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Are The Emerging BRICS Countries Ready To Break The Old Order? Don’t Count On It

Editorial: Brazil, China and the other so-called BRICS countries are demanding a political role proportional to their economic importance. Is a global power shift forthcoming? Not necessarily says Le Monde’s Alain Frachon, who says the BRICS bloc is still

Alain Frachon

Last month they banged their fists on the table and shouted "No!" The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is not the exclusive domain of the old powers of the North, of Europe, they said, demanding that control of the recently beheaded international organization go instead to one of the emerging new powers, the so-called BRICS countries.

The press release was released in Washington, the seat of the IMF, and has five signatures, those of the BRICS member states: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The day after former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn's resignation, the five-member club joined together to rebel and claim their due.

Two weeks earlier, while gathered together in Sanya, China, in the province of Hainan, BRICS leaders formally adopted an official statement, a sort of charter of their demands. South Africa's Jacob Zuma, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Hu Jintao of China, India's Manmohan Singh, and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev demonstrated their will to carry more weight in all of the international organizations.

Together they are demanding a political role proportional to their economic importance. They want to be the spokespersons of an emerging group that is challenging the old order, the remnants of a time when the world was still dominated by the United States and Europe. They denounce the tradition adopted at the time the IMF and World Bank were created, in 1945, that dictates European leadership of the first and American control of the second.

And yet several weeks later, the name being aired as Strauss-Kahn's most likely successor doesn't hail from India, Brazil or anywhere else in the developing world, but instead from France: Christine Lagarde. Why? Because the emerging nations, while agreeing on the one hand to challenge the old world order, haven't actually been able to agree on how they might go about it. A clear example is their failure to reach consensus on a single candidate for the IMF post.

This matter goes beyond the case of the IMF. For the most part, the BRICS are indeed emerging powers. But they have neither the political uniformity nor enough common interests or values necessary to form a bloc. In reality, the group of five exists only on paper. They had enough time for a meeting and a "family photo" in a seaside city in China, but not for much else.

Some analysts are interpreting this change in geography and economic power as the beginning of a split into two political orders. On the one side, the triumphant South, on the other, the tired defensive West. This view is hardly accurate. Beyond a shared rhetoric inherited from the Cold War, the South is deeply divided.

In an article entitled "Do the BRICS exist?" from the excellent Telos-eu.com website, political scientist Zaki Laïdi observed that the emerging nations are a force when it comes to making demands and protesting. But, explained Laïdi, they do not offer any real proposals. Instead they remain bogged down in their established regional rivalries.

In the race to become the next director of the IMF, it is difficult to imagine Brazil openly supporting the only real candidate from the South, Mexico's Agustin Carstens. Call it a case of Latin egoism. Likewise, it is difficult to imagine India defending a Chinese candidacy.

The same goes on the political front. The BRICS" Sanya "charter" glosses over certain divergent attitudes. At this time last year, China and Russia were the first to reject attempts by Brazil and Turkey to bring Iran to the table to discuss its nuclear program. As permanent members of the U.N. Security Counsel, Moscow and Beijing have their own prerogatives.

China is incapable of forming a united Asian front behind it. The government's cantankerous demands on a number of islets in the South China Sea terrorize China's neighbors, who gathered behind Vietnam (the irony of history), and called for support at all costs: that is, for American reinforcement.

Russia, meanwhile, is stuck between two worlds. A sort of honorary member of the BRICS countries, it is not necessarily an emerging nation, but rather a floating one. As a member of the G8, which is supposed to be made up of the old industrial nations and democracies, Russia can barely be considered a legally constituted state. While the real emerging powers have powerful technocratic elites, the Russian "sherpas' pass for amateurs within the halls of global governance.

When it comes to the world's contemporary problems, the emerging nations do not have any concrete plans. They have nothing to say on the fight against nuclear proliferation, the battle against sea pirates, destabilization in the Middle East, or global climate change. Much of the "work" on those issues is still done by the "old world."

The emerging powers could generously participate in developmental assistance, here and there, at a bilateral level. But they defy anything that resembles a multilateral front in the affairs of a state. The old world, in other words, isn't going anywhere.

Photo - dilmarousseff

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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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