The New Development Bank adds substance to the BRICS

July 30, 2014

Carlos Eduardo Lins da Silva – Executive editor of Política Externa, Wilson Center Global Fellow

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Its initial landing, projected at US$ 3.6 billion a year starting in 2016, will limit the bank’s impact

The sixth summit of the BRICS took place at a time of low economic growth for the group. The BRICS gained prominence after the global financial crisis of 2008, which put the leading capitalist economies on the brink of the abyss and made room for big emerging countries at the decision making table.

The average growth for the five countries in 2014 is expected to be to around 5%, or half of what was recorded eight years ago, with one important difference: unlike 2008, the large economies are now recovering from higher levels of development when compared with the BRICS.

The group made important institutional progress in its sixth summit, held in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza. The event marked the official launching of the New Development Bank. However, it did not elevate the BRICS to an organization capable of substantially influencing global geopolitics and effectively countering the established economic powers or challenging the apparatus they built after World War II to ensure hegemony in the macroeconomic policy decision making. Read the rest of this entry »


Activists in Brazil are fighting to protect the environment — and their lives

July 30, 2014

Gerry Hadden – PRI, 7/29/2014

908. That’s the number of environmental and land-reform activists assassinated worldwide between 2003 and 2013, according to a study by the NGO Global Witness. The number might shock you, but perhaps even more shocking is that nearly half of those murders — 448 — took place in one country: Brazil.

What is it that makes Brazil the most dangerous place in the world to be an activist?

You’ll find clues in the story of Guarabana Bay. The bay, just minutes from downtown Rio’s world famous beaches, is a study in pollution and filth. Dark sludge cakes the shoreline. Garbage floats everywhere. It’s so bad that some sailors set to compete here in the 2016 Summer Olympics are warning colleagues not to let this water touch their skin.

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A Critical Mass Tragedy Sparks a Bicycle Boom in Brazil

July 30, 2014

Greg Scruggs – Next City, 7/30/2014

Like bike riders the world over, cyclists in Porto Alegre know that the last Friday of every month is Critical Mass. But in February 2011, the rolling circus protesting for the right to ride in peace turned tragic when an irate driver crashed into the crowd. Thirty people were injured, many severely, in an event that shook the cycling community to its core.

Lívia Araújo, a journalist, was riding with the group, but escaped unscathed. “I thought I would stop riding because of the shock. We thought everyone would give up, especially people just learning to ride,” she says. Instead, the opposite happened. At a solidarity Critical Mass ride four days later, nearly 2,000 people showed up in support. “So many that I had to walk my bike,” she recalls. “It was a defining event because it forced people to confront the fact that our traffic is really violent. Over 40,000 Brazilians die on the roads every year.” Indeed, the headline-grabbing incident galvanized the local cycling community and city government alike, generating a vibrant bike culture and concrete steps toward a more bike-friendly Porto Alegre.

I met with Araújo inside Vulp Bici Café, a cozy spot she calls “an extension of my living room.” Tássia Furtado, who opened Vulp with two other women in their twenties and early thirties just over a year ago, explains the rationale. “We always met up to ride and then went to a bar to drink, trading tools and parts at a sidewalk table. But it gets cold here in the winter, so we needed a place indoors to drink and work on our bikes.”

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Drought Watch: One Of Brazil’s Biggest Cities Only Has 100 Days Of Water Supply Left

July 30, 2014

Greg Morcroft – International Business Times, 7/29/2014

São Paulo, one of Brazil’s largest cities, has only 100 days of water remaining and government officials cautioned the city needs to begin rationing or face a major crisis. Bloomberg News reported Brazilian federal prosecutors have given the city fathers and its water utility, Sabesp, 10 days to implement crisis measures or face legal action to compel it.

The news agency reported the utility disagrees with the assessment and told Bloomberg, “That measure would penalize customers and may have the opposite effect.” The utility has already succeeded in getting customers to cut water consumption by what it said were policies having the equivalent effect of a rationing plan that would allow water use for 36 hours, followed by a ban on use for the following 72 hours.

According to the report Sabesp in April began offering 20 percent discounts for customers who cut their consumption by at least 20 percent from their 12-month average.

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Charity fights for the rights of street children in Brazil

July 30, 2014

Natricia Duncan – The Guardian, 7/30/2014

Claudia Cabral, founder of Terra dos Homens, on the social workers and psychologists trying to help 24,000 children in appalling conditions.

Why did you start Terra dos Homens in 1996?
While studying for my degree in psychology, I spent some time at my grandmother’s shelter and I saw children facing some incredibly difficult situations. I decided then that I would try to do something to help.

After starting my career in a large government shelter, I worked for the Swiss-based Terre des Hommes in international adoption. I convinced the organisation to develop a national adoption programme and to invest in the prevention of family separation. After 15 years, they asked me to create a local, independent non-governmental organisation. Because Terre des Hommes [literally "land of people"] was already well established in Rio de Janeiro, I kept the name and translated it to the Brazilian.

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Wind accounts for 58% of Brazil reserve auction submissions

July 30, 2014

Patrick Smith – Windpower Monthly, 7/30/2014

The country’s energy consenting body Empresa de Pesquisa Energética (EPE) said that wind projects accounted for 58% of the total 26.3GW proposed for October’s reserve auction.

Proposals were put forward for 626 wind projects, while solar accounted for 400 of the planned developments. There were also submissions for eight biogas projects.

The reserve auction differs from standard auctions in that it is not designed to meet the anticipated growth in demand, but rather provide energy security by creating a reserve capacity beyond that. EPE announced earlier this week that it will delay the reserve auction until 31 October, from the previously planned date of 10 October.

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Cadets offer insight into law enforcement in Brazil

July 30, 2014

Kenny Green – Star Local Media, 7/30/2014

Several cadets from Academia De Policia Militar Do Barro Bronco in Brazil are in Mesquite at Eastfield College’s police academy to learn procedures and techniques from Dallas County law enforcement officials. The cadets are being exposed to a completely different culture in law enforcement than the face back home in São Paulo.

“I have seen the structure there, and it’s very militaristic,” said Michael Horak, Eastfield College police chief.

“We have the same structure as far as ranks,” said Cadet Carlos Piles, who serves as the translator for the group. “Our teachings, ethics, uniforms, salutation and rules have a militaristic code.”

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Brazil Real Intervention Out of Sync With Slowdown, IMF Says

July 30, 2014

Sebastian Boyd – Bloomberg, 7/29/2014

The International Monetary Fund said Brazilian central bank President Alexandre Tombini shouldn’t shore up the real as Latin America’s largest economy stalls and inflation accelerates.

Adjusting for inflation, Brazil’s currency was 5 percent to 15 percent stronger than “implied by fundamentals and desirable policies” in 2013, IMF economists wrote in a research report published today. The real has appreciated 5.9 percent this year against the dollar while inflation accelerated to a 13-month high and economic growth slowed.

The central bank said last month it was extending through the end of 2014 a currency intervention program aimed at helping to boost the real and curb prices for imports. After nine consecutive increases in the target lending rate, policy makers held it at 11 percent on July 16 for a second straight meeting. The central bank didn’t return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment today.

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Brazil’s Unaffordable Homes

July 30, 2014

Vanessa Barbara – The New York Times, 7/30/2014

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — I live in Mandaqui, a district six miles from downtown. The nearest subway station is roughly two miles away, or about 30 minutes by bus, since they’re slow and scarce. It’s not the best place to live if you don’t have a car. Even so, the average price per square foot here recently soared to $250. Real estate in prime areas of the city can now cost as much as $465 per square foot.

In the last six years, housing prices in São Paulo have increased by 208 percent, and the cost of rent has increased 97.5 percent in the metro area. According to the website Numbeo, which compiles user-generated data, a 970-square-foot apartment here costs the equivalent of 16 years of an average family’s total income. By comparison, this cost-to-income ratio is eight in New York, 6.9 in Berlin and only three in Chicago. Someone making the minimum wage in Brazil ($325 a month) can afford to rent only a three-room shack in the crime-ridden Favela Paraisópolis ($280), leaving him practically nothing left over to live on.

Brazil is experiencing a severe housing shortage. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, one in three families lives in inadequate housing. The country has an estimated shortage of 5.8 million units, of which 90 percent is concentrated on lower-income families. According to research by the João Pinheiro Foundation, 442,710 households in São Paulo spend 30 percent or more of their income on rent. These families are in danger of joining 44,699 other households living in precarious conditions and 83,011 in which more than three family members are squeezed into the same bedroom — an overcrowding solution to a dead-end situation.

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Brazil farmers say GMO corn no longer resistant to pests

July 29, 2014

Caroline Stauffer – Reuters, 7/28/2014

Genetically modified corn seeds are no longer protecting Brazilian farmers from voracious tropical bugs, increasing costs as producers turn to pesticides, a farm group said on Monday.

Producers want four major manufacturers of so-called BT corn seeds to reimburse them for the cost of spraying up to three coats of pesticides this year, said Ricardo Tomczyk, president of Aprosoja farm lobby in Mato Grosso state.

“The caterpillars should die if they eat the corn, but since they didn’t die this year producers had to spend on average 120 reais ($54) per hectare … at a time that corn prices are terrible,” he said.

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