Worker Exclusion Zones

Knowing Brazilian law is my trade, but I still get scared when I learn about the powers the Brazilian state possesses.

During the World Cup, the government established so-called “trade exclusion zones” in FIFA’s benefit, in a law called the “FIFA Act.”

Article 11 of the act establishes that the government guarantees “to FIFA and to its appointees the authorization to exclusively advertise their brands, distribute, sell, publicize or otherwise propagandize their products and services, as well as other promotional activities and trade in the streets, in the Official Competition Sites, their surroundings and main access ways.” Paragraph 1 determines that the limits of those surroundings extend up to 1.3 mile around the competition sites.

It’s always been the case that the Brazilian state functions to benefit systematically a group of plutocrats in detriment of the people. But the FIFA Act is surprising in that there wasn’t even a pretext. How are these trade exclusion zones constitutionally justified? How is public good promoted with the creation of exclusive trade zones for a specific corporation and its partners? It’s nothing but unmasked privilege. Just like mercantilism, when kings used to grant “exclusivities” for the production and sale of several items.

Marxist historian Christopher Hill described how life was to a common English person in the 17th century, living in houses made of monopoly bricks and setting her hair with monopoly hairbrushes. This judicial relic has been reborn in the 21st century.

Street sellers are also banned from these areas. The informal economy that continually routes around the repression and unpredictability of the state, moves hundreds of billions of dollars every year, wasn’t invited to the sports party. “Thousands of street sellers are being removed from the streets as stains on the landscape, having no security nor negotiating power with the government,” stated the open letter of the National Commission of Street Sellers last year.

Some street sellers were able to get some compromises from the government and FIFA and secured permits to operate in the “exclusion zones,” but only following the rules and guidelines set by FIFA. For one, in São Paulo, the agreement states that street sellers will only sell the sponsors’ brands (thereby protecting their “intellectual property”), offering slightly lower prices (only listed prices) and will have the right to a 30% share of the profits.

What’s left? Trespassing exclusion zones and having them occupied by illegal street peddlers, stores and other non-affiliated commerce can be met with overwhelming force by the state, which has positioned the Military Police and the army itself to guarantee FIFA’s interests.

Next time you see a street vendor having his merchandise confiscated with the excuse that she didn’t pay taxes or that her license was revoked, remember that FIFA pays no taxes and will make billions for their commercial privileges secured by the iron fist of the state. Then you’ll realize the urgency of Thoreau’s call: “Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”

Because the World Cup is in Brazil, but its trade is not made by Brazilian workers.

Translated into English by Erick Vasconcelos.

Translations for this article:

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory