Source: Observatório da Imprensa
By: Muniz Sodre
Date: November 8, 2011
Title: The Münchhausen Effect
Continuing its campaign against corruption and the abuse of public funds, O GLOBO today announces the suspension of contracts between the government and certain NGOs, accompanied by a probe of federal spending.
This front-page story could have well have been replaced by a news item published deep inside the first section of the paper, with a modest jump-head on the front page — too small to draw attention away from the paper’s requiem mass for Brazilian democracy.
Marcelo Freixo, a state assembly member in Rio de Janeiro, is leaving Brazil in order to avoid being assassinated by militiamen.
Nationally known for his presidency of the CPI of the Militias, in Rio, Freixo has sent two hundred militiamen to jail. He was invited to leave Brazil by Amnesty International, which quite correctly doubted the capability of Rio or federal police to protect the lawmaker. In announcing the move, the AI published what were essentially the results of an autopsy of Brazilian democracy.
Freixo’s statements to the press are based on two talking points: he praises the team assigned to protect him but explicitly criticizes the procedures of the state public safety secretariate.
The fact is that relying on state police protection for an elected official who is accusing city councilmembers, state deputies, senior police officers and corrupt rank and file police is to fall prey to the paradox known as Munchhausen’s Disease.
Baron Munchhausen, who actually lived during the 18th centruy and figured in the popular narrative of Rudolf Erich Raspe -– is one of the most accomplished liars of all time.
In one of his absurd stories he recounts how he pulled himself out of a bog pulling on his own hair — or in another version, by his own boot laces. Paradox is a recurrent theme in the Baron’s tales, as it is in our case: How can an official be protected by a state agency that, in the final analysis, wants him dead?
Two or three years ago, this Observatório warned of the grave institutional risk respresented by the Rio militias, viewed then as a pathetic clone of the paramillitary phenomenon in Colombia.
Our warnings have come true … like a cancer, the miltias are spreading throughout 11 states of the Federation.
More or less a decade ago, we ourselves called attention to the “mafiazation” of politicians and the police, who rushed in to fill the void left by the dissolution of the traditional political-economic model, giving way to the rise of an illegal, parallel public power.
The corruption of the police and judicial establishment and the crisis of values (ethical) and means (political) among civil servants and elected officials, gave rise to a generalized climate of gangsterism. The moral compromises of the cultural and economic elites, all of these were clearly defined factors in a process of deregulation and anomie.
The case of Rio de Janeiro in 1995, is a good example. The leadership of the Polícia Civil do Rio discovered that only 20% of its men were reliable — that is to say, of the 12,000 men on the force, 9,600 were not trusted — a number larger than the jail population at the time.
In 2002, when Brazilians began to perceive clearly the rise in sociopathic violence and organized crime, the federal government and the press came to the conclusion that Brazilian police could meet the challenge of organized crime on equal terms, assistedd by the advantages associated with legal protection and collective privileges for police officers.
Of the 300,000 police employed in the nine largest states, 30,000 had been charged with a crime.
It is true that the causes of this phenomenon extend fav beyond the public policy preferences or “therapeutic” intentions of this or that or the other governor. To understand this point better, we will have to return constantly to the lack of macro reforms and modernization.
With more than 80% of Brazilians living in cities, more than 50% of these remain on the margins of the employment markett. This creates a demographic overload, located on the urban margins and in direct confrontation with the modern system of production.
Just like the emperors of the drug trade, the technocrats of this perverse fprm of modernizatiton coexist extremely well with the misery of the population.. This is how the intimacy between organized crime and state bureaucracy, both inherently violent in their structure, reproduces itself, spreading from one state to another. In this way, the endemic illegality of the Rio (and São Paulo) megalopolis assumes the dimensions of an epidemic,.
The federal government is not the only authority that seems unprepared — not in terms of material resources but in terms of a unified political project informed by a process of civic conscience-building — to face off against a phenomenon that threatens the fundamental workings of a democratic state, to such an extent that the classical guarantees of rights are undermined.
The media has also amply demonstrated its apathy in the face of this threat, dvided as it is between the logic of entertainment … and the odd example of [[moralistic, hysterical]] sewer journalism on the subject.
Would now not be the right moment to task at least part of our enormous intelligence capabilities in order to determine the healtth of our institutions?