By Doug Gray, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The Labor MP for Preston (a city and district in Lancashire, England), Mark Hendrick, led a UK delegation to Brazil last week to discuss such topics as climate change, economic growth and the Olympic hand over between London and Rio as well as touching on the Jean Charles De Menezes shooting in London which remains a thorny issue between the two countries.
Four members of the House Of Commons and two of the House of Lords made the trip which began in Sao Paulo before moving on to Brasilia and finally stopping off in Rio where Hendrick saw with his own eyes the potential of the 2016 Olympic host city for the first time.
The MP from the north of England is chairman of the UK-Brazil Friendship Committee (of which there is an equivalent in Brazilian parliament), and has long been involved in promoting business ties between the two countries, however on this his first trip to the country the itinerary covered a far broader array of topics.
“We came here to look at Brazil from an energy, climate change and environment perspective” he began. “In terms of climate change, which is a huge agenda involving lots of international negotiations in recent years, Brazil has a very important role because it is part of the solution.”
With economics also high on the agenda in Sao Paulo, the delegation had their ‘eyes opened’ to the world of flex-fuel engines, the potential European future of which Hendrick discussed in depth with UNICA, the Brazilian Sugar Cane Industry Association.
As the UK recently announced its failure to meet a targeted Twenty percent reduction in CO2 emissions from 1990 to 2010 by as much as seven percent, Brazil’s admirable pursuit of an 80 percent reduction by 2020 seems highly unlikely. As the MP discovered during his meetings in Sao Paulo though, the intention, at least in certain quarters of Parliament, is there and that is a start.
It has been President Lula’s approach to countries unfriendly with the West, notably the welcome afforded to Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad late last year, which had also interested the delegation.
“That drew some criticism from colleagues but the basic line seems to be that Brazil under Lula tries to hold out the hand of friendship to all countries” said Hendrick, “and it is perhaps indicative of his trade union background that he… doesn’t need to be confrontational.”
It is Brazil’s position as an emerging world power and Lula’s fearless approach to negotiations that have sparked the recent increase in diplomatic activity not only with the UK but across the globe, and Hendrick sees the next decade, when Brazil looks set to become a top five world economy and possibly leapfrog the United Kingdom, as crucial.
“Brazil aims to use the Rio Olympics and 2014 World Cup as a means not only of showcasing their economy and the benefits that Brazil offers in trade terms but also to show the world that it’s a modern Twenty-first century country, the tenth largest economy in the world looking to be in the top five, and its potential is huge.”
The delegation’s final stop was Rio, and having been critical of Brazil’s human rights record, policing strategies and high homicide rates, Hendrick’s opinion was tempered during a visit to Brazil’s Human Rights Ministry with the mention of John Charles de Menezes unlawful shooting by the Metropolitan Police in 2005 for which nobody was found guilty.
However, Hendrick’s visit to the recently pacified Cantagalo favela confirmed in his eyes that the country was on the right tracks; “For myself and other members who have not been to Brazil before it has been a real eye opener because we can see the progress that is being made here” he said.
As far as the huge security implications of hosting an event such as the Olympics goes, the MP felt Brazil would also be well prepared. “The police and security services will have to put together a framework to minimize crime to visitors, and world events are always targets for terrorists even though Brazil has never been directly attacked. There is always a risk and the question is are the resources and personnel put out in a way to minimize that risk?”