Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazil abolished the death penalty when it became a Republic in 1889, and has long supported abolishing it everywhere. Its efforts were unsuccessful last Sunday (January 18th), when Indonesia executed, by firing squad, a former Carioca called Marco Archer. Brazil’s President made an impassioned plea for clemency, which was ignored by Indonesia’s President.

The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster
The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster.

There are several ironies here.

Irony the first. Marco Archer freely admitted guilt because he never thought he’d be executed. Born and raised well-to-do in a tropical country where “tudo acaba em pizza” (“no one is punished”) he figured he could sell drugs to maintain his high-flying life style as a hang gliding instructor. The fact that the drugs might ruin the lives of Indonesians never crossed his mind.

Irony the second. The newly elected Indonesian President had campaigned on a pledge to enforce the letter of Indonesia’s law imposing the death penalty for drug trafficking. Unlike President Dilma, who has already gone back on most of her campaign rhetoric, he kept his word.

Irony the third. Dilma has recalled Brazil’s ambassador to Indonesia for consultations, and has said the execution will damage relations between the two countries. China executes more criminals every week than Indonesia does in a year, but Dilma doesn’t care about that — Indonesia is small potatoes and China is BRIC.

Irony the fourth. Dilma, in her rebellious youth, was an important player in a clandestine movement that advocated killing people in cold blood — as long as they were somehow connected to the ruling military dictatorship. Shedding crocodile tears for a callous, ne’er-do-well, jet-setting drug dealer just doesn’t ring true.

In short, Marco Archer knowingly bet his life on Indonesians having pizzaioli. He lost his bet and his life and the world is surely a better place without him.

The Curmudgeon plans to emit less vehement Smidgens opportunely. Stay tuned. Please.


  1. Brazil reinstated the death penalty under the Estado Novo and the 1964 military regime, but no one was actually executed. Killing people is one of the few activities left entirely to private enterprise.

  2. Could not agree more.

    Michael, you might want to look at another issue. Abre e Lima Refinery is projected to cost USD $20B+ and process 230,000 barrels per day. At the same time Kuwait National Petroleum Co is beginning a refinery to process 615,000 barrels per day at an estimated cost of USD$14.5B
    At the same time O Globo says that Petrobras is going to lose USD$3B on Abre e Lima.

    Looks to me like the true “loss” due to corruption and incompetence is closer to USD$12-14B comparing the 2 projects cost and capacity.

  3. While I respect Michael Royster’s right to present his opinion and have enjoyed his pieces from time to time, I do not have to like the fact that your journal is staffed with writers who express pleasure in the execution of a human being allegedly guilty of trafficking in illegal drugs, as does Mr. Royster in his article, “Opinion: Irony and Indonesia, a Smidgen.” It is one thing to point out the ironies of the positions that people and governments take (which Mr. Royster fails to do in this instance within acceptable rules of logic); it is another thing to gloat, as does Mr. Royster, on the death of a human being. Respectfully, the Rio Times needs to work on the quality of its opinion columnists and leave the “shock jock” journalism to institutions like Fox News. Thus, as of today, count me as one less subscriber to the Rio Times, and Mr. Royster’s opinions.

  4. In indonesia, drugs is extra ordinary crime, everyday 50 people killed by drugs and 5 million other living affected by drugs.

  5. To Rob:
    Michael is writing an Opinion piece not hard news. I would agree that his personal opinion would be out of place in the news pages of Rio Times but not in the Opinion section.

  6. I agree with Rob. The author of this opinion piece is inappropriately gloating and reveling in his own sense of justice vengeance.

    Capital punishment is known to be ineffective in preventing crime, and it lowers society to the level of the criminal. In this case, even lower as the accused did no physical harm to anyone and no one would have been forced to buy cocaine from him. The punishment was completely inappropriate to the crime.

    President Rousseff was absolutely correct in expressing outrage. Exacting medieval vengeance is not how modern civilized societies should behave.

  7. I don’t believe it’s a question of gloating and vengence.
    I think one’s perspective on the death penalty depends on where one lives. Ones perspective might change living in Switzerland with 40 murders a year or Brazil with 50,000.
    The US with a population 50% larger than Brazil has about 15,000 murders a year.

  8. To American in Rio:
    Good point. However, Indonesia has a population 25% larger than Brazil’s but with only a fraction (only 1500) of murders per year. Yet it’s a strong believer in executions (as we’ve seen in this controversy).

    So I would say the lower the crime rate in a country doesn’t necessarily relate to attitudes toward the death penalty. Much of it is cultural, religious, and out of ignorance of its impact and efficacy.

  9. To: Richard
    Both perspectives are valid and have their supporters. I’m from California, not a very conservative state, and the voters have approved capital punishment.
    The frightening part for those of us who live in Brazil is the very high incidence of violence and murder and that in a country with gun control. So basically on the criminals are armed.
    Boy, that could lead to another discussion!
    Let’s agree to disagree.


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