Monday, March 19, 2018

The Assassination of a Black Human Rights Activist in Brazil Has Created a Global Icon
Demonstrators rally against the death of Rio de Janeiro city councilor Marielle Franco who was shot dead in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Kiratiana Freelon
March 18, 2018
Rio de Janeiro

When Michel Temer became the president of Brazil in May of 2016, replacing the impeached Dilma Rousseff, he nominated a 23-member cabinet of all white men. His bold rejection of diversity shocked women and blacks, who had grown accustomed to at least some minimal representation in national politics. Four months later, Marielle Franco, a black lesbian woman hailing from the Maré favela, received the fifth-most votes in the Rio de Janeiro city council elections. Her dominant win and her subsequent follow through on her promises gave hope to many Brazilians who longed for representation and had grown tired of Brazil’s corrupt and disconnected politicians.

That hope didn’t last long.

On the night of Mar. 14, Franco, 38, was assassinated in her car after leaving a black women’s empowerment event that she had organized. Of the nine shots fired, four hit her head. Her driver, Anderson Pedro also died. The news of her death quickly spread through messaging and social media networks. According to Piauí, over the next 42 hours, Franco became the subject of more than 3.6 million tweets from 400,000 users in 54 countries and in 34 languages—more than the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff.

By the next morning, there were already vigils, and protests planned in 15 cities across Brazil. More than 20,000 people showed up in Rio de Janeiro’s Cinelandia neighborhood the night she was buried. These protests spread across the world as people in New York City, Paris and even Buenos Aires held gatherings and protests in her honor.

Although Franco had yet to enter Brazil’s divisive national politics, her assassination reverberated with people nationally and internationally. Brazil lost a politician who helped those who had long been ignored—women, the poor, and blacks. But with her death, it seems the world has gained a martyr.

“She was deep in the fight and she seemed to do it with so much compassion,” said Claudia Bernett, an American who attended the Mar. 16 protest in New York’s Union Square. “She was blazing new paths and actively changing how women are defined and regarded—this is something I would hope to emulate in my life.”

Marielle Franco dedicated her life and political career to defending human rights. She grew up in the Maré favela, one of Rio de Janeiro’s most dangerous and poor squatter communities. A free college-prep course led to her matriculation at one of Brazil’s elite universities, Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. There she studied social sciences and decided to pursue human rights work when one of her best friends was killed by a stray bullet during a shootout between drug dealers and police in the Maré favela.

After 10 years working in Rio’s human rights commission, she ran for city councilwoman representing the liberal Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL). Her 2016 campaign, branded the Brazilian feminist color of purple, introduced 50 ideas to help women, Afro-Brazilians and the poor. When elected, she became the only black woman representative on the 51-person council and one of only seven women. Of the 19 potential laws that she introduced, two became laws.

“Her greatest victory was simply just being there and representing us,” said Jaqueline Gomes de Jesus, an Afro-Brazilian college professor who plans to run for a seat on the Brazilian congress in the October 2018 national elections. “It was a victory for all the groups who have been historically excluded. Her occupation of this space; the approval of her laws; her presence in the debates; realization of events; all of this are indicators of her success.”

Her death is still being investigated, but many people think her recent denouncements of Rio de Janeiro’s police may have led to her assassination. The bullets used in her murder were from a batch bought by the Brazilian federal police in 2006. These bullets were also used in a 2015 18-person massacre in São Paulo.

As public security in Rio de Janeiro has deteriorated, Franco’s recent work focused on violence and police brutality in favelas, which disproportionately affects young black men. Human rights workers refer to this as the genocide of black people in Brazil. Afro-Brazilians make up more than 70% of the country’s murders, many at the hands of police. More than 1, 000 people were murdered by police last year throughout the state of Rio de Janeiro.

It reads: Another murder of a young man at the hands of the Policia Militar. Matheus Melo was leaving church. How many more will need to die for this war to end?

Another tweet denounced the 41st battalion of the Policia Militar, widely known as Rio de Janeiro’s most deadly police squad.

Most of the protests in the coming week will not only honor her, but also acknowledge the police violence that blacks suffer in Brazil. Franco’s assistance wasn’t limited to civilians. It was revealed that she also extended help and support to families of police who were killed in Rio de Janeiro. Rose Vieira’s son, a policeman, was killed in 2012 and she sought help from the human rights commission of Rio de Janeiro, where Franco worked for 10 years.

”Just to give you an idea, Marielle did not have a car at this time,” she told “She wasn’t even a councilwoman. She arrived [at my house] by train. I can’t say that this person did not help me. Who would come all the way to Duque de Caxias, another city by train just to help? Only Marielle.”

Staying true to her mission to protect Rio de Janeiro’s vulnerable communities, Franco also recently became the leader of a commission that will monitor the recent federally imposed military intervention. The intervention, which aims to improve Rio’s public security, was criticized by Franco as being ineffective.

Franco and Anderson were buried on the evening of Mar.15. This week Franco’s supporters are planning more protests across Brazil and the world.
Just as U.S. Media Does With MLK, Brazil’s Media Is Trying to Whitewash and Exploit Marielle Franco’s Political Radicalism
Glenn Greenwald

ON SUNDAY NIGHT, Brazil’s most powerful television outlet, Rede Globo, devoted 45 minutes of its highly watched “Fantastico” program to the assassination of Rio City Council Member Marielle Franco and the killing of her driver, Anderson Gomes. This story has dominated headlines in Brazil for a full week, and, as protests proliferate around the country, it continues to be covered as a major story by news outlets around the world.

This was not a case in which Globo has elevated a story to major prominence. This was the opposite: Globo trying to take hold of a story that has exploded through citizen-driven online activism and anger without any need for bolstering from major media outlets.

For once, Brazil’s major media has been a bystander in this story, not its driver. Globo could see that the reaction to Marielle’s killing was growing, getting stronger, moving in directions that make many Brazilian elites extremely uncomfortable. Last night’s “Fantastico” coverage was Globo’s attempt to get this story under control — under its control.

There were parts of “Fantastico’s” reporting that were genuinely informative and journalistically excellent — particularly Sonia Bridi’s detailed, evidence-based exposition of how this horrific crime was carried out with such chilling professionalism and competence, convincingly showing that whoever engineered the murders knew exactly how police would investigate and exactly how to prevent detection.

That terrorizing fact is an important piece of the puzzle when understanding who ordered Marielle to be killed; whoever killed the activist who devoted herself to denouncing police abuses is intimately familiar with how the police function.

Other parts were genuinely moving and beautifully presented, particularly the interviews with Marielle’s devastated widow Mônica, and, separately, with Marielle’s 19-year-old daughter, her parents, and her sister. The prominent inclusion of Anderson’s life and death, and the delicately handled and wrenching interview with his grieving widow, was commendable given the temptation to forget about the death of Marielle’s driver.

The show also did justice to how remarkable and inspiring was the trajectory of Marielle’s life: from poverty, deprivation, and single motherhood at 19 as a black woman in a favela to a master’s degree in sociology, human rights activism, and political empowerment through massive voter support in her 2016 election to the City Council.

This was not an insignificant media moment in Brazil. A black, leftist lesbian from the sprawling Maré favela, and from the socialist PSOL party, was honored and glorified on one of Globo’s most important media platforms, while millions of ordinary Brazilians around the country, far away from Rio and São Paulo, watched. They prominently featured, rather than hid, Marielle’s wife.

The perspectives of prominent leftist politicians and activists were respectfully included. And they condemned and vilified the right-wing politicians and judges who have used the internet to spread disgusting lies about Marielle designed to malign her with toxic stereotypes of black women from favelas (she was pregnant at 16, married to a notorious drug dealer, supported in her election by a drug gang: all demonstrable lies). All of that is worth celebrating.

BUT MARIELLE WAS, first and foremost, a political person: a radical in the best and most noble sense of that word. It’s her radicalism that made her such an inspiration to so many ordinary and voiceless citizens, and a threat to so many powerful and corrupt factions. Her political activism, her political beliefs, were Marielle’s core, a major part of her identity, the centerpiece of what made her a figure of such singular force and power.

The crime that ended her life was also purely political. There is no way to meaningfully understand Marielle’s life and assassination without a candid, clear, and honest discussion of her politics. What makes her story such big news is her politics, which in turn produced the political motives that caused powerful people to want her dead.

These are the most difficult, most complicated, and most important subjects to cover when reporting on Marielle’s life and death: her relentless and brave activism against the most lawless police battalions, her opposition to military intervention, and, most threateningly of all, her growing power as a black, gay woman from the favela seeking not to join Brazil’s power structure, but to subvert it.

It’s not a coincidence that the last event she attended, the one where she was followed and then killed upon leaving, was titled, “Young Black Women Changing Power Structures.”

And it was these subjects that “Fantastico” avoided almost entirely — except when they brazenly manipulated them for its own purposes. The only segment purporting to describe Marielle’s politics was an extremely banal, condescending discussion of the definition of “human rights,” which “Fantastico” basically reduced to an anodyne, uncontroversial declaration that all humans are born free and should be treated equally: propositions that virtually every Brazilian politician from right to left would happily endorse. They drained Marielle’s politics of its vibrancy, radicalism, and force, and converted it into a simplistic comic book of empty clichés that nobody would find objectionable.

Extinguishing Marielle’s real political sensibilities were necessary to achieve Globo’s real objectives here. The emotions from Marielle’s brutal assassination are overwhelming and powerful. The question is, to what ends will those emotions be directed? What outcomes will they foster? What views and movements will they strengthen?

Ultimately, what “Fantastico” was really up to here became extremely clear by the end of its coverage. They took the still-expanding power of Marielle’s story and tried to reduce its power — limit it — to a simple, apolitical human interest story, something that made you cry and feel sad and empathetic and maybe angry, but not in any way that would make you embrace Marielle’s causes or crusades for justice or devote yourself to the political agenda she symbolized.

Globo and its comrades in elite culture see a serious danger in the aftermath of Marielle’s killing, for good reason. They see that it is awakening — emboldening — traditionally powerless people to the cruelties of extreme societal inequality and the intolerable racist criminality of its police forces.

It is galvanizing favela residents to organize and mobilize. It is pointing an accusatory finger not at drug traffickers and ordinary criminals — the favored Globo narrative — but at the very forces used by the country’s elite to impose its will and secure its privileges: its military, its police, and its traditionally white, male, rich political system.

It was those factions and those policies which Marielle had devoted her life to fighting — not just in defense of the pleasing, unchallenging, clichéd notions of “human rights” that “Fantastico” centered. Those who feel threatened by Marielle’s activism and political principles see that her death is strengthening those things — and desperately want to re-direct these powerful emotions away from what she believed and inspired, toward something less disruptive, less threatening to status quo power.

That’s why “Fantastico” went heavy on the powerful human emotions of this story — the grieving, weeping relatives, the killing of a hardworking father who supported his baby by working as a driver, the anger we all feel when human life is violently extinguished, the mournful music that made us feel tearful — and ignored the scarier political aspects of Marielle’s life.

Globo knows it can’t stop or limit the powerful emotions, so it wants to render them apolitical and thus, harmless. It wants all of this sadness and indignation to fall into a black hole of political irrelevance, like one of the TV network’s emotion-heavy soap operas, in which Marielle’s killing has no meaning beyond just making people angrier still about the violence plaguing Brazil.

But far worse than the suppression of Marielle’s political beliefs was “Fantastico’s” one attempt to politicize her death — by trying to exploit Marielle to reinforce support for a policy that Marielle despised: Michel Temer’s recent military “intervention” in Rio de Janeiro, the first time since the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship in 1985 that the military is occupying a major city.

After 45 minutes of building emotional sadness and anger over Marielle’s death, “Fantastico” tried to channel that into manipulating, exploiting, and subverting Marielle’s political causes. Immediately following the segments about Marielle, “Fantastico” devoted one segment to the horrific killing of a child last week in a Rio slum, the Complexo do Alemão, and then immediately went live to one of its reporters in Brasília, describing how Temer was meeting that very moment with ministers to consider more funding for the military invention.

And it was at that moment “Fantastico’s” odious, menacing agenda became crystal clear. It wasn’t just to stomp out the possibility that Marielle’s killing would galvanize support for her life’s political project. It was far worse: to try to ensure that Marielle’s death could be exploited to strengthen everything she fought to subvert. The message from “Fantastico” was as obvious as it was odious: Now that we just spent all this time making you so sad and angry about Marielle’s brutal assassination, you must see why Temer’s military intervention is so justified.

PSOL officials and other left-wing activists instantly recognized the ugly agenda at play and denounced it on social media by pointing out that Marielle vehemently opposed military occupation as a gross waste of resources that would solve nothing and make everything worse, while directly threatening democracy.

PERHAPS THE REASON I’m particularly sensitive to this distortion scheme is because I’ve seen exactly this reprehensible media tactic used so effectively in the U.S. During the 1990s, a vicious, ugly debate consumed the U.S. over whether to declare Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a federal holiday.

And it was easy to understand why this was so controversial. King was a true radical, hated by many. He railed against the evils of capitalism. He urged the most oppressed populations to rise up. He uncompromisingly condemened U.S. imperialism. In a speech given one year before he was killed, devoted to denouncing the U.S. role Vietnam War, he called the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” as well as the leading exponent of “the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long.”

So, if you’re an American political or economic elite, and know that you can’t erase the memory of someone with such threatening, disruptive views, what do you do? You erase all the views that you find threatening when allowing him to be celebrated, and convert what he symbolizes into something simplistic, clichéd, and unthreatening. On King’s holiday, his contempt for capitalism and denunciations of U.S. imperialism are rarely mentioned. Few Americans know about them now. He is instead just spoken of as a symbol of elementary, vague conceptions of racial equality that few people outside of malicious fringes openly reject: He has been reduced to his lowest common denominator and the genuinely disruptive parts of his worldview and activism have been deliberately erased from his history.

And just as “Fantastico” tried last night to exploit Marielle’s memory into support for a policy she had spent the last month of her life opposing — military intervention in Rio — the U.S. government now exploits the pleasant memory of MLK into support for militarism and imperialism, something he hated with all of his being. The U.S. military actually uses King’s name and image in its propaganda, as if the mere fact that its killing force is now racially integrated would make King proud and supportive of U.S. violence and its various killing machines:

This is what many in Brazilian media and political elites are now trying to do with Marielle. They know she will not be forgotten, and that the anger and disgust at her brutal assassination is not going away. So the project is now underway to drain her of her radicalism and disruptive energy and instead, convert her into a generic and pleasant symbol, so that they can exploit her for their own ends, including to generate support for status quo-perpetuating policies that she loathed.

Last night’s “Fantastico” episode was the first step in that project. It’s the responsibility of those who believe in Marielle’s vision and activism — not just in Brazil, but around the world — not to allow this gross revisionism and exploitation to succeed.

Disclosure: Glenn Greenwald’s husband, David Miranda, served alongside Marielle in the Rio de Janeiro City Council, in the same party, and she was a personal friend of both.
Marielle Franco Had to Resist – No Wonder She Didn’t Survive
Chitra Ramaswamy

The Brazilian political activist – a black, gay single mother – was a fearless fighter in a country mired in racism and inequality. Her murder should reverberate around the world

Mon 19 Mar 2018 14.19 EDT

‘Being a black woman is to resist and survive all the time.” So said Marielle Franco, the Rio de Janeiro city councillor shot dead in a targeted assassination last week, just 18 months after she was elected. Franco was 38 years old. She was a black, gay, single mother from the Maré favela who stood up for poor people, LGBT people, black people and women. When her car was hit by nine bullets – four of which entered her skull, killing her instantly – she was on her way home from an event titled Young Black Women Who Are Changing Power Structures. This is what can and does befall such extraordinary women.

And Franco was extraordinary. She was a fearless, charismatic and popular politician with integrity, operating in a country, characterised by president Michel Temer’s all-male, almost exclusively white cabinet, in which more than half the population is black, mixed race or female. No wonder she had to resist all the time. No wonder she did not survive.

The world is at once shrinking and becoming more frightening, and the reverberations of such hateful and emblematic acts travel far and fast. So, too, does the response: tens of thousands turned out across Brazil to protest about the murder of Franco. Hundreds of thousands have pledged their refusal to forget in more than 30 languages using the hashtag #MarielleFrancoPresente. Franco was apparently the subject of more tweets (3.6m in 42 hours) than Dilma Rousseff, after the ex-Brazilian president’s impeachment.

However, we can no longer shake our heads in barely disguised relief at the track records of “other” countries on human rights, political crisis, economic recession or even murder. Such atrocities happen here too: think of Jo Cox. And, wherever it happens, it is always as much about the hatred of women as it is about political ideology. It appears that Franco, like Cox, was a woman murdered for her beliefs. (In Franco’s case, you can also add race and sexuality to the list.) Now it feels as though all the threads are coming together: #MeToo, Time’s Up, the gender pay gap, structural racism, lack of diversity, and on and on it coils. Underpinning the vast and nebulous tangle is gross and endemic inequality. And, at the extreme end, the outcome is the destruction of a harbinger of hope like Marielle Franco.
Ammunition Which Killed Marielle Franco in Rio Stolen from Police
The ammunition was stolen from a lot purchased by the Federal Police and was also responsible for a killing spree in São Paulo in 2015.

By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
The Rio Times

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The ammunition used to kill Rio de Janeiro councilwoman, Marielle Franco and her driver on Wednesday night came from a lot sold to the Federal Police in 2006 and stolen from a post office storage facility in the state of Paraiba, confirmed Public Secretary Minister Raul Jungmann on Friday night.

“The Federal Police has already opened more than fifty inquiries due to this unaccounted ammunition. I believe that these shells found at the scene of the crime were effectively stolen,” said Jungmann.

The official also links this lot of ammunition to the one used in São Paulo’s Metropolitan Area in August of 2015 where in a single night seventeen people were killed in several spots around the region. Three military police officers and a local police officer were convicted of the crimes.

According to a report aired on GloboTV’s main news program, the batch of ammunition in question contained 1,859,000 bullets, which were distributed to many federal police units around the country.

The report said that bullets from this lot were also used in crimes involving rival drug trafficking gangs in Rio’s Metropolitan area of São Gonçalo between 2015 and 2017.

Meanwhile, police believe that the killers involved in the assassination of the councilwoman and her driver followed Franco for several days before the crime. An aide to the lawmaker said she was approached by a stranger earlier this week asking about Franco’s schedule.

Videos from street cameras around the building where Franco held a meeting on Wednesday night shows a car following the councilwoman’s automobile as it left the area. Police believe that is how they knew where Franco was sitting, since the automobile had tinted windows. Of the nine shots fired, five hit the lawmaker.

Ms. Franco was shot to death after leaving a town meeting in the Centro district of Rio de Janeiro. She was a human rights activist and favela-community resident who recently was chosen by the city’s legislature to monitor the military intervention issued by President Michel Temer for the state of Rio de Janeiro.

The lawmaker was elected to Rio’s legislature in 2015 with the fifth highest votes and was very active in women’s rights, especially Rio’s black women who lived in favela communities and face domestic violence and human rights violations.

This is perhaps the most shocking execution of a public official in Rio de Janeiro since the 2011 murder of Judge Patrícia Acioli, who was assassinated outside her home in Niterói, the sister city within the metropolitan region.

Acioli was shot 21 times in her car by gunmen wearing masks. Reports show the bullets that killed the judge came from .40 and .45 caliber pistols, weapons restricted to the Armed Forces and Civil and Military Police.

Lise Alves is a Carioca who spent much of her life in the U.S., and now lives in São Paulo. She writes mainly national politics and business for us, with an occasional travel story.
Is Brazil’s Most Famous Art Movement Built on Racial Inequality? A New Generation Argues ‘Yes’
MoMA's "Tarsila do Amaral" show puts a fresh spotlight on how Afro-Brazilians have been sidelined in the country's art history.

Sara Roffino, March 13, 2018
Artnet News

Slowly, the tectonic plates of the Brazilian art world are shifting. While established curators, critics, and artists in Brazil have long resisted viewing art or art history through the lens of race, a small but increasingly influential group is beginning to build a platform for that conversation. Scholars are re-examining Brazil’s most influential movements from a new perspective, while artists are creating work that confronts the country’s racial complexities and the ways they have manifested in the art world head on.

Thanks to this coterie of artists and scholars, topics that have long been taboo are now being addressed in public. This marks a major change. Even the most high-profile exhibition of Brazilian art on view anywhere in the world right now, “Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, consciously (and glaringly) avoids the subject of race in the artist’s work. It’s a dated position for the museum to take, considering the fact that Tarsila’s most famous series of paintings deal directly with race—whether she intended them to or not.

The Shifting View on Anthropofagia

Tarsila is closely associated with the establishment of the Brazilian art movement known as cultural “cannibalism,” or “Anthropofagia”: the then-radical idea that a truly Brazilian art would emerge by ingesting all the different cultures that intermingled within the country, rather than simply copying European styles.

But most scholarship on the movement to date has avoided its complex relationship to race. In a conversation with this reporter, the MoMA exhibition’s co-curator, the Venezuelan-born Luis Pérez-Oramas, said: “Racial tensions exist in Brazil, but the way the culture deals with it, the way the society deals with it is totally different than the way the Americans deal with it. That’s why I am very careful to not racialize a reading of Tarsila because that would be unfair. That would be a colonial take on Tarsila do Amaral.”

Some contemporary Brazilian scholars and artists, however, disagree with Pérez-Oramas.

“One way to actualize the idea of Anthropofagia would be to reflect on the widely accepted understanding of it as it is associated with Brazilian national identity and the myth of Brazilian racial democracy,” says artist Tiago Gualberto. “The lack of criticism of Tarsila do Amaral’s A Negra painting from Afro-Brazilian artists is symptomatic of ways in which black Brazilians are viewed as a theme, or an object, without a voice.” (The meaning of A Negra, one of the artist’s most famous works, is discussed in my review of the MoMA show: “Why MoMA’s Exhibition of Towering Brazilian Modernist Tarsila do Amaral Misses the Mark.“)

A Changing Cultural Landscape

Historically, Afro-Brazilians have been neglected by both museums and galleries. Few institutions dedicated to these artists exist in the country. In 2004, artist and curator Emanoel Araújo founded the Museu Afro Brasil. Since then, the institution has become an important center for research on and presentation of works by black artists in Brazil.

Recently, more projects related to the work of Afro-Brazilian artists have begun to emerge. The nonprofit organization Social Service of Commerce (SESC), which operates public galleries throughout the country, has hosted exhibitions such as “Afro Como Ascendência, Arte como procedência” (“Afro as Ancestry, Art as Origin”), curated by Alexandre Bispo in 2013, and “PretAtitude: Insurgências, Emergências e Afirmações na Arte Contemporânea Afro-Brasileira” (“BlackAtitute: Insurgencies, Emergencies and Affirmations in Afro-Brazilian Contemporary Art”), curated by Claudinei Roberto da Silva and on view through May.

Yet Brazil didn’t select an Afro-Brazilian artist to represent the country at the Venice Biennial until 2015, when Paulo Nazareth received the invitation. This is particularly notable considering that, according to the most recent census in 2010, Brazil was home to the most people of African descent outside of Africa. And to date, the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), widely considered to be the most important museum in Brazil, has not hosted a solo exhibition by any Afro-Brazilian female artist. That will change in November of this year when the museum presents an exhibition of the work of Sonia Gomes.

Both Nazareth and Gomes are represented by Mendes Wood DM, which has galleries in São Paulo, Brussels, and New York, and stands out as having the most diverse roster of any contemporary Brazilian gallery.

The evolution within the art world reflects larger developments in Brazilian culture that have taken place since the early 2000s, spurred by the progressive policies of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who held office from 2003 until 2010. Known as Lula, the former factory worker was the first Brazilian president to implement policies that explicitly address racial inequality, including the establishment of affirmative action within higher education and compulsory classes on the history of Africa.

One Step Forward…

Much has changed since Lula’s departure from office, however. The country has been embroiled in a massive corruption scandal; the right has gained considerable power; and in mid-February, current right-wing president Michel Temer ordered a federal military takeover of Rio de Janeiro’s police and prison systems, sending troops to patrol poor, mostly black neighborhoods—a move with grave implications for a city whose police force killed 1,124 civilians in 2017.

Elections are scheduled for October of this year. Some see Temer’s move as a means of silencing the city’s poor, black population before the polarizing vote.

Against this highly charged background, artists and curators have been newly addressing historical ideas of Anthropofagia and Brazil’s racial inequality. Bispo, who was involved with the Museu Afro Brasil but now works independently, describes the institutional tendency to focus on the formal aspects of Tarsila’s famous painting A Negra. However, he adds, there are people starting to challenge that reading.

“Many intellectuals who have written about modern art in Brazil have resisted certain contradictions of modernism,” Bispo says. “But the younger generation, especially black intellectuals, are beginning to show different understandings of the problem. People are beginning question what it means that Tarsila painted this black figure, an employee of her family. But there is still a resistance to looking at A Negra as an exploited figure because Brazil is still very conservative.”

Da Silva, the freelance curator who organized “BlackAtitute” at SESC, explains the changing attitudes towards the legacy of “cannibalism.” “Anthropofagia proposes to absorb and transform foreign culture into something specifically Brazilian,” he explains. “But the contributions of African and indigenous cultures are not considered with the same dignity as European culture—which is its own form of colonialism.”

Artists Speak

Artist and educator Rosana Paulino deals with issues of identity and gender in her work and acknowledges that when she was younger, Anthropofagia was interesting to her. With time and greater knowledge of Brazilian society, however, the idea has lost its appeal.

“The problem with Anthropofagia in relation to black individuals is that it devours other cultures, including ours, and does not give us back something useful or even the real recognition of this swallowed black culture. We are only devoured.” she says. “Afro-Brazilian art, up until now, has been at the margin of a hegemonic system, while Anthropofagia is one of the narratives created by an urban elite in São Paulo. The place of blacks in this narrative is that of object of study, not that of partners in the construction of a common narrative.”

Fabiana Lopes, a Brazilian curator and PhD student at New York University whose research focuses on building a critical context for the artistic production by black Brazilian artists, explains that when she first started her research, “people from the art world would say there’s no such thing as contemporary black Brazilian artists.” It was this denial that made Lopes realize how much work there was to do.

Since then she has seen a slow evolution. “Around 2015, there was a shift in contemporary art and in contemporary life in Brazil. I started to see more young activists trying to find a way to participate in certain conversations—mostly conversations about race,” she says. “Two years ago, when a black artist would do something that dealt with the issue of race, people would say, art isn’t about race, it’s not part of the discussion. I don’t know if I would hear that now.”

Elia Alba, a New York-based multimedia artist who recently had a solo exhibition at the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, addressed the idea of Anthropofagia in her 2003 video, Eat, which features artist Clifford Owens attempting—and failing—to consume a white doll head.

“At the time I was thinking a lot about the consumption of otherness and I discovered the Manifesto Anthropofagia,” Alba recalls. “I started to think about what that means for the cultures that they’re absorbing. Do those cultures get that same power? How do those dynamics play back in the same way when you still have people who are incredibly marginalized? The idea of Anthropofagia, for me, is really done in the service of power, of the few.”

Questioning the Status Quo

In 2012, Renata Felinto presented the performance and video, White Face and Blonde Hair, for which she dressed up like a wealthy white Brazilian woman and went for walks in the upscale districts of São Paulo. “The project was a response to three Brazilian television shows that were using blackface,” Felinto says. “I thought it was time to make fun of these people who consume black bodies in so many ways, massacring our history, culture, and identity.”

“The objective of Anthropofagia was to produce a Brazilian art conscious of the European aesthetics and attuned to the historical, cultural, and social issues of the Brazilian people,” explains Felinto. “The problem is that the Brazilian people were not protagonists of this wonderful project. The artistic production of those outside of the São Paulo elite was considered ‘folk art’ which was the designation used [for Afro-Brazilian art] until the last few decades.”

Tiago Gualberto’s 2017 intervention, Lembrança de Nhô Tim (Souvenirs of Massa Tim), comments on the history of mining and labor in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, where he is from, while playing on the name of Inhotim, the 5,000-acre contemporary art garden largely funded by mining magnate Bernardo Paz. Based in São Paulo and formerly a researcher at the Museu Afro Brasil, Gualberto is cautious about the recent attention being paid to Afro-Brazilian artists.

“Art institutions in Brazil, as well as curators and critics, seem incapable of dealing with alterity and cultural differences—especially when the artistic production questions aspects of the status quo—which is particularly ironic considering how these same institutions make use of the idea of Anthropofagia,” he says.

The ways in which artists are addressing issues of racial inequality are as complex and layered as Brazil’s history itself.

Conceptual artist Moisés Patrício works in photography, video, performance, and ritual. One of his most well-known projects is an Instagram series in which he posts a photograph of his hand every day holding objects he encounters throughout the city of São Paulo.

“There are many places that are symbolically and culturally banned to black people,” Patrício explains. “I’m interested in questioning the identity given to the blacks in Brazil, an identity of labor and manufacturing and how that impacts my life as a young artist who also uses his hands as a working tool.”

For Patricio, the absence of attention to race in the interpretation of Brazil’s art history has real-world effects on artists working today. “It is very unusual to find Afro-descendant artists represented in commercial galleries, or in most visual arts exhibitions in Brazil,” he says. “The black presence is circumscribed and limited to very specific cultural contexts.”

Patrício goes on to list dozens of historical black figures integral to Brazilian cultural history, including sculptor Aleijadinho, writer Machado de Assis, and poet João da Cruz e Sousa. “I think maybe black people are a special type of cannibals,” he says. “We devour and digest this country with the same hunger by which a bee devours the pollen of a flower. Almost everything this country has done, in the deepest terms of its uniqueness, is of black origin. Do we, then, really have to disappear, enabling our transfiguration in a tropical Europe?”

The only way out, Patrício says, is to press the meaning of Anthropofagia in a whole new direction. “Let’s get down to business. The time is already urgent for the blacks to devour Brazil!”
African Enslaved Descendants in Brazil Braced for Land Titles' Fight
Karla Mendes

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As Brazil marks 130 years since the abolition of slavery this year, the descendants of runaway slaves have been celebrating two major victories in their long fight to get legal title to their land.

In the northern state of Para, 500 of them in Quilombo Cachoeira Porteira took formal ownership of 220,000 hectares (543,631 acres) this month, one of the largest such awards, after a legal fight that lasted more than two decades.

“It is a story that has involved crying, remorse and attack by many who thought it was impossible,” Ivanildo Souza, head of the Quilombola Association of Cachoeira Porteira, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

When Brazil abolished slavery in 1888, at least 4 million slaves had been brought there from Africa to work on sugar plantations and in other sectors of the country’s flourishing economy.

Some 16 million of the quilombolas, as the slaves’ descendants are known, live in around 5,000 rural settlements, according to the Fundação Cultural Palmares, a government body that preserves and promotes Afro-Brazilian art and culture.

They are among the poorest people in Brazil, with a poverty rate of around 75 percent among quilombolas, compared to 25.4 percent in the general population, government data shows.

In Quilombo Cachoeira Porteira where Souza, 43, lives, the quilombolas eke out a living by harvesting nuts, and through subsistence farming and fishing.

Estimates vary but it is thought only around 250 of the country’s quilombolo settlements have title deeds to their land, benefiting some 31,000 families, according to government data.

Without land titles, the quilombolas don’t have access to social benefits, such as subsidized housing.

“These communities can only have access to public policies if they have land titles,” Erivaldo Oliveira, head of Fundação Cultural Palmares, said.

But threats are also looming from illegal loggers and gold miners encroaching on quilombola land, activists said.


The land titles for Quilombo Cachoeira Porteira came just a month after the Supreme Court dismissed a 15-year legal fight in which a right-wing party tried to overturn a decree that guaranteed land for quilombolas.

In a majority vote, the judges on Feb. 8 ruled a 2003 decree by former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva did not breach the constitution, and upheld the right of quilombolas to self-identify in order to qualify for plots of land.

The ruling was celebrated as a major victory for the quilombolas at a time when indigenous and communal territories are under threat by center-right President Michel Temer’s drive to open up the Amazon to mining and other commercial interests.

“The territorial guarantee is very important,” said Juliana de Paula, a lawyer at advocacy group Instituto Socioambiental (ISA).

Yet the quilombolas face an uphill struggle as austerity measures have seen cuts to government departments aimed at lifting Brazil out of its worst recession in decades.

INCRA, the government body tasked with managing and demarcating rural land, has seen its budget cut 90 percent since 2012 to just 4.75 million reais ($1.46 million).

“The fight is very arduous ... we have to fight every moment as INCRA has no budget for land demarcation to quilombolas,” Oliveira said.

In a statement, INCRA said the February court ruling guaranteed legal security for land demarcation processes to benefit communities that lack titles.

“The government cannot be negligent claiming budget constraints forever,” said de Paula.

De Paula said lack of land titles also made the quilombolas more vulnerable to pressure and violence from illegal loggers and gold miners encroaching on their land.

The number of quilombolas murdered in Brazil reached a record high of 14 in 2017, up from eight deaths in the previous year and just one case in 2015, according to a survey by the National Coordination of Rural Black Communities.

Advocacy group ISA said it was unclear whether the murders recorded in 2017 were related to conflicts over property, but at least six of those killed last year were leaders of the quilombola land rights movement.

Reporting by Karla Mendes, Editing by Astrid Zweynert and Robert Carmichael. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit to see more stories.
Package Bombings Reveal The Racist Underbelly Of Austin
By Daina Ramey Berry and Christen Smith, Guest Writers
Huffington Post

When people think about March in Austin, Texas, they probably think about tacos, brisket, listening to music in the park, South By Southwest and drinking craft beer from a local brewery. This March has been different.

News broke on Monday that two package bombs had exploded in our community. One killed Draylen Mason, 17, and critically injured his mother. The second struck 75-year-old Esperanza Herrera. Even more terrifying: It quickly became apparent that these bombings were connected to the package bombing that killed Anthony Stephan House, 39, in northeast Austin on March 2.

Amidst heated debates on gun control and terrorism on U.S. soil, the Austin package bombings feel like one more chapter of violence in the story of our increasingly dangerous country. They also invoke another aspect of our national history that too many Americans are hesitant to acknowledge: our history of racial terrorism.

In a city with a black population that hovers around just 6 percent, two black residents killed by package bombs feels like much more than coincidence.

All four victims of this month’s bombings were people of color. Mason and House were both African-American. Mason’s mother is African-American, and Herrera is Latina. The families of Mason and House are prominent in the black community, and they both attend the historic Wesley United Methodist Church, which was founded by freed slaves in 1866. In a city with a black population that hovers around just 6 percent, two black residents killed by package bombs feels like much more than coincidence.

For many people of color in Austin, particularly black people, the recent attacks have been an alarming reminder of the city’s deep-seated racial tensions. Although Austin is known for festivals, hipster culture and “keeping it weird,” racial tension has always been a prominent part of the city’s identity.

Austin is deeply segregated. The physical and cultural dividing line is Interstate 35, which separates the East Side and the West Side. The East Side is the district where African-Americans and Latinos have traditionally lived; it is also where both of us live, and where all three bombings occurred. Austin’s geographic and cultural layout was designed to segregate and marginalize people of color.

In 1928, the city of Austin created a master plan that detailed the creation of a “Negro District,” where all black residents were to live. This displaced the Freedman Towns once located west of Interstate 35, the highly coveted part of the city. In this area, black residents were forced to move east and their land was purchased by white residents. As the city grew, land close to downtown became an even more precious commodity, and land speculation expanded into the East Side.

The East Side is now one of the most intensely gentrified areas of the city, and African-American residents are being pushed out ― again.

Research from University of Texas professor Eric Tang reveals that although Austin has grown by leaps and bounds over the past eight years, its black population has been on the decline — a trend that only recently began slow down. Austin’s recent growth has made it extremely difficult for working-class people of color to find housing in the city. Coupled with tensions with the police and economic degradation, the lack of affordable housing leads people of color to feel increasingly unwelcome in their own city.

Starting in the 1940s, “most ‘Mexican American’ families arriving in Austin moved into the Hispanic/Latino neighborhood east of downtown – just south of the black neighborhood,” states the city of Austin’s “Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequalities” report. The current Latino population in Austin is not dwindling; it is approximately 35 percent and steady. But even for the Latino population, Austin is no oasis. Gentrification, racism, cultural appropriation, erasure and marginalization affect both black and Latino people systematically across the city.

Racial tension is one reason why families like Mason’s and House’s have been involved in fighting for racial justice for generations. And people of color fighting for racial justice in areas of racial tension have traditionally been the preferred targets of domestic racial terrorism in our country.

Historically, bombings have often been directed at the families and communities of prominent and outspoken community members.

Civil rights activists Harry T. and Henriette Moore were killed from a blast at their Florida home on Christmas night in 1951, just after they celebrated their silver wedding anniversary. The bomb left their two daughters without parents. The Moores were active in the fight against racism and were instrumental in voter registration drives through the NAACP. But historically, bombings have often been directed at the families and communities of prominent and outspoken community members, not just the leaders themselves.

On Sept. 15, 1963, Ku Klux Klan members planted a bomb in the 16th Street Baptist Church, killing 14-year-old Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson and 11-year-old Denise McNair. That bombing — one of the ugliest moments of domestic terrorism in United States history — was a turning point in the civil rights movement. Although racial violence had become a familiar weapon against civil rights leaders, the deaths of four little girls pulled at the heartstrings of the nation and won new sympathy for the movement. But that new sympathy did not stop white supremacists from using racial terrorism as intimidation. White extremist groups targeted the families of figureheads like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, planting bombs at their homes and setting fire to their houses. And, of course, racial terrorism did not disappear once the civil rights movement ended. White extremist Dylann Roof killing nine Bible study attendees at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, is still very fresh on many of our minds.

We do not know yet who is responsible for this month’s atrocities in Austin. Local and federal investigations are ongoing; there are over 300 federal agents and support working on the case, according to interim police Chief Brian Manley. But the emerging pattern gives us pause, and people of color and our community allies are deeply concerned.

Bombs being left on the doorsteps of black and Latino residents whose families play an important role in the community is an all-too-familiar scenario for black people in America. And no matter the outcome of the investigation, these incidents remind many of us that the United States is still haunted by racial ghosts. Until we exorcise these demons, our experience of the present will be shadowed by the traumas of our past. As we seek to find peace in Austin, we must also reckon with the underbelly of our liberal city, and the larger history of racial tension present in the United States.

UPDATE: March 19 ― Two more men were injured by a device in Austin on Sunday. Police suspect this latest bomb was detonated with a trip wire. Investigators are “working on the belief that they are connected” to the previous explosions.

Christen A. Smith is an anthropologist at The University of Texas at Austin. She researches gendered anti-black state violence and black community responses to it in Brazil and the Americas. She is the author of Afro-Paradise: Blackness Violence and Performance in Brazil. Daina Ramey Berry is an historian at the University of Texas at Austin and author of several books including The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation.
2 Injured in 4th Recent Explosion in Texas Capital
Mar 19, 2018, 7:26 AM ET

Another explosion tore through Texas' capital city and injured two people, leading police to warn nearby residents to remain indoors overnight as investigators try to determine if it is linked to three package bombings in Austin earlier this month.

The latest blast occurred around 8:30 p.m. Sunday in a southwestern Austin residential neighborhood known as Travis Country, which is far from the sites of the three earlier bombings, which happened in residential neighborhoods in east Austin. Though investigators wouldn't immediately confirm what caused the blast, Austin's police chief, Brian Manley, said it was caused by "a device" and again warned the public not to touch any unexpected packages left at their homes.

"What we have right now is a scene where it is obvious that an explosion has taken place," Manley said at a hastily organized news conference near the site of the latest blast.

Responding to reports that the latest explosion may have been detonated by a tripwire, Manley said it was possible that it was "activated by someone either handling, kicking or coming into contact with a tripwire that activated the device."

He urged people within half a mile to stay in their homes and said authorities would keep the surrounding area blocked off at least until daybreak Monday, "given the darkness and size of the area that we want to go in and check."

"We want to put out the message that we've been putting out and that is, not only do not touch any packages or anything that looks like a package, do not even go near it at this time," Manley said. Because "we have not had an opportunity to look at this blast site to really determine what has happened."

Manley also said authorities were still working to "clear" a suspicious backpack found in the area that was part of a separate report.

"It is important right now for anyone in the neighborhood behind us to remain inside and give us time to work through this," he said, adding that any witnesses should call 911 and report what they saw.

Two men in their 20s were hurt in the latest blast. Police said they were hospitalized with injuries that weren't life-threatening. It was the fourth explosion to rock Austin in less than three weeks.

The first was a package bomb that exploded at a northeast Austin home on March 2, killing a 39-year-old man. Two more package bombs then exploded farther south on March 12, killing a 17-year-old, wounding his mother and injuring a 75-year-old woman.

Police said all three of those were likely related and involved packages that had not been mailed or delivered by private carrier but left overnight on doorsteps. Manley originally suggested they could have been hate crimes since all the victims were black or Hispanic, but now says that investigators aren't ruling out any possible motive.

Manley last week urged residents receiving unexpected packages to call authorities without touching or opening them, and police responded to hundreds of calls about suspicious packages but didn't find anything dangerous.

On Sunday, police blocked entrances to the neighborhood where the latest blast occurred and put up yellow tape about half a mile from the home where it happened.

Despite the order for those living nearby to stay in their homes, neighbors milled around just outside the tape. Some reported hearing loud booms but couldn't provide many details. FBI agents arrived to conduct interviews.

The latest explosion came hours after authorities raised the reward by $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of whoever is responsible for the first three explosions. It now totals $115,000.

Sunday is the final day of the South By Southwest music festival, which draws hundreds of thousands to Austin every March. It is also the end of spring break for many area school districts, meaning families who were out of town in recent days are returning to a city increasingly on edge.

The explosions occurred far from the main South By Southwest activities, though a downtown concert by hip-hop band The Roots was canceled Saturday night after a bomb threat. Authorities later arrested a 26-year-old man, and the incident did not appear to be related to any previous explosions.
Austin Explosions: Police Investigating Blasts Ask Residents to Stay Inside
NBC News

Police told residents of a neighborhood in southwest Austin to stay at home until 10 a.m. (11 a.m. ET) Monday after the fourth explosion in less than a month hit Texas' capital, injuring two men.

In a late-night news conference on Sunday, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley raised the possibility that a tripwire triggered the device in Travis County.

“We will not be able to send school buses into the neighborhood on Monday,” he said. “In addition to that, we're going to ask the residents in the Travis County neighborhood to stay in your homes tomorrow morning and give us the opportunity to process the scene once the sun comes up.”

The men hurt in Sunday's blast — both in their 20s — were being treated for non-life threatening injuries, officials said.

Manley asked the community “to have an extra level of vigilance and pay attention to any suspicious device whether it be a package, a bag, a backpack, anything that looks out of place and do not approach it.”

Police are working under the belief that the incident is related to a string of unsolved package bombings this month which killed two and injured two others, though that has not yet been confirmed.

Stephen House, 39, was killed on the morning of March 2, and Draylen Mason, 17, died on the morning of March 12. Both were African-American members of the same church, Nelson Linder, the local NAACP chapter president, told NBC News last week.

Mason's 41-year-old mother was critically injured in the explosion. Just before noon on March 12, a third bombing critically injured a 75-year-old Hispanic woman, Esperanza Herrera.

Linder added that someone connected to the House or Mason families was the intended target in the third explosion, although he declined to provide additional details.

Asked Sunday whether the bombings were racially motivated, Manley said it's possible.

Police believe the two earlier bombings were "meant to send a message," though Manley didn't say what that message was during a news conference earlier Sunday.

Manley said that he hoped the bomber was watching and would "reach out to us before anyone else is injured or killed."

The plea came as local and federal authorities increased the reward for information leading to a conviction to $100,000, Manley said. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was also offering $15,000.

"We don't have any evidence," he said. "What we know for certain is: We have three victims that are victims of color, and we have three package bombs that have exploded on the east side of Austin," where many of the city's minority residents live.

Brian Jenkins, an analyst with Rand Corp. who has studied bombings, said in an interview that Manley's invitation to contact authorities could prove fruitful.

He pointed to the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, who killed three people and injured nearly two dozen more during a bombing campaign that lasted two decades, and his "desire to communicate, to have some kind of pronouncement or manifesto."

"He made the offer that he'd suspend his campaign if his manifesto was published," Jenkins said. "The publication of that ultimately led to him being identified."

Communication from Muharem Kurbegovic, who was convicted of a bombing that killed three people at Los Angeles International Airport in 1974, helped police narrow their search and apprehend him, Jenkins said.

Such bombings aren't easy to solve without communication — or without more "events" to provide more clues, Jenkins said.

Related: FBI requests DNA sample from Unabomber

"This isn't like a convenience store holdup," he said.

There can be few witnesses. Patterns can be difficult to detect. Evidence can be destroyed in the explosion.

"This requires reconnaissance," he said. "This requires target selection. They have to think about building a device that works. They have to build that device. They have to think about delivering that device in a way that enables them to conceal their identity."

A key question, Jenkins said, is determining what motivated the bomber or bombers. Were the attacks a one-off event driven by personal grievance — or were they the beginning of something larger?

"These individuals who become serial bombers — they start campaigns and we don't necessarily understand what their campaigns are," he said. "Motives that seem reasonable to them are not discernible to us."

In 2002, for instance, Lucas Helder planted bombs in mailboxes across the United States in an arrangement that would allow someone looking at the United States from space to see a smiley face.

"Those are things that are not easy for outsiders to figure out," Jenkins said.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

African Envoys Hail Free Trade Area for Boosting Trade
2018/3/18 7:52:51

African ambassadors to the African Union (AU) on Saturday stressed importance of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to intra-African trade on the sidelines of an ongoing AU extraordinary summit.

During the the AU's extraordinary summit on the AfCFTA, which kicked off Saturday in Rwanda's Kigali, many of them also said their countries are ready to embrace the AfCFTA.

African leaders are expected to sign an agreement to launch the AfCFTA on March 21, the last day of the summit, according to the AU.

"Africa has a great business potential to offer to millions of its citizens, but the continent has not been able to unlock its business potential due to limited trading opportunities existing among African economies," said Evariste Koffi Yapi, Permanent Representative of Cote d'Ivoire to the AU.

Creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of businessmen and investments will thus boost intra-African trade and the prosperity of Africa, Yapi told Xinhua.

He added that the AfCFTA will significantly contribute to sustainable economic growth, poverty reduction, employment generation and better integration of the continent.

"My country was ready to make it possible for the AfCFTA agenda to be successful for the better future of Africa," said Yapi.

According to Gairy M. Saddigh, Permanent Representative of Libya to the AU, the AfCFTA will contribute immensely to opening up trading opportunities among African economies, which will significantly increase exports and imports through intra-regional trade.

"We all know the opportunities trade can offer for development and growth. Creation of a single African market will enhance competitiveness of African local industries and enterprise level through exploiting opportunities for scale production and better reallocation of resources," he told Xinhua.

The AfCFTA will create huge market potential for African goods and services, which would help Africa boost industrial development, promote economic transformation and create prosperity, said Ndumiso Ntshinga, South African Permanent Representative to the AU.

"The South African government is ready to implement the process and utilize opportunities accruing from the African single market," he said.
China Hands Over Disaster Risk Reduction Projects to Malawi Communities
2018/3/17 19:43:47

China has handed over projects to disaster-prone regions of Malawi to help them build resilience and reduce effects of the disasters.

The handover ceremony held in Kombeza area, a disaster-prone area in central Malawi's Salima district, about 93 kilometers from the capital Lilongwe, was attended by Clement Chintu Phiri, Secretary to the Vice-President and Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs, Chinese Ambassador to Malawi Wang Shiting as well as United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Resident Coordinator Maria Jose Torres.

Launched in June 2016, the Disaster Risk Reduction Small Grants Scheme was supporting poor and vulnerable communities in 15 identified disaster prone districts and was a trilateral pilot project being undertaken by the Malawian government, with the technical and financial support of the Chinese government and the UNDP.

Among the projects are four evacuation centers, a dyke and two check dams meant to hold water.

In his remarks, the Malawian government official thanked China and the UNDP for the project, saying they will go a long way in building resilience in communities against disasters.

He said tackling disasters was expensive and unsustainable without the support of the cooperating partners.

He especially singled out the construction of evacuation centers as it will stop the tendency of taking people to facilities such as schools when there was no a disaster and that the facilities will also be used for other issues in the communities.

He commended the support the Malawian government has continued to receive from China, saying this has contributed to the uplifting of people's living standards.

On his part, the Chinese envoy thanked all the partners in the project and promised to continue working with authorities in coming up with projects to benefit the local people.

He said China's collaboration with the UNDP in the project has been a successful, adding that the disaster risk reduction project will help the communities build resilience and reduce effects of disasters.

China, he said, has always been ready to support Malawi in times of disasters and that the Chinese government provided 600,000 U.S. dollars after the disaster caused by climate change in 2015 as well as 10,000 tons of rice to tackle hunger caused by food shortages.

He further said Chinese enterprises have also been supporting the government in times of disasters.

The UNDP representative said the project was due to partnership of the governments of China and Malawi as well as the communities and that as a pilot project, other countries will also be looking at the success of the project to replicate it.

She said many parts of Malawi were prone to disasters which affected between 300 to 500 people each year and that the project will support about 23,000 people.
Chinese-built Second Highest Dam in Rwanda to Benefit Farming Sector: Official
2018/3/16 8:48:37

The recently completed Muyanza Dam in central Rwanda will benefit farmers and help grow crops for exports, a Rwandan official said on Thursday.

The 26-meter-high Muyanza Dam located in Rulindo District, Northern Province was built by China Geo-Engineering Corporation (CGC) and financed by the World Bank. Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation Project and the Third Rural Sector Support Project (LWH-RSSP) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources of Rwanda is the employer of the project.

The dam is the second highest in Rwanda and the country's highest and largest earth fill dam in the agriculture sector, Esdras Byiringiro, Acting Project Coordinator of LWH-RSSP, told Xinhua in an interivew.

The dam is expected to retain enough water to irrigate 1,100 hectares of crop fields throughout the year which will benefit all categories of farmers, said Byiringiro, adding that those include commercial, small- and medium-scale farmers.

A number of high-value legumes, grain and horticultural crops will be grown by farmers in the area, of which a significant portion will be for export markets, he said.

The irrigated area to be served by this dam is the largest consolidated hillside area in Rwanda, said the official.

Dams construction, irrigation schemes and marshland rehabilitation conducted by Chinese companies have helped the government of Rwanda to implement irrigation projects across the country, which has led to an increase in agricultural productivity and a significant rise in farmers' incomes and livelihoods, said the coordinator.

Since entering the market of Rwanda in 1999, CGC has completed 13 irrigation and water conservancy projects in the landlocked country.
China Railway Technology Helps Boost African Integration: Congolese Minister
2018/3/13 21:16:17

China's railway technology is beneficial to boosting integration, trade and industrialization in Africa, said Minister of Territorial Management and Major Projects of the Republic of Congo Jean-Jacque Bouya.

The minister, who visited Kenya as part of a benchmarking tour on the success of China-funded Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway (SGR), said Beijing has emerged as a significant partner in Africa's quest to modernize transport infrastructure.

"We can strengthen China-Africa cooperation and discuss implementation of infrastructure projects that can boost connectivity in line with the Belt and Road Initiative," Bouya told Xinhua in a recent interview.

On Sunday, Bouya rode on the SGR passenger train and later took an inspection tour of the new berth at the port of Mombasa developed by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC).

Bouya noted that the SGR passenger and cargo services have improved connectivity, boosted cross-border trade, revived the manufacturing sector, and created jobs.

"The SGR is a good project that will act like a belt to connect this region and the continent. It has also given jobs to youth and realigns with our leaders' vision to enhance connectivity and integration," the minister said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the SGR passenger train dubbed Madaraka Express on May 31, 2017.

According to SGR's contractor and operator, the CRBC, about one million passengers have since been ferried by Madaraka Express between Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa.

Bouya said the successful launch of the 480 km SGR in Kenya has inspired other African countries to follow suit.

"What is important is for African countries to have similar projects like the SGR because it will boost our economies," Bouya said, adding that infrastructure development is the embodiment of win-win cooperation between China and African countries.

He praised the launch of SGR cargo service for reducing the cost of transporting goods from Mombasa to Kenya's hinterland, hence stimulating commerce in the country.

"The cargo train has brought economic benefits. It has reduced the cost of transporting a container by half. It is good for economic development of Kenya and Africa," said Bouya.

He said that the Republic of Congo, a mineral-rich country in central Africa, is ready to engage China as it embarks on modernizing key infrastructure like railways and ports.

"In Congo-Brazzaville, we have a maritime port and an old railway. If we build a new railway network, we will reduce the cost of transport and boost industrialization," Bouya said.

"We plan to develop this project soon and discuss the best approach with the CRBC," he added.

Bouya said the Republic of Congo, which has a population of 5 million people, intends to harness a commodities boom to modernize key economic sectors like manufacturing.
Chinese Diplomat Rebukes Tillerson's Untrue Remarks About China-Africa Relations
2018/3/13 11:04:20

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's recent remarks about China's role in Africa are untrue and the attempt to smear China is quite self-embarrassing, the Chinese ambassador to South Africa said in Johannesburg on Monday.

The US top diplomat "has obviously chosen the wrong place, wrong topic against the wrong target. That is why Africans have stepped up to tell His Excellency that his words about China are wrong and not true. Sorry to say this is quite self-embarrassing," said Lin Songtian at a press briefing on the same day as Tillerson wrapped up his first official visit to Africa.

During his tour of five African countries, Tillerson said the African countries should be careful while dealing with China and not forfeit their sovereignty or create a debt crisis.

In response, the Chinese ambassador said that China and its enterprises have invested over 100 billion US dollars on the continent, built over 6,500 km of railway, 6,000 km of highways, over 200 schools and 80 sports stadiums.

China have created jobs, transferred skills and technology and changed the lives of the African people, he added.

Tillerson probably landed on the ports built with Chinese financing, used roads built with Chinese assistance and made the remarks in the stadium built jointly by Chinese and Africans, Lin said.

"What they really want is to keep Africa as it was, poor and divided, to be always controlled by others. What they worry about is Africa's realization of economic independence with China's support. What they worry about is a strong Africa that can no longer be ordered around politically," the Chinese ambassador said.

Regarding Africa's debt problems, Lin said that China has funded many infrastructure projects on the continent. "American friends are worried about Africa's debt crisis on the lips. But they have no willingness to issue loans to support Africa's development, or to encourage their investors to (invest in) Africa."

Despite Tillerson's bizarre allegation, Lin also said the Chinese government has made earnest efforts to rid corruption domestically and contribute to the global fight against the scourge.
China Presence in Africa Did Not Marginalize Washington’s Interest
By Laetitia Tran Ngoc
Global Times
Published: 2018/3/13 21:28:40

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who was ousted by President Donald Trump on Tuesday, paid his first official visit to Africa recently - a move viewed as a way of building bridges two months after Trump used foul language to describe African countries.

In a speech before his departure, Tillerson slammed China's approach in Africa, saying it encouraged dependency, utilized corrupt deals and endangered Africa's natural resources. His key message was that unlike China, the US is a true friend of Africa - a rhetoric that sounds all the more hollow looking at the US presence in the continent.

Ahead of Tillerson's visit, some observers commented that China had smartly outplayed and marginalized the US in Africa. But this is not completely true as the continent never garnered much attention from the US. Long before the days of "America First," Africa had been relatively neglected by the US. Barack Obama's presidency was an even bigger disappointment: Despite the president's Kenyan ancestry, Obama's foreign policy was marked by his historical Asian pivot.

The amount of funds dedicated to Africa has been declining in recent years, especially compared to the countries that are on top of the list receiving US aid (Afghanistan, Israel and Iraq). In 2016, Jordan (population of 9.5 million), an "upper-middle level" country, received more funds than Ethiopia, most of whose 100 million population lives in poverty.

It is even worse for trade: In 1960, the whole continent only took 4 percent of US exports and supplied only 3.7 percent of American imports. Currently, approximately 1.5 percent of US exports go to sub-Saharan Africa despite the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that offers African participants preferential access to US markets by eliminating import tariffs.

Meanwhile, China's bilateral trade with Africa increased 21 times between 2000 and 2014. Beijing has diversified its business interests on the continent by participating in energy, mining and telecommunications industries and financed the construction of roads, railways, ports, airports, hospitals and schools - key areas for the long-term development of African countries.

The US has often boasted that its objectives in Africa - strengthening democratic institutions, advancing peace and security - were morally superior to China's. But these commitments have been strongly influenced by national security interests and in particular by the fight against international terrorism and Islamic radicalization, at the expense of other key sectors.

Democracy assistance has been continuously dropping since 2011. About 90 percent of exports from Africa to the US under AGOA are petroleum products - even though one of the most frequent criticisms of China is that it is only interested in Africa's natural resources.

Moreover, US development aid has been known for using tied aid that forces recipient nations to spend it on products from the donor nation. This type of aid is known reducing its value by as much as 30 percent and has the tendency to make donors focus more on the commercial advancement of their nations than what developing countries need.

This is why Tillerson's announcement of a $533 million humanitarian African aid plan and commitment that the US would do more to reduce trade and investment barriers for African partners is unlikely to change anything in the relationship between the US and Africa, especially as Trump has repeatedly spoken of making sweeping cuts to American contributions to peacekeeping and aid operations.

For decades, too few Western corporations have invested in Africa, leaving room for countries such as China, India and Turkey to move in. This has caused a major shift in African outlook, clearly expressed by African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki, who said during his briefing with Tillerson that "Africans are mature enough to engage in partnerships of their own volition. There is no monopoly, we have multifaceted, multifarious relations with parts of the world." Opinion surveys have shown that majority of respondents in African countries view China favorably.

In addition to investment, this outlook is the result of China's diplomatic efforts in Africa. Over the past 10 years, Chinese leaders have made 79 official visits to 43 African countries. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visits the continent every year. By contrast, Trump does not seem to be planning to visit Africa, and Tillerson is the most senior official of the Trump administration to visit the continent.

It is, therefore, wrong to say that China marginalized the US in Africa. The US' reduced engagement only became more noticeable as Chinese presence increased. China and the US' interests in the region are not mutually exclusive. They can work together in improving lives on the continent.

The author is a research officer with the Ethiopian Embassy in Belgium.
Trump Team Bashes China But Offers No Alternative in African Nations
The Hill
03/15/18 03:15 PM EDT 


The now former Secretary of State Tillerson’s talking points for his hastily-arranged trip to Africa last week accused China of fostering dependency, with “opaque contracts, predatory loan practices, and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt,” hurting growth and local employment. Is China really a predatory lender in Africa?

It’s clear that Tillerson last trip as secretary of State to Africa was an attempt to try to repair relations with a continent that was outraged by President Trump’s foul language in discussing their countries. Pointing a finger at China is already deflecting attention from the Trump administration’s image problems. But are these accusations true?

Our two research groups have been tracking Chinese loans globally and in Africa for the past decade. Predatory lenders use deception and fraud to entice borrowers to take out expensive loans they don’t really need and can’t afford. But, it seems that Chinese loans fund projects African borrowers really do need, and the loans generally have favorable terms.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, about 600 million people have no access to electricity. Between 2000 and 2017, nearly $35 billion of loans in the SAIS-CARI database and the GDP Center database financed power generation and transmission.

One power station producing 100 milliwatts (mW) of electricity can support 80,000 jobs in low-income countries according to some estimates. That’s a lot of employment.

Twenty years ago, only 12 percent of African roads had all-weather paving, while bridges, airports and railways were in disrepair, many in conflict-affected countries like Angola, Liberia and the Congo.

Not surprisingly, African governments have borrowed $30 billion from Chinese banks during this period to pay for transportation infrastructure. Chinese loans can sometimes be tied to Chinese construction companies, although they do employ African workers as well.

Low commodity prices for exports have created difficulties for some countries, like Zambia and Angola, in servicing loans from China. But were terms for these loans usurious? It doesn’t appear so. Loans from China’s two official policy banks made up 80 percent of the $ 97.5 billion lent by China.

Policy bank loans are lent at low, fixed interest rates — usually 2 percent — or at commercial rates (LIBOR plus a margin). In one big borrower, Angola, Chinese oil-secured loans for which we have terms were actually lower cost than similar oil-backed loans from Western bank syndicates.

The Trump administration would have a better argument if they were offering an alternative. There are legitimate concerns about the extent to which Chinese development finance in infrastructure and energy is lower-carbon and socially inclusive — and both of our groups are studying these aspects.

But the Western-backed banks such as the World Bank had all but abandoned infrastructure financing on a continent in desperate need of infrastructure.

In 2013, the Obama administration belatedly began to address Africa’s electricity shortages and access problems through its Power Africa program. Power Africa promises to be more socially inclusive, address access issues, finance off-grid energy and put a premium on green energy. 

The program offers a mere $7 billion for energy on the continent, but has had trouble getting off the ground, and China has already invested five times the total amount earmarked.

The president has a chance to make his own mark in Africa, but now he has two strikes against him with his derogatory comments about the region and former Secretary of State Tillerson’s finger pointing at the only country willing to step up and address some of the continents most pressing needs.

President Trump would do better to put his money where his mouth is and offer a better alternative — scaling up Power Africa with better terms and better outcomes than those on offer. Until then, he should welcome the void the United States has abandoned.

Deborah Brautigam is the Bernard L. Schwartz professor of International Political Economy and director of the International Development Program (IDEV), and the China Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). She is the author of "The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa." Her newest book, "Will Africa Feed China?," was published in 2015 by Oxford University Press.

Kevin P. Gallagher is professor of global development policy at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies where he directs the Global Development Policy Center. He is the co-author of "The Dragon in the Room: China and the Future of Latin American Industrialization" and "The China Triangle: Latin America’s China Boom and the Fate of the Washington Consensus."
Africa Deserves Better Than What Tillerson Went to Give
Washington Post
March 15, 2018 11:50 PM

Turns out Rex Tillerson’s voyage to Africa was the trip of no return.

His tenure as secretary of state is finally ending, but with a whimper. His last hurrah as the top U.S. diplomat came in the form of a half-baked tour to Djibouti, Kenya, Chad, Nigeria and Ethiopia — all key U.S. allies on security and counter-terrorism. He got sick in Kenya and called off the day’s activities. He then cut short the Nigeria portion of the trip in order to come home to Washington on Tuesday to the newsthat President Donald Trump had fired him and seeks to replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

So what was the point of it all? Couldn’t he have just stayed home and sent Africa an email? From an optics perspective, the administration no doubt needed to do something to soften the blow of President Trump’s “shithole countries” remarks (though Tillerson sidestepped the issue at news conferences), as well as address Trump’s nonsensical travel ban on Chad, which fields one of the most dependable fighting forces in West Africa in the fight against Boko Haram. Ultimately, many Africans in the countries he visited were unimpressed.

But Tillerson’s sleepwalker trip was a missed opportunity to signal a new course in U.S. relations with Africa, one that treats the continent as a source of economic growth and opportunities for investment. It was a reminder not only of America’s diminished moral standing, but also that Washington is sitting on the sidelines while other countries are becoming increasingly more engaged in Africa, for better or worse.

In Africa, China is now the rising tiger. It has been building up its military presence and increasing humanitarian spending, though only countries that tend to vote with China in the United Nations seem to get an influx of aid. Puzzlingly, Tillerson gave a tough speech on China-Africa relations not to an African audience, but at George Mason University in Virginia. He said that China’s approach to Africa could leave nations indebted to Beijing. From the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa the next day, Tillerson added a warning about Chinese investments, saying that African countries risked “forfeiting elements of your sovereignty as you enter into such arrangements.”

Such admonitions look weak considering that the United States lags behind China in Africa on multiple fronts. Beijing has been investing heavily in infrastructure, manufacturing and mining. According to a 2017 Ernst and Young report, American foreign direct investment in the continent fell 5.2 percent in 2016, while Chinese-backed projects increased by more than 100 percent over 2015. Most significantly, China is creating jobs: In 2016, jobs created by China hit an all-time high in Africa, according to the report, and were “more than three times the number of jobs created by the next biggest investor, i.e. the United States.” According to a 2017 McKinsey report, a survey of more than 1,000 Chinese firms revealed that China had created some 300,000 jobs for African workers. China has also invested in worker training and exchange programs for students.

As for the accumulation of debts to China, Tillerson’s criticism glossed over the fact that African nations still spend more on servicing their World Bank and International Monetary Fund debts than they do on healthcare and education.

This is not to play down China’s intentions. Beijing is in Africa to further Beijing’s interests, not Africa’s. Chinese companies have been accused of abusing African workers and of degrading the environment. Still, as an oil businessman serving a businessman president, a better message from Tillerson to Africa would have offered increased U.S. investment, infrastructure projects and help in strengthening the capacity of African regional blocs to trade among themselves. If the Trump administration is concerned about security and terrorism, then jobs, particularly for underemployed youths, are likely the most powerful counter-terrorism tool in the long run and could help stem the migration crisis that has been plaguing the continent and Europe.

In the end, perhaps the most notable gift to Chinese interests in Africa in the short term is the instability of the Trump administration and America’s loss of standing as a voice for democracy and human rights on the continent. An administration that has been riddled with corruption scandals, has attacked the press, has scuttled international agreements and has had its commander in chief retweet Islamophobic posts is in no position to preach respect for the rule of law. Tillerson’s departure, like the final trip that preceded it, sends the message to China that U.S. foreign policy under Trump is unserious, disjointed and not focused on the long term. Africa deserves much better.