Podcast – in English- on the “thin democracy” underlying Rio Olympics



Your blogger, on a visit to the Metro extension construction site last year

Council of the Americas multimedia manager Luisa Leme recently interviewed your blogger, and here is the 18-minute result. You can hear about how the current situation in Rio fits into the national panorama. In other words, how we got to where we are, with some not-so-pessimistic light on the future.

While you listen, take a look at pictures from yesterday’s launch of the Agenda Rio 2017, presented to Rio mayoral and city council candidates, with a packed crowd at the Teatro Rival. The election is in October, on the heels of the Paralympic Games. To what degree will Rio work to reduce its social inequality, over the next four years?


Impressive roundup of some of the city’s key activists and organizers, at the Teatro Rival


Rede mayoral candidate, Alessandro Molon


Jardim Gramacho community organizer


José Marcelo Zacchi, director of the Casa Fluminense, which put together the metropolitan Agenda Rio 2017. Candidates were asked to commit to it.


PSDB mayoral candidate, Carlos Osório


PSOL mayoral candidate Marcelo Freixo, with his vice-mayoral candidate, Luciana Boiteux




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.

11 Responses to Podcast – in English- on the “thin democracy” underlying Rio Olympics

  1. shotw2arrows says:

    Julia, the mensalão in 2005 might have been a LITTLE tipoff for us that things were not hunky-dory in Rio.

    Also in that year, police murdered 29 citizens – including women and a 14-year-old boy – whose only crime was being poor. Not one politician spoke in outrage for the murdered. Where are the families of the murdered now, what do they think of things – the Olympic Games and so on? If one wants to look at Rio from the ground up, maybe those families would be a good place to start. Literate community activists have an important story to tell, but they are not the people – though I commend them, they do live in the communities.

    It was staggering that year after year, politicians were shown to be robbing the people, particularly outside the less educated regions of Brazil. And the people kept electing them back to office. Brazil had to pass a special law to end this infamy. Now how could we have fantasized, during the Golden Age, Brazil was a true democracy?

    We should also remember that before Lava Jato hit, about half of Dilma’s cabinet had to resign. Resign they did, and everybody forgot about them; they went on their merry careers in public service in slightly humbler and less lucrative positions.

    Is it not being a little optimistic to hope that today’s politicians will wake up, see the error of their ways, and turn on the St. Francis act, giving all they have to the poor and serving for the greater good?

    Your book is a noble endeavor – in my humble judgment, the best thing you could do. I am sure more competent people than me are giving you advice, which you alone can evaluate.

    I will continue to send posts – at moment I trying to relieve myself of some of my ignorance. But here is something I have wanted to express for a long time.

    Mechanism! There has to be a mechanism so that the underdogs can make their will felt. Some humble person suffers an injustice. Say, for example, the police steal something during the investigation of a crime. There has to be a series of mechanical steps the victim can take to obtain justice.

    Right now, they burn buses, throw rocks at police, perhaps talk with community activists – perhaps demonstrate, release doves in plazas, wear red noses, etc.

    It is simply this: the will of the people has no means of being expressed. That that will be expressed is the definition of democracy.

    The chain the leads from the person on the street to those in power is broken – or rather, has never been forged. Again, it’s not nebulous, it’s not hearts and flowers. It’s a mechanical process that is going to take years to achieve – like the Panama Canal.

  2. Rio real says:

    Hi, thanks so much for this comment. You are right, the mensalão was a tipoff, for sure. But — given the outcome together with one’s own wishful thinking, it was hard to imagine just how widespread corruption is. The big difference now is that LavaJato just keeps on and on and those who used to get away with white collar crimes are finding themselves in jail or on the way. As I said, citizens are responsible for strengthening their institutions– which do exist. The Ministério Público and the Federal Police are two that have matured tremendously since the constitution was ratified. There are mechanisms and they can be accessed: local ministério públicos, defensores públicos, the press. Not everyone is aware of this, but consciousness is growing. The institutions themselves work to carve out their space and shake off political influence, become more professional and more concerned with the public good. It’s a process…. check out the newly published book, Lava Jato, by Vladimir Netto. Best to you!

    • shotw2arrows says:

      I need to learn about those mechanisms, so for a lark I will go down and buy Netto’s book right now. Thanks for the recommendation. I look forward eagerly to your book also. Hopefully it will be out in 2017. I flatter myself that I am person of good will and I think you are also; there must be many Brazilians of similar disposition, reading, thinking, and hoping. I have no confidence that the Old Guard, as exemplified by the Temer administration, will really turn things around. But hopefully, by 2018 someone from a new generation will step forward. If so, it is necessary that the people recognize her or him. Perhaps your book will help them to make that decision. Best of luck!

  3. Rio real says:

    I ought to get a commission! thanks–

    • shotw2arrows says:

      You might deserve a commission if you could make more money doing something else. But if you were earning money thus, your opinions of events in Brazil might be colored by your financial interests.

      I personally don`t feel that I am “giving to Brazil”. Rather, it’s a symbiotic relationship. My efforts give meaning to my life; they will have meaning if they result in the good of Brazil. It’s a win-win situation. Thank you for helping.

  4. michaelshandrick says:

    What you have always done in your blogs is portray the humanity and small stories that make the story larger. I wish you well with your book. (I think you might be very successful with an English version.) I would love to see you give a TED talk about Rio. The book, of course, would be icing on the cake. A truly insightful interview.

    • shotw2arrows says:

      “… the masters make the rules/For the wise men and the fools” — if only the small stories could add up to an effect on the big story of what really happens. The rulers of Rio are not sentimental men. They will not give up what they have without distinct nudges. For example, in the current crisis, I never hear it asked — who could most easily bear a larger contribution? NO ONE EVER TALKS ABOUT TEMPORARILY RAISING TAXES ON THE RICH. Of major countries, only the rich of Russia and Saudi Arabia pay less. Yet there are 90 poor voters to every rich voter. Why don’t the poor vote for larger taxes on the rich? Answer: the system is rigged so they can’t. There’s no one on the ticket for them to vote for. Now, we do have freedom of speech, you can say anything on social media, which is exactly what we are doing now. “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” But it can never forget what the politicians do here, much as we would LIKE to forget Lava Jato. But maybe actual concrete proposal are made on social media. I haven’t seen them. Where can I read of concrete proposals on social media?

      • Rio real says:

        You are right. There are many proposals, complaints, criticisms, NGOs, community groups, etc. But not much vision, not enough thinking outside the box. People are used to certain ways of thinking and behaving. Who knows, maybe something will be learned or sparked by having hosted all these mega events? Time is ripe!

    • Rio real says:

      Thanks so much, Michael, and for reading, too!

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