Brazil prepares Police Surveillance State for World Cup and Olympic Games
Problem, reaction, solution. The famous Hegelian dialect has never been so useful to explain current events as it is today.
If anyone thought that the government of Brazil did not know about the popular uprising during the last Confederations Cup in 2013, in which millions of people protested on the streets and even took over the congressional building in Brasilia, think again.
The most important achievement of the protests that lasted about two weeks was to avoid the rise of 20 cents on a bus fare. Does that sound like a real cause for an uprising? Not at all. As it happened in much of the world, the Brazilian winter protests were an example of how controlled opposition is used to bring about the need for a Police State which the Brazilian government had been working on for a while.
Brazil is a lawless country and it is easy to think about many excuses to have more law enforcement, especially in its capital city of Brasilia, but popular uprising is not one of them. The reason for this is that most Brazilians are highly domesticated, much like the vast majority of Americans are today. Many Brazilians refused to join the protests and justified their decision saying that walking on streets and highways would not solve anything, and they were right. The so-called Brazilian giant went back to sleep minutes after the national soccer team won the cup at the Maracana stadium.
What did work was the planning executed by the Brazilian government that clearly sought an excuse to openly militarize the country. Following “common wisdom” the Rousseff government had been arming itself from the beginning, but had no reason to place the newly acquired toys on the streets. Now it does. The same controlled opposition that caused concern last year announced that people will take to the streets next June, so the government has also announced its plan to curve protests.
Military shield on the streets and beyond
After millions of protesters demanded fair salaries, less corruption, less taxes and less government intrusion in their lives, the Brazilian politicians have done exactly the opposite and now they have the weapons and the excuse to use them: Security. The false notion that streets are safer if more police are visible has taken over the minds of both politicians and the people themselves.
Since last year, Brazil has been training thousands of agents – official numbers say 10,000 – in urban combat situations to deal with protesters next June during the World Cup and later in 2016 during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. In fact, The World Cup will be a training exercise on how to deal with supposedly revolting crowds, should protesters or provocateurs decide to stand up to police forces and illegal at checkpoints that will be placed at least two kilometers away from the soccer stadiums.
Those 10,000 armed thugs will be trained by the National Security Force, a battalion of elite soldiers linked to the Ministry of Justice who specialize in urban combat. Only soccer fans with tickets and accredited press will be able to go beyond the free speech zones around the stadiums.
Colonel Augusto Alexandre Aragon, director of the National Security Force, told the Brazilian media that the intention is to have enough staff in the twelve cities where the soccer matches will be played. Aragon admitted that the decision to increase the staff of the National Security Force is related to strong protests in June last year.
According to the head of the Secretariat of Major Events of the Ministry of Justice, Andrei Augusto Passos, the government has already invested R$1,170 million reais ($490 million) for the purchase of equipment and safety technologies, and R$3.4 million reais ($ 1.4 million) in training the military agents.
The new Brazilian Surveillance State
US robots and Israeli drones are part of the equipment acquired by the Brazilian government to make the 2014 World Cup ‘one of safest sporting events ever’. Similar surveillance practices were observed in previous “spectacular sports events” in Europe and North America, but never in Latin America.
According to official documents, Brazil has 30 US military robots and ‘Robocop-style’ glasses with face recognition cameras in which it spent some $900 million. The robots include 30 PackBot 510 units at a price tag of $100,000 to $200,000 each. They were purchased from American iRobot advanced Technology Company.
“IRobot continues its international expansion, and Brazil represents an important market for the company’s unmanned ground vehicles,” Frank Wilson, iRobot’s senior vice president, said in a statement. At the best American hyping style, the PackBots will be remotely operated and used to detect and study suspicious objects. More than 2000 of those military robots are currently stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Mega-events provide host countries and cities with the perfect opportunity to improve their credibility by proving they are in control of their territories. Therefore, the purpose isn’t to ensure security per se but to demonstrate an illusion of security that will reassure mega-event stakeholders,” say Canadian sociologists Philip Boyle and Kevin Haggerty. “This illusion begins long before the events start, indeed the Brazilian government officials declared last year they were hoping to make the 2014 World Cup “one of the most protected sports events in history”. The willingness to perpetually outdo every previous event in order for host countries or host cities to distinguish themselves from others has led to an escalation in security bills. In the case of Olympic Games, they went from $66.2 million for Barcelona Games in 1992, to $179.6 million in Sydney in 2000, to Beijing’s $6.5 billion in 2008 and London’s $2.2 billion in 2012,” they added.
The Brazilian government has invested heavily to purchase facial-recognition camera glasses which are capable of capturing 400 facial images per second to store them in a central database of up to 13 million faces. Did anyone say 1984? According to Boyle and Haggerty, Brazil enjoys a strong partnership with the Israeli security industry, represented by companies like Elbit Systems, which been doing business with the Brazilian government for years.
In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that the Israeli military industry owns a big chunk of Brazil’s security state. According to OpenDemocracy.net, a company known as Rafael Advanced Defense Systems bought a 40% stake in Brazil’s GESPI Aeronautics. Just in 2010, Brazil and Israel agreed to start a new military cooperation scheme which kept both Brazilians and Israeli officials busy travelling back and forth in secret talks whose details are simply unknown.
If anyone wants to find out how much the military buildup in Brazil is such a public theater and how the World Cup and Olympics are just excuses to have that buildup, he or she needs to look at how the Brazilian government has openly negotiated with drug gangs in major cities and how those gangs have allowed the government to place the army inside slums to supposedly guarantee security during the two upcoming sports events. What kind of security can the military police provide in ‘favelas‘ or outside soccer stadiums if it’s one of the most corrupt organizations in the country?
Nonetheless, the Brazilian armed forces will also operate Hermes 450 drones which will be on the look for ‘suspicious activity’. What is not known is whether the drones will be armed and ready to kill citizens as the United States does in Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
As it turns out, mega-events such as the World Cup and the Olympic Games are not about sportsmanship anymore. They are all about a heightened security state in cities where there is not a single sign of terrorist activities. This heightened security state immediately becomes a money making enterprise for the military industrial complex, which can count on accomplice governments to create a problem in order to generate a reaction so that it can then provide the false solution. Worst of all is that a Police Surveillance State never goes away. The new Brazilian Surveillance State is here to stay and Brazilians have helped enable it by allowing politicians and so-called security companies to establish themselves on their soil.
“The general tendency of the mega-event mode of production is to limit the “right to the city” through the installation of a new form of govern mentality that uses apparatuses of security as its essential technical element,” says geographer Christopher Gaffney. “No informed population with a strong civil society would consensually submit to this outlandish proposal, thus the security apparatus functions to establish and guarantee these new circulations through the exercise of violence.”