Recently, I had the pleasure of viewing “Sergio” a new film starring Wagner Moura on Netflix. In this essay, I will discuss the importance of Counterinsurgency (as American Westerners call it) and UPP (Pacification Police, as the Brazilians call it). Then I will discuss Wagner Moura’s films, which has been a notable and important career in terms of the history and literature of recent Brazilian and International events. Finally, I will touch on Netflix (the “N” in the investment group known as FANG, or Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google). My thesis is that Brazilian diplomats like Sergio de Mello present a uniquely valuable to the world due perhaps to some particular Brazilian characteristics.
Any Brazilian who has spent time in Rio in the last 7 years will be familiar with the sight of Police Cars marked with UPP. These are Pacification Police units. The concept of operation was to deploy a military police unit within the so-called favela slums to take control of these areas, especially ahead of the World Cup and Olympics in recent years. In one of Wagner Moura’s films, his character, playing a police leader, is seen to say, “This is Iraq” or words to that effect. Indeed, the same Los Angeles Police advisers who helped the Brazilian UPP also advised the United States Marine Corps (where I served as a officer) and US Military under General Jim Mattis to develop what we Westerners/ Americans call “counterinsurgency” or in earlier generations, “Small Wars.” The US Marine Corps engaged in Small War counterinsurgencies in Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua in the 1925-1940 time frame, which produced a little red book called “Small Wars Manual.” The main technique was to do a combined action platoon (40 soldiers) comprised of 14 American Marines and 25 Native Soldiers; this was used in Haiti, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic (1925-1940) but it was only used in small numbers in Vietnam (1965-1973), but it was used successfully on a very wide scale in Iraq in 2006-2007. In Brazil, the UPP approach has been used just before the big global athletic events in 2014-2016 but I do not know whether this approach has been continued.
Wagner Moura has lead a path in his films from Tropa de Elite now to include a wide variety of films like Narcos, and finally most recently to Sergio. The geography includes the most important social positions, such as the campus of the “Harvard of South America” — Pontifico Universidade Catolica, Rio de Janeiro or PUC-Rio for short, where one of the Tropa de Elite characters portrays the tensions a police officer who is getting a law degree at an elite school feels.
Netflix is a large and very important media company. It has done the market research to determine whether to invest and make money from a project. It is a important platform to digest issues like the Iraq War. Sergio de Mello is portrayed in the film as a tragic figure whose death from a terrorist bombing ended a promising diplomatic career that could have continued with him taking the top job at the UN. More personally, as a man in his 50s, he wanted only to return to his beloved Arpoador beach in Ipanema to swim with his young second wife, an Argentinian diplomat who joins him on daily runs and swims while they are posted in East Timor. Sergio de Mello is in favor of understanding and meeting with leaders like Al Sistani. His American counterpart diplomat, who wears combat boots with his blue blazers famously makes the mistake of disbanding the Iraqi army and baath party, which lead directly to the insurgency, and perhaps to the insurgents who bombed and killed Sergio. As a Carioca (native of Rio de Janeiro), and Brazilian, Sergio would have been more capable of working across ethnic and cultural lines than almost any individual. His skills were spurned by the arrogant Americans, and the results were a protracted insurgency.
Conclusion – what is your reaction? If any of the readers of this blog have seen Sergio, I would very much appreciate your feedback on the film, “Sergio.”