Blackouts in Brazil: power to the people

February 6, 2014

The Economist, 2/5/2014

ON FEBRUARY 4th your correspondent experienced a power outage which left him stranded in a metro tunnel beneath São Paulo. It appears he was not the only one: 6m people in 11 of Brazil’s 27 states suffered blackouts late in the day after a transmission line between the states of Tocantins and Goiás failed. Operation was restored 38 minutes later but some areas were left without electricity for two hours.

The cause of the outage is unclear. The head of the national-grid operator, Hermes Chipp, ruled out the spike in electricity use in the past weeks as Brazilians fired up air-conditioners to help them cope with the hottest summer since records began in 1946. Inconveniently for President Dilma Rousseff the power cut came on the same day as a government publicity campaign to reassure citizens that Brazil is not facing an electricity crunch.

Specialists have long warned that supply of energy has not kept pace with surging demand. They predict that the risk of electricity shortages this year now tops 20%, well about the 5% the government deems acceptable.

Read more…

Fury and frustration in Brazil as fares rise and transport projects flounder

February 6, 2014

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 2/6/2014

At 5am every day, Paula Elaine Cardoso begins her long commute from the poor periphery of Rio de Janeiro to her care worker’s job in the upmarket resort of Copacabana.

After a walk to the bus stop, she has to wait about 40 minutes to get a seat, then – provided there is no breakdown or accident – she has a nearly two-hour ride in the traffic, usually without air conditioning and often in temperatures over 30C. Hot and tired by the time she reaches the subway station, she must then line up again for another jam-packed journey to her destination.

Most days, she gets in shortly before 9am, the 22 miles having taken close to three hours. It is the same story in the evening. By the time she gets home, usually long after dark, Cardoso has spent almost a quarter of her day, and a sizeable share of her income, on public transport.

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Brazil Olympic Committee raises budget estimate for 2016 games

January 24, 2014

Paul Kiernan – The Wall Street Journal, 1/23/2014

The organizing committee for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro raised its budget estimate Thursday due to fast-rising salaries in Brazil and the addition of new sports, despite shifting some expenses to the government’s tab.

The 7 billion Brazilian reais ($2.92 billion) that the committee plans to spend on items such as ceremonies, wages, technology, accommodations, food and transport during the event will come entirely from private sources. But it represents just a fraction of overall expenses, according to Rio’s 2008 bid for the Games, which estimated total spending at $14.4 billion.

The operating committee’s new budget also isn’t directly comparable to its original estimate. In 2008, the Olympics were expected to cost BRL5.63 billion to operate and were expected to receive BRL4.25 billion in private funding plus BRL1.38 billion in government subsidies, not considering inflation.

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Brazil’s football hooliganism: Imagina na Copa?

December 11, 2013

Thalita Carrico – Financial Times, 12/10/2013

‘Imagine if this happens during the World Cup?’ or ‘Imagina na Copa?’, as the phrase goes in Portuguese. That has been the refrain in Brazil about everything from inclement weather to political protests since football’s organising body Fifa announced the Latin American country would host the 2014 World Cup what seems an age ago now.

Usually, the concerns have been around more mundane issues, such as delays in stadium construction or poor public transport. Over the weekend, however, a more serious problem reared its ugly head – hooliganism. Brazil was shocked by live footage of a national league match between southern team Atletico Paranaense and Rio de Janeiro’s Vasco da Gama, in a regional city, Joinville.

Just 15 minutes after kick-off, supporters of both teams broke into an empty area that was supposed to separate them from each other and started brawling. They offered no mercy with images showing thugs kicking fallen rivals in the head and one man even taking to an unconscious opposition supporter with a piece of timber or pipe with a nail sticking out of it.

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Unrest highlights Sao Paulo’s transport challenge

September 10, 2013

Joe Leahy -The Financial Times, 09/09/2013

It is late June and the inhabitants of the Palácio dos Bandeirantes, the mansion that houses the São Paulo state government, are shell-shocked to say the least.

São Paulo was where Brazil’s biggest demonstrations in two decades began and some of the protesters have been camped out in front of the governor’s palace.

For anyone who has lived in the city, the trigger for the citizens’ discontent – public transport – came as little surprise.

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Brazil’s “midde class,” and the protests

August 15, 2013

Vincent Bevins – Folha de S.Paulo, 08/13/2013

Back in March, in the alternate universe of pre-protest Brazil, I posted this – “What is ‘middle class’” - on this blog, on the 40 million people who have entered the ‘new middle class’ recently and how very different they are from the ‘old’ middle class and international definitions of the term. Partially as a result, the BBC asked me to take part in a round table debate on Brazil’s middle classes, its discontents, and the role they’ve played in the demonstrations that have swept the country since June.

Since I am on vacation, I thought posting this link would be an easy way to supply content for those people who who bizarrely care what I think about these things. Oh, and the debate also features former Finance Minister Mailson da Nobrega, Alexandre Schwartsman, and Lucia Nader, executive director of the Conectas human rights organization.

Below are some small points I want to make about the protests more generally, somewhat as a correction to some of the other international coverage.

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Brazilian governor says state will sue Siemens for price fixing

August 14, 2013

Reuters, 08/13/2013

Brazil’s São Paulo state will sue German engineering giant Siemens to recoup public funds its governor said it lost to a cartel that fixed prices for public transit construction, equipment and upkeep.

“We are going to open a case against Siemens for damages to public coffers and the state of São Paulo and to demand total reimbursement,” Governor Geraldo Alckmin told reporters on Tuesday.

The lawsuit will be based on information in a complaint against Siemens filed with Brazil’s anti-trust agency by Brazil’s National Subway Operators Association, he said.

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Brazil – champion of inefficiency

August 8, 2013

Rafael Alcadipani – Financial Times, 08/07/2013

Just like the Confederations Cup, the recent World Youth Day (WYD) left no doubt about Brazil’s chronic problems when it comes to organisation. Queues and more queues; serious public transport problems; insufficient and faulty public toilets; a lack of accommodation for pilgrims…the list goes on. The chaos even reached the point that the security of the Pope was called into question.

But it certainly wasn’t for lack of money – a great deal was spent on the WYD but with little result.

In the case of the World Cup (to be hosted by Brazil next year), the numbers are even more significant. The budget for Brazil’s 12 stadiums up until now is R$7bn – three times more than South Africa spent on the World Cup in 2010. Some even forecast that the 2014 World Cup could be more expensive than all the other tournaments put together.

Rafael Alcadipani, professor at FGV-EAESP, the São Paulo Business Administration School of Brazil’s Fundação Getulio Vargas and Visiting Scholar at Sweden’s Gothenburg Research Institute.

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Brazil’s Rousseff announces billions to improve Sao Paulo transport system

August 2, 2013

Merco Press, 08/02/2013

Rousseff announced that 3 billion Reais (1.31bn dollars) in federal money will be invested in creating 99 km of new express lanes to speed up bus services in Sao Paulo, the country’s financial capital.

“Brazilian cities cannot expect people to spend six hours of their life every day in a bus” she said at an event in Sao Paulo where she also announced more funds to clean up the city’s filthy creeks and rivers.

It was a protest over a planned increase in bus fares in Sao Paulo that set off a month-long wave of massive protests against Brazil’s high cost of living, poor public services, corruption and the misuse of government money.

Read more…


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