Does Santa exist? The professional and the personal in Rio

[Para português, clique aqui]

Better to keep things separate

The euphoria begins as soon as the state takes control of territories formerly under drug traffickers’ thumbs. Police and favela residents become friends. Police officers waltz with favela debutantes.

In at least one instance, a military police captain said he’d try to help a former drug trafficking “soldier” to find a job.

And José Mariano Beltrame, our much-loved Public Safety Secretary, played Santa for a day,  giving presents out to children in the recently-occupied Vila do Cruzeiro.

In a society marked by inequality and fragile institutions, personal relations– and the emotions that arise from them– are the basis of everything that Brazilians cherish and accomplish in life. Thus springs the world-famous human warmth. Thence the Olympic slogan,  viva sua paixão (live your passion)

And there lies a minefield for the future of the integration of Rio de Janeiro. While the emotions of professional work done in the public sector result from performance, the emotions of a political career come not only from performance, but from show business. And show business, aside from being ephemeral, relies a great deal on lights and mirrors.

So it’s a bit frightening to hear that Secretary Beltrame might run for mayor in 2012. At very least, we need him in his current post, so he can carry on with the excellent work he’s been doing to make Rio safe, since 2008.

Here’s  O Globo columnist Zuenir Ventura, in yesterday’s paper:

One of the reasons that José Mariano Beltrame is today one of the best-loved and respected people in the state of Rio, applauded wherever he goes, is obviously the unanimously lauded success of the police pacification units, but also his refusal to get involved in politics or allow politics to intrude in his work. His behavior, his choices and his criteria have always been technical. There’s no evidence of a military police commander or a civil police chief having been chosen due to a recommendation from state legislators or city council members, or in response a a particular party’s interests. This is very different from the days when top police posts were launching pads for their occupants, with the promiscuity and the support of [corrupt police], if they ran for a legislative position. Some ended up in the state legislature or the city council and later, in jail. Others avoided being put behind bars.

For this reason, it’s worrisome to hear that governor Sérgio Cabral is thinking of supporting Beltrame as a mayoral candidate next year. This may be mere speculation with no basis. After all, Eduardo Paes will want to be reelected, allowing no one else to enjoy the glory due him as mayor, leading the festivities of the  World  Soccer Cup and the Olympics. Apparently he does want this. Even so, in the name of peace — the Secretary’s candidacy would damage the pacification process — one hopes for a vehement denial from the parties involved . In a recent interview with Paula Cesarino and Plínio Fraga, Beltrame had this to say about the observation that there would be a great deal of pressure on him to run for office: “I haven’t yet been bitten by that bug.”  The “yet” isn’t very reassuring. I’d prefer that the sentence ended with “will never bite me”.

Certainly Beltrame, Cabral and Paes understand that the hard work of intergrating this city has just begun. And it may well be that Beltrame will never be bitten, since in a recent interview governor Cabral singled out his vice-governor Luiz  Fernando Pezão as successor and said he favored Paes’  reelection.

For an idea of what could happen should politics take charge, see this post. And to read in Portuguese about one city council member’s evaluation of mayor Paes’ fulfillment of his election promises, click here.

About Rio real

American journalist, writer, editor who's lived in Rio de Janeiro for 20 years.
This entry was posted in Brazil, Transformation of Rio de Janeiro / Transformação do Rio de Janeiro and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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