Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for the ‘Brazil’ Category

Brexit Bites, Even in ALDE

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 2nd December, 2017

3079F192-03A6-4967-B73B-8C17AA5F88D2At the official buffet dinner reception at the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Congress in Amsterdam this evening the results were announced for the President and Vice-Presidents of the Board. As Hans Van Baalen, a Dutch MEP, was the only candidate for the former, it was no surprise that he won re-election, with only a score of nay-votes. But the Vice-Presidential results are giving everyone here at the Congress food for thought, some negative, some positive. To start with the bad news first, Baroness Ros Scott — seeking re-election, as one of seven candidates for six posts — came bottom of the poll. This is certainly not an indictment of her record, as she has been tireless in her work for ALDE and the Liberal cause throughout Europe, as well as in the House of Lords. But it looks as if Brexit was a factor, for which Theresa May and her UKIPTory government are to blame. Britain has become the embarrassing member of the European Family, the drunk uncle who offends everyone and knocks the furniture over. Of course Ros has never behaved like that herself; far from it. But many of our EU partners are sick to the back teeth with Britain, not least the post-2004 newcomers of formerly Communist central and Eastern Europe, who were not around when Britain was a force for good in the EU (c.f. Lord Cockfield and the implementation of the single market). No, for the past decade or so, Britain, as misrepresented by successive governments, has been a pain in the arse, personified by Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson. That the latter should have been made Foreign Secretary, despite having been sacked by The Times for lying about Europe when he was a correspondent in Brussels, and subsequently insulting the peoples of so many countries, is something that leaves most continental Europeans open-mouthed with disbelief. Add to that the resentment caused by boorish British behaviour since the EU Referendum and you have the perfect storm of the marginalisation of a previously great country sinking into a cesspit of irrelevance and narrow-mindedness. That this probably contributed to Ros Scott’s defenestration from the ALDE Bureau is particularly sad. Guy Vehofstadt, former Belgian Prime Minister and currently both President if the ALDE Group in the European Parliament, as well as that Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, pledgd in his short address to tonight’s dinner that the UK’s leaving the EU would not mean that the British Liberal Democrats would cease to be members of the family. But clearly we are not now in the inner circle. However, while this development saddens me greatly, for Ros personally, for the LibDems and for Britain, there is a more positive piece of news tonight. The person who topped the poll in the vote for Vice-Presidents was Ilhan Kyuchyuk MEP, a Bulgarian from that country’s Turkish minority community, and therefore a Muslim. The EU is moving forward, even if Britain now risks being left behind.

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Poverty and Violence

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 12th August, 2017

Brazil shooting smallThe local newspaper in Fortaleza is full of stories of gang warfare in the less salubrious parts of the city: fatalities, injuries and fights. The fact that many criminals in Brazil have access to guns contributes to the death rate. A friend of ours had his car hijacked at gunpoint the other night and many Fortaleza residents live in gated high-rise developments with security guards at the entrance 24 hours a day. But most of the victims of violent crime are not the wealthier members of society but rather the poor and especially the young; the victims and the perpetrators often resemble each other. One thing that unites many of them is a sense of hopelessness. Unemployment and especially under-employment rates are high and even middle-class families are finding it hard to make ends meet. Many food prices in our local supermarket here are higher than in the UK, yet most people’s incomes are nowhere near European levels. Lots of young men just hang around in the hope of getting odd jobs, such as guarding parked cars for a tip. Other young people take to drugs or prostitution, which form part of the criminal underworld, though underworld is perhaps the wrong word to describe it as it is so visible.

TemerPoverty and despair undoubtedly contribute to the level of violence that is endemic in so many Brazilian cities, especially at night. But there is something else which is significant and is mentioned to me again and again by people of all social classes: a seething resentment against politicians and others at the very top of Brazilian society who cream off billions of reais through corruption. President Temer avoided being sent to trial the other day, as a vote in parliament to commit him failed to reach the necessary two-thirds majority. But everyone thinks the whole political establishment is rotten, irrespective of party. The difference between the crooks at the top and the petty criminals at street-level is that the top people don’t shoot each other, but buy each other’s favours instead.

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