From Carlos Rebello on child labor in Brazil

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Dec 8 07:48:31 MST 1999

Louis Proyect wrote:
> NY Times, December 7, 1999
> Clinton Remark on Child Labor Irks Brazil
> SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Labor Minister Francisco Dornelles was furious. "Has
> the United States resolved all its racial problems?" he asked. "No. But the
> country criticizes us without considering its own issues."

This is, of course, cheap demagoguery. Whenever American critics have
offered the various Braz. goivernment criticisma they for some reason
cannot swallow, the racial question in the USA and the Indian genocide
are always remembered. Of course, the fact that the more pathological
manifestations of racism that were- and are - to be seem in the USA do
not exist in Brazil (where the clentelistic nature of political power
has always admitted the *formal* enfranchisement of non-whites, provided
they behave reliably under the guidance of the ruling class) does not
change a jot the brutality of class divide in Brazil, as the fact that
no overt warfare was waged against Indians since independence doesn't
change the fact that there was- and is - a slow process of ethnocide
going on in Brazil (although there is some very effective protection of
some Indian groups, mostly in the Amazonian basin, in the tradition of
protection introduced by the early XXth century General Rondon, an
humanitarian Comtean military that made much on the issue of Indian
protection, there are also Indians groups huddleded in 'reservations'
that do not owe anything to the reservetion - I forget the name - where
Geronimo ended his life).

> The source of the Brazilian official's anger was a little phrase uttered by
> President Clinton at the abortive World Trade Organization talks in
> Seattle. The president said he wanted to end child labor, giving children a
> way "out of the soccer-ball industry in Pakistan, out of the shoe industry
> in Brazil, the fireworks industry in Guatemala."
> The phrase backfired like much else at Seattle, where ministers failed to
> agree on a new round of talks to liberalize trade. In general Clinton meant
> to encourage developing countries to keep up their efforts to do away with
> child labor.
> But as the world's ninth-largest economy, Brazil does not take kindly to
> being lumped with Guatemala.

Who is this "Brazil" here who does not take kindly what every thinking
Brazilian knows, that there is a contrast between the greatness of the
country on one side and, at the same time, its political and social

 And as a developing nation grappling with the
> turmoil caused by the forces of globalization, Brazil tends to grow testy
> when it feels that its problems are misrepresented by an all-powerful
> United States busy handing out lessons.
> Brazil had much to gain from success in Seattle. Agreement on agricultural
> trade alone could have brought an additional $11 billion in annual export
> revenue. The opening of trade in the farm and textile sectors of the
> developed world remains a critical issue for countries from Brazil to India.

Absolutely. Only it is wishful tinking to think that such things will be
willingly granted by the imperialists, specially to a subservient
government like FHC's, who does not make things any more difficult to

> But the perceived insult came to dominate Brazil's perception of the
> Seattle fiasco, a measure of the growing unease in developing countries
> over a global system that tends to apply the same economic recipe to
> nations at vastly different stages of economic development.

Bingo! The NYT writer seems to have discovered that imperialist interest
treats verious nationa unevenly!

> "Clinton made a big error," said Edmar Bacha, a banker

And a former university professor, and therefore wage-earner, who after
a spell working for the Gov. could suddnly afford a partnership in a
banking venture. The wprthy professor is well known here for the fact
that, in order to profit from the better retirement conditions offered
to state employeees in Brazil, as compared to employees in the private
sector, he made an examination to a full professorship in the Federal
University of Rio de Janeiro when he had almost 35 years of working-time
- when a civil servant can apply for retirement payments equal his/her
pre-retirement salary. The worthy professor gave classes for *one month*
and then apllied for retirement.

 and leading
> Brazilian economist.


 "By addressing Brazilian child labor, he wanted to
> ease the worries of unions and other interest groups over an invasion of
> cheap, labor-intensive goods. In an American election year, that is good
> politics. But to Brazilians it looks like a cheap political shot."

Of course it is, but doesn't change the fact of the existence of child
labour in Brazil.

> Sensitivity here is particularly acute because the last decade of economic
> liberalization has been so tumultuous.
> The country as a whole has secured huge benefits from opening to the world,
> including a privatized phone system that works,

This is a brazen and crass lie.

 access to imported goods,

and scrapping of verious national industries...

> more efficient industries

(vague statement)

 and a booming

and unreasonably expensive in rates...

 Internet business.

The rest is mostly true, but, in the absence of an alternative ideology
that deals politically with the problem, comes only to empty whimpering.

Carlos Rebello

> But the price in a country of 165 million people always marked by a glaring
> abyss between rich and poor has been onerous. In the Sao Paulo area alone,
> unemployment has doubled in recent years to nearly 20 percent as businesses
> have closed, moved or merged in the face of global competition.
> Brazil has been battered by what some critics here call "motel capitalism,"
> characterized by money that is always on the move. Although it has
> recovered from the financial crisis of two years ago, the country still has
> growth that is too sluggish for a swelling population, and interest rates
> that are too high for all but the wealthy, who can prosper by depositing
> their cash.
> High unemployment in the developed world does not often mean desperation,
> since social insurance acts as a buffer. But in developing nations, high
> unemployment may push the very children of whom Clinton spoke into the
> streets to shore up a family's income.
> "We have at least 3,500 children living in the streets today," said Celso
> Pitta, the mayor of Sao Paulo. "We are trying in various ways to help, but
> economic conditions are against us. And the easiest, cheapest business for
> these kids is drugs," often crack.
> Violence has also soared in Sao Paulo, Brazil's industrial capital. More
> than 4,000 people have been murdered here this year, many of them
> adolescents killed in shootouts over territory in the drug trade.
> "You only have to look at the fortresses of the bourgeoisie surrounded by
> growing walls of barbed wire," said Raimundo Bonfim, a social worker, "and
> the city's spreading slums, where drugs are a means to survive, to see that
> what is needed is a mass movement to change the global economic model."
> While those who govern developing countries regard Clinton's sentiments
> about worker rights and child labor as worthy, they are not convinced that
> the United States understands the problems.
> They wonder whether granting those rights might destroy the competitive
> advantage they need for development and whether the West is prepared to
> provide the billions of dollars needed to eradicate the poverty that lies
> behind child labor.
> The Brazilian shoe industry, an important exporter to the United States, on
> Monday described President Clinton's remark as a lamentable mistake. Nestor
> de Paula, the president of one of the main associations of shoe
> manufacturers, said, "Our opposition to child labor in the shoe industry is
> widely known."
> In fact, the industry -- buffeted by globalization and the loss of
> thousands of jobs -- has made huge progress in recent years toward
> eliminating child labor. In Franca, the main production center in the state
> of Sao Paulo, child labor has been eliminated, and it is fast disappearing
> elsewhere, U.N. studies show.
> The bulk of the more than 700,000 children aged 7 to 14 at work in Brazil
> are now employed in the coal industry in rural areas and in various
> informal jobs in the underground or criminal economy of big cities.
> "If Mr. Clinton had been well informed, he would have condemned the use of
> children in the coal business and the criminals who exploit children,"
> commented Klaus Kleber in Gazeta Mercantil, Brazil's leading business
> paper. "But it so happens that Brazil does not export coal to the United
> States, or street children."
> That sentiment reflects the widespread view in Brazil and in countries like
> India that behind the pious sentiments of the United States lie
> down-to-earth political and economic considerations.
> "When the United States no longer knows how to protect its industry, it
> turns to social issues," said Francisco Renan Proenca, the president of the
> industrial federation of Rio Grande de Sul, a state where the shoe industry
> is large. Dornelles, the labor minister, said, "The United States is open
> in its language but closed in practice."
> Such suspicions feed the growing conviction that behind the seemingly
> neutral terms of "globalization" and "free trade" lies a calibrated
> calculation by Washington of its own interest.
> Brazilians have responded by trying to attack what they see as
> inconsistencies in U.S. trade policy, including barriers to Brazilian
> orange juice and sugar. But the unease seems broader. "Most Brazilians
> favor globalization," Bacha said, "but not at the price of subordination."

Louis Proyect

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