With a presidential vote on the horizon, Brazil's national conscience is getting a strong dose of melancholia generated by non-stop coverage of dead and wounded soldiers coming home from UN peacekeeping operations in Haiti.
Suddenly, the tremblement de terre in Haiti evokes the words of African-American writer Langston Hughes describing the German Stuka bombings of Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. "All clocks stopped."
Traditionally regarded as a low stress culture of happy people and happy music where blood pressure is read in two digits not three, Brazil, a member of the UN Security Council, is feeling the growing pains associated with being a major world power.
National sadness took on a more profound dimension in the world's largest Roman Catholic nation when it was announced that Zilma Arns, sister of the Cardinal emeritus of Sao Paulo, who was active in relief efforts in Haiti, died during the first earth tremor. Although the nation sent 23,000 soldiers to Italy to help the Allies defeat Hitler, traditional newspaper and radio communication during that era did not amplify the human condition as much as high speed internet and television do today.
Brazilian forces comprise the majority of the 11,000 international troops that make up the UN peacekeeping presence in Haiti. Reports indicate that since the first earthquake at least 17 have died and many more are missing.
Photos in newspapers and websites capture the sadness in the face of president Lula viewing flag draped coffins in homage to those who served. And that tristeza begs the question of whether "peacekeeping" has become a new variant of war.
But beyond the outpouring of humanitarian assistance and cause-related marketing schemes that keep celebrities in the news and draw hundreds of comments here on HuffPo, there is the political reality that the successive US-backed regimes in Haiti have allowed the nation to become one of the major transshipment points for cocaine and other drugs destined for markets in North America and Europe.
The UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti wasn't designed to be an international anti-drug task force. And if the global drug distribution system has taken a hit from the quakes, it's the media's job to put the spotlight on who's picking up the slack and where.
US Senator John Kerry, whose name is on a famous report about the drug trade in Haiti, would be a good place to start. Kerry, like his patrician pal singer James Taylor, was part of the 60s generation that launched comic book hero Freewheelin' Franklin who said, "dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope..." And in the Obama-Bernanke flat affect US economy there isn't much money trickling down.
With one of the major parking lots for drugs down it makes sense from the global security perspective for the Pentagon to recommend to Obama that he sign off on marching orders that send 10,000 troops to effectively occupy Haiti and control logistics and communications on the island of Hispaniola, which includes the Dominican Republic, another big drug drop.
Callous as it may sound, the emotions of humanitarian assistance provide a convenient distraction as Washington seeks to bring the Caribbean basin and the Central American isthmus back under what France and other governments dans le couloirs are calling neo-colonialist domination.
According to the US General Accounting Office, Team Obama is already spending $12 billion each month to stabilize Iraq and prop-up the Karzai narcocracy in Afghanistan. Financing the billions in monthly hard power costs for 10,000 US troops to occupy Haiti dwarfs the "investment fund" set up by Obama and former US leaders Bush and Clinton. When fully funded, that fund will amount to less than the value of the six year contract Gilbert Arenas signed with the Washington Wizards before he was suspended by the NBA for tweeting up guns and personal gambling.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has already had to deny that the US mission in Haiti is at cross-purposes with peacekeeping efforts. Ban's dollar-a-year man, UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton is well placed to reconcile the differences though. After all, he learned a lot about Haiti from his dearly departed friend, former Democratic National Chairman and US Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, who was personal lobbyist for the family of dictator Papa Doc.
Brazil plans to send another 1300 troops to Haiti in an effort to strengthen the UN peacekeeping force. But when the dust settles it will become clear that Haiti is a Somalia waiting to happen, a situation far more volatile than keeping the peace or earthquake relief. As the New York Times pointed out before the earthquakes, UN peacekeeping troops fight drug gangs in Haiti one street at a time and for Brazil, the pain will likely become an issue in the presidential vote because it isn't going away anytime soon.