Tag Archives: Corruption

2014 World Cup: All Eyes On Brazil

Netherlands v Spain: 2010 FIFA World Cup Final

DISCLAIMER: Before I begin my blog, I want to give you all a quick reference post for my Group Stage predictions for this year’s World Cup. Title will open the link to my predictions:

As for predictions for the knockout rounds, I’ll wait until the qualifiers are decided. Meanwhile I will give a prediction for the final for those curious: Brazil vs. Argentina which Brazil wins. Let’s see if it hold up. Anyways enough of predictions! On with my blog!

“For any country, organizing a cup is like playing a game, sweating and often suffering, with the possibility of extra-time and penalty kicks, but the final result and celebration are worth the effort.”

-Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil

The 2014 World Cup opened on June 12th with a spectacular opening ceremony at 3pm  in the newly built Arena de Sao Paulo. The competition started with the opening game of hosts Brazil vs.  Croatia. Each team by now has played at least one match to get things rolling. Even in the months and years leading to the competition, the World Cup made headlines and continues to make headlines now for all the activity on the field and off.

NOTHING LESS THAN THE WIN

Football is a matter of life and death in Brazil. Literally. I’ll get to the Maracanazo in one of my future blogs but you will understand why Brazil has to win. And nothing less. Brazil has won the World Cup five times, more than any other country. They’re one country with such a legacy in football that anything less than the World Cup is unacceptable. In fact it’s the Maracanazo that Brazil no longer wears white. Brazil comes to this tournament not ranked #1. Actually they’ve been ousted in the quarterfinals these past two World Cups. However hosting the World Cup in a country that treats football like a religion would consider the loss of the World Cup like a stab at the heart. They have coach Luis Felipe Scolari who coached Brazil to win the 2002 World Cup heading the team consisting of veterans like Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, Jefferson and Frad as well as newcomers like Oscar, Bernard and rising phenom Neymar. Will they deliver to the challenge or will they choke under pressure? Already they started with a good win against Croatia 3-1 but just yesterday they had a 0-0 draw against Mexico. Makes me wondering if they found Mexico too much of a challenge or they were saving themselves for later. We’ll see. There isn’t a single team in the world Brazil can’t beat. However it is possible for some teams to beat them. Hope it’s not here.

CONSTRUCTION OBSTRUCTIONS

As you may have noticed when I did  my blogs about the stadiums, I made comments about the construction problems that happened along the way. There were even construction fatalities like back in November when a crane inside the Arena de Sao Paulo toppled and killed two workers. This bad planning is nothing new in Brazil. Brazil has a habit of building things slower than expected. However it was already noted by FIFA as far back as 2011. Stadium expenditures were originally expected to cost $1.1 million. Instead stadium works cost $3.6 billion. Some of you may remember from the Confederations Cup that Brazil had six stadiums ready for that competition. There still six more remaining. FIFA gave Brazil a deadline of December 31, 2013 to have all the stadiums completed. Six were incomplete by that time. As you may have noticed in my group blogs, there were many stadiums that took until April or May for completion. Even the condition of the Arena de Sao Paulo was in question just 24 hours before it was to host the opening ceremonies and opening match.

It wasn’t just the building of new stadiums that was the problem. Airports in many of the cities needed upgrading to cope with a huge influx of tourists coming in. Thirteen needed upgrading and it was predicted in 2011, ten would not be ready. That led to Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff to auction off many of the airports to the private sector. There were even monorail projects planned for many of the host cities  but many were not completed. Some even had to be downgraded if they wanted to finish on time. In May 2014, FIFA reported that only 36 of the 93 major projects had already been completed. However FIFA secretary Jeroma Valcke did make note that many of the projects were meant to continue after the World Cup including ‘legacy projects’ sponsored by FIFA costing $20 million and coming completely at FIFA’s expense.

The slagging preparations of Brazil has garnered criticism from all around. FIFA has expressed their disappointment, even many journalists have dismissed this as the most trouble-plagued or the worst-organized World Cup in history. Even Brazil’s legendary players of the past had things to say about Brazil’s preparation problems. Romario, now a political figure, criticized Brazil’s handling of the preparations but said: “FIFA’s requirements were excessive.” Ronaldo spoke of his embarrassment of the country’s infrastructure and how: ” a series of investments were promised but won’t be delivered – only 30% will be delivered.” Pele however has been the most outspoken in his disappointment but he especially focused his disappointment on the expense of the World Cup: ”It’s clear that politically speaking, the money spent to build the stadiums was a lot, and in some cases was more than it should have been. Some of this money could have been invested in schools, in hospitals. … Brazil needs it.”

FORGET ABOUT THE PRICETAG?

Brazilians continued their protesting around FIFA's World Cup over its huge expense.

Just like during last year’s Confederations Cup, Brazilians continued their protesting around FIFA’s World Cup over its huge expense.

After Pele’s quote, you may be asking how expensive is this World Cup going to cost? Well, not as expensive as the $51 billion Putin and his Russia spent on the Sochi Winter Olympics but high enough. Brazil’s World Cup comes at an estimated price tag of $14 billion: close to the $15 billion spent on the past three World Cups combined. $3.6 billion were spent on either building new stadiums or fixing them for FIFA regulations. The other money was spent on the infrastructure and transit projects that I just talked about.  With them being unfinished, you may wonder what’s to blame? The spending or the poor planning? There was even an additional $900 million spent on security. It planned to have one police officer for every 50 spectators. Totals include 150,000 public security professionals and military along with 20,000 private security personnel. Other security innovations include facial recognition systems and unmanned security robots. Sure FIFA promised that they’d give $2 billion to the event but that can only go so far. Even Romario has described this World Cup as ‘the biggest theft in history’ which he believes expenditure will total $100 billion in the long run.

The projects, both successful and incomplete, and the costs that came with it sure did a lot to the opinions of the Brazilian public. A Brazilian polling company published results that stated the approval rating from the Brazilian public to the World Cup had dropped from 79% back in 2008 to only 48% back this April. 55% of respondents believed the event will give more harm than good to Brazil. Even FIFA president Sepp Blatter admitted: “Brazilians were a bit discontented because they were given a lot.”

Funny that this was not the case when Brazil hosted the World Cup back in 1950. Back then, they only needed six stadiums to contest the match and only two new ones were built. Funny how times change, especially in terms of huge sports events.

PROTESTS PART TWO

You may remember I posted a blog about the protests happening around the time of the Confederations Cup. The protests were successful in bringing changes to Brazil in most areas, if not all. Back in the original blog I pointed out that Brazil is a developing country that has made a lot of developments and improvements in the quality of life in the past 30 years. I still stand by that belief however I won’t deny that there are still a lot of problems in Brazil still outstanding. The most notable being health care and rampant crime. In fact I saw a news story around the World Cup about growing up in the slums of Rio. Crime and gang problems are so bad even the police are afraid to go in to install law and order. It’s exactly like it was depicted in the 2003 film City of God. Brazil being a developing country determined to succeed does get reminders how they’re lagging in some areas and I’m sure will over time. The big protest focus around the World Cup has been about the government’s financial management of the company. I’m sure with a World Cup as expensive as that, you can’t blame them for being disappointed.

One thing about the Confederations Cup is that both President Rousseff and FIFA president Blatter were booed before their speeches. Because of that there were no speeches at the World Cup opening ceremonies. Last years protests not only made news for them happening around the time of the Confederations Cup but also that the protests reached the stadiums. Protests leading up to the World Cup led to organizers stepping up its security. The security this time have been successful from preventing protests from reaching the stadium. It’s not to say it’s without noticeable incident. In fact two CNN journalists who were covering the protests around the June 12th opening game, Shasta Darlington and Barbara Arvantidis, were injured.

Reaction to the protests has been understandable but still disapproving. Rousseff came to the defense of the expenditures saying: “the federal money spent on the stadiums is in the form of financing that will be duly repaid by the companies and governments that are exploiting these stadiums.” She also reiterated that all the construction and infrastructure were for long-term benefits for Brazilians. We shouldn’t forget in two of the stadiums I profiled, there will be extensive land development plans for two of the new stadiums so it’s not just about having bigger stadiums. Sepp Blatter has spoken his disapproval saying the protesters “Should not use football to make their demands heard” and that expenditures were “on items that are for the future, not just for the World Cup.” Pele himself, though understanding of the protesters’ anger, but is critical of them: ”Some of this money could have been invested in schools, in hospitals. … Brazil needs it. That’s clear. On that point, I agree (with the protests). But I lament what protesters are doing, which is breaking and burning everything. It’s money that we will have to spend again.”

FIFA’S BLATTER UNDER FIRE

FIFA's president Sepp Blatter has come under fire under allegations of bribery.

FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter has come under fire under allegations of bribery and corruption.

It’s not just the World Cup that’s facing the heat. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has come under fire for corruption. Back in 2011, Qatar won the rights to host the 2022 World Cup. Lately there have been reports that Qatar paid for votes. It’s a wonder too for the World Cup to go to a country only 4,500 square miles wide and with a population of just over 2 million people. Qatar has denied any wrongdoing but the British paper The Sunday Times is insistent in their allegations. Already there’s talk within the FIFA membership with the most vocal opposition coming from head of the Dutch Football Association Michael van Praag and FIFA has conducted an investigation into the matter headed by FIFA investigator Michael Garcia. However it will not be handed to a FIFA jury until just days after the World Cup and Blatter says no decisions will be taken until September or October. The 78 year-old Blatter who has been president of FIFA since 1998 has always maintained that this term will be his last but already the media and certain members of FIFA want him to resign soon in the wake of the scandal and even five of FIFA’s six major corporate sponsors are demanding a thorough investigation of the allegations. FIFA has claimed it’s racism behind the accusations and Blatter himself has described the outcry as the “storm against FIFA” and “discrimination and racism” as most of those accused of accepting bribes are from African countries. The response to the scandal is something that will only be defined over time.

So there you go. This is a taste of what’s in store for the World Cup. Sure there are the pressures on the field but lots off the field too. How those get managed are bound to get some healthy media attention. Some will even require time to decide its fates. You can guarantee even after the World Cup is finished and the winning team is crowned, neither FIFA nor Brazil will stop making headlines.

WORKS CITED:

Grelard, Phillippe and Talek Harris. “FIFA’s Blatter urged to stand down” Agence France-Presse afp.com 10 June 2014 <http://sports.yahoo.com/news/fifas-blatter-urged-stand-down-214645012–sow.html>

Uncredited Author. “Pele critical of Brazil’s World Cup organization” AP- Sports Associated Press. 20 May 2014 <http://sports.yahoo.com/news/pele-critical-brazils-world-cup-172944083–sow.html>

Woolard, Rob. “World Cup poised for troubled kick-off” Agence France-Presse afp.com 11 June 2014 <http://sports.yahoo.com/news/world-cup-poised-troubled-kick-off-113730515–sow.html>

WIKIPEDIA: List of 2014 FIFA World Cup controversies. Wikipedia.com. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_2014_FIFA_World_Cup_controversies>

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VIFF 2013 Review: XL

Olafur Darri Olafson plays a debaucherous Icelandic senator in XL.

Olafur Darri Olafson plays a debaucherous Icelandic senator living it up before rehab in XL.

XL is something unique: a feature film from Iceland. Just as unique is the story and the subject matter. Question is how watchable is it?

The story focuses on Leifur Sigurdarson, a senator in the Icelandic parliament. Leifur has been told by the Prime Minister of Iceland that he is about to be placed into a rehab clinic. His alcoholism is that obvious. Leifur then decides to live his ‘last few days of freedom’ with a bang.

He is known for his tempestuous relationship with his girlfriend Aesa. He gets involved with all sorts of kinky games with Aesa and even sado-masochism. The two of them also live it up together with some of his rich friends who also like to live life in the fast lane. They all go from bar to bar having their fun and doing whatever they want.

Despite this orgy of debauchery, Leifur receives constant reminders from others about what he’s headed towards. Politicians remind him, family try to reach out to him and even his daughter from a past marriage tries to remind him of who he’s neglecting. Nevertheless Leifur continues on with his debauchery. It isn’t until the last day that he’s reminded that time is running out and he can’t handle it any more.

It is possible that the director is trying to send a message in this film of the corruptness of politicians in Iceland, especially as it headed to economic collapse in 2008.Iceland has always been ranked as one of the Top 10 least corrupt countries in the world according to Transparency International’s annual Corruptions Perception Index but it’s not to say that corruption doesn’t exist there or even in the other top nations. Even in the least corrupt nations in the world there are sleazy senators or debaucherous congressmen. Even heads of state can commit their own sleaze.

However the film caused me to question what the purpose of the film was. Was it to make a statement about corruption in Iceland? Was it to push boundaries or even envelopes with the material? Was it to be artistic? I was left undecided when I saw this. All too often it seemed like the film makers were putting huge focus on Leifur’s debauchery and even the sadomasochism. I was often tempted to think it was trying to put the heaviest emphasis on the shock value. Even the artistic elements like making a stage play out of Leifur’s life appeared confusing especially since it wasn’t put in as consistently. Sometimes there were some artistic merits the film makers took that even appeared like it was bad editing. I was left with the frank impression that this lacked a definite direction to what it was attempting to show.

This film is the latest effort from Marteinn Thorsson. He worked for Canada’s The Movie Network in the past directing ads and promos. His first film One Point O helped put him on Variety magazine’s list of ‘Top 10 Directors To Watch’ in 2004. He also directed the critically renowned drama-comedy Stormland from two years ago. I’ll admit I’m not familiar with his style of filmmaking but I still stand by what I say that this film he directed and co-wrote with Gudmundur Oskarsson doesn’t make its intentions or its point clear. Even if he’s trying to make a statement about political corruption, it looks like he’s making more of an effort trying to entertain us with shock value. The film has receives some renown. It was nominated for the Crystal Globe at the Karlovy Vary film festival and the performance of Olafur Darri Olafson won Best Actor at that festival.

If there was one standout from the movie, it was the performance of Olafur Darri Olafson. His performance as Leifur was very complex as he went from the king of debauchery to this man with a problem. Also a scene stealer is Maria Birta as Aesa, the one woman who seemed to know how to control Leifur. The best minor supporting role came from Tanja Omarsdottir as Anna, the daughter caught in the middle of this. The musical score by Anna Thorvaldsdottir, which was mostly modern-based, fit with the film well.

XL is an artistic attempt at telling a story of a politician and his corrupt mannerisms. In the end it comes across as a film that’s unclear what its intent is.

VIFF 2013 Review: Heli

Heli isn't just about corruption in Mexico. It's also about those caught in the middle.

Heli isn’t just about corruption in Mexico. It’s also about those caught in the middle.

Heli is a Mexican film that has garnered huge buzz since its debut at the Cannes Film Festival. The question being is it worth the hype?

Heli is a 17 year-old young man in Mexico. However he is married and the father of a baby. Both his wife and his infant son live with his father and sister in a shabby house on the outskirts of town. Heli has a job as a laborer at an auto plant and makes a limited income.  His sister Estela is a 12 year-old girl in school who has fallen for a 17 year-old cadet in training named Alberto. Alberto is tired of the military life and wants to devote his time to Estela. However the age difference causes problems especially since Alberto wants to have a sexual relationship with her and she fears young pregnancy.

Alberto makes a decision just after the police and the government holds a public media event where they burn all seized marijuana and cocaine in declaring their war on drugs and war on corruption. Alberto knows of a secret place in the compound where there are bags of cocaine secretly held by the general. He agrees to sell two bags he stole in another town so that he can afford to marry Estela. This plan is unknown to the father but Heli discovers the bags inside the water tank on the roof. He disposes the cocaine in a distant remote location and punishes Estela by locking her up in her room.

Late one night, some members of police storm the house, kill the father and take Heli and Estela to their secret place along with a badly beaten Alberto. They throw the body of the father on the road once Heli confesses to destroying the bags of cocaine. All three are taken to a house within the police compound. Alberto is beaten and burned mercilessly. Heli is badly beaten but not as badly as Alberto and is spared the burning. The torturers hang Alberto from a bridge, keep Estela at their place and drop Heli off on a remote road to walk home.

Heli does return home much to the relief of Sabrina who was left distraught after seeing what happened inside the empty house. Estela is still missing however. The police cooperate to locate the father’s body but believe Heli and his father are involved with the drug trade. Even Heli is nervous about telling the whole story fearing he will be classified as a criminal. The aftermath and trauma affects Heli for days as he loses his job and even becomes abusive to his wife. To make matters worse, a female detective offers to close the case if Heli consents to her offer of a sexual favor, which Heli rejects.

In the passing days, the policemen who held them captive are later killed and decapitated. Heli sees the news on television including the images of the decapitated heads. Estela arrives home to the relief of both Heli and Sabrina. She too had to do the long walk Heli did. However Estela is scared from the violent events and the rape she suffered during the walk home to the point she can’t speak. She is however able to draw Heli the location to where she was raped. That paves the way for Heli to solve the problem in his own way and lead to an ending that makes it look like the right thing in the end.

This film is a story written based on actual events in the Mexican news. It is a depiction of the corruption happening in Mexico but it’s more. It tells the situation from a human perspective through a family that’s caught in the middle. We learn of why this happens, who gets hurt, who does the hurting, who survives and how they try to carry on in the aftermath. It’s not just about the events and incidents being played out. It’s also about who is involved in this too. That is apparent as both Heli and Estela try to carry on after the incident even to the point where it almost threatens Heli’s marriage to Sabrina and Estela’s sanity. Even seeing how this incident threatens to tear the surviving members of the family apart adds to the human aspect of the film. There’s also the subplot about young love. There’s Heli, a 17 year-old married father and his young wife. And there’s Estela, a 12 year-old falling in love for the first time and clueless about the potential realities of marriage, especially to someone as irresponsible as Alberto. That makes the film more than just a crime drama.

The best efforts in the film without a doubt are the efforts of Amat Escalante. His directing and co-writing of the script with Gabriel Reyes is a very good depiction of corruption in Mexico and how it won’t tear a family apart despite all that it takes away. I’ve never read of such a new story referenced but this is a good adaptation of such incidents into a feature film. The acting in this film including the young actors was also very good. Armando Espitia was very good as Heli. His performance told as much through his silence as it did when he was talking. That was also the same with the other young actors in the film. Also very good was the performance of Andrea Vergara as the young sister. She was very good in representing the young naivety of falling in love at 12 without being a typical cutesy kid performance. The film itself being played out without an added music score actually added to the intensity of the drama and the storytelling.

Heli has already received a lot of awards buzz. Director Amat Escalante won the Best Director award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and the film itself was nominated for the Palme d’Or that was eventually won by Blue Is The Warmest Color. However the film has not received a lot of good buzz in terms of audience fair. In fact many critics have often questioned the watchability of such a film, especially the torture scene where Alberto has his gasoline-doused genitals lit on fire. It’s safe to assume it was prosthetic genitals that Juan Eduardo Palacios wore during that scene. I don’t see how else that scene could be done. Even as well the feel of the movie may come across as too down and depressing. I do believe that the film doesn’t end as sown and depressing as say movies like Kids or Thirteen. Instead I saw the ending as images of hope for the family even after all they’ve lost and all they were violated of.

Another criticism of Heli comes from people from the home country of Mexico. This film is Mexico’s official entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the 2013 Academy Awards. However many people both inside and outside of Mexico’s film industry are unhappy with the depiction of corruption in Mexico. Escalante responds that his film is not anti-Mexican. Co-writer Gabriel Reyes even added it would be socially irresponsible not to speak out about the bad things happening in Mexico.

Heli is a very good story about a young family sticking together despite the things that threaten their unity. Nevertheless it also a story that can be considered unwatchable to many.

The Confederations Cup And Protests In Brazil

One of many protests in Brazil that occurred during the time of the Confederations Cup.

One of many protests in Brazil that occurred during the time of the Confederations Cup.

The Confederations Cup soccer tournament began on June 15th. Also what started around that time was a protest in Sao Paulo about transit fare inflation. Protests soon grew in Brazil. I’m sure the Confederations Cup competition and the worldwide media attention to that event had a lot to do with the growth. But what are the protests about? And why are they happening all of a sudden?

First it’s important to look at the country of Brazil. Most people will consider Brazil a poor or developing country. It is true to an extent. What most people don’t know is how much Brazil’s economy has grown since the 1980’s. Its biggest growth was in the industries of oil, mining and agriculture which grew at 47% or 3.6% per year since 2000. Its industrial growth rate is also impressive with an 8.8% back in 2008. Brazil’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world and actually now ranks 7th in the world and has the highest GDP per capita in South America and 53rd in the world overall. Its gross national income of $10,721 US in 2011 classifies itself as upper-middle income: an income on par with many countries of Eastern Europe. It can be attributed to many factors. Some say it could be Brazil’s move to democracy that started with an Amnesty Law in 1979 and developed into its own Constitution in 1988.

The quality of life has also gone up considerably in the last 20 years and Brazil has worked to establish methods to either keep it that way or improve it. Despite huge urban sprawl in cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, its cities have some of the finest public transit systems that have been copied and studied by many major cities in the world. Brazil has also reformed its Social Security programs and tax systems. There was even a Law Of Fiscal Responsibility that controls public expenditures by the Executive Branches of all government levels. Export, Industry and Trade has been increased while allowing Brazil to keep itself from vulnerabilities by methods such as not exporting the oil it consumes. It has also halved its debt through exchange rate-linked certificates which has allowed exporting to grow to as much as 20% a year and put a limit on its inflation rate to 4%. It also has an average life-expectancy rate of 72.7 years (2009) which is comparable to that of many Eastern European countries.

So what are all the protests about? Even before I get into the nitty gritty of the protests there are some facts to send a message that a bubble was about to burst. We must remember that while Brazil has improved a lot in past years and especially this century, there’s still a lot of development to go. Despite its improvements, the 53rd best GDP in the world shows they can do better. Its gross national income is roughly 1/4 of what developed countries like Canada are receiving. In addition, the minimum wage translates to an annual income of an unenviable 8,086 Brazilian Reals (R$) or roughly $3,600 American. Even in government despite being a democracy, Brazil still ranks as the 69th least corrupt country in the World according to Transparency International with a score of 43 out of 100.

The first protests actually started on June 1st, two weeks before the Confederations Cup was about to begin. The first major protest was in the city of Sao Paulo of a transit fare increase from R$ 3.00 to R$ 3.20. The first protest started on June 6 and grew over time. The real turning point came when police fired rubber bullets at the protesters and journalists on June 13th. This was widely criticized by Amnesty International and even Brazilian Amnesty Groups.

Soon after, and while the Confederations Cup was progressing further, the protests grew to as many as 250,000 in various major Brazilian cities on June 17th protesting. Rio de Janeiro had the biggest that day with 100,000. Even Brazilians in other world cities stages their own protests. By June 20th, protests grew to millions of people in 100 cities and grew over the next few days. As negotiations and government involvement in matters occurred, which I will discuss later, the protests calmed down but not without incidents.

Interesting enough is not just the number of protesters and cities involved growing but the issues too. What started off as one protest over a transit fare increase grew to a wide array of issues being protested against or demanded:

  • A bill (PEC – 37) that hindered Public Ministry to investigate.
  • The distribution of petroleum royalties to the appropriate causes.
  • Lack of criminalization of all forms of Corruption and Embezzlement.
  • Secret Voting in Congress for forfeiture of office.
  • A bill (PEC – 33) allowing decisions made by the Supreme Court going to Congress.
  • Having a Privileged Forum.
  • Taxing in Public Transport.
  • Demands to the National Pact for fiscal responsibility, control of inflation and proper distribution of funds to education, public transport and health.
  • Demands to implement means of political reform in the country.
  • Demanding 10% of the GDP be devoted to education.
  • Demanding a free-pass for full-time university students.
  • Demanding a revocation of a ‘gay cure’ bill (PDL – 234) authorizing psychologists to treat LGBT people.

Evident enough is that the growth in numbers and issues happened as the Confederations Cup matches were occurring. I still remember telecast of Confederation Cup matches on CBC that even included security updates of what was happening in the cities. Even though the protests have been successful in leading to solutions of problems being protested over, there was still last chances for opportunity as violent clashes occurred in Belo Horizonte as it was hosting a semifinal match on the 26th and in Rio de Janeiro as it was hosting the final on the 30th.

You could understand why the Confederations Cup had a lot to do with the increase in protests. With a major world event happening, it’s obvious the protesters want to highlight Brazil’s problems right while the eyes of the world are watching. Mind you these next three years are going to be very big for Brazil as they will play host to many major international events. Besides the Confederations Cup that finished yesterday, Rio will host the Catholic event World Youth Day later this month. Next year Brazil will host soccer’s World Cup with twelve major cities contesting the competition. And 2016 will have Rio hosting the Summer Olympic Games. I don’t know of any other country that has had to host this many major events in a matter of four years. For Brazil it’s a chance for them to show the world their image as a well-to-do nation as they will be the first developing country since Mexico in 1986 to host a World Cup and the first developing country since Mexico again in 1968 to host a Summer Olympics. In fact the World Cup was even the subject of protests that received less notice than most other protests. Many were protesting the government giving a lot of the budget ($12 billion US) to these sports events instead of on living conditions.

I mentioned that many of the issues being protested upon have been approved within this two-week span of time. You can assure the media attention to this had a lot to do with it. Among those approved by the governments and senate are: public transit prices reduced and taxes eliminated; petroleum royalties destined to education (75%) and health (25%); reform and improvement demands to the National Pact being granted; secret voting ended; Bill PEC – 37 being revoked; all forms of Corruption and Embezzlement being criminalized; and implementing a Plebiscite to politic national reform. Even though the Confederations Cup is over and a lot of reform and improvements have been politically approved, there are still demands outstanding. Some like the 10% allocation of the GDP to education, revocation of bill PDL – 234, and the Free Pass for students are currently under negotiation by Congress while issues of ending of Privileged Forum and the elimination of Bill PEC – 33 still remain undiscussed. On top of it, time will tell if the approved reforms are carried out and if carried out successfully or not. Another thing to look for in the future is how much impact it will have on President Dilma Rousseff. Her popularity has already been hit by the protests. It remains into question whether she will win the next election.

Even though many of the protester’s demand have been met and even though many are still pending as of now, don’t expect all the action to end just as the Confederation Cup has ended. I’m sure as long as Brazilians see injustice or wrong ways of doing things, there will continue to be protests even without the anticipated major events happening and even after they all end. Nevertheless it’s excellent opportunism to make improvements happen to a developing nation that has improved so much in recent decades but still has more to improve upon.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Economy Of Brazil. Wikipedia.com.  2013. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Brazil>

Uncredited Author . “Brazil: One Million People Demand Accountability” Transparency International. 21 June 2013. <http://www.transparency.org/news/feature/brazil_one_million_people_demand_accountability>

WIKIPEDIA: 2013 Protests In Brazil. Wikipedia.com.  2013. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_protests_in_Brazil>

2011 Corruption Perceptions Index Shows Many Surprises – Including For Canada

The annual Corruption Percentage Index has been released which ranks the most corrupt countries to the least corrupt. If there are two points one would most get from this list, it would be that Canada is slipping and that this is a very corrupt world.

Since three years ago, I’ve taken an interest in a certain annual chart. It’s called the Corruption Perceptions Index and it’s released by Transparency International. Transparency International is an international watchdog association headquartered in Berlin with 70 international chapters that monitors the corruption levels in countries around the world. Every year since 2002, they publish what they call a Corruption Perception Index which shows the annual corruption ranking of each country. They rank the countries based on a scale they give from 0 to 10. 0 is completely corrupt while 10 is not corrupt at all.

Many welcome their results while others question the validity and accuracy of the results. Some question whether Transparency International really has all their facts together when they make their list. The thing we shouldn’t forget about the list is that it’s about perceived corruption: the people’s ability to sense or notice corruption in their own country. This is based on poll questions ranging from “Do you trust the government?” to “Is corruption a big problem in your country?” Without a doubt, the results are rather surprising. Plus we shouldn’t forget that most governments do a good job of hiding their corruption so it’s hard to sense.

In the past, Canada has done very well ever since the Index has been published. Canada ranked an impressive 10th-least corrupt in 2011 with a score of 8.7. However the rank becomes less impressive knowing that last year, Canada ranked 6th with a score of 8.9. Also making it less impressive is the fact that it’s Canada’s lowest ranking on the list since 2006. The lowest Canada ever ranked on that list was 14th back in 2006 and 2005, and what was around the time the Gomery Scandal was fresh in the mind of most Canadians. The most recent government scandal–the Harper government’s contempt of parliament which led to a national election–had a lot to do with Canada’s slip of four spots.

For the record, here are the Top 10 least corrupt countries, according to this year’s Corruption Perceptions Index with score in brackets:

1)New Zealand (9.5)

2)Denmark (9.4)

2)Finland (9.4)

4)Sweden (9.3)

5)Singapore (9.2)

6)Norway (9.0)

7)Netherlands (8.9)

8)Australia (8.8)

8)Switzerland (8.8)

10)Canada (8.7)

Viewing the overall results can give some interesting facts and figures. Interesting how the Scandinavian countries and the major countries of Oceania had the highest rankings. The only Scandinavian country not to make the Top 10 was Iceland at 13th with 8.3. It’s a shame because they used to rank #1 in 2005 and 2006 with as high as a 9.7. Hong Kong ranked 12th. Many countries which has some of the most established democracies ranked lower than most people would expect like Germany and Japan ties for 14th, United Kingdom in 16th, the United States in 24th and France in 25th and Italy in 69th. The highest ranking country under a dictatorship was Qatar in 22nd. The highest ranking African country was Botswana in 32nd.

An interesting find is that 49 of the 183 countries ranked received a 5.0 or higher, sending a message about how this is quite a corrupt world. The country at #49 is Rwanda with a 5.0. That’s especially surprising since many people could remember the bloody civil war they went through back in 1994. The list is as good at monitoring improvements as it is in monitoring weakenings. Rwanda had the highest jump up from 4.0 from last year. For the record, the biggest drop in pointage came from Slovenia which went from 6.4 last year to 5.8 this year. The dictatorship of Cuba ranked a surprisingly high 62nd, outranking such democracies like Italy, South Africa and Greece. Syria and Yemen, which made bad news this year for its constant clashes with people marching for freedom, ranked 129th and 164th respectively. Also Venezuela, which continuously makes bad news with its dictator Hugo Chavez, ranked 172th. Since we’re on the topic of Venezuela, here’s the ten most corrupt countries on the list, the ‘Bottom 10’:

182)Somalia (1.0)

182)North Korea (1.0)

180)Myanmar (1.5)

180)Afghanistan (1.5)

177)Uzbekistan (1.6)

177)Turkmenistan (1.6)

177)Sudan (1.6)

175)Iraq (1.8)

175)Haiti (1.8)

172)Venezuela (1.9)

172)Equatorial Guinea (1.9)

172)Burundi (1.9)

Most of the bottom countries are already well-known for their governments continuously making bad news. They remind us that when things seem to be going wrong in our country, there are countries where corruption is not only very present but sometimes part of daily life.

So there you have it: a brief summary of the 2011 Corruption Perception Index and its interesting finds. With the politics of the world changing frequently and varying from country to country, there should be many interesting finds for 2012. The politics in Canada will determine if we can improve on our 10th-place ranking. The nation of South Sudan should make its debut next year. Also Arabic countries which had successful fights for freedom this year could see interesting results for next year. If you want to keep track, Libya ranked 168th, Tunisia ranked 73rd and Egypt ranked 112th for 2011. Stay tuned for next year’s rakings.

If you want to learn more about Transparency International and the Corruption Perceptions Index, which I have used in my article here, here are the links to go to:

Transparency International: http://www.transparency.org/

2011 Corruption Perceptions Index (with link to list): http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2011/