Politcal Context/Political Commentary

25 Oct

A few people have asked me, “So it must be really interesting in Brazil right now with the election coming up, right?”

Each time I almost have to scan my brain for a minute, ‘Election…election…what election?’

Oh, that’s right, the Presidential Election!

On the streets the propaganda of candidates is so relentlessly shoved into the hands/face/ears of each passerby that it’s almost become a type of white noise.  If utilizing the internet and social media won Obama the 2008 Election, then candidates in Brazil are hoping that having people vigorously wave political flags on each corner, hand out little papers/ads in the street, and drive cars around with external stereos blasting music that has been specially written to include the politicians name, political platform, etc. are the key campaign tactics to winning this year’s election.

And if decibels were any measure of dedication, there would be a lot of political front-runners…as these specially composed songs have the habit of sounding extremely loud even all the way up in my 12th floor bedroom when the windows are closed. [I write these paragraphs acknowledging that Obama was obviously harnessing the internet to reach out to a different population, namely, one that definitely had internet access]

Beyond these ever-present campaign tactics, political discussions here don’t seem to be very common.  I’m sure that part of it is I am most often around groups of Brazilians while at work– and people aren’t very interested in mixing work and political perspectives [in a country where everyone is required to have one, as voting is compulsory if you are between ages 18-70 and literate– for everyone else it is voluntary].  However, if I ask Brazilians directly about their thoughts, almost everyone responds that the northeast (aka poor area) of Brazil votes left and are Lula supporters, and that the south (aka wealthier area) votes right…discussing the rest of the country’s tendencies, instead of their own.

Watch this video for background information on candidates [Green party candidate already eliminated]:

I imagine it’s easier for Brazilians to talk about what everyone else is doing, because many have lost faith in their personal ability to change political systems– often feeling totally helpless.  They’re quick to point out that there will inevitably be lots of corruption, with no shortage of historical examples to highlight as proof.

It seems the sequel to the movie Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad), a semi-fictional story of the BOPE, the Special Operations Batallion of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police, came out just in time to remind people of the corruption that exists/that can exist in Brazil.

I wish I were lying when I said that “Knife in the Skull” (“Faca na Caveira”) was the motto of the BOPE.  This is their logo:

Tropa de Elite II contains some excellent social commentary, with the opening of the movie ironically flipping back and forth between a Brazilian professor giving a class on the systems and institutions in place that allow corruption to run rampant (seemingly very distant from any violent realities), and a bloody uprising in a jail where inmates start killing people from opposing organized crime factions, when the BOPE comes in and suddenly there’s just bullets flying everywhere.

Afterward, when the Captain of the BOPE explains that there was senseless and unwarranted killing going on during the uprising, he says, ‘We might as well just have called it ‘Operation Iraqi.”

Referencing the Brazilian Presidential Election: “Whoever wins will be elected because of a rejection of the other candidate,” and not because of their platforms, he said. (Read full New York Times Article)

Political elections often are choosing the lesser of two evils, and it seems that this election in Brazil will be no exception.

2 Responses to “Politcal Context/Political Commentary”

  1. Teresa October 26, 2010 at 8:31 pm #

    How does the government keep track of who’s literate to force them to vote? Do they have to pay a fine if they don’t?

  2. Molly October 29, 2010 at 12:39 am #

    Yep, you get fined if you don’t vote.

    People are registered in their hometowns…and when you get your Brazilian ID if you are illiterate you put your thumb print instead of a signature, and apparently they keep track of that (according to an unofficial Brazilian source). However, all of their voting is electronic now, so they’ve transitioned to putting big pictures of the candidates with their names, for ease of use for the illiterate.

    It’d be interesting to know how large pictures are affecting literate voters.

    It’d been difficult to find an official source that explains all of the intricacies of their voting procedures, but I’ll keep you updated!

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