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February 27 2014

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February 14 2014

Rap Musicians Take on Guinea-Bissau's Drug Trafficking Problem

Rapper NB on the balcony of Rádio Jovem (Youth Radio) during the interactive radio program ‘frees’. Photo shared by Buala (CC BY-NC-SA 2.5)

A longer version of this article, written by Miguel de Barros and Patrícia Godinho Gomes, was originally published on web portal Buala with the title Percepções e contestações: leituras a partir das narrativas sobre o narcotráfico na música Rap da Guiné-Bissau (Perceptions and demands: Readings from narratives on narcotrafficking in the rap music of Guinea-Bissau) on January 24, 2014.

The problem of drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau has been gaining visibility in the African country, thanks to rap musicians who are waging a war of words against the illicit trade. “Narco-rap”, as it is called, is building resistance to drug trafficking in an innovative way by giving a voice to the people fighting against it.  

In the beginning of the new millennium, illegal cocaine trafficking reached global proportions, not only by infiltrating the traditional markets such as the United States and Latin America, but also in Western Europe, Russia and more recently some countries on the West African coast, which have become countries of transit for drug cartels.

Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world and lacks the capacity to control its territory, making the narcotrafficking phenomenon there and the subregion of West Africa not only a matter of lack of development, but also a security problem (see a special mention of Guinea-Bissau in the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime reports from 2007 and 2008 [PDF]).

Song “Relatório” (Report) by MC Mário, Patche di Rima and Dom Pina

Beyond the highly publicized American intervention [en] against drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau and the subregion, it is important to understand the internal mechanisms of resistance that are being adopted and what effects they are having at the national level.

For example, “non-institutionalized” youth from lower social classes are protagonists in the fight against the trade, denouncing it in rap performances broadcast on the radio and in concert. Narco-rap is an artistic medium through which the rappers give commentary, criticize those in power and challenge prevailing social (dis)order, combining cultural emancipation with the exercise of political and democratic participation.

Take a look at the lyrics of a handful of narco-rap songs written in kriol, or Creole, the lingua franca of Guinea-Bissau, with translations in English.

Drug trafficking, condemned

The lyrics of “Culpadus” (Guilty) by Torres Gémeos (2008) condemn narcotrafficking:

droga tchiga Guiné i djumblintinu senariu/Nhu alferis ku nhu kabu/Tudu pasa sedu bida empresariu (…)
Amadu ki chefi di izersitu/Iooode/I ka fasi nin 2 dia ki tchiga la/Iooode/I mata Djokin i subi la
Ku asasinatu ku aumenta/korupson ganha forsa
I ta troka mindjer suma ropa/I tene kumbu té na Eropa
Nunde ki sai ku es manga di kusas?/no ka sibi! 

Drugs arrived in Guinea and shuffled our scenario
Mr. Lieutenant and Mr. Private
All became businessmen
Amadu is the chief of the army/Iooode
It hasn’t even been two days since he got there/Iooode
He killed Joaquim and climbed up there
With the increasing murders
Corruption gained power
He changes women as if changing clothes
He even has money in Europe
Where did he get all that?
We don’t know!

Exploring the narcotrafficking route 

The song “Bo obi mas” (Listen again) by Baloberos (2008) travels the geographies of drug trafficking:

Guiné-Bissau nason di trafico? Tráfico
kil ku na bin bai pa Spanha? Tráfico
kil ku ta bin di Colombia? Tráfico
Mira ermanos, la fuerza armada transportando la cocaína en quantidad
haciendo negócios com nuestros ermanos de Colombia
(…) bo obi es sistema di pesa coca: kilograma, decagrama, hectograma, graaama 

Guinea-Bissau, nation of trafficking? Trafficking
the one that goes to Spain? Trafficking
the one that usually comes from Colombia? Trafficking
Look brothers, the armed forces carrying a large quantity of cocaine
doing business with our brothers in Colombia
(…) listen to this system of weighing coke: kilogram, decagram, hectogram, graaam [sic]

Calling for protest

In “Kaminhu sukuru” (Dark way) by FBMJ (2008), a call is made to the people of Guinea-Bissau:

Marca di Avion 515 tisi medicamentu pa tudu duentis
i guineensis ka na duensi mas
bardadi n`fia, Guiné i terá nunde ku pekadur ta garandi ora ki misti, di manera ki misti, tudu ta dipindi 
bardi n`fia, Guine i tera nunde ku po ta sibi riba di santchu mbes di santchu sibi na po
Ma i ka sigridu ku nha kabesa na ramasa i ni i ka kudadi
i sibidu kuma i ten djintis na Guine ora ku e misti pa tchuba tchubi, tchuba ta tchubi
ora ku é mista pa sol iardi, sol ta ratcha

An airplane branded 515 brought medicine for all the patients
and Guineans will never again become ill (…)
truth I believe, Guinea is a land where people are mature when they want to be, how they want to be, but everything is relative
truth I believe, Guinea is the land where the trees climb monkeys instead of the latter climbing trees!
But it is not a secret that I am throwing up nor that it is worrying
It's known there are people in Guinea that when they want it to rain, it happens
when they want the sun to shine, it happens

Expressing uneasiness

The song “Contra” (Against) by Cientistas Realistas (2007) regrets the state of the “narco-state”:

Cartaz de Cientistas Realistas.

Poster for Cientistas Realistas

notícia di tera obidu ate na rádios internacionais
fidjus di Guine ta ianda npinadu é ka ta ossa ianda nin alsa rostu
tera i ka purmeru, ma anos pekaduris i restu
na diaspora no ta sta tristi suma kil ku tene disgostu
pais sta desorganizadu, corupson sta generalizadu, aparelho di no stadu aos torna un sistema di corupson
dinheru ku no djunta passa na sbanjadu a toa i grande orgulho, fama(!)
Guine-Bissau i narcotráfico
djintis di stadu na pratica di negócios ilegais
e na fasi crimes organizadu ma faladu na nomi di stadu
es tudu anos i contra
narcostadu puera lanta
tudu mundo misti sai nês coba

news from the land was heard even on international radio
sons of Guinea-Bissau are crestfallen without the guts to raise their faces
the country is not prioritized, people come last
in the diaspora we get used to being sad as if we were heartbroken
the country is disorganized, generalized corruption, the apparatus of state turned into a system of corruption
our money is now being wasted for nothing, great pride, fame!
Guinea-Bissau is a narco-state
people of the state practicing illegal businesses
carrying out organized crime, but let’s say in the name of the state
all this we are against,
narco-state raised dust
everyone wants to leave this hole

Calling for action

The song “Kaminhus” (Paths) by As One (2012) takes on a tone of indignation as well as gives a call to action:

No leis apedrejado
cheio de lacunas
li ki Guine-Bissau pa kin ku ka sibi
li ku traficantes ta dadu privilegio mas di ki pursoris di universidade
juro li te purcu ta pudu gravata i bistidu fatu
katchuris si é mata é ta dadu caru tipo incentivo
tipo se presente pa é continua mata
guineensis i sta na hora di no kunsa nota
no disa pa tras tudu ke ku na tudjinu avança…

Our laws stoned
full of holes
this is Guinea-Bissau for those who don't know
this is where the traffickers are given more privileges than college professors
I swear pigs wear ties and suits here
when they kill the dogs, they receive cars as an incentive
as a gift to keep killing
Guineans, it is time we start to notice
let’s leave behind everything that does not allow us to move forward…

Radios have been (and still are) an extremely important medium in Guinean daily life. Rappers, through their creative narratives, aim to spread the word [fr] in the freest way possible about those who are profiting from trafficking. They use radio as an opportunity to denounce via their music the various aspects of the illicit trade.

This trend proves the need to question the label of “narco-state”, keeping in mind that the living of a large majority of the Guinean population is not based on the drug business. 

Young rappers have opened up new pathways for reflection on the position of youth, the dispute over the management of “public affairs” and the emergence of new political actors in the public arena of a country in development.

February 11 2014

Brazilian Activists Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance

The day the world has come together to take a stand against mass surveillance, on February 11, 2014, Brazilian citizens, organizations and collectives too are bringing momentum to #TheDayWeFightBack campaign.

Anti-surveillance collective (@antivigilancia on Twitter), one of the 15 Brazilian signatories of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, has a website with complete information, in Portuguese, on how to participate in #TheDayWeFightBack, as well as several resources for the day of action, such as banners and memes.

Cartoon by Latuff with D'Incao (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with D'Incao (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Well-known Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff took on the challenge launched by Web We Want early in February to create original visual works on online surveillance and the right to privacy. 

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

On Twitter, many Brazilians are linking the day of action with the country's pioneer bill of rights for Internet users, the “Marco Civil”, which is going to be discussed in a plenary session [pt] in the House of Representatives today. A group of civil society organizations is expected to meet the Minister of Justice [pt] to let him know of “serious concern” toward the latest modifications to the bill, especially with respect to “the right to the inviolability and secrecy of the flow and content of private communications, the right to privacy and freedom of expression.”

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

 All submissions to the Web We Want contest are available on Flickr.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

February 07 2014

Brazilian TV Comes Out of the Closet With Highly Anticipated Gay Kiss

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

Cena do beijo entre Felix e Niko.

Kissing scene between Felix and Niko in the last episode of the soap opera “Amor à Vida” (Love of Life)

Millions of Brazilians stayed home to watch the end of the soap opera “Amor à Vida” (Love of Life) from the major media outlet Rede Globo on Friday night, 31 January 2014. Even many who usually don't watch soap operas ended up waiting, anxious, for its last chapter. The reason? The so-called first gay kiss of the Brazilian television drama.

The kiss was the result of a massive campaign on social networks asking the author of the soap opera, Walcyr Carrasco, for the gay couple Felix (Mateus Solano) and Niko (Thiago Fragoso) to finally lock lips on camera. Tension [en] was palpable in the streets and on social networks, and despite the surreal scenes, the unrealistic plot and abrupt changes in script, the whole country waited with bated breath for the scene.

Undoubtedly, the kissing scene will not change the reality of Brazil, an openly homophobic country that has been considered number one in LGBT killings in the world, but it is a breakthrough in the struggle, a small victory after all the pressure exerted by the LGBT movement and its supporters. It is necessary to get us out of our comfort zone and face reality, show the world that gay people exist, and not only that, but that they are normal people who love like any other and have the same rights.

Every kiss is a political act, and as Professor Tulio Vianna commented:

Estou feliz por meus amigos e amigas LGBTs, mas estou feliz sobretudo por nós heterossexuais que nos tornamos um pouquinho menos opressores, com a violência simbólica que exercemos a todo dia para obrigar a todos a terem a mesma orientação sexual que a nossa. Este é um avanço não só para os LGBTs, mas para a laicidade e para toda a democracia.

I'm happy for my LGBT friends, but I'm especially happy for us heterosexuals who have become a little less oppressive, with the symbolic violence that we exercise every day to force everyone to have the same sexual orientation as ours. This is a breakthrough, not only for LGBT people, but for secularism and for all democracy.

The only openly gay congressman in the Brazilian parliament, Jean Wyllys, was one of the instigators of the campaign #BeijaFelix (#KissFelix). He commented:

Foi um passo adiante e positivo na representação dos modos de vida homossexuais e da homoafetividade. Tem um efeito pedagógico para as próximas gerações e obriga as atuais a ao menos repensarem seus preconceitos. Foi um acréscimo de autoestima na vida dos gays e lésbicas, na medida quem valorizou nossa forma de amar e nossos arranjos familiares

It was a positive step forward in the representation of the homosexual way of life and homo-affectivity. It will have an educational effect for generations to come and forces the current one to at least rethink their prejudices. It was an increase of self-esteem in the lives of gays and lesbians, in so far as who appreciated our love and our family arrangements.
An Argentine activist living in Brazil, Bruno Bimbi, wrote on his blog [es] about the meaning of the kiss to the Brazilian public:

Es difícil entender el peso simbólico de ese beso sin ser brasileño. Inclusive para quien, como el autor de esta columna, vive hace varios años en Río de Janeiro y nunca antes se había sentido tan extranjero, en el sentido más alienígena de la palabra, tratando de comprender la polémica y todas las emociones, presiones, miedos y esperanzas que corrían atrás del final feliz que finalmente ocurrió hace unas horas. La novela de las nueve de la TV Globo es un poderoso productor de sentidos y formador de subjetividades que, cada noche, reúne a viejos y jóvenes, hombres y mujeres, negros y blancos, héteros y gays de todas las clases sociales. Es la compañía de millones de hogares durante la cena. Es de lo que hablarán mañana el portero de mi edificio, mis profesoras del doctorado, mis compañeros de trabajo y militancia, la vecina de al lado y el mozo del bar de la esquina [...] En sus cuentas de Twitter, aún sin palabras, mientras tantos festejaban, los pastores del odio se llamaron a silencio.

It is difficult to understand the symbolic meaning of that kiss without being Brazilian. Even for those who, like the author of this column, have lived for several years in Rio de Janeiro and never before had felt so strange in the most alien sense of the word, trying to understand the controversy and all the emotions, pressures, fears and hopes chasing a happy ending that finally happened a few hours ago. The nine o'clock soap opera of TV Globo is a powerful producer of personal meaning and reality that every night brings together young and old, men and women, blacks and whites, gays and heterosexuals of all social classes. It is the company of millions of homes during dinner. It's what the doorman of my building will talk about tomorrow, of what my doctoral professors, my colleagues and fellow militants, the neighbour and the barman on the corner [will talk about] [...] On their Twitter accounts, even without words, while many celebrated, the shepherds of hate kept silent.

More discrete kisses in the past

This was not the first gay kiss on Brazilian TV, but no doubt it was the most important because of the popularity of Rede Globo's soap operas and the fact that this network is the largest in the country. The first gay kiss on Brazilian TV, according to economist Renata Lins writing on Facebook, was seen 24 years ago in 1990 in the miniseries “Mãe de Santo” [the title, literally Mother of Saint, refers to the priestesses of some Afro-Brazilian religions] on the defunct Manchete TV i between a white man and a black man.

On May 12, 2011 occurred what many considered the first lesbian gay kiss on Brazilian TV, on channel SBT during the soap opera “Amor e Revolução” (Love and Revolution) written by Tiago Santiago. There, Marcela (Luciana Vendramini) and Marina (Giselle Tigre) kissed passionately, but because it is a smaller TV network which only has recent tradition in the production of national soap operas, the fact was considered of minor importance at the time.

Cena de beijo na novela

Kissing scene in the soap opera “Amor e Revolução”

In 2010, though, the PSOL – Socialism and Freedom Party – aired a gay kiss during the election campaign, widely reported at the time.

It's a goal!

“The expectation at the gay kiss in the soap opera was much higher than the cheer for any football team,” reported Professor Eduardo Sterzi. Many netizens commented about the celebrations that were heard across the country, with people screaming at their windows as if their team had scored a goal.

Cries of “Chupa Feliciano” (Suck it Feliciano) could be heard in reference to the evangelical minister and notoriously homophobic congressman Marco Feliciano, on which Global Voices reported [en] in March 2013 when he was elected deputy chairman of Human and Minority Rights Commission of the House of Representatives. On Twitter, there were several humorous reactions to the gay kiss and in repudiation of Marco Feliciano.

Tuíte do ator Thiago Fragoso agradecendo aos fãs

“Very happy! Thank you for the messages thank you for everything…” Tweet by actor Thiago Fragoso thanking his fans

On Facebook, academic Fabio Malini warned politicians of the dangers of posturing against minority rights and reminded them of the demands of mass protests that took place in the country in June 2013, whose effects are still very visible:

Há várias interpretações possíveis para o que ocorre na sociedade brasileira. Mas eu queria salientar que a afirmação dos direitos das minorias foi amplamente reivindicada nos protestos de junho. Foi algo radical nas ruas. E a Globo se viu pressionada por um lado pelo fãs do casal da novela; e, por outro, pelo imaginário do “O Povo Não é Bobo” recuperado pelos “vândalos” de junho. Não havia outra solução para a emissora, senão Liberar. Que o fato vire um recado político das urnas em 2014: no lugar de ceder à base religiosa conservadora, as forças políticas de esquerda (se elas ainda existirem) afirmem todos os direitos possíveis das minorias. Do contrário, virarão ainda mais reféns de uma minoria política que só anda para atrás.

There are several possible interpretations for what occurs in Brazilian society. But I wanted to point out that the assertion of minority rights was widely claimed in the June protests. It was something radical in the streets. And Globo TV found itself pressed on one hand by the fans of the soap opera couple, and secondly by the imagination of “The People Are No Fool” [chant sung during the protests] recovered by the “thugs” [derogatory way that the media called the protesters] in June. There was no other solution for the broadcaster but equality. The fact becomes a political message of the polls in 2014: instead of yielding to the conservative religious base, the political forces of the left (if they still exist) must assert all possible rights of minorities. Otherwise, they will become even more hostage to the political minority which only walks backwards.

Journalist Leonardo Sakamoto celebrated the kiss, but noted that “Globo has its million of defects, but it is not stupid”, and that “ended up creating a historical fact that makes one forget their own unwillingness to address the issue.”

In other words, the kiss “could have appeared in any of the episodes of the last month,” but Globo chose to create anticipation, attract audiences and even measure the popularity of a gay kiss with the public at a time when the TV station is trying to reach the evangelical conservative public. It also faces conservative positions even from the federal government, whose top representative, President Dilma Rousseff, had already declared in previous years it would not make “sexual option propaganda” when asked about pro-LGBT policies in her government and the cancellation of a program to combat homophobia in schools.

Imagem do instagram de @ane_molina com a notificação de que sua foto foi deletada por infringir regras da rede social

Image from Instragram by @ane_molina of a notification that her photo is being analysed due to a violation of the rules of the social network (nudity or pornography)

Others, such as the diplomat Hugo Neto Lorenzetti, criticized the delay for the kiss to happen and warned of an important fact: There is still much to fight. A gay kiss on TV is not the end of the fight, but only a small victory.

Actor Matthew Solano, who plays Felix, one half of the gay couple, commented in an interview about the kiss:

É um pequeno passo na dramaturgia, mas um grande passo na sociedade

It is a small step for dramaturgy, but a big step for society
On the other hand, some activists and journalists have not joined the celebrations. Felipe Chagas on his Facebook commented:
A realidade, gente, é que nós estamos aqui, e o que vimos ontem nas telinhas (sic) foi apenas uma realidade retratada de forma mais que atrasada a partir do ponto de vista da burguesia (com seu núcleo familiar patriarcal, heterossexual e com prole) sobre a nossa existência. É tão vergonhoso as LGBTs se arrastarem por várias novelas para conseguirem um único beijo gay no principal canal de televisão no “horário nobre”, que me sinto revoltado. Sinto-me revoltado porque é humilhante saber que depois de tantos anos, com uma audiência exorbitante causado pelo principal personagem dessa obra ficcional (que é um ex-vilão gay que virou mocinho), que o tão esperado beijo foi um selinho que durou 4 segundos (ou menos que isso), na penúltima cena da novela depois das 23h duma sexta-feira. Patético, apenas.

The reality, folks, is that we're here, and what we saw yesterday on the small screens was just a reality portrayed in a more than overdue way from the point of view of the bourgeoisie (with its patriarchal, heterosexual, nuclear family with a child) about our existence. It's so embarrassing that the LGBT are creeping ahead by several soap operas to get a single gay kiss on the main TV channel in “primetime”, that I feel disgusted. I feel angry because it is humiliating to know that after so many years, with an exorbitant audience due to the main character of this fictional work (who is a gay ex-villain turned good guy), that the long-awaited kiss was a peck that lasted 4 sec (or less than that), in the penultimate scene of the soap after 23:00 of a Friday. Just pathetic.

Fernando Pardal added that Globo would present “a gay couple who behaves exactly like a bourgeois heterosexual couple” with the “purpose [of] trying to make this historical moment of acceptance of different sexualities [...] done as ‘quietly’ as possible (for the bourgeoisie and the family)”:

E quem comemora acriticamente este beijo como um “progresso” da Globo está ajudando nesta falsificação.

And those who uncritically celebrate this kiss as “progress” by Globo is helping this forgery.

There was enough room left for that homophobia to be preached freely through social networks by users like Nathanael Martins (@Dc_Natanael) who held that the Globo's “advocacy of homosexuality” was “a slap in the face of Christians”, or Coxa® (@Marcio1914) who said that “people are applauding two gays kissing, it will not take long for being a faggot to be a mandatory requirement, I wanna die first.”
With humor, activist Karla Joyce responded to the homophobia:
Ninguém morreu. Não doeu. Ninguém virou gay. Nenhuma autoridade não veio em pronunciamento à nação falar que agora haverá uma cartilha gay ou que entramos no regime da “”"Ditadura Gay”"”. Ninguém foi obrigado a consumar um casamento homoafeitvo. Não foi um “agora vão se comer no meio da rua”. Os cavaleiros do apocalipse não chegaram. A meteorologia não indica que esteja chovendo enxofre ou meteoros no Brasil.
Nobody died. It did not hurt. Nobody turned gay. No authority came in with a speech to the nation saying that there will now be a gay booklet or that we enter the regime of the “Gay Dictatorship”. Nobody was forced to consummate a gay marriage. It wasn't a “now go fuck each other on the street.” The knights of apocalypse did not arrive. The weather does not indicate it's raining sulfur or meteors in Brazil.
Activist Jarid Arraes wrote movingly on her Facebook:
Um amigo viu meu último post, falando da importância política do beijo na novela, e ligou chorando, muito feliz, dizendo que graças a cena final entre Félix e o Pai, o seu próprio pai bateu na porta do quarto dele as 4 da manhã.O pai, que chorava de soluçar, pediu perdão ao filho por toda discriminação e palavras de ódio. Disse que a partir daquele dia ele se arrependia e o aceitava. E que podia inclusive levar o namorado para almoçar no domingo com a família inteira.Só quem já passou por isso sabe…
A friend saw my last post, talking about the political significance of the kiss in the soap opera, and called me crying, very happy, saying that because of the final scene between Felix and his Father, his own father knocked on the door of his room at 4 a.m. His father, who sobbed, apologized to his son for all discrimination and hate speech. He said that from that day on he repented and accepted him. And he could even take his boyfriend to lunch on Sunday with the whole family. Only someone who has been there knows…
Finally, a blogger specializing in TV, Gustavo Baena, expressed the feelings of many:

Imagine o que significou o gesto dos personagens de Solano e Thiago para que milhares de jovens homossexuais possam elevar sua autoestima e conquistar espaço para o diálogo, a aceitação e o respeito dentro das próprias famílias, inclusive.

Imagine what the gesture of the characters of Solano and Thiago meant for the thousands of young gay people who can raise their self-esteem and gain space for dialogue, acceptance and respect including within their own families.

This post was written in collaboration with Marcela Canavarro and Luis Henrique

Pre-Registration Open for Brazil's Global Internet Governance Event

In preparation for the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance that will take place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on 23-24 April 2014, the organizers are now accepting pre-registrations through a form for expression of interest. The event is a partnership between the state-convened Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (, and the non-governmental multistakeholder platform ./1net.

According to the website of the event,

This meeting will focus on crafting Internet governance principles and proposing a roadmap for the further evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem.

The organization of a global Internet governance event began a few weeks after Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff delivered a speech before the United Nations General Assembly in September 2013, when she criticized the United States for spying and mentioned that Brazil “[would] present proposals for the establishment of a civilian multilateral framework for the governance and use of the Internet and to ensure the effective protection of data that travels through the web.”

Asking After Prisoners’ Screams Lands Angolan Journalist in Jail

A journalist passes by a police station in a town of the outskirts of Luanda, the capital of Angola, and hears prisoners screaming. He enters the police station to ask what is happening. He is arrested on accusations of slander and defamation.


Photo of Chilúvia shared by @ProfNgolaKiluan on Twitter.

That is what happened to Queirós Anastácio Chilúvia, deputy editor of the private station Radio Despertar, at Cacuaco's National Command Post last Sunday, February 2, 2014, according to anti-corruption watchdog Maka Angola and Alexandre Neto, chairman of the Angolan chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA). The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported:

“To arrest a journalist for asking police for their side of the story is absurd,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine. “Queirós Anastácio Chilúvia is no risk to society. Authorities should release him immediately.”

According to Neto “the maximum period that police may detain someone without bringing evidence is eight days”. Radio France Internationale reported that Chilúvia is going to be judged on Friday, February 7.

Meanwhile, a few Twitter users are pressuring for his release. A user who goes by the handle Professor N'gola Kiluange called for international solidarity:

February 05 2014

Fighting the Poor Instead of Poverty in Angola

In a move aimed primarily at improving the image of Luanda, Angola's capital and largest city, the government of this Southern African country announced a controversial measure: from now on, it would be illegal to engage in street trading in Luanda. Buyers as well as sellers would be fined.

Street sellers have been a way of life in Luanda since colonial times [pt], and there are several songs from well-known national musicians that celebrate this particular part of the culture. These men and women sell just about anything and everything on the streets.

Angola is currently one of Africa's strongest economies and is enjoying new-found wealth coming primarily from its oil industry. However, the wealth does not trickle down to the great majority of Angolans, and the country has maintained one of the worst social inequality levels in the world.

“Fruits vendor on a street near the Alvalade Hotel (Average price per room per night 450 US dollars). You can't find a decent hotel room in Luanda for less than 400 US dollars/night. A basic lunch in a decent restaurant (Just one course meal and a bottle of still water) will cost you about 75. The poor are finding harder and harder to manage to survive here.” Photo and caption by Ionut Sendroiu copyright Demotix (8 October 2010)

The Governor of Luanda Fights Street Vendors” [pt] was the title of one of the most liked and shared posts last week by Mana Mingota (Sister Mingota, in English), one of Angola's most popular Facebook pages. A fictitious character, almost no one knows who is behind it. Yet the page, which posts advice, humor, and commentary about a diverse range of subjects that appeal to the country's younger, Internet-active generation, has nearly 76,500 fans – more than most well-known brands and celebrities in Angola.

The post reads:

Tantos problemas para combater, água, luz, saneamento básico, emprego para os jovens, falta de casa, comida cara, prostituição legalizada, venda de bebidas a menores de idade, consumo exagerado de álcool pela população, acidentes de viação, falsificação de documentos, burocracia na emissão de documentos, propinas elevadas das universidades privadas, gasosas nos polícias, corrupção nas escolas, mau atendimento das repartições públicas, ene problemas, e a sua excelência senhor governador está com todas flechas apontadas para as zungueiras que com sacrifício tentam ganhar a vida para alimentar famílias e colocar os filhos na escola para não virarem delinquentes. Sinceramente muitos aqui pensam ao contrário!!!

So many problems to resolve – water, electricity, basic sanitation, employment for the youth, lack of housing, expensive food, legalized prostitution, the sale of alcohol to underage kids, an exaggerated consumption of alcohol in our society, motor vehicle accidents, document falsification, bureaucracy in the emission of new documents, high cost of education in private universities, police corruption, corruption in schools, horrible public service, so many problems and his Excellency the governor has all guns pointed at the street vendors who make many sacrifices and are just trying to earn some money so that they can feed their families and put their kids through school so that they don't turn into criminals. Seriously, a lot of people here think backwards!!!

The banning of street traders – or zungueiras, as they are locally known – appears to be part of a larger effort to hide Luanda's poor and dump them in the city's outskirts. Out of sight and out of mind, if you will. Besides zungueiras, inhabitants of Luanda's sizeable slums are also frequently awakened by the sound of bulldozers razing their homes to the grounds without prior warning, and then they are taken on buses to land without basic livable conditions.

“For most of the inhabitants, the skyscrapers of Luanda mean nothing but a background.” Photo and caption by Ionut Sendroiu copyright Demotix (8 October 2010)

Due to a variety of factors including a prolonged civil war and notoriously low investment in education, the majority of Angola's workforce is unskilled and over a quarter are unemployed.

According to the recently released “Bertelsmann Stiftung, BTI 2014 Angola Country Report“ [pdf], which covers transformation towards democracy and market economy in 129 countries:

[...] the population in [Angola's] cities often depends on informal commerce to make ends meet. This is especially the case in the capital Luanda, where an estimated one-third of the population lives, and which is alone responsible for 75% of GDP production.

Zungueiras. Photo shared by the blog O Patifúndio under a Creative Commons license (BY-NC-ND)

Zungueiras. Photo shared by the blog O Patifúndio under a Creative Commons license (BY-NC-ND)

The same report states that 70 percent of the informal workforce is made up of women. Invariably, the government's latest policy will adversely impact women, who are the most vulnerable in these sorts of cases. And it didn't take long. The anti-corruption watchdog Maka Angola recently reported that nearly 50 women, children and men were detained, some for three days, in the same cell in a Luanda police station for being caught selling goods on the street.

But this is nothing new. As Louise Redvers states in an article published last week examining this same issue on the website of Open Society Initiative for South Africa:

[...] worse still, these women are regularly abused by exploitative police officers and government inspection teams, who beat them, steal or damage their goods and subject them to bribes. You can read more about the scale of this horrific abuse – and the seeming impunity of the officials involved – in this damning Human Rights Watch report released last September.

Popular reaction to the government's latest measure has been one of incredulity mixed with widespread condemnation, but it's important to note that not everyone thinks this way. Many have applauded the government's decision, saying that street selling was getting out of hand and that it was detrimental to the city's image. And I've seen how zungueiras can turn any empty patch of concrete or asphalt into an unsanitary open-air market.

But as Angolan rapper MCK sings:

em vez de combater a pobreza estão a combater os pobres.

Instead of fighting poverty they are fighting the poor.

Street selling is not the problem – rather, it is the effect of a much larger issue, which is the government's inability to address the massive gap between the haves and the have-nots. It is the government's inability to address poverty despite the huge oil riches that the wealthiest Angolans are enjoying. And it is their mistaken belief that the way to deal with poverty is by hiding it.

“Commercial street in Luanda.” Photo by Ionut Sendroiu copyright Demotix (31 October 2010)

A quote in Louise Redvers’ piece cited above is particularly eye opening:

I remember very clearly one very well-dressed and expensively US-educated Angolan oil worker telling me: “We can’t have these people on our streets anymore, not in the city centre next to places like Sonangol. We need to improve our image, we are a modern country, these people can’t be here like this.”

Angola is a country where the National Registry is closed for four days because there's no “system” (read: intranet). Where a routine Western Union or Moneygram transfer can take several trips and several hours. Where there is no reliable water or electricity distribution. Where the government is incapable of providing even the most basic services to its population. Where the government spends only a small fraction of its budget on health and education, amongst the lowest figures in Africa. Where corruption is a way of life and where the government has forgotten its promise from independence that the most important thing to do was to resolve the people's problems.

The zungueiras and the country's poorest will continue to bear the brunt of this image-conscious makeover until more serious policies aimed at reducing poverty and giving the poor another option to sustain themselves are enacted.

Also read Clara Onofre's post on Global Voices (2008): Angola: Hawkers face a hard life with dignity and courage

February 04 2014

Mozambique's LGBT Community: Tell Your Story

Lambda, the Mozambican Association for the Defense of Sexual Minorities, invites [pt] adult members of the LGBT community to participate in a short documentary. ”Your story in the first person” is the title of this film project which aims at “documenting our trajectories of self-acceptance, our battles and conquests as LGBT people in Mozambique.” More information on how to take part is available in the LambdaMozi Facebook page. The deadline is February 21, 2014.

January 31 2014

How Brazilian Taxpayer Money Finances Construction Projects in the Amazon

Animation: BNDES in the Amazon

Animation: BNDES in the Amazon

This post, by Bruno Fonseca and Jessica Mota, was originally published in Portuguese as a part of Agência Pública's special coverage #BNDESnaAmazônia with the title Animation | How Our Money Finances Construction Works in the Amazon on December 9, 2013.

Nearly 44 percent of what Brazil's National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES) finances is completely hidden. And more than half of what BNDES sends overseas is secret. This is how the bank deals with transparency, even though the money is public and comes from, for example, the Brazilian Treasury and the Ministry of Labor and Employment's Worker's Support Fund.

In 2012, BNDES loaned 156 billion Brazilian reais (64 billion US dollars) of this public money. It was in the search of what happened to this money over the course of three months that our team discovered the scope of investments in infrastructure in the Amazon where these public works are causing glaring social and environmental impacts.  See the primary discoveries in this animation [pt, es]:

On the Agência Pública website, the reports from the series #BNDESnaAmazônia (BNDES in the Amazon) are available for reading (all in Portuguese), including:

THE TRAIL OF BNDES IN THE AMAZON. A partnership between Agência Pública and the website Eco maps the increase of BNDES’ investments in infrastructure projects in the region. Public works financed by the bank are accused of concealing the impacts on the environment, the indigenous population, and workers.

BNDES IN THE AMAZON: 17 OF 20 MAJOR INVESTMENTS HAVE PUBLIC SUITS AGAINST THEM FROM BRAZIL'S PUBLIC MINISTRY. A survey by Agência Pública and the website Eco reveals problems with environmental impact studies, a lack of dialogue with the affected communities, and abuses against workers involved in the public works financed by the bank.

WORKERS HOSTAGE TO PUBLIC WORKS WORTH BILLIONS IN THE AMAZON. Deaths in Maranhão, workers forced by National Forces to stay at a work site at Belo Monte. Accused of violating worker's rights, mega enterprises receive funding from BNDES.

TWO REPORTERS ON THE TRAIL OF BILLIONS GIVEN BY BNDES. Over the course of three months, our team sought to uncover the trail of investments in infrastructure projects in the Amazon. The conclusion: 44 percent of what BNDES finances is completely obscured.

BNDES, FOR EXPORTATION. In the name of internationalization, BNDES funding for Brazilian enterprises overseas increased 1185 percent in ten years, according to a study by Ibase. Odebrecht is the leader.

THE BRAZILIAN PAN-AMAZON. Public works negotiated by BNDES in the South American Amazon include hydroelectric dams with cracks, pipelines with leaks, and a railroad that shook the presidency of Bolivia.

THE AMAZON THAT BNDES FINANCES. By the law of access to information, Pública obtained 43 contracts from BNDES with large national corporations for business ventures in the Amazon. Read and download these documents here.

The information collected also served as a base for the development of the interactive platform “BNDES na Amazônia“, a partnership between Pública and Eco:

Interactive Infograph: The 20 Major Projects Financed By BNDES in the Amazon. Screenshot from the site

Interactive Infographic: The 20 Major Projects Financed By BNDES in the Amazon. Screenshot from the site

The National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES) is the primary financier of large projects in the Amazon. Utilizing funds from the Worker's Support Fund and contributions made by the Federal Treasury, the bank finances consortiums and businesses responsible for the construction of dams for the generation of hydroelectric power, power lines, thermoelectric projects and other projects with great environmental impact. This database, fruit of the labor of investigations made by a joint effort between the sites Eco and Agência Pública, concentrates information about funding given by BNDES in the Amazon and allows the user to become familiar with the profile of the companies receiving funding, the total invested resources in each project, as well as the ranking of investments since 2008. The data [available for download in CSV format] was put together from spreadsheets available on the site of BNDES and will be updated.

January 30 2014

The Cost of Living in Rio de Janeiro Is Too Damn High

[All links lead to Portuguese-language webpages unless otherwise noted.]

Rio de Janeiro residents have begun to fight the increasingly high prices of hotels, rent, food, clothing and entertainment which have made the 2016 Olympic City and host of the 2014 World Cup a difficult place to live.

With the typical local sense of humour, comments on social networks have given others a glimpse of the borderline ridiculously high cost of living in the city. The term “surreal” has increasingly been used to refer to current events in Rio de Janeiro.

Incidentally, this was the name given to an exclusive currency created in jest for the city by web designer Toinho Castro to substitute the Brazilian currency the real. The proposal for the Surreal was the subject of comment in a note published in a widely read newspaper, O Globo:

“Tem mais a ver com a nossa realidade”, diz, citando um diálogo-que-gostaríamos-de-ouvir: “Quanto é a água, moço?” E a resposta: “Cinco surreais…” [cerca de 2 dólares americanos]

“It's more appropriate to our day-to-day lives”, he says, quoting a dialogue we'd like to hear: “How much is the water, young man?” And the reply: “Five surreals…” [around 2 US dollars]

“The Surreals: the face of the new currency they've been talking about…” Artwork by Patrícia Kalil shared on Facebook.

The Facebook page “Rio $urreal – NÃO PAGUE” (Rio $urreal – DON'T PAY) “publicises and boycotts extortionate prices” charged around the city. Created on 17 January 2014, the page attracted more than 95,000 followers in three days.

A gente aqui não faz a apologia de “tudo tem que ser barato”. Não, não é isso. Quem quiser comer ostra, beber espumante, jantar em um lugar cujo chef estudou no Cordon Bleu… Bem, tem que arcar com este preço. E, de vez em quando, todo mundo tem direito a tomar espumante, comer uma iguaria, enxugar a boca com guardanapo de pano – se puder pagar por este luxo ocasional. Comer bem dá alegria, dá conforto, é um convite à confraternização.

Bons ingredientes custam caro. Funcionários bem treinados também. Logo, ninguém aqui acha absurdo pagar mais por aquilo que de fato custa mais. É o justo. E você merece fugir do feijão com arroz e do trivial de vez em quando. Não merece?

Duro mesmo é pagar R$ 30 reais por batata frita [cerca de 13 dólares americanos]. Ou R$ 11 por um suco [4,7 dólares americanos]. Ou R$ 8, R$ 9 ou R$ 10 por uma garrafinha de água mineral [entre 3,4 e 4,3 dólares]. Ou R$ 15 pelo aluguel de cadeira e barraca na praia [cerca de 6,4 dólares]. Estes são alguns dos absurdos.

We're not arguing here that “everything has to be cheap”. No, it's not that. Those who wish to eat oysters, drink bubbly, dine in a restaurant whose chef studied at Cordon Bleu… Well, they have to bear the expense of doing so. And, from time to time, everyone has the right to drink bubbly, eat a delicacy, dab their mouths with a cloth serviette – if they can pay for this occasional luxury. Eating well brings happiness and comfort, it's an invitation to socialise.

Good ingredients are expensive. Well-trained employees are too. Nobody here thinks it absurd to pay more for something which actually costs more. That's fair. And you deserve to escape from the old beans with rice of every day from time to time. Don't you?

What's really tough is paying 30 reals for some chips [around 13 US dollars]. Or 11 reals for a juice [4.70 US dollars]. Or 8, 9 or 10 reals for a little bottle of mineral water [between 3.40 and 4.30 dollars]. Or 15 reals for a seat and shade on the beach [around 6.40 dollars]. These are just some of the absurd prices.

A “case of hyper-surrealism” was reported on the page by follower Clarissa Biasotto:

Hoje fui à praia do leblon e me deparei com um gringo sul-americano perguntando a um vendedor ambulante se ali era a praia do leblon. O vendedor respondeu que ali era copacabana, ficou enrolando o gringo dizendo que não sabia e no fim disse que aqui no Rio tudo é pago e que, por isso, a informação também era paga.. enfim, o gringo já tava pegando a carteira e perguntando quanto o ambulante queria quando eu tive que gritar pro gringo que era sim a praia do leblon.. o gringo chegou a perguntar se aquilo foi uma pegadinha.. enfim, achei vergonhoso, surreal..

Today I went to Leblon Beach and I came across a South American tourist asking a street seller if this was Leblon Beach. The seller replied that it was Copacabana, he carried on deceiving the tourist saying that he didn't know and in the end he said that here in Rio nothing is free, and for that reason, the information also had to be paid for. The tourist was already getting his wallet out and asking how much the seller wanted when I had to shout at the tourist that yes, it was Leblon Beach. The tourist even asked if it was a joke. I found it shameful, surreal.

Menu from a food stand at Ipanema beach shared on the Facebook page of “Marketing na Cozinha”

But the most common denunciations come in the form of photos of menus with exorbitant prices, like chicken stroganoff for 72 reals (or 30 US dollars), a toasted sandwich for 20 reals and a green salad for 43 reals (8.50 and 18.20 US dollars respectively; see photo to the right).

The administrators of “Rio $urreal” state that the page was created primarily with the “aim to encourage consumers to reflect on their purchases”:

Cabe a nós decidirmos quando queremos pagar o preço por determinada coisa – seja ela uma roupa, refeição ou um serviço. Está caro? Não compre. O prato é inviável? Mude de restaurante. Ainda assim não achou o que quer? Chame os amigos para jantar na sua casa. Foi à praia e o aluguel da cadeira tá um horror? Já pensou que ter a sua pode ser um bom custo-benefício? Consumo consciente – esta é nossa meta.

It's up to us to decide when we want to pay the price of a particular item – whether it is an item of clothing, meal or service. Is it expensive? Don't buy it. The menu's a non-starter? Change restaurant. You still don't know what you want? Call your friends and ask if you can eat at their house. You went to the beach and the seat rental was extortionate? Did you ever consider that buying your own might be a good investment? Conscious consumption – that's our goal.

Other initiatives have also become popular. The page “Se Vira no Rio” has more than 14,000 followers and publicises venues that offer food and entertainment at accessible prices.

The rise of the property bubble 

In one of its posts, the page encourages users to share solutions that would allow the inflation of property prices to be reversed or stopped. In the almost 300 comments on this post, various cases are reported and some solutions proposed, many involving some kind of “anti-speculation laws” or state intervention; others called for a change in consumer behaviour, such as the search for alternative areas in the city or the abandonment of real estate agencies.

Many also believe that the real estate bubble is about to burst. Vinicius Bito Trindade, an employee of the Bank of Brazil, commented:

há quem diga que o que encarece os imóveis aqui é o excesso de crédito para o financiamento… inflaciona o mercado e tal, assim que a política econômica mudar, a tendência é cair e ferrar quem estiver preso a uma prestação irreal…

Some say that what's pushing up property prices here is the excess of credit for financing. It inflates the market and all that, as soon as the economic policy changes, the tendency is for it to fall and hit anyone who's tied into an unrealistic loan.

Another initiative to raise awareness of the jump in the cost of living in Brazil is the site “Tem algo errado ou estamos ricos??”  (“Is something wrong here or are we rich??”), which compares adverts for property for rent and for purchase in the country and abroad. With this, it exposes high prices in Brazil for old and poor-quality properties, in comparison with similar or lower prices for charming properties in good neighbourhoods in countries in the developed or developing world.

The site shows, for example, an apartament of 600 m2 in Rio advertised for 66 million reals (or almost 30 million US dollars). For several million less, it would be possible to buy the mansion where John Lennon wrote some of the songs for the album “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” or an entire building in the Upper West Side of New York. In another case, quitinetes, or apartments in which the bedroom and living area are combined, go for more than one million reals (around 430,000 dollars). With the site's posts, it is possible to observe that the explosion of property prices is not exclusive to Rio de Janeiro:

Casinha em condomínio fechado em Valencia – Alicante (Torremendo) [Espanha]. Casa novinha em folha, perto da praia, perto de um clube de golf, em um condomínio fechado com tudo (solário, etc etc). garagem para 2 carros… bela vista… bla bla bla bla






Imóvel novo, condomínio fechado com tudo, perto da praia, bonito, etc etc… quanto?? Cerca de US$88.952 (em torno de R$ 200/ 210 mil reais… depende desse dólar maluco oscilando)

Mas não fique triste brazuquinha… você tem belas opções aqui no Braziu… Na nobre cidade de Lajeado no RS… no bairro Planalto você encontra uma linda casa pelo mesmo preço!! Incrível não???

Dá uma olhadinha…


É uma versão + root (a rua não é pavimentada… não tem piscina no condomínio, clube de golf… praia… vista… mas… é reflexo de nossa proximidade com os países de primeiro mundo né?? fazer o q??

Little house in closed condominium in Valencia – Alicante (Torremendo) [Spain]. Brand new house, near the beach, near a golf club, in a closed condominium with all facilities (conservatory, etc., etc.). Garage for two cars, lovely views, blah blah blah blah






New property, in a closed condominium with all facilities, near the beach, beautiful, etc. etc… how much? Around 88,952 US dollars (around 200,000 or 210,000 reals, it depends on that crazy dollar going up and down).

But don't be sad, sweetie, you've got great options here in Brazil. In the noble city of Lajeado in RS in the lovely district of Planalto, you can find a nice house for the same price!! Incredible, isn't it???

Take a look…


It's a more authentic version (the road isn't paved, there isn't a swimming pool in the condominium, no golf club, beach, views, but it's a reflection of our proximity to the countries of the first world, isn't it?? Do it or what??

For the World Cup period, the federal government has announced measures to contain the prices of air travel and hotels, such as the intervention of consumer rights organization Procon, who filed complaints against four airline companies due to abusive price of plane tickets, and the control of the National Agency of Aviation, the ANAC.

A recent measure was the authorisation of 1,973 new flights to increase competition in the aviation sector during the months of June and July when the Cup will take place.

Opting for state intervention to contain prices is always a delicate decision in free market states. For the aviation sector, which is regulated and considered strategic for national interests, this policy is already a reality in World Cup Brazil. But the containment of prices of consumer goods is still a huge challenge for Brazilians and also for traditionally dynamic sectors. At least on social networks, the mobilisation has begun.

January 26 2014

Brazil's Evolving Relationship With Refugees

Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan, November 2012. Photo from UNHCR on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan, November 2012. Photo from UNHCR on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Despite the sparse knowledge of the Brazilian population on the issue of refugees, the question of war is always present. It will astonish no one to say that we live in an era of generalised conflict around the world. In contrast to the two Great Wars of the last century, in which blocs of countries confronted each other generating mass displacements of populations, today we see numerous conflicts scattered all over the globe.

But to what extent can conflicts in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East affect societies to whom these problems are distant and alien? The answer to this question can be found with refugees and immigrants, who end up the responsibility of nations other than those from where they originated.

Fleeing war and poverty  

Refugee and immigrant: two terms which are generally confused. The difference between them is basically juridical. For refugee, we quote here the definition used by Brazil's National Committee for Refugees (CONARE) [pt], linked to the Ministry of Justice in Brazil:

Será reconhecido como refugiado todo indivíduo que:
I – devido a fundados temores de perseguição por motivos de raça, religião, nacionalidade, grupo social ou opiniões políticas encontre-se fora de seu país de nacionalidade e não possa ou não queira acolher-se à proteção de tal país;
II – não tendo nacionalidade e estando fora do país onde antes teve sua residência habitual, não possa ou não queira regressar a ele, em função das circunstâncias descritas no inciso anterior;
III – devido a grave e generalizada violação de direitos humanos, é obrigado a deixar seu país de nacionalidade para buscar refúgio em outro país.

A refugee is a person who:
I – finds themselves outside of their country of nationality as a result of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a social group and who cannot or does not wish to seek protection from that country;
II – is without nationality and is outside of their country of previous habitual residence, and cannot or does not wish to return to this country as a result of the circumstances described in the previous section;
III – as a result of serious and widespread human rights violations, is forced to leave their country of nationality to seek refuge in another country.

“One refugee without hope is too many”. Campaign image from World Refugee Day (20 June 2011). Photo from the United Nations – Armenia on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The blog Citizenship and Professionality [pt] gives an idea of how citizens, in this case Portuguese, understand immigration and emigration, explained here by readers Helder Monteiro and Helder Ribeiro:

A emigração é o acto e o fenómeno espontâneo de deixar o seu local de residência para um país estrangeiro.
A imigração é o movimento de entrada, permanente ou temporário e com a intenção de trabalho e/ou residência, de pessoas ou populações, de um país para outro. A imigração em geral ocorre por iniciativa pessoal, pela busca de melhores condições financeiras.

Emigration is the spontaneous act and phenomenon of leaving one's place of residence for a foreign country.
Immigration is the inward movement of people or populations from one country to another, permanently or temporarily, with the intention of working or residing. Immigration generally occurs by individual initiative, as a result of a search for better economic conditions.

In the case of Brazil, as in other countries, it is the Constitution [pt] which defines the legal status of foreigners who become Brazilian. Chapter III “On Nationality” clearly defines who has the right to naturalisation: “Foreigners of any nationality, resident in the Federal Republic of Brazil for more than 15 consecutive years and without criminal convictions, on the condition that they request Brazilian nationality”.

Therefore, superficially speaking, whereas refugees are forced to leave their countries as a result of conflict and persecution, emigrants leave voluntarily in search of more favourable working conditions to support their families. Examining the issue in more depth, the juridical question presents itself in the following manner: refugees have their status determined initially by the United Nations, whose asylum request is then judged by the receiving country; yet immigrants are subject solely to the laws of the country which receives them, without external interference.

Refugees in Brazil: number and profile

Flight, Milan Dusek. Art and Refuge in Brazil: a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Fridtjof Nansen. Image shared by UNHCR on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Flight, Milan Dusek. Art and Refuge in Brazil: a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Fridtjof Nansen. Image shared by UNHCR on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, at the end of 2012 there were around 15.4 million refugees in the world. Of this number, Brazil was providing refuge to around 4,656 at the end of 2013 [pt]. This number is alarmingly small in comparison with the country which takes in the highest number of refugees, Pakistan, with around 1.6 million people.

However, although the numbers themselves are still small, proportionally speaking the number of refugees practically tripled from 2012 to 2013, from 199 authorisations to 649, according to an article re-published on the blog ‘Lajes do Cabugi’ [pt].

This is the result of external pressure placed on Brazil by NGOs, and even other countries, which demand that the discourse portraying the country as a third-world nation – with insurmountable internal problems to worry about – should be abandoned. For this reason and others, a national debate on making the laws governing this issue more flexible arose last year. In the same vein, since the number of people displaced by conflicts around the world has practically doubled since 1990, the country has assumed more external responsibilities and has consequently received more refugees.

The most striking example is that of Syrians who seek asylum in Brazil. Given the bloody civil war in Syria, the Brazilian government recently announced a plan to grant special “humanitarian visas” for Syrian nationals who seek refuge in Brazil – the first initiative of its kind in Latin America – which will be more quickly delivered than the usual waiting time for this kind of document. Moreover, the humanitarian visas can be extended to relatives of the refugee who are living in countries that neighbour Syria.

The blog “O Estrangeiro” (The Foreigner) [pt] describes the evolution in numbers of Syrian refugees in Brazil:

O Brasil tem sido um destino cada vez mais recorrente dos cidadãos sírios que tentam escapar da guerra civil que abala o país há mais de dois anos, agravada pela possível intervenção militar dos Estados Unidos. Desde o início dos conflitos, em março de 2011, o número de refugiados sírios no Brasil saltou 15 vezes: foi de 17 para 261. Eles já correspondem a 6% do total de refugiados no país.

Brazil has become an increasingly recurrent destination for Syrian citizens trying to escape the civil war which has hit the country for over two years, aggravated by possible military intervention by the United States. Since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011, the number of Syrian refugees in Brazil increased 15 times over: from 17 to 261. They already comprise 6 percent of the total number of refugees in the country.

Remaking Brazil's image in the eyes of the world

Brazil's ambitions to become a member of the UN Security Council, along with an increase in its participation in global governance, have given rise to an unavoidable dilemma: passivity without risk or taking responsibility for issues which were unfamiliar to the country until recently. This new positioning implies an increase in the number of troops sent abroad on missions under the mandate of the UN and participation in organisations such as the advisory body of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), to which the country awaits its admission once a donation of 6.5 million US dollars has been ratified.

The debate on refugees in Brazil promises to be exciting. It will bring foreign refugees face to face with Brazilian refugees. Yes, they do exist: They are the inhabitants of the slums known as “favelas” subjected to the violence of drug traffickers and corrupt police, and migrants from the poorest states in the country who accept jobs akin to slavery in the larger cities to escape the absolute misery of their villages, among others. Both realities have much in common, and if they were observed closely by the congress members, they would notice that in many corners of Brazil the situation is very similar to that experienced by the people of Palestine or South Sudan. 

January 25 2014

Bloggers from Angola and Mozambique Release Hip-Hop Mix Tape

[The full version of this interview was originally published on 9 January 2014 on the contemporary African cultures website Buala.]

“Submundo Luso vs 12transfusons” is a new mix tape that features rappers from Angola, Mozambique, Brazil and Portugal. Released on New Year’s Eve after five months of preparation, the project brought together hip-hop promoters from the blogs Submundo Luso [pt] in Mozambique and 12transfusons [pt] in Angola. The two met online and the former invited the latter to collaborate.

In this interview for the blog Underground Lusófono [pt], Astérix o Néfilim (Astérix the Giant, in English), a rapper, producer and manager at 12transfusons, talks about the effort, which counted the participation of artists from all over the globe and is now available as a free download. He also shares his views on the artistic scene in Cabinda – a tiny province in the north of Angola – and the challenges caused by such isolation.

Underground Lusófono (UL): How did you get this project up and running?

A Mixtape Submundo Luso vs 12transfusons está disponível para Download Gratuito nos blogues Submundo Luso e 12transfusons.

The Submundo Luso vs 12transfusons Mixtape is available for Free Downloadon on the blogs Submundo Luso and 12transfusons.

Astérix o Néfilim (AN): Passou por selecionarmos os artistas de acordo os objectivos. Neste projecto procuramos trazer as raízes de hip-hop e procuramos fazer algo um pouco fora do normal, é como um “back in the days”. Normalmente os promotores trabalham com artistas de renome e nós procuramos juntar um pouco de tudo, desde a velha à nova escola, e tentamos dar primazia também ao rap feminino, artistas no anonimato e os que já estão na ribalta do hip-hop lusófono.

Astérix o Néfilim (AN): It came about by choosing artists that suited our aims. We wanted to bring back the roots of hip-hop and to do something a little bit different, a bit “old school”. Normally promoters work with renowned artists, but we wanted to bring together a little bit of everything, from the old school to the new. We also tried to give priority to female rappers and unknown artists, alongside those who have already made a name for themselves in Portuguese-language rap.

UL: How did you choose the artists?

AN: Mediante sugestão de todo elenco da 12transfusons e Submundo Luso. Trabalhamos juntos nisso, tínhamos uma lista de artistas, contactámo-los directamente embora não tenhamos propriamente todos os artistas que pretendíamos.

AN: That came after hearing the suggestions of everyone involved at 12transfusons and Submundo Luso. We worked together on this, we had a list of artists, we contacted them directly, although we didn’t get all of the artists we wanted.

UL: What level of interest was there from artists in the prospect of working with you?

AN: Em 2011 lançámos a Mixtape 12transfusons Ed. 2011 com o mesmo propósito, e já tínhamos trabalhado com alguns, é o caso do AKAM-M, MAC D –O- MURMURYO e o ALKAPPA (que foi convidado também a participar mas não pôde).

Devo dizer que não tem sido nada fácil trabalhar com mc's, é uma luta constante. Há quem ignore simplesmente porque não acredita no nosso trabalho, há quem ainda subestime e pense que não cairia bem na sua imagem, outros aceitam participar teoricamente mas, no fim, acabam desistindo. Há ainda aqueles que fazem jus à definição de RAF-TAG “Hip-hopcritas” porque nas letras dizem ser verdadeiros, juram humildade, lealdade, que fazem o rap por amor à cultura e que dão tudo pelo rap (estes são os mais arrogantes) mas não aceitam.

Nós somos produtoras independentes, tudo que temos feito até hoje é fruto dos nossos bolsos, sem apoio nenhum. Apesar de tudo devo reconhecer o esforço, o tempo, dedicação, disponibilidade e empenho de alguns artistas, em especial Khris Mc, IKONOKLASTA, AKAM-47 da Poltersonnik, REDGOVEM, KARDINAL MC, Mona Dya Kidi e muito mais, ao pessoal da 12transfusons com destaque para Absinto e Tecla 6/4, ao pessoal de Moçambique, Brasil e Portugal.

AN: In 2011, we released “Mixtape 12transfusons Ed. 2011″ with the same aim, and we had already worked with a few of the artists. This was the case with AKAM-M, MAC D O MURMURYO and ALKAPPA (who was invited to take part but couldn’t).

I’ve got to say that it hasn’t been easy working with MCs, and it’s a constant battle. There are ones that took no notice because they didn’t believe in our work. There are ones that underestimated us and thought what we were doing wouldn’t go mesh well with their image. Others agreed to take part but ended up dropping out. Then there ones that prove RAF-TAG’s “Hip-hopcrites” idea right – the ones that say in their lyrics they are keeping it real, and swear that they are loyal, that they make rap music out of love for the culture and that they do everything for rap (these are the most arrogant ones), but they don’t want to take part.

We are independent producers. Everything that we’ve done up till now we’ve paid for without any help. Despite that, I want to make a shout-out for the effort, time, dedication and hard work of some artists like Khris Mc, IKONOKLASTA, AKAM-47 from Poltersonnik, REDGOVEM, KARDINAL MC Mona Dya Kidi and many other. Also to the staff at 12transfusons with a special shout-out to Absinto and Tecla 6/4 and everyone in Mozambique, Brazil and Portugal.

A mixtape Submundo Luso vs 12transfusons foi lançada em primeira mão nos blogues e, e demais blogues de hip-hop. O projecto não dispõe de qualquer fim lucrativo e é totalmente GRATUITO.

The Submundo Luso vs 12transfusons mixtape was launched on,, and other hip-hop blogs. The album is not-for-profit and available completely free of charge.

UL: What has the public reaction been like?

AN: Olha, o feedback está sendo melhor do que eu pessoalmente esperava, todos os dias recebo elogios, palavras de encorajamento e felicitações pelo trabalho bem feito. E este é sem dúvida o nosso maior reembolso pela inteira dedicação neste trabalho.

AN: Listen, the response we’ve had has been better than I was personally hoping for. Every day I get compliments, words of encouragement, and congratulations on a job well done. And this, without doubt, is the greatest reward for all our dedication.

UL: How long has 12transfusons been on the market?

AN: A 12transfusons é uma produtora independente que actua no mercado de Cabinda desde 2010, tem vindo a colocar no mercado diversas obras discográficas, realizado diversos shows e demais actividades em prol do hip-hop. É composto por: Astérix o Néfilim (C.E.O), Tecla 6/4(produtor), Sacerdote, Rezo-Luto, 02K63, Absinto (designer) e Akônituz e Vars (Produtor) sendo que estes últimos representam os interesses da produtora na capital. O Absinto e Akônituz formam o grupo Artigo 9.0, e todos juntos representamos o colectivo denominado LETAL.

AN: 12transfusons is an independent production company and has been around in Cabinda since 2010. It has put out various albums, put on various shows and other activities to do with hip-hop. In the group are Astérix the Giant (CEO), Tecla 6/4 (producer), Sacerdote, Rezo-Luto, 02K63, Absinto (designer) and Akônituz e Vars (producer). These last guys are the ones that represent production in the capital. Absinto and Akônituz were part of the group Artigo 9.0 and together we are the collective LETAL.

UL: How do you view music – in particular rap music – in Cabinda?

AN: Seria falso se dissesse que estamos bem porque estamos mesmo mal, ainda há muito a fazer para que o pessoal aceite de bom grado a nossa cultura e tente desviar as atenções para o nosso lado.

Em Cabinda não é só o rap que está em péssimas condições, reflecte-se em todos os estilos musicais, desde o kuduro, kizomba, semba, kintueni e mayeye. Na verdade há pouca divulgação da música feita em Cabinda, temos uma secretaria provincial da cultura fictícia e comunicação social inexistente. Nada justifica que, numa província com artistas de talento, saiam dois álbuns num ano e que as poucas rádios que temos se recusem a apoiar iniciativas como as nossas e demais personalidades interessadas.

Voltando para o rap, este é o menos solicitado nas atividades e comícios governamentais mas é o que mais dá voz em termos de presença musical graças ao esforço de todos os companheiros de luta como: Cabmusic, hip-hop de gavetas, agora a Miller Team e não só. A cada dia que passa surgem novas propostas, novos mc´s e produtoras interessados em dar mais vida ao movimento. Fico feliz com isto.

AN: I would be lying if I said that things are good because they really aren’t and there is still a lot of work to do so that people accept our culture and pay it more attention.

In Cabinda, it’s not only rap that’s finding it tough. The situation is reflected in all musical styles, everything from kuduro, kizomba and samba to kintueni and mayeye. The truth is that the music being made in Cambinda doesn’t get promoted. We have a completely non-existent culture secretary with next to no social communication. Nothing justifies the fact that in a province with so many talented artists only two albums a year get released and there are only a few radio stations that support projects like ours.

Returning to rap, this is the least requested for governmental events and rallies, even though it is what represents people the most. This is thanks to the efforts of all of the comrades in arms such as Cabmusic and Miller Team, among others. Each day that goes by there are new ideas coming up, new MCs and producers interested in giving the movement more life. This makes me very happy.

UL: In your opinion, what needs to be done to change the situation in Cabinda?

AN: Em primeiro lugar valorizando a nossa música. É preciso acostumar as pessoas a ouvirem as nossas músicas, o povo de Cabinda é conhecido como “fidalgo” que não gosta de comparecer nos shows, nem comprar CDs. Nós temos de incentiva-los a irem aos nossos concertos, a comprarem os nossos CDs e não devemos actuar isoladamente.

A Secretaria Provincial da Cultura também deve desempenhar este papel com a comunicação social, neste caso as rádios e TVs (embora Cabinda não tenha nenhuma estação televisiva pública nem privada) de modo a tentar reverter esse quadro, talvez criar programas que ajudassem a promover a música local, apoio aos músicos, deixar de convidar os músicos apenas em campanhas partidárias e actividades governamentais, e que o caché dos músicos locais seja igual ao dos músicos que vêm de Luanda ou de outro ponto do mundo, para que estes se sintam valorizados. Um canal televisivo local ajudaria na promoção da imagem dos artistas no seio do enclave e não só. Na verdade Cabinda carece de rádios e televisões privadas que diversifiquem a rotina das informações. Enquanto isso não acontece continuamos aqui. conhecemos a luta e seguiremos firmes e fortes.

AN: Firstly, valuing our music. It’s important to get people used to hearing our music. The people of Cabinda are known as “prudes” and for not going to shows or buying albums. We have to encourage them to go to our concerts and to buy our CDs. But we can’t act alone.

The culture secretary for this province needs to play this role through social communication, in this case radio stations and TV channels – even though Cabinda doesn’t have any television stations, neither public nor private – in an attempt to reverse the situation. Perhaps create programs that help promote local music, support for musicians, stop inviting musicians only for political campaigns and governmental events. The fee for local musicians should be the same as for musicians that come from Luanda or from any other part of the world so that they feel valued. A local television station would help promote the image of local artists. The truth is, Cabinda lacks private radio and television stations that can mix things up and break the routine of local news. While this isn’t happening, we will continue here. We know what our battle is and we will continue to stand firm.

UL: What projects are on the cards for this year?

AN: 12transfusons não pára, tenho uma equipe fantástica que gosta de trabalhar e está sempre disposta a sujar as mãos. Depois desta mixtape lançaremos o Ruaportagem do grupo Artigo 9.0, um Ep que temos vindo a trabalhar e que só esse ano finalmente vamos poder metê-lo nas ruas, esperamos que seja bem recebido porque estamos a depositar aqui as nossas energias.

AN: 12transfusons doesn’t stop. I have a fantastic team that loves working and is always willing to get its hands dirty. After this mixtape we’re going to launch Ruaportagem [a play on the words "street" and "report"] from the group Artigo 9.0, which is an EP that we have been working on and only this year finally able to get it out on the streets. We hope people are going to like it because we’re putting a lot of energy into it.

UL: What is “Ruaportagem”?

AN: É uma abordagem das ruas, os problemas da população, o modo de vida dos cidadãos, as diferentes maneiras de encarar e sobreviver, os sacrifícios do dia-dia, é um olho das câmara nas ruas de Luanda, e toda a sociedade envolvente.

AN: It’s a way of looking at how thing are on the street, the problems people have, the different ways of surviving, and the daily sacrifices people make.

January 24 2014

VIDEO: Memories of the Violent Eviction of Brazil's Pinheirinho Community

Two years after the violent eviction of the Pinheirinho community in the city of São José dos Campos in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, a short documentary “Somos Todos“(We Are All), which collects testimonies from activists involved with the cause and victims of the episode, has been released online. The eviction became known as the Massacre of Pinheirinho.

The synopsis of the film on YouTube reads:

Eram seis horas da manhã, em janeiro de 2012, quando oito mil pessoas, assustadas, começaram a chorar. Pinheirinho dali em diante não seria mais o lar que construíram há cerca de oito anos. Somos Todos dá rosto aos Pinheirenses e voz a dor de quem até hoje espera solução para uma reintegração de posse repleta de contradições judiciais e humanas.

It was six o'clock in the morning, in January 2012, when 8,000 people, frightened, began to cry. Pinheirinho henceforth would no longer be home of those who built it eight years ago. Somos Todos gives a face to the Pinheirenses and gives a voice to the pain of those who today are still waiting for a solution to the repossession, which was full of legal and human contradictions.

The documentary was screened in Recife one year after the eviction in January 2013, and has won awards at several festivals, including Visões Periférias (Peripheral Visions) in Rio de Janeiro in the Imaginary Borders category and the Porta Curtas jury. “Somos Todos” can now be viewed in full on YouTube or on the website of the project.

According to the film's directors and producers, Bruna Monteiro and Nathália Dielú:

Sobre nós, muito mudou depois do Pinheirinho. Crescemos tanto depois de ouvir os pinheirenses, depois de sentí-los. Hoje, olhamos para o lado com muito mais força, muito mais vontade de transformar. Olhamos também para as nossas lutas pessoais de um jeito diferente, mais maduro. As casas do Pinheirinho foram destruídas. Os sonhos dos Pinheirenses, não. E para que haveríamos de nos emudecer, se os sonhos, tão grandes, transformam a vida, o mundo? Nós, Bruna Monteiro e Nathália e Dielú, escrevemos cada um dos textos que vocês acabaram de ler. Nós, fizemos as entrevistas nos abrigos, na associação. Nós seguimos nessa direção pelo simples e enorme desejo de fazê-lo nos acompanhar. Não só no Pinheirinho de São José dos Campos, mas nos tantos que estão muito perto dos nossos olhos. Nós só conseguimos porque pessoas especiais nos ajudaram nessa missão. Esse site é resultado de um sonho, o de inspirar pessoas, o de lembrar o Pinheirinho como um episódio triste, que não pode ser abandonado. Nem por você, nem por nós.

About us, much has changed after Pinheirinho. We grew so much after hearing from the Pinheirenses, after we felt them. Today, we look to our surroundings with more strength, with more willingness to transform. We also look at our personal struggles in a different, more mature way. The houses at Pinheirinho were destroyed. The dreams of the Pinheirenses were not. And why should we mute ourselves if big dreams change lives, change the world? We, Bruna Monteiro and Nathália Dielú, wrote each of the texts you just read. We did interviews in shelters, at the association. We follow this direction because of the simple and overwhelming desire to make it follow us. Not only in Pinheirinho in São José dos Campos, but in the many that are very close to our eyes. We only succeeded because special people helped us in this mission. This website is the result of a dream, one to inspire people, to remember Pinheirinho as a sad episode that cannot be abandoned. Not by you, not by us.

Take a look at the teaser trailer below:

Also check out Global Voices coverage of the eviction: 

22 Jan, 2012 - Brazil: Occupation dwellers surprised by violent illegal eviction
25 Jan, 2012 - Brazil: “Massacre of Pinheirinho” Causes an Uproar
27 Jan, 2012 - Brazil: Military Police Asks “Understanding” on Pinheirinho Eviction by E-mail
27 Jan, 2012 - Brazil: A View from Aboard on Pinheirinho Eviction
03 Feb, 2012 - Brazil: Pinheirinho Videos ‘Cover-Up’ Leads Activist to Hunger Strike
10 Feb, 2012 - Brazil: “We Are All Pinheirinho” Spreads Around the World
22 Feb, 2012 - Brazil: “Massacre of Pinheirinho”, One Month Later
22 Feb, 2012 - Brazil: Global Act “We Are All Pinheirinho”
19 Mar, 2012 - Brazil: Should Pinheirinho Eviction go to the International Criminal Court?
25 Jan, 2013 - Brazil: Families Evicted from Pinheirinho Still Without a Proper Home
28 Jan, 2013 - Brazil: “Massacre of Pinheirinho”, One Year Later

March in Mozambique Capital Tries to ‘Rescue’ President Armando Guebuza's Image

Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, was the scene of a march on January 18 organized by the ruling party Frelimo as a way of saluting President Armando Guebuza [PDF] for his deeds and for his administration over the last two mandates. The president, who turned 71 years old on January 20, has been in power since 2004, and his second mandate is expected to come to a close this year.

The march came at a time when political and military instability is rocking the central and southern regions of the country, with confrontations arising between opposition party Renamo‘s armed men and the Mozambican army. The inability of President Guebuza (who is also the president of Frelimo, the only party in power since the country gained its independence in 1975) to solve the conflict has been one of the reasons why he has fallen out of the people's favor. Several media outlets reported that the march aimed at rescuing the president's image. 

The image of the

The image of the “March of the Ducks” was widely shared online. It reads: “Guebuza, my friend, ducks are with you” and “Mozambican ducks really love their leader Armando Guebuza, they're marching in his honour”. The image is a parody of the reason that Mozambique's President Armando Guebuza has given the press for his economic success: he supposedly became rich by selling ducks.

The location of the march, which gathered around 2,000 people, was the same as another rally on October 31, 2013 that protested against a series of kidnappings and the increasing insecurity in the country. That march brought together more than 20,000 people; it was organized by the Mozambican League for Human Rights and led by the League's President Alice Mabota [pt], whose name is beginning to arise as a possible candidate for this year's general elections.

On January 16, Frelimo's First Secretary in the city of Maputo, Hermenegildo Infante, officially launched the march [pt] and pointed a finger at those who criticize the president:

Eu tenho a certeza de que estas pessoas depois de cessar o seu mandato hão-de falar bem do presidente Guebuza.

I am sure that these same people will praise President Guebuza, once he finishes his mandate.

António Jorge, a resident of the city of Maputo, had a different opinion:

Pelo contrario iremos sentir a falta de sermos roubados pelo governo, que inventa leis e não cumprem. Sr. Infante não nos chama de ignorantes como Sr esta ser, solução leia a carta da renamo em imprensa e nos diremos onde vocês estão a falhar e onde eles estão a falhar e daremos soluções. O Sr. tem filhos porque não manda um dos seus filhos a guerra para o senhor poder sentir o que e perder um filho por causa da ignorância, ambição de um punhado de dirigentes do partido FRELIMO. Fala de segurança que segurança o sr tem nas ruas de maputo ? Os primeiros a roubarem a população são os trabalhadores do estado junto com os seus dirigentes, hoje temos mais medo da policia do que do ladrão.

On the contrary, we will miss being robbed by the government, which creates laws, but does not follow them. Mr. Infante does not call us ignorant, as he is showing himself to be; the solution is to read the letter by Renamo in the press and we will say where you have failed and where they have failed and we will give solutions. Don't you have sons? Why don't you send them to war so that you can feel what it is to lose a son because of ignorance, ambition on the part of a bunch of leaders from FRELIMO. You speak of safety, what safety have we got on the streets in Maputo? The first ones to steal from the population are the state workers together with their leaders; today we are more afraid of the police than of the thief.

Foto do Jornal @Verdade:

Photo by @Verdade: “The march organized by the party Frelimo on Saturday, with the aim of praising Mozambican Chief of State Armando Guebuza for his “deeds” thoughout his two mandates and to honor his 71st birthday, has served mainly to make what was already known evident, though some people refuse to recognize it: the unpopularity of the president before the people whom he governs.”

Luis Augusto Maraire, in view of a photo published by @Verdade newspaper of the march, commented that Frelimo should be concerned with the political tension spreading throughout the country instead of organizing a march:

a frelimo gasta tempo fazendo marcha pra exaltação da credibilidade de Guebuza, em vez de pensarem uma forma de pararem e pensar uma forma de parar o derramamento de sangue das zonas centro,norte e sul

Frelimo spends time organizing a march to praise the credibility of Guebuza instead of thinking of a way to stop and think of a way to cease the bloodshed in the central, northern and southern areas.

In the same publication, Cesar Eurico Kawawa, a resident of Nacala on the country's northern coast, praised the initiative of the march:

Guebuza Merece muito mais do que esta simples marcha. Guebuza fez muito para Moçambique e pelo povo moçambicano, mesmo que o SUCESSO ALHEIO incomode aos que se recusam a ver os feitos deste Herói da Luta Contra a Pobreza! Bem haja Guebuza!

Guebuza deserves much more than this simple march. Guebuza has done a lot for Mozambique and for the Mozambican people, even if OTHER PEOPLE'S SUCCESS upset those who refuse to see the good deeds of this Hero in the Fight Against Poverty! Well done Guebuza!

Other people criticized the use of state assets for the benefit of party politics, such as a mini-bus from the Education Directorate to carry people to the march. 

Beto Dias Pikles slammed the fact that the Public TV Channel was used to broadcast the march:

Os verdadeiros mocambicanos nao aderiram as idiotices cometidas pela Classe Governante pese embora seja um direito constitucional. Algo que deixa-me estupefato eh o porque duma [televisão] publica onde os impostos de milhoes de cidadaos a faz funcionar vai transmitir em directo uma marcha? Habitualmente minhas sobrinhas tem estado em frente ao ecra logo pela manha pra acompanhar programas que elas gostam e hoje a TV foi mais uma vez partidarizada.

True Mozambicans did not join the idiocies committed by the governing class, although it is a constitutional right. Something that leaves me speechless is why would public [television], which subsists on the taxes of millions of citizens, broadcast such a march live? Usually my nieces stand in front of the screen first thing in the morning to watch the programs they like, and today the TV was once again partisan.

The video below shows supporters in one of the main streets of the city center of Maputo:

The march was reported on Twitter under the hashtag #MarchaSaudaçãoGuebuza (March to salute Guebuza). Ulla Andren, the ambassador from Sweden in Mozambique, found the humor in the situation:

Frelimo organizes a march today and comical greeting to President Guebuza in Maputo under the motto “Guebuza – Mozambicans are with you”.

January 23 2014

East Timor: ‘Australia Spied on Us for Oil Secrets’

[The original version of this post in Portuguese was published on December 28, 2013]

Battle began this week in a case at the International Court of Justice at The Hague pitting East Timor against Australia, with the former accusing the latter of spying and interfering with Timorese natural resources and sovereignty.

Graffiti Stencil by Alfe Tutuala shared on Wikimedia (public domain)

Graffiti stencil by Alfe Tutuala shared on Wikimedia (public domain)

At stake is the accusation of Australia's illicit access to confidential information about oil and gas in the Timor Sea, which may have hampered the Timorese during their negotiations of the Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) with Australia in 2004.

On December 17, 2013, East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste, filed an international lawsuit against Australia in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, the highest court of the United Nations. East Timor requested the return of documents seized in a raid earlier in December of the office of an attorney who represents Timor-Leste in the dispute over the treaty and accused Australia of violating the country's sovereignty.

“A luta kontinua”

In the month of December 2013, a wave of protests set the agenda in the streets of capital city Dili and on Timorese social networks.

The Movimentu Kontra Okupasaun Tasi Timor (Movement against the occupation of the Timor Sea) and NGO La’o Hamutuk, a well-known advocate of the rights of East Timor, have mobilized dozens of Timorese, mostly young people, to protest for the sovereignty rights of the country.

The motto “a luta kontinua” (the struggle continues), which was widely used during the 24 years of Indonesian occupation until the independence of the country after the referendum of 1999, was also the closing remark of a press release [PDF] that circulated in early December calling the government of Australia to:

1. Stop stealing and occupying the Timor Sea, but show your good will as a large nation which
follows democratic prniciples to accept a maritime boundary which follows international law
2. Australia should set an example as a sovereign nation which respects and recognizes the
rights of Timor-Leste’s people.
3. Australia should not promote or continue neocolonialism against Timor-Leste’s people, who
have suffered this for centuries. We will no longer be your slaves.
4. The Abbott government should apologize to the Maubere people, who have been hugely
discriminated against by Australia from the past to the present. If not, we will continue to
demonstrate at the Australian Embassy for the indefinite future.

Photo from a demonstration in front of Australia's embassy in Dili, December 20, 2013. By Veronica Fernandes on Facebook (used with permission)

Photo from a demonstration in front of Australia's embassy in Dili on December 20, 2013. By Veronica Fernandes on Facebook (used with permission)

On December 20, 2013, one more demonstration took place in front of the Australian embassy in Dili, in which several members of East Timor's national parliament participated [pt] in solidarity with the Timorese people. 

The first demonstrations in the beginning of December followed news reports from the Australian media claiming that spy agency the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) raided the office of the lawyer that defends the Timorese government in the international arbitration proceedings in The Hague.

During the raid, documentary and electronic evidence that the lawyer would have presented at the first hearing were seized.

On the same day, ASIO seized the passport of an alleged Australian whistleblower, a former employee of the ASIS (Australian Secret Service) involved in intelligence activities in East Timor, who would be willing to testify in court about the installation of recording devices in the offices of the Timorese prime minister during treaty negotiations. This former spy for the Australian government, whose identity was not revealed, was the key witness for East Timor in court. The Australian action aimed to prevent his travel to the Netherlands in order to be present in court.

Certain maritime arrangements

In April 2013, the Timorese government notified Australia that it would initiate a process of international arbitration, arguing that the Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS), signed in 2006, should be made invalid because it was not negotiated in good faith.

According to the Timorese government, the issue at stake is the spying that was carried out by the Australian government with commercial interests, which calls into question the prerogative of good faith of both parties in the negotiation and makes the CMATS treaty invalid under the clauses of the treaty itself as well as the prevailing international law, namely the Vienna Convention.

Ratified in 2007, CMATS regulates the way the exploitation of natural resources in the Timor Sea should be shared between the two countries, namely the “Greater Sunrise” oil and gas field, whose assets are estimated to be worth about 40 billion US dollars. The oil treaty between the two countries requires East Timor to drop its requests for permanent maritime boundaries for 50 years, a stiplulation that works very much in Australia's favor: all of Greater Sunrise would fall within Timorese territory if boundaries were drawn in accordance with international law.

These issues are illustrated in a documentary produced by ABC Australia, Taxing times in Timor, which investigates the dispute between the Timorese government and the giants of the oil and gas industry:

The news from December lead the current Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Xanana Gusmão, to react with indignation against Australia's conduct in local media. According to an article [tet, en] published by Tempo Semanal newspaper on December 11, Xanana accused the Australian government of interfering with justice and having a lack of ethics in the relations between neighboring countries. He also stressed that Australia spying on Timor was a matter of national security. 

On the Australian side, Attorney General George Brandis, who authorized ASIO's operation, defended the legality of the raid, invoking reasons of national interest. This, because according to Brandis, the revelation of the identity of former spies who served in the Australian Secret Services may jeopardize national security. 

On the other hand, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer, who negotiated CMATS with the government of East Timor in 2004, accused the current Timorese executive of opportunism for putting the treaty at stake. Right after his mandate in parliament came to an end, Alexander Downer became a consultant for Woodside Petroleum, a company that belongs to the consortium that exploits the fields of Greater Sunrise in the Timor Sea. This is one of the reasons why the former collaborator of the Australian Secret Services wanted to testify in favor of East Timor.

Protest in Timor-Leste against the 'return of colonialism'. Facebook page of Mario Amaral

Protest in East Timor against the “return of colonialism”. Facebook page of Mario Amaral

On the Timorese side, the diplomatic incident has been interpreted as an injustice comparable to others from throughout the history of the country. For instance, when Australia opted to illegally explore East Timor's mineral resources in 1989, by recognizing the de facto Indonesian integration of the territory and turning a blind eye towards the atrocities and human rights violations committed during the Indonesian occupation from 1975-1999. 

Demonstrators and politicians have stressed the unequal rights between rich and poor countries that this case represents, arguing that Australia's political and economic power is being used to perpetuate this kind of asymmetric relationship. 

Read also: Australia Spied on Timor Leste to Gain Commercial Advantage (December 13, 2013)

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