BRICS Fight Waning Clout With $150 Billion Deal at Summit

July 15, 2014

Raymond Colitt and Arnaldo Galvao – Bloomberg, 7/14/2014

The leaders of five of the world’s largest emerging markets will showcase a new currency reserve fund and development bank this week. Critics say neither is enough to revive the group’s waning clout.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, known as the BRICS, will approve the creation of the $100 billion reserve fund and $50 billion bank at a July 15-16 summit in Brazil’s coastal city of Fortaleza and the capital Brasilia, President Dilma Rousseff and other officials said last week. Negotiators are still trying to agree on shareholding in the bank, according to three Indian officials who requested not to be named because the talks were not public. India wants member stakes to be based on contributions not on economic weight.

The initiatives are born out of frustration with a lack of participation in global governance, particularly in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, said Arvind Subramanian, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. The measures aren’t big enough to boost growth or cohesion in the group as foreign investor sentiment sours and member states focus on issues close to home, such as Brazil’s elections, the conflict in Ukraine and new economic policy plans in India.

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What to Watch at the BRICS Summit in Brazil

July 15, 2014

Molly Elgin-Cossart – Center for American Progress, 7/14/2014

While the drama and sportsmanship of the World Cup has captured the world’s attention for several weeks, an international gathering of a different kind is set to begin in Fortaleza, Brazil, on July 15. After attending the final soccer match at the invitation of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, or the BRICS countries, will meet for their sixth summit.

The summit is likely to be more show than substance—but never underestimate the power of a good show. For a group that began as a mere Goldman Sachs acronym, the BRICS has slowly asserted itself as an economic entity. During this week’s summit, the group is likely to announce its own BRICS development bank with starting capital of at least $50 billion, and it is also cautiously wading into political territory.

What is the BRICS?

The BRICS began as BRICs—or Brazil, Russia, India, and China—an acronym coined by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill as shorthand for the developing economies with high projected growth. The countries took this constructed association seriously and began meeting formally in 2006. South Africa joined the club in 2010.

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Brazil Protests Fizzled, but Roots of Anger Remain

July 14, 2014

Jenny Barchfield – ABC News, 7/13/2014

The protesters who many feared would wreck Brazil’s World Cup party failed to show up. While the national team fell short of claiming the coveted championship, the country at least can say the tournament that wraps up with Sunday’s title game has gone off with only scattered demonstrations.

Brazil avoided a repeat of last year’s Confederations Cup when violent protests broke out in several cities and more than a million people took to the streets on just one night to demand the government spend on improvements for education and other public services instead of soccer. But the absence of conflict during the World Cup came less from dissipated anger than attention being glued to the games and police cracking down on even small demonstrations.

Paulo Cavalcante, a 50-year-old public servant, shouted himself hoarse during last year’s protests, even bringing his teenage daughter along on the marches. But during the World Cup, like many other Brazilians, he chose to stay home.

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Can the World Cup leave a positive legacy?

July 14, 2014

David Poort – Al Jazeera, 7/13/2014

After a month of football in a country where the sport is regarded a religion, we look at how the World Cup has affected the volatile political situation in Brazil and what will happen now that the tournament has come to an end.

The first World Cup to be hosted in South America since 1962 has faced many off the field problems with mass protests over social inequality and huge building delays to stadia and other public infrastructure. However despite these major setbacks, Brazil has managed to stage a successful World Cup both on and off the field.

Al Jazeera spoke to Claudio Goncalves Couto, professor at Sao Paulo’s Getulio Vargas Foundation, passionate football fan (a season ticket holder at Sao Paulo’s Corinthians) and renowned commentator on Brazilian politics.

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Ghana World Cup fans seek asylum in Brazil

July 14, 2014

Al Jazeera, 7/12/2014

Hundreds of Ghanaian Muslims who entered Brazil as tourists for the World Cup have asked for asylum on religious grounds, police have said.

Noerci da Silva Melo, a federal police officer in the southern city of Caxias do Sul, said on Friday that 200 Ghanaians had asked for asylum after entering Brazil legally to watch their team play in Natal, Fortaleza and Brasilia.

Melo said the Ghanaians were Muslims who were “fleeing the violent conflicts between different Muslim groups”.

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In shadow of Brazil World Cup, a nonprofit builds fields of hope

July 14, 2014

Rick Maese – The Washington Post, 7/11/2014

 From afar, the Complexo do Alemão favela looks like Legos dropped from the sky, a mountain of small building blocks stacked one atop another in no discernible pattern. With an estimated population of at least 100,000 people, the favela is one of Rio’s largest. Historically, it has also been one of its most dangerous.

The endless maze of small boxy homes and narrow pathways is located about 5 ½ miles from the famed Maracana stadium, site of the World Cup’s title match Sunday. But soccer isn’t that far away. In fact, it’s never been closer.

A nonprofit co-founded by Washington native Drew Chafetz is responsible for the favela’s giant year-old soccer field with red fencing wrapping around the perimeter. At the same time Brazil’s municipal governments and soccer officials scrambled to construct and refurbish a dozen World Cup stadiums, Chafetz and his modest outfit have been busy building their own fields around Brazil, working with considerably smaller budgets and with sights set on an impact that will continue to be felt long after this World Cup.

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Why rob a Samsung factory in Brazil? For millions of dollars’ worth of tablets, phones and laptops.

July 9, 2014

Dom Phillips – The Washington Post, 7/8/2014

RIO DE JANEIRO — Outrageous crimes happen with a certain frequency in Brazil. Bank robbery by way of a tunnel painstakingly dug from a nearby building is one favorite. ATMs are regularly ripped out of supermarkets and blown up, with mixed results. Dangerous criminals constantly fail to return to prison from holiday visits home (these are allowed, as are conjugal visits). Crime, in Brazil, can —and often does — pay.

But the daring robbery at a Samsung factory in Campinas in the early hours of Monday took the biscuit. An armed gang spent hours loading an enormous haul of cellphones, laptops and tablets onto a fleet of trucks, which then split off in different directions.

“They carried it off in approximately seven trucks and left the place with 40,000 products,” a spokesman for Campinas police told The Washington Post by telephone. Local media said $36 million worth of merchandise was stolen, based on preliminary reports. Samsung said Monday night that $6.3 million in goods were stolen and that just 50 employees were held.

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Declassified Documents Given By Biden to Rousseff Detail Secret Dictatorship-Era Executions, “Psychophysical” Torture in Brazil

July 8, 2014

Peter Kornbluh – The National Security Archives, 7/3/2014

Ato "Ditadura Nunca Mais: 50 anos do Golpe no Brasil" | DOI-CODI São Paulo SP - 31/03/2014

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ninja Midia.

The Brazilian military regime employed a “sophisticated and elaborate psychophysical duress system” to “intimidate and terrify” suspected leftist militants in the early 1970s, according to a State Department report dated in April 1973 and made public yesterday. Among the torture techniques used during the military era, the report detailed “special effects” rooms at Brazilian military detention centers in which suspects would be “placed nude” on a metal floor “through which electric current is pulsated.” Some suspects were “eliminated” but the press was told they died in “shoot outs” while trying to escape police custody. “The shoot-out technique is being used increasingly,” the cable sent by the U.S. Consul General in Rio de Janeiro noted, “in order to deal with the public relations aspect of eliminating subversives,” and to “obviate ‘death-by-torture’ charges in the international press.”

Because of the document’s unredacted precision, it is one of the most detailed reports on torture techniques ever declassified by the U.S. government.

Titled “Widespread Arrests and Psychophysical Interrogation of Suspected Subversives,” it was among 43 State Department cables and reports that Vice President Joseph Biden turned over to President Dilma Rousseff during his trip to Brazil for the World Cup competition on June 17, for use by the Brazilian National Truth Commission (CNV). The Commission is in the final phase of a two-year investigation of human rights atrocities during the military dictatorship which lasted from 1964 to 1985.  On July 2, 2014, the Commission posted all 43 documents on its website. “The CNV greatly appreciates the initiative of the U.S. government to make these records available to Brazilian society and hopes that this collaboration will continue to progress,” reads a statement on the Commission’s website.

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Brazil Evictions Continue Near Future Olympic Sites

July 7, 2014

Scott Bobb – Voice of America News, 7/7/2014

Football’s World Cup in Brazil is drawing to a close leaving great sporting memories. It also leaves a legacy of controversy over evictions and land dispossessions that made way for the event. The scenario is repeating itself as Brazil prepares for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Vila Autodromo is a community of low- and moderate-income families in western Rio de Janeiro.

It was established more than 40 years ago outside a racetrack that once hosted events like the Formula One Grand Prix. That facility has since been razed.

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Robbers Take Advantage Of Brazil Travelers As World Cup Fever Has Fans Distracted

July 2, 2014

AP – Fox News Latino, 6/30/2014

Distracted by the World Cup atmosphere, American fan Jack Smith slipped his card into an ATM in a Rio airport.

He believes the card was cloned in an instant and, over several days before he discovered it, his account was debited for $12,000, a loss he said his bank would cover.

“I’ve probably met 60 people here, and 20 have been hit,” said Smith, of Knoxville, Tennessee. “Of course these were for smaller amounts, although somebody told me they were out $6,000. But I’m scared. I won’t ever use an ATM machine here.”

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