quarta-feira, 30 de maio de 2012

curral da fome no ceará

Ethics, Place and Environment, Vol. 5, No. 2, 123–134, 2002 Drought, Clientalism, Fatalism and Fear in Northeast Brazil MARY LORENA KENNY Original manuscript received, 6 September 2001 Revised manuscript received, 19 June 2002 ABSTRACT Northeast Brazil has been targeted for remedial projects to combat drought for more than 100 years, although drought mitigation policies have been mostly ineffective in reducing vulnerability for the majority of the population. In this paper I review some of the historical and contemporary approaches to drought mitigation and examine the efŽ cacy of mitigation through the aperture of contemporary clientalism and the persistence of asymmetric power relations in democratic Brazil. Although the abertura, political opening, and end of a 20-year military dictatorship allowed for improved civil and political rights and public demonstrations, this ‘low-intensity’ democracy has had few social and economic reforms that have hampered elite interests, minimized inequity, or empowered the poor. Patronage continues to be the dominant tool for survival, especially in the drought-ridden Northeast, where access to scarce state services is extremely competitive and personal connections determine or facilitate access. Ceara´ is always between one drought that’s going and another that is coming down the road. (Theophilo, 1922, p. 35) From 1997 to 1999 Northeast Brazil experienced one of the worst droughts of the century, affecting 181 000 km2 (18.1 million hectares). More than 1200 municipalities were declared disaster areas, leaving 10 million persons at risk of hunger, morbidity and mortality. Dry reservoirs contributed to the loss of crops and livestock, forcing small farmers to migrate in search of work. Water rationing was implemented even in the urban, capital cities of Forteleza, Ceara´ and Recife, Pernambuco. Delay in the distribution of cesta basicas,1 and the development of Frentes Productivas de Trabalho (FPTs) in Pernambuco,2 coincided with con icting reports on favored municipalities receiving assistance and phantom workers receiving payments. Wages from FPTs and pensions are often the only money that circulates during drought (Portella, 1999; Delgado, 1995, 1997). When it was announced that only 216 out of the 1382 areas affected by drought would receive emergency assistance, the tectonics of poverty fomented food riots, the blocking of transportation routes and theft of foodstuffs from Mary Lorena Kenny, Department of Sociology and Anthropology , Eastern Connecticut State University. E-mail: kennym@easternct.edu 1366-879X Print/1469-6703 On-line/02/020123-12 Ó 2002 Taylor & Francis Ltd DOI: 10.1080/136687902200002019 4 124 Mary Lorena Kenny trucks, stealing from warehouses, occupation of public buildings, protests, and clashes with police (Schemo, 1998). The Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), a class-based movement of rural, landless workers, the church and rural unions all played a role in organizing and supporting the raids. Why, despite the fact that the Northeast has documented droughts since the late 16th century and has been targeted for remedial projects for more than 100 years, have drought mitigation policies been mostly ineffective in reducing vulnerability for the majority of the population (Duarte, 1999; Arau´jo, 2000, p. 16)? Efforts that reduce vulnerability and put stable mitigative options in place have yet to be realized. In this paper I review some of the historical and contemporary approaches to drought mitigation in Northeast Brazil. I examine the efŽ cacy of mitigation through the aperture of contemporary clientalism and the persistence of asymmetric power relations in democratic Brazil. Although the abertura,3 political opening, and end of a 20-year military dictatorship allowed for improved civil and political rights and public demonstrations (Cardoso, 1983), this ‘low-intensity’ democracy has had few social and economic reforms (Gills et al., 1993, p. 21) that have hampered elite interests, minimized inequity, or empowered the poor. Patronage continues to be the dominant tool for survival, especially in the drought-ridden Northeast where access to scarce state services is extremely competitive and personal connections determine or facilitate access (Da Matta, 1995). ‘Unequal reciprocity’ (Neves, 1998, p. 50) structures clientalistic relations between poor and elites, even though the poor must rely on elites for ‘patronage in good times and protection in bad times’ (Neves, 1998, p. 53). Drought interventions have adapted to these institutionalized networks of patronage. Northeast Brazil and Drought Mitigation The Northeast includes the states of Bahia, Sergipe, Alagoas, Pernambuco, Para‡´ba, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceara´, Piau‡ ´ and Maranha˜o. This area covers approximately 18% of the landmass and a quarter of the population. About half of Brazil’s poor live in this region. Land concentration in the form of latifundios, large estates, economic polarization, ecological difŽ culties (seven of the last 10 years were declared as droughts), and elite control of politics, the police, judicial system, and the church had long characterized the political economy of the region. Since the late 1800s, shifts in rural agrarian structure have occurred due to the end of slavery (1888); centralization of power, decrease in subsistence production, decrease in land-use rights as tenants, the selling of small plots, and an increase in commercial agriculture (Eisenberg, 1974; Perruci, 1978; Pang, 1979, p. 133; Leff, 1982). Today, declining real wages, a lack of waged agricultural employment (14 usinas, sugar mills, closed in the last 10 years) and chronic ecological disasters exacerbate conditions of economic vulnerability (Arau´jo, 2000, p. 10). Sertanejo culture, 4 perceptions about the seriousness of the drought, access to climate prediction information, mitigative options, such as a shift to a non-agricultural occupation (Brooks, 1973, pp. 339, 342), and vulnerability to in ation, unemployment and hunger (Arau´jo, 2000, pp. 9, 11) contribute to the heterogeneous repercussions of drought. Sertanejo Culture Sertanejos are often referred to as matutos, a colloquial term describing those from the rural interior (country folk, caipira, peasant). Used as a metaphor for economic, social and cultural inferiority, matutos are considered illiterate and backward, equivalent to the use of ‘hick’ or ‘country bumpkin’ in the United States. Sertanejos have been described Drought, Clientalism, Fatalism and Fear 125 as contributing to vulnerability to drought by their ‘fatalistic supernatural ideology’ (Gomes, 1998, pp. 209, 210) and submissiveness in the face of problems and social change. This fatalism extends to service provision by the state (Cunha, 1944; Chilcote, 1990), where the low status of poor sertanejos is naturalized by a social order ordained by God (Ribeiro, 2000, p. 5). Drought is unmodiŽ able and in God’s hands. Direct intervention is ‘beyond one’s control’. Practices take the form of promises made to saints, soliciting protection by patrons during times of strife, or waiting for God to send rain (GreenŽ eld, 1992, p. 382). Rain prophets provide diagnostic climate information based on slight alterations in nature, from shifts in donkey ears to changes in the sexual behavior of centipedes (Lemos et al., n.d.; Brooks, 1972, pp. 163–168; Neves, 2001). Local popular thaumaturgists and semi-mythical heroes periodically emerge from among the  agelados (af icted or beaten ones) such as Padre C‡´cero in Joaseiro do Norte, Ceara´ and Antoˆnio Conseleiro in Canudos, Bahia (1882–97), who promise a transition from rural elite dominance to an autarkic utopian community. Cangaceiros (bandits) such as Lampia˜o, have become mythical freedom Ž ghters in popular culture who forced the powerful and privileged to divide their wealth and treat the poor with more respect.5 Migration Given the frequency of drought, there has been no cohort of sertanejos which has reached old age without having experienced drought during their lifetime (Mello, 1964, p. 139). Migration—regional, intra-state, and national—has historically been one of the only options to drought and penury (Brooks, 1971) creating a demographic category called viuvas da seca, drought widows. Retirantes, drought migrants, are inexpensive sources of labor (Cardoso, 1976; GreenŽ eld, 1992). Sixty years ago they migrated from drought-affected areas to cities on the northeastern coast and to the rubber towns of the Amazon as part of state-sponsored relocation schemes (Pereira, 1992, p. 174; Tankha et al., 1998). In 1942 SEMTA—Servic¸o Especial de Mobilizaca˜o de Trabalhadores para a Amazoˆnia was created to recruit retirantes for the patriotic ‘rubber battalion’ which serviced the World War II rubber market (Neves, 2001). Migration continued to the central frontier near Bras‡´lia, the coffee plantations of Parana´, and construction sites, factories and shanty towns of Rio de Janeiro and Sa˜o Paulo, 1500 miles away, during the 1950s and early 1960s.6 From 1960 to 1980, approximately 30 million persons migrated from the rural to urban areas (Pereira, 1992, p. 190). In some parts of the serta˜o, the drought had produced out-migration to such a degree that elections could not be held due to the insufŽ cient number of voters (Albuquerque, 1995, p. 114). Migrants continue today to search for waged labor in the Agreste, dominated by cattle raising and offering few jobs, and the Zona da Mata, the humid coastal region where the economy is based primarily on sugar production. Here boias frias, ‘cold leftovers’, work as nomadic seasonal laborers cutting sugarcane or work as sharecroppers on private lands (Siegel, 1971; Andrade, 1986), or as waged laborers in the declining industrial usinas (Scheper-Hughes, 1992). In one city in Para‡´ba, between 1996 and 1998, approximately 3200 persons migrated to other states (mostly Sa˜o Paulo) due to the drought (Folha de Sa˜o Paulo 28.04/98 Caderno, p. 3). The drought polygon (covering six out of nine of the states in the Northeast) appears to be expanding into areas that were previously little affected by severe drought, including the Agreste and Zona da Mata (Arau´jo, 2000, p. 17). In 1997, 60% of the 107 municipalities where FPTs were located were in the Agreste, while 40% were in the serta˜o. In Pernambuco and Ceara´, single women comprise a substantial portion of recent migrants. In the irrigated areas of the serta˜o near 126 Mary Lorena Kenny the Sao Francisco river in Pernambuco, agricultural wage labor and informal service-industry jobs have grown tremendously in the past 20 years. Female migrants provide most of the informal labor in both agriculture and the service industry, and work as maids, hairdressers and manicurists for a growing middle-class (Branco, 1998). Other migrants occupy abandoned buildings in the capital cities, abandoned usinas in the Zona da Mata, or become squatters on unproductive land. The development of other areas of Brazil, including the vicinal commercial agriculture/ irrigated areas of the serta˜o, has taken place at the expense of those who are forced to migrate. It is interesting to note that retirante comes from the verb se-retirar, to remove oneself. The use of the term retirante, however, erroneously naturalizes a person who is forced to leave (Neves, 1995, p. 94), rather than one who voluntarily ‘removes oneself’. The term  agelado began to be used in 1915 to describe the passive position of the retirante. Both words suggest that migration is not an option, but rather that retirantes are victims of something ‘imponderable’, divine and outside of their control (Neves, 1995, p. 105; Gomes, 1998, p. 210). Drought Mitigation Policy Prior to 1877 and up until the early 1930s, rural workers could seek shelter or move themselves to their patron’s more fertile lands and water sources, who depended on maintaining his people (Neves, 1998, p. 54). After deŽ nitive titles to land were given (1850), the expansion of agricultural trade (1860), and the penetration of capitalism, much of the land that rural workers could use or occupy during times of scarcity became unavailable. This provoked a number of agrarian crises where the rural worker ‘ceased to be a possible migrant and became a retirante’, who, without knowing where to go, could only look for a substitute patron (Albuquerque, 1995, p. 113; Neves, 1998, p. 54). In 1877, 100 000 persons  eeing drought af icted areas ‘invaded’ (according to newspaper reports) the capital city of Forteleza in Ceara´. The invasion consisted mostly of retirantes looking for food near markets that were removed from residential areas (Neves, 2001). None the less, large numbers of hungry, poor, sickly migrants in the capital generated fear among elites concerning the ‘immoral’ and ‘criminal’ elements of retirantes. Expanded public awareness, and fear of the impoverished masses (Albuquerque, 1995, p. 117) led to demands for state intervention, rather than continued reliance on the good faith of patrons or charity (Arau´ jo, 2000, p. 16). The drought was then ofŽ cially ‘invented’, linking drought mitigation with state obligation, rather than a natural disaster excised from public responsibility. By 1932, it was assumed that the state, rather than patrons, would intervene on behalf of retirantes. The 1930 ‘revolution’ had supposedly supplanted the clientalism that dominated the Ž efdoms of the rural interior (Albuquerque, 1995, p. 113) with modern, civil, democratic systems that would eliminate social, political and economic relations that ‘imprisons men through ties of personal dependency, obedience and submission’ (Neves, 2000). Food distribution, public works projects and price Ž xing for staples were implemented. In addition, an experimental project ‘put the  agelados where the food is’, by corralling drought refugees in ‘concentration camps’ in Ceara´ (Neves, 1995).7 Approximately seven of these state-sponsored ‘peasant cooperatives’ centralized services for retirantes, provided laborers for colonization schemes in the Amazon, and prevented retirantes from circulating publicly. The problems of those without work became the problem with the unemployed (Neves, 1995, p. 107). As retirantes were associated with disease transmission and moral degradation, corralling them was seen as an effective Drought, Clientalism, Fatalism and Fear 127 means of quarantining epidemics and criminal behavior. In 1932, 60 000 persons were corralled in Burity, Crato, resulting in high rates of mortality. FPTs began to use retirante labor over 100 years ago for road, railroad, dam, cattle-breeding centers and grave-digging for drought fatalities (GreenŽ eld, 1992, p. 380). FPTs provide free labor-subsidized by public aid—for private interests. There is little long-term beneŽ t from the FPTs, water and food distribution (Arau´jo, 2000, p. 23), as the dams beneŽ t large landowners, not small subsistence landholders (Ribeiro, 2000, p. 245). In Ceara´, 40% of the population is involved in agriculture and 94% lack access to irrigated land (Lemos et al., n.d., p. 10). In Northeast Brazil, 75% of water reservoirs are private (SUDENE, 1985) and serve private interests. The FPTs temporarily prevent starvation and dehydration (Pessoa et al., 1983), and keep a potential cheap pool of labor alive. Applicants exceed positions available and unskilled workers are unqualiŽ ed for mechanized industrial jobs (Neves, 2000). FPTs hire ‘phantom workers’ and exclude those not aligned with local colonels (fazendeiros, landowners). FPTs have also been accused of discriminating against women and children (Pessoa et al., 1983) or pigeonholing women as cooks for the men on detail, unless, for example, less males apply due to high out-migration, which occurred in 1993 (Branco, 1998; Arau´jo, 2000, p. 24). Overall, the work provides no long-term productive investment for its workers or the region (Coelho, 1985; Pessoa, 1987; Neves, 2000). Drought mitigation strategies also include the dissemination of messages about things people already know, such as the potential danger of a lack of water and food. They are urged to do things they are unable to do, such as ration water, or sell their surplus (at extremely low market prices) or diversify what they grow, but without access to seeds or loans (Finan, 1998, p. 10). Climate prediction information, along with the Internet, television, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), are represented as vehicles of globalization that are widely available and neutral (‘science’), transforming the ‘traditional arsenal’ of sertanejos (Neves, 1998, p. 57; Arau´ jo, 2000, p. 13). However, rather than accelerating change and inclusion, information dissemination is mediated by a clientalistic infrastructure and therefore mirrors the cleavages in access to other goods and services. Knowledge is distributed through existing power networks, and the impact re ects the contemporary asymmetry in access to property, irrigation and capital in the serta˜o. The consequences of drought are therefore differentially experienced. It is also unclear how poor sertanejos beneŽ t from climate prediction information and in what ways the information is apposite, at what point in time, and within what constraints. How is it connected to practical ways of identifying, explaining, and managing drought? What are the repercussions for the household and community? There is also scant information on what ‘scientiŽ c’ information and approaches local people select, how it is interpreted, what the risks and barriers are to implementation, and how future decisions are made based on this information (Lins da Silva, 1986; Appadurai, 1991, pp. 191–192). In addition, technical experts, and outsiders in general, are met with suspicion. Armed with an arsenal of legitimizing scientiŽ c approaches, megaprojects and military slogans to ‘combat the drought’, they are remote authority Ž gures in an area shaped by the dual conditions of clientalism and the vacancy of survival outside of that structure. Their projects tend to re ect donor priorities over sustainable infrastructure, education, and alternative economic activities for the population, which are dismissed as utopian (Marcuse, 1969, pp. 92–93). Even with the availability of scientiŽ cally predicted climate information, what does a diagnosis of drought mean for the majority of the population, given the availability of services? Overall, climate prediction technology and information is not value-free. The reasons for its development, where it is introduced, and who ultimately beneŽ ts are political decisions. 128 Mary Lorena Kenny The historically immense investment in drought services has produced few social or economic effects. The media focuses on public works projects, grand political schemes to combat the drought and relief monies that have already been distributed (Arau´jo, 2000, p. 19). Little attention is given to structural issues, to land reform, to despotic control. Most of the programs, interventions and climate predictions are incongruous with the reality of land concentration, irrigation and access to government loans in the serta˜o (Andrade, 1985; Coelho, 1985; Pessoa, 1987). The only effective mitigative efforts have been community-based organizations, small food producers’ associations, informal food exchanges, and community councils (Branco, 1998; Albuquerque, 1999; Fischer, 1999). In one small community in Para‡´ba, 106 rural associations were noted (Arau´ jo, 2000, p. 21). In another project, climate prediction information is printed on folhetos. Folhetos are booklets printed on inexpensive paper with woodprint covers. They have been telling stories and providing news and critical commentary on everything from exploitation of agricultural workers, in ation, migration and poverty, to morality and religious themes among the poor, semi-illiterate sectors of the rural interior of Northeast Brazil since the late 19th century (Menezes, 1980, p. 39; Dinneen, 1996). Ceara´ has been cited as an example of ‘good government’, committed to innovative programs and widely acclaimed for their success in public management and job creation (Magalha˜es and Neto, 1991, p. 33). Since 1981, the state discontinued projects on private lands, ‘except for hydrological projects where property owners agreed to allow the entire community access to the water’ (Magalha˜es and Neto, 1991, cited in Lemos, n.d.). For the last 15 years Ceara´ has cancelled large-scale public works projects in order to reduce family dislocation. Emphasis is placed on developing a sustainable infrastructure—community- based organizations, cooperatives, communication networks, strengthening local government—that will fuel long-term community development programs, rather than focusing solely on drought. Drought Mitigation and Clientalism Although there are rhetorical pushes towards lessening favoritism in public aid during drought, the ‘drought industry’ (Callado, 1960; Cunniff, 1975; Pessoa et al., 1983; Andrade, 1985; Coelho, 1985; GreenŽ eld, 1992) continues to siphon monies for disaster aid and emergency relief supplies to politicians, technical experts and other forms of privatized intervention (Andrade, 1982; Chilcote, 1990; Beaney, 1993). This has occurred as far back as 1889, when a senator from Ceara´ referred to the ‘invention of drought’ as a means to proŽ t from relief efforts (Gira˜o, 1947; GreenŽ eld, 1992, p. 377). One sertanejo migrant stated that this is just the ‘Brazilian jeito [clever maneuvering to get around obstacles] …to see what the problem is, and try to Ž gure out a way of beneŽ ting from it.’ Politicians and top-down NGOs have replaced the rural colonel as the new super-patrons and are expected to supply services, protection, and work in exchange for labor, votes and loyalty (Da Matta, 1995, p. 44; Ribeiro, 2000, p. 254). Although patronage does not guarantee an exit from penury, freedom from hunger or illness, or material improvement, without it you are more likely to be thrown off your land, and less likely to get a hospital bed, a job, legal protection or a place for your child in school (Da Matta, 1995). Some NGOs use ‘change’ rhetoric as ideological scaffolding to orchestrate what is essentially re-packaged clientalism. Overall, they fail to address the problems associated with drought, mitigation policy, or radically alter the penury in the serta˜o. The outcome for sertanejos is essentially the same. The private hoarding of food, favoritism, phantom workers receiving wages they are not entitled to, beach houses purchased with donor funds, lead to public acts of protest and stealing food, but these actions do little Drought, Clientalism, Fatalism and Fear 129 radically to transform existing social organization (Paulilo, 1982; Neves, 2000), or increase accountability and institution building on a broader level. During a political rally for mayor in Pernambuco in July 2000, one resident told me that: They don’t know anything about the candidate, not even their name, unless they get a free T-shirt that prints the name on the front. Most people don’t even know how to form an opinion about someone because they are illiterate or feel inferior or that they don’t know anything and therefore have nothing to say. Candidates basically buy people, and candidates have to. You know why every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to be a state deputy or city councilor? Because you’ll end up with a house, your light, gas and water bills paid for … Now it all looks like a big wild party, and unfortunately for us, there is really nothing serious going on. Beyond this rally most candidates don’t even want to come near poor people … this is just the way things are done here … I want my cesta basica. Disrespecting authority and Ž ling formal complaints is a violation of hierarchical social relations (Da Matta, 1995). Inchoate channels of popular resistance (Scott, 1985) and social unrest among the poor, as in the recent food riots, re ect a ‘rupture in important social ties’ (Neves, 1998, p. 56) by elites not living up to their role of ‘traditional protectors during times of crises’ (Neves, 1998, p. 55), rather than rebellion against the status quo. Disque-Dena´ncia, Dial an Accusation, started in June 2000 in Pernambuco encourages people to inform on those who ‘pirate’ food during the drought. This punishes the poor and does little to challenge a social organization structured by class authority, patronage, and clientalism (Harris, 1956; Forman, 1975; Lewin, 1987). As long as retirantes literally ‘get fed’, things will ‘go back to normal’, and social relations will function ‘properly’ (Matta, 1995, p. 56). ‘Apathy follows normal rain levels’ (Wilhite, 1997, p. 5). Sociocultural practices of patronage and fatalism are the fulcrum of an historically stratiŽ ed and caste-like social structure. However, focusing only on these characteristics as static practices limits how impoverished sertanejos have faced slavery, drought, capitalist penetration, industrialization, post-industrialization and displacement. It implies that a culturally inherited fatalism enhances their susceptibility to problems and truncates their options, unlike the upper-classes who possess culturally superior inclinations that allow them to survive, and thrive, during drought. Facile cultural explanations obscure the material conditions of the serta˜o—unequal land distribution, unemployment, lack of access to credit, irrigation and indemnity—that contribute to vulnerability and require situational adaptations or coping strategies, such as reliance on local patrons or NGOs. These are conditions of being poor, not of sertanejo ‘traditions’. Sertanejos may be distinguishable by patterns of behavior in occupation (farmer, cowhand), education (illiteracy), social status (low), or religion. However, these characteristics have not produced an autochthonous sertanejo culture distinct from a social organization shaped by slavery, colonialism and capitalism. Dichotomous geographical references litoral/serta ˜o (coast/backlands) have evolved as a way to imagine a distant and exotic ‘type’ or ‘lifestyle’ (Lima, 1998) much like the term ‘slum culture’ distances from the larger society a heterogenous group of persons living in low income areas or substandard housing. Sertanejos share the same national institutions and structural organization as other marginalized Brazilians. Unemployment, low-status jobs, meager wages, and land concentration are externally imposed conditions, not cultural messages invested intergenerationally through socialization. A close reading of northeastern Brazilian history challenges ‘common sense’ clientalism, an equilibrium model of con ict, and static images of the poor, rural masses as 130 Mary Lorena Kenny ignorant and na‡¨ve (a ‘culture’ of poverty), having a worldview, history and social and cultural organization dominated by fatalism, submissiveness, primitive and outmoded folkloric heroes and messianic crusaders (Dinneen, 1996, p. 196). Rather than culturally fatalistic, mystical, matutos who are either on the move as migrants or who wait for handouts because of their blunted political consciousness, they have historically demanded social and economic justice through popular mobilization, uprising and rebellion. Impoverished Nordestinos, the majority of the population, have historically felt they were economically unimportant, disposable, or available for ‘solutions that conform to what elites need at a particular moment in time’ (Albuquerque, 1995, p. 112), be it slavery, as workers on the ‘rubber battalions’ or state settlement schemes. Weary of the never-ending voyage toward ‘integration into the national development of Brazil’ (Castro, 1959) they have frequently challenged traditional elite control (Hollinger, 1980, pp. 42–43). Millenarian movements (Rodeador, Pedra Bonita, Quebro-Quilo Revolt, Canudos, Juazeiro), Peasant Leagues, unions, clergy who practiced a theology of liberation, have shaped northeastern Brazilian popular resistance (Faco, 1969; Souza, 1972; Levine, 1992), combating oligarchic control, advocating for land reform, better wages, and have served as focal points for conscientizac¸a˜o.8 This certainly differs from fateful resignation and acquiescence in the face of political and economic hegemony (Maskrey, 1989). More importantly it is fear—of revenge, of losing a job, of being accused as subversive or disloyal—not culture, that silences demands for social and economic equality. Fear and mistrust of the police and justice system, of ‘disappearing’ by police, private security guards or death squads, efŽ ciently cuts off any actions towards accountability. ‘Quem tem dinheiro, anda bem. Quem e pobre aqui, danc¸a’, said Walter, a serta˜nejo migrant living in Recife, meaning it is the poor here who dance to someone’s tune, do what they are told, act in accordance with the ‘rules’. ‘I don’t know where the reciprocity part comes in. The poor here only have obligation, and pretty much feel that they should only do what those above them tell them to do’, said Sergio, 32, a Recife taxi driver, another migrant from the serta˜o. This speaks less to unconscious cultural scripts and more to the vicissitudes of poverty, of a daunting bureaucracy and selectively applied laws. Countering fatalism by taking fate into their own hands—personally, collectively and institutionally—is met with violence by threatened potentates. Grassroots social and economic rights movements are silenced by rapacious police ofŽ cers and structural impunity. This use of force clearly indicates that the established order is not taken as ‘natural’ (Gramsci, 1996). The military regime in 1964 severed burgeoning resistance movements that sought to reorder social, political and economic life. Since the 1980s, the MST has been at the forefront of occupying land and pressuring the state for land reform and the right to subsistence as a human right, not an aspiration. Numerous participants have ‘disappeared’, been killed, threatened, or tortured. During the April 2000 celebration of ‘500 years of the discovery of Brazil’, counter demonstrations by indigenous, black and other resistance movements were met with police brutality. A young policeman I interviewed told me that laws are a hindrance in protecting society from ‘undesirables’—unemployed, thieves, prostitutes, street children, sem terra, and that they need to be ‘taught’ about law and order through torture and extermination. According to Nilmario Miranda of the Human Rights Commission, in the last 3 years, death squads in Brazil murdered 2500 people (SEJUP No. 399, 12 May 2000). When I asked a Recife Ž sherman what it meant to be a Brazilian citizen, he responded: It means one has to suffer, deal with corruption,9 and be raised to learn how to take Drought, Clientalism, Fatalism and Fear 131 advantage of other people. We know what the problems are, how to make formal complaints, but whoever opens their mouth is going to end up dead. The people who do open their mouths are the true heroes in this country. Chico Mendes only became a hero after he was dead. In closing, I re ect on the purpose of a memorial located in the center of Recife, Pernambuco, along the banks of the Capibaribe river. It is a bronzed Ž gure shaped in a form meant to grasp the horror of all who were tortured, died or disappeared during the 20-year military dictatorship (1964–1984). From afar the structure resembles someone struggling to climb a pole. As you get closer you see it is a person whose legs and arms are bound to a pole that is suspended in mid-air. This position, called the pau de arara, parrot’s perch, was an instrument of torture used with political prisoners. This bronzed memory is called Tortura nunca Mais, Torture never again, and its central location is meant to defy any amnesia associated with this violent and repressive epoch in Brazil’s history and is a visible call to prevent it from being repeated. When some local residents were asked what it symbolized to them, no one made reference to the dictatorship, political prisoners or Tortura nunca Mais, although there were numerous references to slavery. Perhaps the immortalized memory associated with tortura nunca mais should not be Ž xed in bronze with a single, ineluctable meaning, but should change shape, be kept alive and  uid and adaptable to contemporary exigencies and forms of exclusion. This codiŽ ed representation could make visible the vital history and political struggles of sertanejos, retirantes and other impoverished Nordestinos as a counter to imagery of passive, silent fallouts from ecological calamity. Notes 1. A cesta basica, food basket, includes staples (meat, milk, beans, rice, farinha, tomatoes, bread, coffee, bananas, sugar, oil and butter) for a family of four for one month. 2. Federal assistance during drought since 1877 has included waged labor, Frentes Productivas de Trabalho (FPTs), food and water. 3. The abertura refers to the gradual process of redemocratization since the late 1970s, and the development of a new constitution in 1988. 4. A sertanejo is a resident of the serta˜o, the semi-arid backlands of the rural interior of Brazil. 5. Lewin (1979) counters this saying that cangaceiro s were mostly feared, not appreciated, and were seen as capangas, bodyguard s of rural bosses. Bands of jagunc¸os, thugs, also roamed highways and administered a private form of taxation and justice. 6. A bridge on the highway that runs past the Central Bus Terminal in Sa˜o Paulo was named the ‘Northeastern Immigrants Bridge’ (Lesser, 1999, p. 169). 7. This use of concentration camps prior to Nazi Germany is cited by Salinas (1996) in reference to the Boer War in South Africa. 8. Conscientizac¸a˜o is a method of problem-based literacy education, critical thinking and praxis, which emphasizes awareness of the socioeconomic and political roots of inequality (Freire, 1980, p. 26). 9. According to a study by the Getulio Vargas Foundation, the per capita income of each Brazilian could be increased by US$3300 if corruption were eliminated (Abrucio, 2000). References Abrucio, Fernando (2000) Beyond mere discomfort: how to attack corruption. InfoBrazil.Com (retrieved 1 September 2000, from http://www.Infobrazil.com). 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