Murders soar in Brazil World Cup city during police strike

April 18, 2014

Silvio Cascione – Reuters, 4/17/2014

A police strike ended on Thursday after unleashing a surge in violent crime in Brazil‘s third-largest city just two months before it is due to welcome hordes of football fans for the World Cup, authorities said.

At least 39 homicides were committed during the two-day strike in and around the north-eastern city of Salvador that added to fears about Brazil’s ability to ensure public safety during the global football tournament.

Violence swept the city after state police went on strike on Tuesday night to demand better pay and other benefits, prompting the federal government to dispatch troops to restore order in Salvador and nearby towns.

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With Brazil’s Petrobras under fire for corruption, have Brazilians had enough?

April 18, 2014

Whitney Eulich – The Christian Science Monitor, 4/18/2014

Brazil’s leading Worker’s Party is under intense scrutiny this week amid Senate hearings and mounting allegations of corruption at Petrobras, the state-run oil company.

This is the second high-profile corruption scandal to plague the ruling party in the past decade. The landmark 2005 Mensalão case, where 38 national politicians were accused of crimes ranging from money laundering to tax evasion in a vote-buying scandal, ended in the conviction of 25 people in 2012. In recent weeks, pressure on the Worker’s Party (PT) has mounted amid allegations that Petrobras paid nearly triple the market rate for a refinery in Texas, and that management accepted millions of dollars in bribes from a Dutch oil-rig supplier.

Latin America has long been associated with widespread corruption and impunity – seen in everything from tax evasion to the flaunting of red lights at intersections. As corruption cases become more visible in Brazil, however, laws to battle them have been passed and political representatives have pushed for public inquiries into wrongdoing. Yet while the issue is garnering attention, attitudes are changing only slowly.

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Brazil’s Campos targets taxes, Petrobras to boost economy

April 17, 2014

Brian Winter & Jeferson Ribeiro – Reuters, 4/17/2014

Eduardo Campos, the centrist former state governor running third in Brazil‘s presidential race, plans to lower the tax burden and set a formula to automatically raise fuel prices at state-run oil company Petrobras if he wins the October election.

In a wide-ranging interview, Campos defended those and other reforms championed by Brazil’s business community, which has largely soured on left-leaning President Dilma Rousseff after three-plus years of slow economic growth.

Recent polls show Rousseff with a clear lead as she seeks a second term. She has around 40 percent support thanks to strong backing from poorer Brazilians who are happy with government welfare programs and unemployment still at record lows.

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Brazil: a role model for development?

April 17, 2014

Armando Barrientos & Ed Amann – The Guardian, 4/17/2014

Brazil isn’t getting the best press at the moment, with ongoing problems with the construction of the World Cup stadiums and protests about public services. Recently economic growth in the country has slowed, with some commentators arguing the recent government response sounds “the death knell for Brazil’s economic strategy“.

It’s remarkable how far and fast Brazil has fallen from grace. Only a couple of years ago, the IMF and others were lauding the country for its resilience to the global financial crisis and its sound economic management.

We need to get this into perspective, because behind the hyperbole, there’s much for other developing countries to learn from Brazil’s recent experiences. Countries such as Zambia, which has seen positive growth rates that haven’t translated into poverty reduction, or Nigeria, which has seen inequality dramatically widen over the past 20 years.

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Farmers seeking heat relief signal Brazil climate peril

April 17, 2014

Raymond Colitt – Bloomberg, 4/17/2014

Brazil may see a mass migration of crops and farm workers from huge swaths of currently tillable lands to more temperate zones as global warming takes hold, according to leading climate experts in the country.

Longtime Brazilian climate researcher Hilton Silveira Pinto points to the drought that’s cutting grain and coffee output this year as an indicator that rising global temperatures may already be impacting the country’s crops.

“This is a taste of what is to come in the future,” said Pinto, a professor at theCenter for Meteorological and Climate Research Applied to Agriculture at the University of Campinas.

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Brazil’s anti-FIFA protests: not little, but definitely late

April 17, 2014

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 4/16/2014

As ironic as it may sound, the kingpin of FIFA World Cup soccer has managed to stage the biggest anti-FIFA protests ever.

This is Brazil, land of contrasts, where a small five cent bus fare hike last June turned into a hate fest against all that was once holy in the Land of Pele. With less than two months to go before the “beautiful game” commences in a match between Brazil and Croatia in São Paulo, millions of Brazilians want you to know that you shouldn’t come to their country to see these games. In the local and global press, word is Brazilians now hate soccer.

First some brief soccer history for American readers. Brazil is the only country not to have missed a World Cup, meaning its national teams have always won qualifying rounds every four years when the games are held. They have five World Cup championship titles and have won three in the last four decades, more than any other country. They are home to world famous footballers like Kaka, Ronaldinho and of course Pele.

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Brazil at a crossroads, but investors optimistic

April 16, 2014

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 4/15/2014

In more ways than one, Brazilians have had it.This is a good thing for all involved.

What they have “had it” with is quite different than what Americans usually complain about.  They’re not ticked off at the culture, or angry that politicians are giving working class people too many rights. They have had it with what might seem quite boring if not wholly lacking in daily entertainment value. They’ve had it with taxes and inflation. (If only they had Fox News to rile them up, but I digress…)

On the street, average Brazilians are tired of paying into a federal and state tax system and getting nothing in return.  This was manifested in the protests that began in June 2013, which started over a $0.05 bus fare hike and raged into complaints about the government finding money for soccer stadiums but never finding it for social services.  Take a look at a Brazilian’s cell phone bill and half of it will be taxes. Gasoline prices are over $5 a gallon, mainly due to taxes.

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Brazil’s Rousseff looks weak, but so do her election rivals

April 16, 2014

Brian Winter – Reuters, 4/16/2014

With Brazil’s economy struggling, a scandal at its state-run oil company and nearly three-quarters of voters saying they want change from their government, President Dilma Rousseff looks vulnerable in her bid for re-election this October.

But for her to lose, somebody else has to win. And her two main rivals have big, potentially fatal flaws of their own.

Senator Aecio Neves and former governor Eduardo Campos, who are both running on centrist, pro-business platforms, have failed to make significant headway in polls and still badly trail the left-leaning Rousseff despite her recent struggles.

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Rio’s BRT Transcarioca running 46% over budget

April 15, 2014

Claire Rivé – The Rio Times, 4/8/2014

 Delays and design changes on the Transcarioca Highway connecting Galeão International Airport to Barra da Tijuca have led to the project running 46 percent over budget. The initial cost of the Transcarioca was estimated at R$1.3 billion, but after numerous delays, expenditure now stands at R$1.9 billion according to officials.

The inflated figure does not include an additional R$200 million spent on the expropriation of property required around the work site during construction between 2010 and 2013.

One of the main factors contributing to the increased cost of theTranscarioca project was the redesign of the cable-stayed bridge connecting the airport to the highway. The selection of the project’s design was based on the conceptual functionality of the proposals and the winning bid included a 120 meter mast in the center of the bridge.

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BNDES vows $1.35 billion to bolster Brazil buyout sector

April 15, 2014

Reuters, 4/15/2014

Brazil’s state development bank BNDES plans to spend up to 3 billion reais ($1.35 billion) buying stakes in buyout investment vehicles and share offerings of mid-sized companies, to help foster new funding sources in local capitalmarkets, Valor Econômico newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The program, which is expected to last two years, will be carried out by BNDES’s investment holding company BNDESPar, Julio Ramundo, a senior vice president at BNDES, told Valor in an interview.

Under the plan, BNDESPar could buy no more than a 40 percent stake in start-ups through initial public offerings whose proceeds go entirely to the company, Valor reported.

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