvent the Chemical Weapons Convention restricting the uses of toxic gases. Often classified as policing equipment, these weapons fall outside of arms sales restrictions and are mostly unregulated, with hundreds of thousands of such weapons being funnelled directly to Brazilian security forces without oversight. It seems that repression is good for business in Brazil.
In 2010, FIFA and Coca-Cola selected Somali-Canadian artist Knaan´s popular song Wavin´ Flag as the promotional anthem of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Originally a freedom song written for the oppressed classes of Somalia, K´naan was required to change the lyrics, depoliticizing them for the purposes of commercial advertising. The original freedom song has been revived by Anonymous in Brazil, calling on all Brazilians to take to the streets and protest the looting of the country by the international mafia at FIFA, who has imposed a ´state of exception´ in the country, creating militarized and exclusive spaces, squelching civil liberties and violating a number of citizen´s constitutional rights. While the extraordinary cost of hosting the World Cup is paid for with Brazilian public monies, FIFA is exempt from all taxes, and will take all of the profits, leaving a legacy of debt in a country that lacks many basic public services. Join us in the streets to protest against this heist perpetrated by FIFA upon the Brazilian people. The people united will never be defeated.
A lot of people have been asking me to comment on recent events in Ferguson and now this week, with the uprisings around the case of Eric Garner in New York. I am all of the sudden supposed to be an authority on police brutality, as I inadvertently became the victim of this kind of violence when I was beaten by a number of military police in July in Rio de Janeiro, after just having completed a documentary focused on the topic of police brutality (rhythmsofresistance.info). When a privileged white foreigner receives a mild beating at the hands of Brazilian police, it makes international headlines, whereas the same police carry out summary executions every day in the favelas with complete impunity. I was also in the streets of Toronto during the now infamous G20, a rare moment where we saw police brutality reach beyond our ghettos and arrive on the main streets of Toronto, so even us privileged white folks could get a taste of the kind of repression long suffered by poor communities the world over.
Of course, the police brutality we saw on the streets of Toronto during the G20 is much the same as what I have been encountering recently in Brazil: rubber bullets, tear gas, water canons… all the types of non-lethal weapons of repression which constitute the fastest growing category of international arms sales. The new weapons are not for fighting foreign enemies, but rather are used to repress and silence one’s own people, the so-called “internal enemy.” This term, borrowed from dictatorial politics, applies equally to silencing political dissent in many modern day “democracies” like Brazil and Canada. It’s difficult to raise one’s voice when you are choking on tear gas.
While these weapons are not without harms, my own experiences with such “police brutality” have been a picnic when compared to the far more egregious police violence perpetrated against mostly black and mostly poor people every day. As far as I can see, the discussion we should be having right now is not about police brutality, it’s about racism – two uncomfortable bedfellows. Read more
As international tourists descended on Rio’s iconic Maracanã Stadium to watch the final match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in July, most Brazilians watched from television screens outside, while others took to the streets to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to protest. It is not mere opportunism that is bringing people to the streets, seeking to capitalize on all the attention garnered by the Cup – their grievances are very much tied to the international spectacle and the social legacy it will leave in this country. When the circus leaves town, it is Brazilians who will bear the brunt of the hangover, sifting through the trash to recover all the discarded beer cans after the party. It is very true that these events bring extraordinary benefits, but to whom are these benefits accrued? The benefits are privatized and profit an international elite – FIFA and the event sponsors – while the costs are socialized. FIFA will pay no taxes in Brazil and commit one of the greatest heists in Brazilian history upon its citizenry. Read more
For some, activism is a choice, but for many, it becomes an imperative when life circumstances thrust them against injustice, and the call to action a necessity. Such was the case for Liz Martin, whose nephew Joe was executed by Brazilian police on his 30th birthday when he was living as an expat in Rio de Janeiro. Liz’s personal story is harrowing and caused me to break down in tears when I first heard it. Read more