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«My Dear, You Must Be Joking»

João Luiz Mauad

Instituto Millenium

Translation: C. Brayton

Friday, May 31, was another in a series of terrible days for public safety in Rio de Janeiro. First, we heard reports that various police precincts had decided to “sit on their hands,” refusing to open for business. In placing dilettantism ahead of duty, these people are an example of how vast sectors of civil servants are guided, not by principles, but by the utter lack of them. Any day of the week when police precincts are shuttered — working day, weekend or holiday — is something, not from the third world, but from the fourth, the fifth, the sixth.

On the same day, another foreign tourist was severely injured during a visit to the Rocinha shantytown, in the city’s Southern Zone. The German as shot in the arm, torso and liver. He was taking a walk through the community with a friend when he was surprised by an armed man.

As soon as I read these news, I recalled a shocking article I had read the day before, in the American magazine Slate, in which reputable journalist Anne Applebaum sings  the praises of Brazil and of Rio in particular. The title and subtitle are apologetic: “Brazil’s Special Miracle – Why aren’t Brazilians more willing to promote the secrets of their success?”

In a handful of lines and with painfully shallow knowledge of our country, the author praises Brazil’s incipient entrepreneurship, its failed ethanol program, the welfare state and the Bolsa-Família, the quality of life in the favelas, the leadership of Brazil among the so-called “nonaligned” nations and the positive example Brazil should set for other poor nations.

Frankly, Anne, you must be joking.