Opinion, By Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Revisiting Rio de Janeiro in 2013, whose biggest events might be dubbed the “Three R’s in Rio.” In reverse chronological order, these were Rock in Rio, Religion in Rio and Riots in Rio.
The first R was so unexceptionable that the Curmudgeon couldn’t find anything bad to say about it, except that O Globo thought a sign reading “Matawan” was “Manhattan.” [Disclosure: that sign got two of the Curmudgeon’s friends invited up on stage with Bruce!]
Moving on to Religion in Rio, the Pope’s visit was indeed a spectacle of the first water. His official motorcade got lost between the airport and the cathedral, and was mired in traffic on Av. Pres. Vargas — immediately endearing him to Cariocas who suffer the same fate every working day. Then the rains came and turned the “carefully” chosen spot in Rio’s far west into a quagmire, resulting in the instantaneous transmogrification of Copacabana beach into the world’s most populous “church.” What’s not to like?
Riots in Rio were definitely not to like. Ugly scenes occurred regularly, with demonstrators and police generally disregarding other people’s safety and property. The news media had a feeding frenzy after a few of their own were hurt in São Paulo, and sent hundreds of reporters to the scenes, hoping to photograph as much violence as they could. Often there were more newshounds around a trash bin set aflame than there were demonstrators.
Did anything positive result from the protests? Not much, really. Public education, transportation, and sanitation remain dreadful, politicians promise political reform but, preoccupied with maintaining their ill-gotten gains, do nothing. “Mais Médicos” incited the ire of privileged physicians, by importing Cuban doctors and placing them where most doctors fear to tread; far more are needed. Some (but, regrettably, not all) secret votes by Congress were banned.
Perhaps the most important result of the demonstrations was the imprisonment of The Gang of Four, formerly elite Congress members convicted of crimes by the Federal Supreme Court. The Curmudgeon predicted they would never be jailed, but he was wrong, arguably by reason of the potential for public protests breaking out anew.
As to the Curmudgeon’s 2013 predictions, he’s not doing very well. Besides the Gang of Four, he misread the Venezuelan Presidential elections, and the Papal Election. One electoral prediction is still alive, but that’s for the first column in 2014.
For now, Happy New Year!
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, fetched up on these shores exactly 36 years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)