Ere I Saw Elba Ester | AMLO on the Comeback Trail

At first I found it mildly irritating.

Now I find it utterly abhorrent. The U.S. press is reporting on this year’s presidential race in Mexico as though it were a Manichean choice between two sharply defined alternatives: the return of the PRI or the perpetuation of the PAN.

The result of this crude statistical hack tends to take the form of polling results which do not add up to 100%, with no explanation offeredof as to where the other preferences are flocking.

Like it or not, Andrés Manuel López Obrador – AMLO — is a viable candidate whose chances are significantly enhanced by corruption scandals involving the PAN candidate.

Furthermore, I firmly believe AMLO was cheated of a narrow victory in the 2006 elections, during which PAN received illegal support from the U.S. business community and the political consultant Dick Morris, working under an assumed name.

A key element in the political machine mobilized against the center-left candidate is one of the most byzantine political villainesses in the history of south of the border, the national teachers union boss Elba Ester Gordillo. I took a fair amount of notes on the subject on my former blog, New Market Machines.

Among other villainous acts, Gordillo promoted the murderous repression of an SNTE local in Oaxaca, during which the U.S. journalist Brad Wills was assassinated by a political death squad controlled by the corrupt governor. The State Department embarassed itself royally by attempting to soft-peddle the incident in its press conferences. How do these seersucker Yale legacy men face the mirror after squash?

Anyway, that pretty well fucking did it for me: I am a gringo in a strange land myself. Will Hillary defend me when the death squads knock on our door?

Ciudadania Express (Mexico) reports that Gordillo remains a powerful political patron capable of mobilizing union members to defraud the voting. I translate.

Oaxaca, México.- Andrés Manuel López Obrador says that when he is elected President, he will not protect any of Mexico’s  political machines, including that of  Elba Esther Gordillo, national president of the teachers union, the «Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación» (SNTE); democracy, he says, is the way to defeat them..

“For this as it is for many things, democracy is the remedy,” said the presidential candidate of  Movimiento Progresista, a coalition of the PRD, PT and Movimiento Ciudadano.

During a morning news conference on the fifth day of the official presidential campai gn, AMLO focused on educational challenges confronting Mexico and exemplified by low quality of services, especially in elementary and middle school education …

“Only 4 in 10 young persons attend high school; 6 of 10 have no opportunity to study. The same is true of college education: only 28% of college-age youth are able to actually attend”, the former federal district governor said..

«What will you do with Elba Ester Gordillo?», reporters asked the candidate..

«Nothing must stand in the way of improving education, especially not machine politics ….»

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The Empire of Orange Juice | Cutrale v. the MST

The pro-rural media is once again drooling its hatred for the MST, which yesterday returned to reoccupy land “claim-jumped” by Cutrale in Iaras, in rural São Paulo.

Altamiro Borges, a one-time editor of Vermelho — the party organ of the PCdoB — recites the litany: the commercial media in Brazil is systematically biased against the Landless Workers Movement, or MST.

The allegation has the misfortune of being painfully obvious, independent of which side you favor. I translate in the spirit of providing context for official diplomatic cables on the situation of the MST.

TV anchors and commentators denounced the “invasion” and ran archive footage in which orange trees were damaged …. footage dating from September 2009. Though Incra has ruled again and again that the land belongs to the federal union, the media insist on demonizing the landless workers movement .

The occupation of Cutrale was part of a day of action for agrarian reform, including an encampment with 4,000 participants in Brasilia and various actions in other states. The media aired not a single word of our grievances or the absurdities of land ownership in Brazil. The media prefers to hear from the “victim,” Cutrale – a fact that at least attracts attention, even if it is negative attention, to the problem of land entitlement.

A criminal omission

At critical moments, the hegemonic mass media always takes sides. It unfailingly takes the side of the powerful, including in this case the barons of agribusiness, against the side of the workers. It will even cover up events that it has already reported during a less eventful period. Cutrale’s is an emblematic case. The newsrooms know full well the irregularities practiced by this company, but prefer the criminal conspiracy of silence.

In May 2003, for example, Veja magazine — possibly for mercenary reasons –- did a long report on Cutrale. Veja recounted that Cutrale is one of the largest agribusiness concerns in the world and that it has built its empire on the basis of predatory and illegal practices. “The Brazilian José Luís Cutrale and his family control 30% of the world market in orange juice, a figure comparable to that of OPEC in the oil business”.

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Satanic Mills and The Pigs of Steel

A black-hat carvoaria in Piauí — entire debt-enslaved families engaged in illegal deforestation and the defrauding of carbon-steel production standards.  

It is a shame that Brasil Econômico is hiding today’s report on the black-market carbon industry behind its pay-to-play firewall.

Although it has taken some time to get up steam, the BE — which takes the place of the late, lamented Gazeta Mercantil — thoroughly explores the proposition that specialty steels used by automakers could not be produced sustainably without Brazilian slave and child labor and black-market carbon manufacture.

To be precise, the coverage is largely based on a 7-year study by the Observatório Social, whose methods and means are closely scrutinized. The Observatório titles its report “The Steel of Devastation.” It is itself a steely-eyed and devastating document.

The Observatório describes how companies dedicated, pro forma, to the use of legally produced carbon in their production of pig-iron are really just overlooking the illegal back-door introduction of slave labor-based, environmentally predatory carbon production into the supply chain of “certified” carbon producers.

The illegal facilities are generally located some 10km from the Potemkin villages that front for them — far enough away for plausible deniability, close enough for midnight runs with unmarked trucks with no onboard manifest.

Steel producers — unlike industries that scream for the economic sense and moral rectitude of “self-regulation” — claim that oversight of standards and practices is not their responsibility, Brasil Economico reports.

Again, the real grabber here is the claim that the entire industry would not be sustainable under any other regime now practicable — such as eucalyptus plantations for carbon production — if it were not for slave labor-produced predatory deforestation.

This report really ought to be Englished, and Englished proficiently, o quanto antes.

ANJ | An Exercise in Brazilian Self-Control

Luiz Egypto of the Observatório da Imprensa hammers on the one-note samba: the Brazilian press still shows signs of a sadistic immaturity.

Contemplating this sudden passion for self-regulation of the Brazilian news media — this year’s media blitz —  is like encountering a two year-old with the astonishing civility of Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

The major Brazilian press in general is sleazy, raunchy, stupid and cruel, and wholly uninterested in small-t truth, has been since forever, and aims to stay that way because that sells papers, as far as I can see.

I translate a trecho pra inglês ver.

Receiving only bureaucratic mention – and a segment on the Jornal Nacional –  was the May 26 announcement by the National Association of Newspapers (ANJ) that it has approved its Permanent Program of Self-Regulation. This is a commendable effort by the ownership syndicate in the direction of formalizing a set of best practices for journalism vehicles and their affiliates. It is the fruit of much labor by Sidnei Basile, who passed away in March before seeing it flower.

Basile was a long-term consilgliere to the Civita family of Editora Abril and, if I am not mistaken, a founding partner in Innovation Media Consulting.

It is not quite the case, however, that the program has been “implemented.”.In its announcement, the ANJ informed us that “a guide sheet with the Program will be made available on our Web site”, which has not in fact yet happened.

It is now available, discretely tucked away in a corner of the Web page:

It is nothing but a set of PowerPoint slides that belabor the obvious, with an accent on the message that the Brazilian news media already exercises sufficient self-control. Requires swearing an oath to the free enterprise system — which is sort of a grim joke in such a densely concentrated market.

In any event, the ANJ has made a very important amendment to its by-laws, including among the duties of its members the obligation of newspapers and news sites to create their own self-regulation programs, communicating this to the ANJ and to readers. According to the ANJ, “the period for implementing this step, whether in a year or more, is still to be determined”.

The big story here, then, is that the ANJ released a set of principles that in principle will eventually lead to a set of principles that will be boiled down into principles that will actually be followed. I am shocked! Shocked! Oh, the humanity!

Luiz puts his finger on the defects to which we are referring.

Three simple points

While the program is still getting up steam, the ANJ could at least urge its affiliates to observe its own Code of Ethics. These are the ten commandments known since time immemorial to affiliates of the organization.

Item 5, for example recommends “assuring that readers have access to different versions of the facts and various tendencies of social opinion.” Or, as in item,  6, “guarantee the publication of objective rebuttal by persons or organizations who are accused , in its own pages, of wrongdoing
 or reprehensible conduct.” And finally, item 10, “Correct any errors made in its editions.”

If just these three principles were applied consistently in  Brazilian journalism, the so-called self-regulation announced by the ANJ would already, in fact, have begun.

.Journalism is not rocket science. Write down what actually happens according to everyone who was there and then double-check to see you spelled the names right. End of story.

ECAD | Razing The Royalties Machine

Above: Scandal at ECAD — the Brazilian ASCAP! Cruelty to the beloved Creative Commons! A reform of authorial rights legislation that would prevent the labels from keeping everything! Falling out with prominent leftist intellectual Emir Sader, who is disinvited from heading the Rui Barbosa Institute!  Since the media blitz began here — Bring Me the Head of the Minister of Culture — I have been trying to get to the bottom of certain vague accusations against the Brazilia ASCAP, ECAD, which collects and  distributes royalties, handling a modest amount of funds in the low hundreds of millions per year. All I have found is a single case in which ECAD distributed money in error to a fraudster who gamed its IT system, reported after the fact by a journalist who simply leaked what someone else told them. The organization says it detected the fraud, has already charged the man criminally and is suing to get the money back. Even so, the episode is being used to leverage the proposition “the Minister of Culture consorts with corrupt or incompetent lobbying organizations!” This is bullshit, I think. Today, for example, in the Estadão, we read that a parliamentary commission of inquiry is moving forward with respect to ECAD. Absolutely the only concrete reason for ordering the expensive and time-consuming probe is the single documented case of someone defrauding the distro system. It is as if Congress, espying a single sparrow in the snow, launched a probe of why spring was so cold this year. You enthusiasts of informal logic know what I mean: One case does not constitute a trend or patterm. I smell a media-driven ratfuck — the first of the season. But audit reports by ECAD are too adequate, by far, to raise the spectre of systematic fraud based on a single case, for one thing. So I have to admit it: I am rooting for Ana Buarque. I like her music, too. Continue reading

Redefining the Brazilian ONG-NGO?

A communiqué from ABONG, the Association of Brazilian NGOs — a much weaker counterpart to the GIFE, the Group of Foundations and Institutes, which represents corporate and family philanthropic trusts, for the most part. ABONG hopes to see some of its proposed reform measures for the sector implemented. Brazilian philanthropic foundations are not notable for the transparency of their governance, I think it is fair to say. Where is last year’s Form 990? There is no such thing — not even for the local self-appointed transparency watchdogs. I translate an excerpt.

During a national open forum on effective development of Civil Society Organizations — OSCs — held by ABONG in São Paulo on 21 and 22 March, the chief of staff of the secretary general of the federal presidenc, Maria Victoria Hernandez, stated that the federal government would created a mixed commission, together with various civil society groups, to discuss and draft a new regulatory regime for OSCs, something ABONG and its associates have long advocated.

If memory serves, Brazilian law defines ONGs — NGOs — OSCIPs, or “civil society groups of public utility,” and foundations with the same description, which, under a 2007 law, requires that these entities “not exercise, in their activity, the exclusive pursuit of the private interests of associates or founders, as the case may be. There is another acronym in this field that for the life of me I cannot recall at the moment. The Instituto Millenium — a local clone of the Cato Institute — gained this status recently, and has so expanded its activities that it now employs an investor relations firm.

In 2010, a series of mobilizations, networks, movements and organizations, ABONG among them, presented the presidential candidates with a Platfor for a new Regulatory Regime for  OSCs. The document demanded a state policy with instruments and mechanisms to assure the political and financial independence of OSCs in order to benefit citizen participation, with a view to radicalizing democracy and redesigning the deliberative process for the awarding of “public utility” status.

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SEPRO-SP x SINDPD-SP | Process Servers Idled by Strike

A request from a potential client slams me face-first into a topic I have been too lazy until now to try to understand properly: Brazilian labor relations.

Members of SINDSP, the São Paulo local of FENADADOS, representing IT workers, have been engaging in work slowdowns and picketing to draw attention to their cause, which includes — according to their Web site — a variation of as much as 650% in the amount changed for a comparable service.

Brazilian labor law requires assigning a promotor to mediate negotiations and then bring a collective bargaining agreement before the regional TRT, or Labor Tribunal.  But as to a complete stoppage of IT R&D all over the sleeping “giant by its very nature,” it seems very unlikely. The national FENADADOS has yet to weigh in on the case and may be constrained by law from doing so.

A judge can decree the extent of picketing and work slowdowns a union can engage in, in fact. We are not in Kansas.

How I wish my father-iin-law, bless him, were still alive. He practiced for years in the TRT made infamous by the jailing of the judge who ordered it built, after millions in kickbacks were deftly lifted from the budget by parties who never saw the inside of a courtroom.

It actually took me some time before I realized that the SINDP were even affiliated with FENADADOS, some of whose other locals use alphabet soup such as SINDADO-DF, or data processing syndicate of the federal district.

It is interesting to be able to observe how the advertising targeting these relatively upscale professionals tends to vacation sṕots and other forms of stress relief and conspicuous consumption.

In any event, I am not working the story until I am quite sure I am going to be paid for it, but it did provide a pretext for messing about a little more with my semantic wiki.

And yes, for each entry I submit using the predefined form, an entry shows up on the category page, and logic can be brought to be on all this structured data to produce thoughts as yet unthought. In theory.

If we have the year I expect we will have, we will likely be housebound most of the time, so that by next year the wiki should contain a fair amount of background data on My Private Sambodia, culled from back blog posts and pulled hot from the presses.

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The Monkey Wrench Gang | Jirau Riots

Workers leave the work site. Source: Militância Viva. “Socialism or barbarism!”

From the daily clipping file, surprising news about how far eco-Brazlians are prepared to go to block a huge hydroelectric project in Greater Amazonia.

After consulting with the lead contractor, Camargo Corrêa, and mulling over reports from the Ministry of Mining and Energy and Brazil’s national intelligence service, the federal presidency decided to call up a contingent from the National Public Security Force and the federal police to take charge of the worksite for the  Jirau dam, in the state of Rondônia. President Rousseff is following the situation and requested that workers be withdrawn from the site and accomodated in safety.

Using at least 300 buses, Camargo transported 19,000 workers from the job sites on both banks of the Madeira River, called a halt to all activity, and cannot say at the moment when work will resume. In all, the compay is employing 22,000 workers in the constructrion of the plant, one of the largest projects in the PAC,  directing flow of the Madeira River through the Santo Antônio generating station.

Roberto Silva, head of labor relations at Camargo Corrêa, confessed to the Estado de S. Paulo daily that “the city really can’t hold this many people” and that the only solution was to pay the bus and airfare of workers from other states who wanted to go home. The company had been using building owned by the state cultural and industrical secretariates to house several hundred workers.

Yesterday, directors of the  Energia Sustentável do Brasil (ESBR) group, the consortium responsible for the project, together with cabinet ministers, decided that the first step, after establishing  security, will be to reconstruct the mess halls and dormitories, making it possible for workers to return to the site little by little. Today, the state government and the consortium are due to state that they have control over the area, hoping to discourage workers from continuing to quit at the current rate.

According to Rondõnia Live, work was interrupted by “a series of a acts of vandalism, sparked by a dispute between a bus driver and a consortium construction worker.

The state secretary of public security said the incident was highly unusual and that state police never expected things to get so far out of hand — out of hand to the point of absurdity, in his view. After citing actions taken by state police in response to the vandalism, he stressed that the situation caused only property damage, with no injuries or deaths.

Yesterday, two men were arrested setting fire to buildings owned by a subsidiary of the lead contractor, according to Rondônia Now. The arson was captured on camera by reporters at the scene, the local paper says. Rondônia Today confirms the account and adds details of arm-twisting by the minister of Labor to get the contractor to pay wages and transport to idled workers under a formal annex to the original contract.

Workers rioted at the work site in the middle of last week, burning dormitories and vehicles.

According to the ESP, the labor management problems brought on by have led to the resurgence of crazy informal recruitment schemes not seen since the Economic Miracle, under the military dictatorship — whose own great white elephant was the Transamazonian Highway. The current government has staked a great deal on this project being an ordinary elefant, ready sometime this year to begin fueling industrialization in the most underdeveloped areas of northern Brazil.  Continue reading

Brazil | Federal Home and SME Loans Survive Budget Cuts

Underlying the battle in the Congress this week over the increase in the minimum wage — the opposition leader in the Senate, Aécio Neves, has just announced he supports the lower rise, silencing loud noises from the former presidential candidate of his party as well as disappointing the major trade union conferderations —  is a project to cut the federal budget this year while maintaining development subsidies.

The local press, except for the leftist Carta Maior — the editoriographic above is from the cheerfully pelego DComércio — makes no mention of this linkage, but the factoid of the hour is that each additional real committed to the wage adjustment is R$15 billion unavailable for social and economic development programs.

As at home, the tactic of the opposition is Starve the Beast, as we saw in the purely symbolic defeat of a meaningless tax o financial transactions, the CPMF, that was simply made up for with the increase of the IOF.

With the deal now closed at the lower wage increase, the Estadao is able to report that

… the Caixa Econômica Federal and the National Social and Economic Development Bank (BNDES) will have an additional R$ 130 billion in capital for loans this year . The  Caixa will receive R$ 2.2 in  Petrobrás and Eletrobras, raise to some R$ 30 billion its loan reserve;  BNDES will get an additional R$ 6.4 billion, raising its loan capacity to R$ 100 billion.

With the increase in assets, the Caixa’s Basel Index will rise from 15.4% to 16.0% or so, but should settle at about 15% by year’s end due to a 30% increase in loan volume planned for this year.

A VP of the CEF says …  Continue reading

The Brazilian Brahma | A Beat Built

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Dawn breaks over a bucolic landscape. The Web site is folksy, almost amateurish, and poses as a news service broken down by different sorts of rural production.

All references to CNA.org.br, the Web site of Brazil’s most important agrobusiness lobby in Brazil, are redirected to the news service, called O Canal do Produtor.

Under all the folksiness, however, purrs the Rolls Royce jet engine of the best propaganda machine money can buy.  It is a fascinating apparent contradiction — until you notice, for example, that two-thirds of subsidies for heavy-duty wheeled vehicles this year have been set aside for tractors and other agricultural machinery.

Brazil is still an economy in which the freeholdings of the father — sometimes of dubious title — pay the Harvard B-School tuition of the son. For everyone in the middle, social mobility means simply crossing the road to get to the other side, which is the same as this one.

It is no accident that many of the deals attracting the attention of outsider investors are Big Beef or Big Sugar deals, much as the RR today dishes on a meeting between the Marfrig slaughterhouse company and the federal development bank.

When JBS Friboi bought Swift & Co., I think everyone woke up to the fact that tomorrow’s hamburgers are more likely to com from bos taurus indicus — the Nelore variety preferred here and in Argentina — than from the old reliable bos taurus taurus.

The central element in the graph of networked institutions has as its central element the BM&F — the Sambodian NYBOT, recently merged with the Bovespa stock exchange with the participation of those fascinating folk at the Chicago Merantile Exchange.

Almost as central, statistically, is ABAG, the Brazilian Agribusiness Association, and the principal Web site for dairy farmers, Terraviva — “the enlightened latifúndio of today is the responsible steward of tomorrow.”

Knowtec is a premier business intelligence consultancy whose principal client is SEBRAE, the federal assistance program for small and microbusinesses — including family farmers settled through the process of agrarian reform, a matter that arouses some ugly political passions here.

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