Elitism and how the very rich people look down on the poor are a major problem for Brazil, the country’s former President Dilma Rousseff told Ex-Ecuador President Rafael Correa during an interview on RT.
A protégé and political successor to President Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff continued his policies, aimed at eradicating poverty in Brazil. Under successive governments of the left-leaning Workers’ Party, the Latin American country saw a significant improvement in living conditions for millions of people. In 2014, Brazil for the first time was cross off the UN’s World Hunger Map, after reducing the number of undernourished people by 80 percent in 10 years.
Discussing her government’s policies with Correa, Rousseff agreed that elitism is a serious problem in Brazil, causing a lot of grief and suffering for common folk. Some members of the elite see all poor people as their enemy, she said.
“In Brazil, the poor and the dark-skinned were the enemy… They were tortured, they were arrested, they were turned into a lower class, stripped of all rights. We began to change this situation,” she said. “There is still a lot to be done: we need to distribute the wealth in the country, implement tax reform [and] end the oligopoly of the media and banks that control different aspects of the country’s life.”
Rousseff’s second presidential term, however, was cut short by an impeachment over breaches of budget rules. She was replaced by Michel Temer, who has since been accused of taking bribes, has dropped to a single-digit approval rating and used heavy-handed tactics to crack down on protests against his government. Rousseff says her downfall amounted to a parliamentary coup, backed by a smear campaign in the media owned by a handful of oligarchs.
“We won the elections four times in a row but, after the fourth time, they decided not to give us even a slightest opportunity to participate in the fifth election. Why should we give them a chance to win, they thought?” she explained.
Rousseff believes her government was targeted because powerful and wealthy people didn’t want it to implement policies aimed at redistributing wealth, like taxing inheritance. Such measures were a natural next step after reducing the income gap.
“They now say Lula is a criminal, while all institutions in the country are facing a crisis,” she said, describing the results of the Temer government’s policies. “There are disagreements in the judicial system, the executive branch is in conflict with the legislative and judicial powers. The country’s institutions are in chaos, but we are fighting against that, and you know why? Because we are the real democrats, not them.”
Correa pointed out that the estimated 36 to 38 million people who were lifted from poverty and became part of the middle class under Rousseff, failed to support her in 2016. “Where were these 38 million people when everyone rose up against you in 2016, when the coup happened?” he asked.
“Because they think that what they are fighting for and what they get are totally different things, as unbelievable as that might sound,” she replied. “We conducted a survey after – no, right before the impeachment. It was a comprehensive and thorough survey. We asked people about every social program, we asked what they got from it, how they got it and who they have to thank for it. To the latter, people replied that first and foremost they owe what they got to God, then themselves (which is very important), and then their families and their mothers. Government policy was the least popular answer.
“When people get something, they get used to it immediately and they start thinking it has always belonged to them,” she said
You can watch the entire episode of the “Conversations with Correa” program in Spanish here.
Operation Car Wash began in March 2014 at a petrol and car wash complex in Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, and it was initially thought to be routine.
The Federal Police team had the location under surveillance believing that it was the centre of a money -laundering operation run by Alberto Youseff, a former convicted criminal known as the “doleiro de doleiros” – the money launderer of money launderers.
When it was discovered in one of Youssef’s intercepted emails that he was paying for a Land Rover for an executive of Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil company, it immediately raised suspicions.
The executive turned out to be Paulo Roberto Costa, the man in charge of refining and supply. Costa became the main target in the first phase of the Car Wash investigation and was arrested.
Deltan Dallagnol, the lead Federal Prosecutor for the case, says that investigators uncovered “evidence of money laundering” totalling some 26 million Brazilian reals ($8m). Criminal charges were brought against Costa, who negotiated a plea bargain with authorities.
“That allowed for an exponential expansion of the investigation,” Dallagnol says. “It was the big bang of the Car Wash Operation.”
Never before did Brazil export corruption like it did in the Car Wash case.
Costa admitted that the Land Rover was just one of many bribes he received to issue contracts to construction companies, and told law enforcement officials participating in a task force set up to pursue the case that the bribing scheme was much larger than anything they imagined.
Corruption in the supply division he oversaw, Costa said, “was the tip of the iceberg”.
Bruno Brandao, the head of Transparency International in Brazil, says, “Never before did Brazil export corruption like it did in the Car Wash case.”
He adds that the problem of corruption in Brazil is systemic, and that in the Car Wash scandal, “the mechanism of corruption was traditional – overcharging of contracts and the setup of company cartels. What is new is the scale, the amounts of money and number of people involved – officials and companies. The dimensions of this case are what makes it extraordinary.”
Federal police inspector Felipe Hayashi, who heads the Financial Crimes Unit of the Car Wash taskforce, says the investigation “reached people of the highest rank and level of responsibility. That’s something that has never happened before.”
Investigators learned that there was a cartel of companies that dealt with Petrobras. According to a secret agreement that existed for more than 10 years, the cartel would nominate one of its members to be awarded each Petrobras contract – for refineries, oil rigs, and other multimillion-dollar projects.
“We secured documents that laid out the operation of the cartel in terms of championship rules for different sports,” says Dallagnol. “There were 16 championship players and their objective was to ‘maximise’ prizes in national and international markets alike. Obviously, these companies would never openly admit cartel arrangements in a clear way, so they tried to disguise them as championship rules for different sports.”
The cartel rules resulted in steep overpayments for the work done. Petrobras executives were bribed to go along, and the cost of the bribe built into the contract. In fact, the scheme stretched far beyond Petrobras to contracts for stadiums for the 2014 World Cup, the 2016 Rio Olympics and other major infrastructure projects throughout the country.
Brazil’s Car Wash scandal turned into the largest corruption case in Latin America’s history, involving some of the region’s most prominent public figures. [Getty Images]
The Odebrecht bribery machine
On June 19, 2015, the taskforce moved against the cartel players.
“It was time to take a step which had never been taken before in history; when big businessmen were finally reached, people who had been considered princes of enterprises in Brazil,” says Dallagnol.
Twelve top-level executives were arrested, among them Marcelo Odebrecht, CEO of the company that bears his name. Odebrecht is the largest construction company in Latin America. Its bribing operation typified that of cartel members and was the most extensive in the region.
Marcel Odebrecht was held without bail, and less than a year after his detention he was sentenced to 19 years in prison for corruption, money laundering and criminal association.
For decades and decades, in Brazil, you had to apply grease for everything. If a citizen wanted to obtain an ID, he certainly would have to pay something to a public agent to expedite the process.
Sergio Foguel, member of the Odebrecht Board of Directors
We headed to Salvador in northeast Brazil to get the Odebrecht Company’s response to the scandal.
The business was founded in 1944 by Marcelo Odebrecht’s grandfather, and the city is still its headquarters. Sergio Foguel, a long-time member of the Odebrecht Board of Directors, agreed to talk to us.
Despite the conviction of its CEO, the company still operates in more than 20 countries around the world and had revenues of about $26bn last year.
“There is no excuse to justify those acts of misconduct,” Foguel says. “But for decades and decades, in Brazil, you had to apply grease for everything. If a citizen wanted to obtain an ID, he certainly would have to pay something to a public agent to expedite the process”.
Our reporter, Gustavo Gorriti, wanted to know why the company had consistently denied any wrongdoing for months and months during the investigation.
“Despite all our strength as a company, we carried out acts within our organisation that today would be completely inadmissible,” Foguel says. “There was a collective blindness. Initially, corruption was tolerated and later, it expanded in an incredible way.”
A plea bargain by Odebrecht employees in the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption scandal led to testimony ensnaring nine ministers in President Michel Temer’s cabinet under investigation [Mario Tama/Getty]
‘Plug and play. It was serial corruption’
According to authorities, Odebrecht had a division of “Structured Operations” that ran an intricate off-the-books accounting system and a bank to bribe not only company executives, but also politicians.
This started to become clear when Marcelo Odebrecht began talking in hopes of reducing his 19-year sentence.
In testimony to prosecutors captured on audiotape, Odebrecht admitted that his company bribed politicians from all the major Brazilian parties in exchange for appointing Petrobras executives at the public company. Dozens of congressmen, senators and ministers have so far been implicated in the scandal.
Odebrecht’s testimony dealt a body blow to the Workers’ Party of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and his successor Dilma Rousseff.
Amid a deep political crisis, Dilma Rousseff was impeached in August 2016. Two weeks later, Lula was formally charged with corruption in connection with the Car Wash scandal.
While Brazil’s elites were being held to account, investigators were also making steady progress on the international front with the help of the US Department of Justice. The country is one of the world’s main destinies for financial transactions.
“This provides the United States jurisdiction over a good deal of money laundering crimes that happen around the world,” Dallagnol says. “The US acted in a very efficient way, identifying accounts kept in their country to launder money and delivering documents very quickly.
In December 2016, Odebrecht pleaded guilty to American charges that it provided almost $800m in bribes for more than 100 projects in 12 countries. It agreed to pay a $3.5bn fine and disclose details of its corrupt activities in Latin America and Africa.
According to Brandao, “Odebrecht, at least in the 12 countries it operated, had the same system, the same mechanism – plug and play. It was serial corruption.”
From Brazil to Panama: Fake companies and big deals
Odebrecht’s guilty plea in the US set off investigations throughout Latin America. Key to those efforts was deciphering how the money flowed from the company to corrupt officials through countries like Panama that specialise in offshore banking.
Rolando Rodriguez, who heads the investigative unit of the Panamanian newspaper La Prensa, says that “From Panama, money went out to officials from Brazil, officials from Peru and other parts of the world.”
Panama’s police investigators uncovered a Panamanian company tied to Odebrecht called Contructora Internacional del Sur.
“It was a fake company that received money from Odebrecht and sent it out to accounts in different countries, especially Switzerland,” Rodriquez says. “So, the laundering structure was set up using companies, most of them from Panama, as well as bank accounts, most of them from abroad.”
Many of the shell companies used by members of the Brazilian construction cartel to dispense bribes were set up by Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers leak, which exposed the financial dealings of some of the most powerful and wealthy people in the world.
“Mossack Fonseca is one of the oldest firms that work on setting up shell corporations,” Rodriguez says. “So, by arriving here in Panama you resolve the problem of having to travel to 10 different countries to get 100 corporations.”
Panama was not only a good transit point for corrupt payments. It was also a place to land large construction projects at inflated prices. With projects of some $9bn, Odebrecht is the most important construction company in Panama. Between 2010 and 2014, according to the US Department of Justice, Odebrecht paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to secure public works contracts. One of the most profitable was building the Coast Highway.
I do harm to a country for $2 or $3bn. I agree to pay $300m, $500m or a billion and, after some time, I walk away free. What a business.
Jose Antonio Dominguez, legislator
“Panama ended up paying a great deal for a project that should have cost much less,” says Jose Antonio Dominguez, a legislator with the country’s governing Panamenista party who has been questioning the pricing of the project for years. “That project, without any change, suddenly was awarded for $189.5m instead of $133.5m. Why that $60m difference? For what?”
In July 2017, Odebrecht reached an agreement with the Panama authorities to pay $220m in fines and provide information about public corruption to settle bribery charges in the country.
“I do harm to a country for $2 or $3bn. I agree to pay $300m, $500m or a billion and, after some time, I walk away free. What a business,” says Dominguez.
A vast web of political and corporate corruption in Peru
Tensions over the way Odebrecht conducted its business are growing throughout Latin America. The latest flashpoint is Peru, where the country’s ruling establishment is reeling from its connections to the company.
Attorney Walter Alban served as the public ombudsman in Peru from 2000 to 2005 during the presidency of Alejandro Toledo, now accused of receiving bribes from Odebrecht.
“It’s been demonstrated that there were transfers through offshore companies and close friends of the former president,” he says.
Odebrecht wanted the lion’s share of a multibillion-dollar highway project connecting the Peruvian coast to Brazil and they got it. Toledo has been charged with accepting a $20m bribe to steer them the business.
Jorge Barata, the head of Odebrecht in Peru, confessed in 2016 that he struck the deal in a meeting at a Copa Cabana hotel in Brazil that Toledo attended. Peruvian prosecutors are trying to extradite Toledo from the US to face bribery charges, which he denies.
Alban says Odebrecht didn’t just pay off individual politicians. The company promoted its interests by gaining influence over the political system itself.
“The scheme Odebrecht had was not only related to bribes to get contracts,” Alban says. “There was also this practice of promoting candidates and financing political parties, and not just one but all that might have a chance of winning.”
In a videotaped confession to prosecutors obtained by Peruvian investigative journalism organisation IDL-Reporteros, Barata admitted to giving $3m to the Nationalist Party to help finance the 2011 presidential campaign of Ollanta Humala. Humala won and served as president from 2011 to 2016.
Corruption is not an issue of right or left, or ideology. But of a confluence of interests.
Walter Alban, lawyer
Barata also claimed his company supported the left-wing Humala not only to promote Odebrecht´s interests in Peru, but to curry favour with Lula’s Workers’ Party in Brazil. “The Workers Party had an interest that all South American presidents share the same political and economic line as the Workers Party. Humala had those characteristics,” Barata says.
According to Alban, Odebrecht had strong links with ex-president Lula’s party in Brazil. It is described as a “geopolitical strategy” he says, indicating that “corruption is not an issue of right or left, or ideology. But of a confluence of interests.”
Both Humala and his wife, Nadine Heredia who was general secretary of the Nationalist Party, are now in prison awaiting trial.
Keiko Fujimori and her Popular Force party are also under investigation for taking money from Odebrecht to fund her 2011 presidential bid. Fujimori says the accusation is false but Marcelo Odebrecht has testified that his company helped finance her campaign.
On February 28, Barata met Peruvian prosecutors and confirmed that the company gave money to support Fujimori in the presidential race – $1.2m.
“There aren’t political parties any more” says Alban, “There are groups that define themselves as political, but strictly speaking, they are supported in all cases by illegal funds”.
Demonstrators protest for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and also against corruption being investigated involving resource diversion and money laundering in Petrobras scandal of corruption on March 16, 2016, in Sao Paulo, Brazil [Victor Moriyama/Getty]
A new attitude towards corruption in Latin America
Last December, the Car Wash scandal arrived at the doorstep of Peru’s current president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Peru’s congress launched impeachment proceedings against him, alleging his companies received almost $800,000 from Odebrecht while he was serving as a public official.
Kuzcinsky vehemently denies all wrongdoing and narrowly avoided impeachment but prosecutors continue their investigations. In his February meeting with prosecutors, Barata said Odebrecht also contributed to Kuzcinsky’s 2011 presidential campaign.
Peru’s Attorney General Pablo Sanchez is overseeing the investigation of Peru’s high-level officials for dealings with Odebrecht. “We are talking about corruption and a series of very complex crimes that involve several different governments, not just one but at least three,” he says.
When asked why the corruption connected to the Car Wash case went so far in Peru, he says: “Our country is not prepared to face cases of this nature or prevent crime,” Sanchez says. “Our country has trusted too much in the behaviour of state officials and the politicians in our country. So in that way, we haven’t advanced at all, or just very little. What we do now, proper investigations, proper convictions, will help prevent this from happening again in the future.”
Car Wash in Brazil today is no longer just an investigation, nor a process. Lavo Jato today in Brazil is an attitude, an expectation that impunity will start to fade away.
Bruno Brandao, head of Transparency International
Every week seems to bring new developments around the world in connection with the Car Wash scandal.
Governments from Ecuador to Angola are dealing with the repercussions of the case. Meanwhile, back in Brazil, the Supreme Court is considering former President Lula’s appeal of a 12-year sentence he received for corruption. His plans to run for president this October are in danger of being derailed.
“Car Wash in Brazil today is no longer just an investigation, nor a process. Lava Jato today in Brazil is an attitude, an expectation that impunity will start to fade away,” Brandao says.
Alban agrees that a new attitude towards corruption is arising in Latin America. “Democratic societies in which we can say that the problem of corruption is at least controlled,” are those in which the public watches over how public resources are spent and demands “that public authorities be held to account. Because of the Car Wash case that is something that I believe is beginning to happen.”
In a quest to ease pressures on the Brazilian prison system, mental health workers have opted to give prison inmates the psychedelic brew ayahuasca, in the hopes of helping them to work through their deeply-rooted emotional traumas.
It is no secret that the current prison system lies in shambles. Overcrowded holding spaces, abusive staff, unsanitary living conditions — such environments rarely lead to redemption and rehabilitation, but instead almost always seed further violence, aggression, and feelings of alienation from society.
While some prisons are now offering holistic services such as yoga, meditation, and Reiki, prisoners’ rights advocacy group Acuda is taking it one step further, offering Brazilian prisoners a real shot at a new life through the use of the traditional Amazonian brew, ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew that combines a specific Amazonian vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) with a leaf (Psychotria viridis), creating an extremely pungent, orally-active cocktail of DMT, a powerful psychedelic known to induce mystical and life-changing experiences for its user.
At first, Acuda had trouble finding a place where the inmates could drink the ayahuasca, but they were finally accepted by an offshoot of Santo Daime, a Brazilian religion founded in the 1930s that blends Catholicism, African traditions, and the trance communications with spirits popularized in the 19th century by a Frenchman known as Allan Kardec.
“Many people in Brazil believe that inmates must suffer, enduring hunger and depravity,” said Euza Beloti, a psychologist with Acuda, to the New York Times. “This thinking bolsters a system where prisoners return to society more violent than when they entered prison. [At Acuda] we simply see inmates as human beings with the capacity to change.”
Supervisors at Acuda, who obtain a judge’s permission to take about 15 prisoners once a month to the temple ceremony, say they are mindful of the risks of ayahuasca, commonly called Daime in Brazil or referred to as tea. At the same time, Acuda’s therapists consume the brew with the inmates, as well as with the occasional prison guard who volunteers to accompany the group.
“This is how it should be,” said Virgílio Siqueira, 55, a retired police officer who works as a guard at the prison complex that includes Acuda. “It’s gratifying to know that we can sit here in the forest, drink our Daime, sing our hymns, exist in peace.”
Approximately 10 tribe members who had no contact with the outside world are now dead after encountering a group of gold miners in Brazil. The New York Times reports that the indigenous people were collecting
The miners boasted about killing the uncontacted Amazon tribe members at a local bar.
Credit: Survival International
Approximately 10 tribe members who had no contact with the outside world are now dead after encountering a group of gold miners in Brazil. The New York Times reports that the indigenous people were collecting eggs near a river in a remote region when they spotted the miners and a brawl broke out. Federal prosecutors have since launched an investigation into the reported massacre. Activists are now concerned that this recent happening is further evidence that threats to endangered indigenous people around the world are increasing.
According to the Brazilian agency on indigenous affairs, Funai, a complaint has been lodged with the prosecutor’s office in Brazil after gold miners bragged about the killings at a local bar. Reportedly, the members showed off a hand-carved paddle and said it had come from a tribe member. Said Leila Silvia Burger Sotto-Maior, Funai’s coordinator: “It was crude bar talk. They even bragged about cutting up the bodies and throwing them in the river.” The miners are claiming they had no choice, as it was “kill them or be killed.”
Pablo Luz de Beltrand, the prosecutor in charge of the case, confirmed that an investigation has started. He added that the massacre occurred in the Javari Valley — the second largest indigenous reserve in Brazil. “We are following up, but the territories are big and access is limited,” Mr. Beltrand said. “These tribes are uncontacted — even Funai has only sporadic information about them. So it’s difficult work that requires all government departments working together.”
Credit: Uncontacted tribes
Brazil’s president, Michael Temer, is not without blame. This is because the government reduced funding for indigenous affairs. And in April, Funai shut down five of 19 bases that were previously used to watch and protect isolated tribes. At other bases, staffing was cut. The bases hold incredible importance, as they are used to prevent invasions by loggers and miners and to communicate with recently contacted tribes.
Sarah Shenker, senior campaigner with global indigenous rights group Survival International, spoke for most when she said: “If the investigation confirms the reports, it will be yet another genocidal massacre resulting directly from the Brazilian government’s failure to protect isolated tribes – something that is guaranteed in the Constitution…When their land is protected, they thrive. When their land is invaded, they can be wiped out.”
The wide-ranging Xiamen Declaration, issued in conjunction with the just wrapped-up annual BRICS summit, shows that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, although facing internal challenges of their own, may be about to step up their collective game, big time.
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of “Globalistan” (2007), “Red Zone Blues” (2007), “Obama does Globalistan” (2009) and “Empire of Chaos” (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is “2030”, also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
The wide-ranging Xiamen Declaration, issued in conjunction with the just wrapped-up annual BRICS summit, shows that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, although facing internal challenges of their own, may be about to step up their collective game, big time.
And they won’t be intimidated/derailed by the crumbling unipolar order.
Xiamen made it clear the BRICS are all-out engaged to “redress North-South development imbalances,” with Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasizing the necessity of a more just international order, echoing President Putin’s calls for a “fair multipolar world,” and “against protectionism and new barriers to global trade.”
Xi, the host at Xiamen, where he was once mayor, went out of his way to stress, “we five countries [should] play a more active part in global governance.”
One of the key planks of what is a concerted geopolitical/geoeconomic drive will start to be implemented via an upcoming BRICS-wide customs union. It’s all about connectivity – in trade, commerce, and finance. And that also dictates investment and business openings rolling in sync, as well as a sharper role for development funds and the BRICS’s own New Development Bank (NDB).
Enter, thus, multiple South-South “dialogues,” like those proposed in Xiamen with Mexico, Egypt, Thailand, Guinea, and Tajikistan.
The dialogues, which will inevitably evolve into business and investment deals, are at the core of ‘BRICS Plus’; the overarching concept, proposed last March by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, for expanding South-South partnership/cooperation.
What this will mean, in the immediate future, is an even further, complex interpolation of BRICS Plus with the already converging New Silk Roads, a.k.a. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU); and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
All these economic/political vectors are advancing in sync. The SCO may be essentially focused on security, countering jihadism or even solving border disputes, but it has also been developing the economic cooperation front. India and Pakistan have become SCO full members this year. Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey are observers, and will soon become full members. Egypt and post-war Syria want in. The SCO’s geopolitical reach is fast becoming pan-Eurasian. And that’s reflected, for instance, in the Xiamen Declaration proposing an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace and national reconciliation process, “including the Moscow Format of consultations” and the “Heart of Asia-Istanbul process.”
This means, essentially, the BRICS supporting not a surge of Pentagon troops but an all-Asian (and not Western) Afghan peace process brokered by the SCO, of which Afghanistan is an observer and future full member.
And this course of action once again graphically shows how the core of the BRICS is and will continue to be, what I call “RC”: the Russia-China strategic partnership.
It was RC, not by accident, that suggested the only possible solution for the Korean Peninsula stand off, that is “double freezing,” put forward by the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministry in early July. Pyongyang ceases all missile launches and nuclear tests, Washington/Seoul cease their monster military exercises. Needless to say, the ‘War Party’ in Washington, as well as Trump’s generals, vetoed the idea.
But just as the BRICS wrapped it all up in Xiamen, the action started at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok; once again, all about economic convergence, focusing on Russia, China, Japan, Vietnam and crucially, both Koreas.
Enter RC, once again, as peace negotiators, able to practice diplomacy with both Pyongyang and Seoul at an international forum. RC – with Russia in the forefront – solved the Syrian tragedy. While RC has a plan for both Afghanistan and North Korea, the unipolars only have sanctions and bombs.
I have sketched elsewhere other aspects of BRICS, such as the current internal politico-economic tragedy in Brazil, as well as outsiders India-Japan pushing to counteract the BRICS/BRI/SCO convergence via an Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC).
But the holy of the holies – and it’s never enough to stress it – is what I call the Triple Win triad of the future: oil-yuan-gold. This is one of the prime outcomes of a strategy the BRICS have been discussing, behind closed doors, at their summits since the previous decade – when Lula was still Brazil’s president: how to bypass the US dollar.
President Putin has hinted at “the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies” – code for US dollar unipolarity. Beijing now is stepping up the game via a crude oil futures contract priced in yuan and convertible into gold on both the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges.
That might as well represent the burial ritual for the US sanctions dementia. It’s a categorical imperative for Eurasia integration to be able to bypass any manifestations of this disease by trading energy in yuan or in their own, local, currencies.
In parallel, something RC, via the Central Bank of Russia and the People’s Bank of China, have been developing all these years – ruble-yuan swaps – will spread out to other BRICS/BRI/SCO members. The concept of trading in their own currencies will reach, of course, all number of aspiring BRICS Plus members.
The late Zbig ‘Grand Chessboard’ Brzezinski Doctrine – preventing, by all means, the emergence of a peer competitor – has long ago been pronounced dead. What we see instead is the emergence not only of a peer competitor, but an alliance of peer competitors (RC), with a geo-economic pull all across the Global South.
More than enough for any unipolar brain to go nuclear.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
Development projects in Africa and Latin America will henceforth receive greater attention from the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, BRICS bloc financial institutions such as the New Development Bank, NDB and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, AIIB.
Prof. Chen Fengying, former Director of the Institute of World Economy, under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, CICIR, made the comment on August 21 in the Chinese capital, Beijing at a press organized by the All-China Journalists’ Association.
Prof. Chen is now a senior research fellow with CICIR. “There are many development banks in the world today, the largest being the World Bank. But the New Development Bank owned by BRICS is the only one with developing countries as its backbone,” Prof.Chen noted. She added that reinforcement of south-south, and south-north cooperation will be addressed at the BRICS leaders’ summit in the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen from September 3-5.
“The issue of BRICS development has since gone beyond its member States. The New Development Bank is up and running, moving from abstract to more concrete issues. As an open platform, BRICS Plus concerns Africa and Latin America; thus the influence of BRICS will become more comprehensive,” Chen Fengying stated. She added that in order to broaden the scope of their activities and be sustainable in the long run, NDB and AIIB will extend their services to Africa and Latin America to finance development projects. Meanwhile, Kenya and Thailand have been invited to next month’s BRICS summit.
Responding to a question on plans by BRICS to create a rating agency, Prof. Chen said the chances of its success were slim because current macro international finance is still dominated by the US dollar, while today’s rating system is monopolized by three American institutions. She recalled that China, Europe and Japan have in the past made similar attempts at creating rating agencies, without much success.
Asked if the current border misunderstanding between China and India will be raised at next month’s BRICS summit, Chen Fengying ruled out the possibility, saying leaders will not be distracted by “small issues.” Moreover, China has already stated that issues concerning its sovereignty cannot be compromised. In the same light, she said the policy of BRICS is not to intervene in the internal affairs of member states, adding that the challenges the leaders of South Africa and Brazil now face were transitional.
She attributed their causes to falling commodity prices, and political and economic instability, saying the solution lay in ensuring proper development. “The engagements the leaders of South Africa and Brazil will take at the summit will not be called into question because leaders come and go, but nations remain,” she clarified.
This year’s summit theme is, “BRICS: Stronger partnership for a brighter future.” Focus will be on trade, finance, economy, south-south, and south-north cooperation, and the Belt and Road Initiative. Meetings of BRICS foreign ministers, people-to-people and cultural exchanges will be institutionalized at the summit. It was also disclosed that BRICS members will defend any attempts to introduce trade protection like the recent US measure against China.
Kimeng Hilton Ndukong, a contributor to People’s Daily Online, is Sub-Editor for World News with Cameroon Tribune bilingual daily newspaper in Cameroon. He is currently a China-Africa Press Centre, CAPC fellow.
Hundreds of tunnels — which date back at least 10,000 years — have been discovered in Brazil. Some of the tunnels feature mysterious claw marks’ on the walls.
“There’s no geological process in the world that produces long tunnels with a circular or elliptical cross-section, which branch and rise and fall, with claw marks on the walls,” says a geologist.
“I’ve [also] seen dozens of caves that have inorganic origins, and in these cases, it’s very clear that digging animals had no role in their creation.”
Experts in Brazil have discovered hundreds of underground tunnels which date back over 10,000 years.
Interestingly, experts believe that these mysterious tunnels were NOT carved by humans, but by an extinct ancient species.
The discovery was made by Heinrich Theodor Frank, a geologist at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul — one of the largest federal universities in Brazil.
As Heinrich was driving on the national Novo Hamburgo highway, he noticed a strange hole of around one meter in diameter at a construction site which caught his attention.
Since he was in a hurry to get home, he did not stop. However, a few weeks later he went back to the same place with his family, where he stopped and asked them to wait a moment in the car while he investigated the tunnels.
“I noticed that it was a tunnel, about 70 centimeters high and a few meters in length. The interior was full of scratches,” explains Theodor Frank to National Geographic.
“When I got home I looked for an explanation on the internet, but I did not find anything.”
“Since then I have heard that the tunnels are huge anthills or that they were created by Indians, Jesuits, slaves, revolutionaries and even bears. Some even talk about a great mythological serpent, which dug the tunnels,” he says.
Many of the tunnels feature strange law marks. (Courtesy: Heinrich Frank)
Trying to get to the bottom of the mystery, Theodor Frank eventually sent some photographs to Marcelo Rasteiro, a member of the Brazilian Society of Speleology, who responded by sending an article about paleoburrows, tunnels excavated by any type of living organism in any geological age.
“For example a worm in the Cambrian, a mollusk in the Mesozoic or a rat in the Pleistocene.”
“I didn’t know there was such a thing as paleoburrows,” says Frank. “I’m a geologist, a professor, and I’d never even heard of them.”
So who could have dug those terrifying labyrinthine tunnels, with their walls covered with scratches?
“When you explore the burrows you sometimes have the feeling that there is a creature waiting for you after the next curve as if it were the lair of a prehistoric animal,” says Frank in an article published by Discovery.
Certainly, these tunnels were not created by the natives of Brazil.
“The Indians who lived in Brazil before the arrival of the Europeans did not know about the existence of iron and therefore had no tools to dig through the hard rocks in which these tunnels are dug,” explains National Geographic.
Mysterious Claw marks are clear signs from the ancient engineers who dug the tunnel,
some 10,000 years ago. (Courtesy: Heinrich Frank)
Curiously, there are hundreds of these tunnels all over Brazil, although many Curiouslyletely filled with sediment that accumulated after the tunnels were abandoned, but the entries are still distinguished in a circular or elliptical form.
Geologist Amilcar Adamy of the Brazilian Geological Survey has confirmed the discovery of a large complex of 600-meter-long tunnels in the state of Rondonia.
Furthermore, Frank notes that “in neighboring countries such as Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Bolivia we have detected a few caves that could also be paleoburrows. In Argentina, there are many of them, mainly in the cliffs of the Atlantic coast, in Mar del Plata.”
As noted by Alfredo Carpineti from IFLScience, over 2,000 burrows have been found, including one just last Wednesday. Scientists believe they were dug between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago, although researchers are yet to properly date them.
Frank says that speleothems, or mineral deposits, growing on burrow walls could be used to calculate an age, although that hasn’t been tried yet either.
A look inside the Paleoburrow in Brazil. (Courtesy: Heinrich Frank)
Giant Armadillos? Mega-Sloths?
“The biggest giant armadillo had a body width of 80 centimeters, while the tunnels reach widths of 1.4 meters and in addition, the ceiling is full of scratches
“I personally believe they were excavated by land sloths, a group of mammals that became extinct in that area about 10,000 years ago,” says Frank.
“There are large tunnels up to two meters high and four meters wide that were undoubtedly excavated by sloths. We do not know the specific species, but surely the largest ones (megatheriums and eremoterios) were too large to dig,” he added.
“We also do not know what the function of the paleoburrows is, perhaps the climate is an explanation: it was drier and hotter than today and the tunnels were isothermal, but this can hardly explain the complex system of tunnels several hundred meters long, which were most likely inhabited by groups of sloths or armadillos.
“The roofs and walls of many tunnels are polished, probably thanks to the friction of the animals’ fur, which moved through the tunnels for decades or even centuries,” concluded Frank.
“So if a 90-pound animal living today digs a 16-inch by 20-foot borrow, what would dig one five feet wide and 250 feet long?” asks Frank. “There’s no explanation – not predators, not climate, not humidity. I really don’t know.”
However, as noted by Discovery, another mystery is the strange geographic distribution of the tunnels.
The so-called paleoburrows are common in southern parts of Brazil, in the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina, they are, so far, almost unknown just to the south in Uruguay.
Furthermore, experts note that very few of them have been discovered in northern parts of Brazil, and only a handful of possible burrows have been found in other South American countries.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone