As I enter the simple youth hostel in Rio de Janeiro where Mr. R. Belo has agreed to be interviewed, I am struck by how very ordinary this man looks. I am reminded of something Winston Churchill once said about Prime Minister Attlee: “Mr. Attlee is a very modest man. But then he has much to be modest about.” Mr. R. Belo is indeed a modest man, never seen without his trademark red tie and dark suit. After a difficult, impoverished upbringing, Mr. R. Belo has risen through the ranks of political workers and now dominates the forward-looking Brazilian Communist Party which is considered one of the most progressive organizations in the world.

Recently Mr. R. Belo has presided over the relaxation of his country’s forestry codes, so that small-scale farmers and hobos can slash back the jungle and grow more food. Some foolish people seem to think that this reform will simply pave the way for industrial interests, that will very quickly move in and buy up all available land to start exploiting the rich mineral wealth of Amazonas.

I am meeting with Mr. R. Belo today so that I can sound him out on his new forestry code and, of course, find out more about his social programs.

Q:

Good morning, Mr. R. Belo. I wonder if I could begin by asking about your policy objectives for the 21st century? You are a leading figure in the government of one of the world’s fastest-developing nations, i.e. Brazil. Some argue that your reform of the forestry code for Amazonas may have ramifications for the environmental stability of your whole continent, possibly even the whole world. Could you begin by explaining how you see the future? Would you say that non-Brazilians are entitled to their own opinions on your country’s new policies?

A:

No, because the West has a colonial perspective. We have always said, and we will always say that our stated objective – in accordance with Paragraph 18, Sub-Section 23 of the 1934 Communist Congress – is to continue the crucial work of alleviating poverty in this country. Capitalism is finished in the West, anyone can see that. But in Brazil we are different, our country is huge and we are building a new, revolutionary Capitalism. It’s very easy, all you need are large digging machines and a hell of a lot of concrete. We have a lot of metals to dig up, a lot of oil to drill for and of course we have this very large redundant area known as Amazonas, which we intend to scale back quite considerably and turn into a productive resource.

Q:

When you say “productive”, what are you driving at? Some would say that Amazonas is extremely productive, as it produces immense amounts of water and oxygen, which are crucial to life on earth.

A:

The bourgeoisie in the West are criticizing us for developing our great country. They say we need to preserve our forest for the sake of the world. Let me simply say this: the global community is not our concern. We must look to our own interests, and these interests are quite clear. We will not stand by while poor farmers starve.

Q:

Surely there is no need for them to starve? Brazil has a buoyant economy. Could you not help them in other ways?

A:

Absolutely, and Brazil will continue to grow because we will develop our country and go for prosperity.

Q:

Yes, but would it not be reasonable to develop in a way that can be sustained in the longer term?

A:

That is a bogus concept. The future is another country, you know… (Mops his brow, momentarily confused) But Brazil is not another country, Brazil is Brazil. And always will be. We must deal with today and then when tomorrow comes we will deal with tomorrow.  Make no mistake about this, we will deal with tomorrow as soon as it comes along. I make this promise today, hand on heart.

Q:

Yes I can see that. So… how do you see the future of your… great country?

A:

Capitalism has failed, comrade. The factories of the world have simply crumbled into dust, and the pollution and unemployment and moral and physical sickness of your societies is plain for all to see. Just look at those riots in England! How sad to see young people so alienated, in a post-industrial society.

Q:

Right. But if that’s how you feel, why not do something more progressive with your own society?

A:

Oh, we will. After we have finished burning the Amazon jungle, we shall turn it into the most spectacular productive region of the world. Dams, factories, oil wells and mines will cover this enormous area, and the tribal people of the whole region will no longer have to hunt the monkeys of the trees or go fishing. They will have more dignified roles in our society. They will have houses, and cars and credit cards.

Q:

But this Capitalism you advocate… is it really a viable long-term vision? Industrialism has created a lot of problems in the West? Do you see heavy industry as the future?

A:

Yes, because we have a clear goal. We will take one of the world’s most valuable ecological resources and then, in a very purposeful way, convert it into an efficient vehicle for the production of pork and beans, so that our workers can live with dignity. We are not simple or brutish people, we are a humble confederation of comrades, our goal is a better world for everyone. I will not rest until our workers have pork and beans every day. (Adds, with a gleam in his eye) As a child I had to starve, I had to watch my mother feeding our family on tomatoes an pasta. And this is scandalous.

Q:

What about those who say that the Amazon jungle is the lungs of our planet and contains a massive share of our biodiversity? What about the immense wealth the forest offers in terms of new pharmaceutical products? Could not Brazil try to invest in new technology and social engineering projects? Your country is becoming an important member of the world community. One might have hoped that it would be more of a pioneer, a beacon for how the rest of the world should develop?

A:

This is frankly an insult quite typical of the Western perspective. We have every right to develop in whatever way we like, and frankly we see little value in listening to anyone on this point. Our critics seem to think we are stupid. I say to you, they should stop worrying and mind their own business.  We will keep a few reserves of forest here and there where pharmaceutical workers can mess about with herbs and experiment with their medical technology. In England and France the Capitalists kept the workers on bread and water for years. We will not do this. We will let farmers clear the forest so they can produce the food they need, and have themselves some decent rice and pork and beans.

Q:

Is it not a problem that the land cleared for agriculture is not very suitable for agriculture and tends to revert to dry, unproductive land?

A:

This is nonsense. The large areas that have turned to desert are very useful land for factories and other wealth multipliers such as garbage dumps, mines, roads, airports and other useful things… schools, for instance…

Q:

I was going to ask you about that. What about the education of the masses? Are you investing in education?

A:

Absolutely. And once we have sold off Amazonas to Capitalist interests who will set about turning it into a large, arid flat area pockmarked with disused mines and contaminated soil, we intend to set up Centers Of Marxist Agrarianism (COMA) to train our people in environmental technology. Brazil will become a leading player in this industry, we are already a world leader in bio-fuel. Our Air Quality Initiative is far more advanced than anything the West has come up with.

Q:

What about the climate talks? How will Brazil meet its carbon emission goals if it burns the Amazon?

A:

Look! (Mr. R. Belo’s face goes a very deep red) We don’t need all these trees! We have plenty of oxygen and as far as carbon emissions go, I’d say let’s not lose our heads about it. (Leans back, adjusts his tie) It is much more important that we develop traditional Marxist industries such as oil, mining and steel-making. Those were the industries of the past… and we intend to keep them as the industries of the future too.

Q:

I see. But what about the new industries, high technology, alternative energy and green solutions? Would it not be beneficial for the Brazilian Government to listen to its critics, both inside and outside the country, and do something socially innovative?

A:

We will train our workers and tribal brothers in how to make metal, drill for oil, drive trucks and so on. We need everyone to take part in our development of Amazonas. If our tribal comrades refuse to do this, we will simply put them in reserves, more or less as the United States did with its own native tribes – which, incidentally, was scandalous and a blot on the history of that country. (Stops, scratches his chin, looking puzzled) You know I have this friend in the Congress, her name is Wilma, she’s been a bit skeptical about all this, she worries too much about breaking her promises to the electorate. She actually told them she would protect Amazonia. But I’ve made it clear to her that the electorate must do as it’s told. (He laughs pleasantly, then adds:) Of course I am joking…

Q:

I saw recently that ten of your country’s previous environmental ministers have written a public letter criticizing the reform of your country’s forestry code. And now your current Minister for the Environment has also resigned. Doesn’t all this indicate that there’s something seriously wrong with your policy on Amazonas?

A:

I disrespect these people from the very bottom of my stomach. You know, suddenly I understand how Syria, China and Iran feel when the international press agencies gang up on them. Or when people demonstrate against them. Of course Brazil is quite different from these countries, Brazil is a democracy and that means no one in the world is entitled to criticize us. We are doing what we were elected to do, in fact we are also doing what we were not elected to do, but that is our decision. Also our duty.

Q:

Do you really think that all the poor, unskilled and uneducated people voting for your party, give you the mandate to ignore the views of scientists, environmentalists and world opinion?

A:

A democrat must do what he or she is elected to do. My voters are looking for pork and beans, and I will let them have what they want.

Q:

But surely what’s required here is a more sophisticated approach to managing a globally important resource like Amazonas? Should you not be providing leadership and innovative solutions that safeguard the future?

A:

I can see that you are a corrupt Western elitist. Nothing could ever be more innovative than Communism and populism. And I can say that because I am a democrat. I don’t mean to sound repetitious, but I will say this, just for the sake of clarity: we believe the impoverished landless people must go into the Amazonas and burn it to the ground, so that they can start the vital work of producing rice, beans and pork.

Q:

Is there any validity in the claim that Amazonas, like the Antarctic, should be a protected World Heritage Zone partly paid for and protected according to international law? Should we implement the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth?

A:

This would be colonization!! We are the people of Brazil. We are a free, liberal and enlightened people. (Mr. R. Belo breaks into a sweat, mops his brow with a red handkerchief, and raises his voice with fevered intensity) We do not need any foreigners having opinions about our precious Amazonia, which is a part of our national identity, an indelible part of our soul. Amazonia belongs to us and no one else.

Q:

Does it worry you that once Brazil’s farmers and logging companies have finished clearing Amazonas, there will be a tendency for the area to turn to desert, with a lack of water and good soil for cultivating crops? Does it worry you that by the time corrupt Western regimes have developed new, clean energy systems – let’s say in twenty years time – Brazil and its neighboring countries will have major environmental problems as a result of deforestation and excessive industrialization?

A:

No, not at all, because once the trees of Amazonas have been cleared there will be so much pork and beans for the workers that this party will be voted in for years and years to come. This is our goal and I believe it is an honorable and entirely reasonable goal for a political party to try and stay in power for as long as possible, by appealing to popular sentiment. Brazil is a great land, a land of truth and democracy and workers’ rights, and, as a consequence, no Western country is entitled to comment on anything we do.

Mr. R. Belo stands up and shakes my hand, then stalks off with fluid steps, like a jaguar. I am grateful for this opportunity to commune with a great mind, a great intellect that surveys the future with the keen eyes of an eagle. My mind buzzing with inspired thoughts, I return to the newspaper, where I type up this interview with trembling hands.

 

 

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HENNING KOCH (b. 1962) moved to England at an early age and grew up there. After finishing college, he spent half a decade backpacking and occasionally working as a language teacher. He has a long history of involvement in low-budget movie projects as a screenwriter and continues to write screenplays. In 2005 he moved to Sardinia and, since 2010, has been spending increasing amounts of time in Berlin. He is the author of Love Doesn’t Work (Dzanc, 2011), a short story collection. His novel The Maggot People will be published in 2012, also by Dzanc Books: http://www.dzancbooks.org/love-doesnt-work/

7 responses to “Wow, I Got An Interview with the Head of the Brazilian Communist Party!”

  1. Kip Tobin says:

    This is surreal, incredulous. I actually thought it was fake and still am kind of unsure if its veraciousness, due largely to the narration/description of R. Belo intermixed with the dialogue as well as a lack of any kind of introduction or prologue that explained why/how you got an interview with this guy.

    (I really wanted to see a picture of you with him.)

    Assuming this to be completely true, I admit that understand R. Belo’s position. Who in the hell has the audacity to tell him and his country what to do when the Global North/West (USA and Western Europe) accumulated enough wealth from 1500 until today to rape and pillage the Global South by effectively inventing racism that exploited, enslaved and massacred millions of Africans and native indigenous peoples, all so we could drive ultimately drive around in nice cars, become grossly obese and have tons of psychological disorders bitching about how we aren’t happy with all this materialism while poverty remains incredibly rampant throughout Latin America (except Chile and Costa Rica).

    We tell them they shouldn’t cut it down cause it’ll hurt the whole world’s delicate equilibrium of the ecosystem – yet what did we do? We cut down thousands of their forests, backed uncountable corrupt regimes throughout the world and now inflict economic oppression of developing countries until they succumb the neo-liberal paradigm of free trade and open markets. One of many externalities regarding capitalism is the environmental cost on the planet, and we are now seeing its ugly head come back ready to kill us off. I wonder if we deserve anything less given how much disregard we’ve treated this planet with.

    We somehow assume what is good for us and in our interests is good for the world an what is not is anti-freedom, un-democratic, them, the other, an evil. Yet, we rarely acknowledge the other side of capitalism, especially those of us here in the Global North that have benefited greatly from this imbalance in the world.

    Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t want them to cut it down. It IS the only pair of lungs left on the planet, but it wouldn’t be nearly as precious if we hadn’t already mowed down millions of hectares already. And for us to tell others what to do when we can’t pull our shit together enough to sign treaties that protect the world’s environment all because it’ll cost us too much in the short term, well, that’s being arch-typically hypocritical.

    Oh, the irony, the humanity, the horror, the absurdity and hilariousness of our current situation…

  2. Dana says:

    So this really isn’t satire?

  3. Henning Koch says:

    First, yes, it’s satire.

    Kip, while I can understand your argument I do find it rather impractical. Surely it is more important to look ahead? Justifying what is now being done in China or Brazil by our own mistakes in another time is an intellectual cul-de-sac for the perplexed.

    Aldo Rebelo is the head of the Brazilian Communist Party. He is pushing for major changes in the forestry protection code in his country, basically so that poor farmers can legally slash back and burn more jungle. 40 000 indigenous people will be forcibly relocated once an enormous dam is constructed in Belo Monte in the heart of the jungle.
    The long-term impact of deforestation is impoverishment of soil and destruction of habitat. It is not a long-term solution, and will only make problems worse even in the medium term. Farmers would make more money by harvesting products already growing in the jungle, such as nuts and fruit. The government needs to focus on trade schemes and training, not deforestation.

    The Amazon is an amazingly valuable resource to Brazilians and the global community alike. Its value to the pharmaceutical industry alone will dwarf whatever oil they can drill from it or electricity they can generate from its rivers.
    The age of oil is over anyway, listen to Al Gore and let’s move on to better days…

    • Kip Tobin says:

      I fail to understand how we can lay claim to what is in effect taking control (or heavily influencing the control) of “an amazingly valuable resource” that is on another country’s land while we (by we I mean the Axis of Power/Wealth of the US and Western Europe) continue to snub international emission limits that both model what the rest of the world should not do and yet continue to do it. This system does not give a shit about the environment, and I don’t think it ever has.

      As I said before, cutting it down is tantamount to (further) worsening global health in many ways, but I cannot see any justification for our moral stance when we remain one of the biggest culprits of its undoing. I mean, yeah, China and India shouldn’t follow our lead but they are and will continue to do so because there really is no economically feasible alternative to doing it greenly.

      Indeed, it’s an pretty perplexing ethical stance, and I do not purport to know the answer, but I would think that before we go about criticizing others, we should check our own selves first. This is something we rarely do, especially if it means we need to change some aspect of our lifestyles.

      • Henning Koch says:

        Hi Kip,

        I only just saw this comment, and even though you have probably moved on to other things by now, I would like to reply.
        It is not “us” telling “them” what to do with their country. The tribes of the Xingu River (all 2000 km. of it) are demonstrating right now. Brazil’s own people are on the streets right now, demonstrating. The protection of Amazonas is a big issue in Brazil, which is a modern, sophisticated country with a highly educated urban population. It is also a big issue internationally, in just the same way as protection of the marine environment is an issue that goes beyond national boundaries.
        Demonstrating international support for this is not unjustified – not ethically or in any other way. There are also regions of your country, the US, where campaigning is necessary. Stopping drilling for oil in sensitive regions of Alaska… protecting the north-western temperate forests from loggers… these concerns are also tantamount.
        Again, I agree with you that America, China and Europe must look to themselves and stop lecturing others.
        But this is no excuse to avoid taking a stand and campaigning HARD when there is a call for it.
        And, I think you will find, the same errors are being made everywhere: excessive reliance on fossil fuels… poor investment in renewable energy… time-wasting with climate control… lack of engagement with bio-diversity issues.

        The really interesting question is why when Obama came to power global warming was considered one of the most important questions facing America. Now, the issue seems forgotten, and on the right it is still actively opposed. In fact, several US Senators are still insisting it is nonsense, using the authority of Michael Crichton’s recent mumbo-jumbo book as “evidence”.

        What interests me about your response is that you seem unwilling to face the problem that pretty well THE WHOLE WORLD is engaged in a dangerous conspiracy of denial about what needs to be done, must be done, should be done.

        Let’s hope that something changes at the UN Global Sustainability Conference in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. Maybe we could all agree that certain issues are important for everyone… irrespective of passports.

      • Henning Koch says:

        PS. Brazil is now the world’s fourth biggest CO2 emissions economy – mainly because of deforestation.

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