Thursday, October 18, 2012

Brazil arresting child drug addicts

This young girl’s photo is making media rounds today where she is described as a homeless “suspected crack user waiting to be taken to a shelter” by social workers in Rio de Janeiro. We are told health officials are detaining crack addicts for treatment after riot cops stormed the favelas & drove out the drug traffickers. For sheer cynicism & stinking mendacity, it would be hard to rival that story. It’s sole purpose is to render a humane face to the brutal police-state occupations of the favelas in Rio.

What makes the story so damn malignant is that Brazil has long had one of the largest populations of homeless & destitute children in the world. The Brazilian Government estimates the number of homeless children at 23,973. Staggering; but most other agencies estimate the numbers as between 200,000 & 8 million. According to child welfare workers, most of the meninos de rua (street kids) are black. Where do these children come from?

Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world with a population of nearly 194 million people. The disparity between rich & poor is one of the largest (several times greater than the US), with the richest 10% controlling 50% of the wealth & the poorest 50% living on just 10% of the wealth (according to the World Bank). This is a particularly bitter reality in the richest economy in Latin America. In the past four decades, Brazil went from a predominantly rural economy to an overwhelmingly urban one, with 78% of the population now living in cities. This is due to Brazil’s adoption of the IMF neoliberal model of agriculture in the 1980s which dispossessed millions of small farmers & agricultural workers, driving them into city slums.

Despite some of the world’s best child welfare legislation, Brazil has become notorious over the past 40 years for the murder of thousands of homeless children by vigilantes & death squads comprised of rogue cops & private security guards. It is estimated by child welfare agencies that 5 or 6 children are assassinated on Rio's streets every day. Children are executed, some mutilated beyond recognition, many disappeared & buried in hidden graves. According to the testimony of a Brazilian judge, the powerful elite pay private security agencies, where cops moonlight for extra income, to clean up the streets for disgruntled merchants. These hired killers are then given protection at the judicial level, which is why most are not prosecuted & if prosecuted are not indicted for the murder of children.

Despite excellent child labor laws, Brazil has the third largest number of working children in Latin America after Haiti & Bolivia. Despite excellent legislation against the use of children for sexual purposes, it is estimated between 250,000 & 2 million children are forced into prostitution by organized mafia, working in bars, brothels, massage salons, & hotels. Brazil has now overtaken Thailand as the most popular destination for child sex tourism.

The government of Brazil is not serious about addressing child drug addiction & homelessness. It is concerned only with giving a humane face to continued predation & plunder. This child is more likely to get placed in a correctional facility than a shelter. And that’s what makes this story so repugnant.  (Photo by Felipe Dana/AP)

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