‘Brazil’s exasperation with government corruption threatens to overshadow Rio Olympics’

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 05/08/2016. Protester stands in front of riot police during demonstration against the Olympic Games near the Maracana stadium. © Ana Carolina
The state spent millions of dollars on the Games, but the government is always saying we are in an economic crisis. So where is the crisis, asked Carlos Latuff, political cartoonist. Francisco Dominguez, Latin American Studies, Middlesex University, also provided his thoughts.

Heavy clashes erupted in Rio de Janeiro on Friday at the time of the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. Protesters held an anti-corruption rally against the interim government of President Michel Temer and over the costs of hosting the Olympics. A number of people were reportedly injured in the clashes, as police used tear gas and stun grenades. Similar demonstrations were also held in Sao Paulo.

RT: There has been a wave of protests through Brazil last month including heavy clashes over the last few hours. If the protests go on, could they harm the Olympic Games? 

Carlos Latuff: No, I don’t think these protesters will prevent the Olympics from happening... Yesterday I made a video asking the foreign journalists to show the world the Olympic Games, but also the human rights violations committed in Brazil. It is quite necessary for the international mainstream media to show the situation, to show how the police, to show how the state deals with protesters. 

RT: The Rio Games were marred by various scandals and incidents weeks before the opening of the Games prompting many athletes to skip the event, and now the streets have turned violent. Do you think more athletes may reconsider their participation? 

CL: Well, I am not sure. I think there are many things involved. It would be interesting to see athletes voicing their opinions about the situation in Brazil, too. But, in my opinion we have in Brazil other priorities. I am not against sport; I am not against the Olympics itself. The state put a lot of money, millions of dollars in this Game, and the state is always saying we are living in an economic crisis. So where is the crisis anyway? While are we discussing Olympics and showing celebration and people smiling, enjoying the Olympics, at the same time police are carrying on infantry-like operations in the favelas in the so-called war on drugs and killing people. That is why it is so important to highlight that these Olympic Games are tainted by blood. 

Francisco Dominguez, Latin American Studies, Middlesex University 

RT: Michel Temer's administration has been boasting about its work preparing for the Games, but the protests have now brought some very ugly moments just before the Games Opening Ceremony. Do you think the timing of the protests is significant here? 

Francisco Dominguez: I think so. We more or less predicted this. There is a huge mass movement in which people are very angry, because the interim government is using the temporary position that it has in order to reverse all the social programs. Many of the gains that people made in terms of pension, social security programs, programs to eradicate poverty, and so on and so forth, and this is completely unacceptable. What the government should do is to have a holding operation until the final destiny of Dilma Rousseff is decided by Senate. Instead they are using this event to engage in a wholesale privatization program. That is why people are so angry. Many people in the State Department and in the public sector have been dismissed. Thousands and thousands are losing their jobs. No wonder they are so unhappy…  I think the government is going to have a very, very difficult time during these Olympics. 

RT: Corruption scandals have been plaguing the country for years now - The PETROBRAS case alone saw dozens of officials put behind bars and almost a hundred other cases are still pending - including that of Dilma Rousseff. In your opinion, what is it about the interim government of Temer that has alienated Brazilian citizens so much? 

FD: The factual information we have is that about 350 deputies in Congress face corruption investigation. Some of them face one charge, some of them face two, some of them seven, some of them are facing 11. There is one that is facing 47. That gives you an idea of the level of corruption. If you were to correlate the vote in Congress for impeaching Dilma Rousseff with those who actually face corruption you will see that a correlation is more or less perfect. In the case of the Senate, something like 60 percent of the Senators also face corruption investigations. Revelations have been leaked to the media recently where many very prominent politicians said that the only way to stop the investigation that may end up with all of them in prison was to oust Rousseff, because she wouldn’t stop the investigation and she said she was not prepared to accept any blackmail This is really what the game is.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.