Brazil braces for uneasy start to World Cup as strikers’ protests hit Sao Paulo

June 10, 2014

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 6/9/2014

Less than four days before it hosts the opening game of the World Cup, São Paulo became the scene of protests, street fires and teargas on Monday as striking subway workers brought chaos to the city.

The strike – which disrupted half the metro stations and worsened traffic in South America’s most populous city – was the latest headache for organisers as national teams from the United States, Spain and Argentina flew in for the start of the tournament on Thursday.

Security is also a major concern, particularly in Rio de Janeiro – the base of the England team – following a recent flare-up of unrest in the city’s favelas. Players from Roy Hodgson‘s England squad were due to visit Roçinha, the nearest shanty town to their hotel, on Monday night as part of an outreach programme.

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Rio construction of metro line 4 suspended

May 14, 2014

Michela DellaMonica – The Rio Times, 5/13/2014

 It was decided in the late afternoon on Sunday, May 11th that the Metro subway construction of Linha 4 (Line 4) will be suspended in Ipanema until the cause of the opening of crater on Rua Barao da Torre is identified. Municipal Secretary of Civil Defense Márcio Mott led the meeting on Sunday along with the Consortium of Line 4 and technicians from city hall.

At the meeting, Mott questioned the fact that the construction problems have been reported primarily by residents of the area, when, according to the emergency plan, the Consortium should have been reporting on the occurrence itself. The requirement of the Civil Defense is the presentation of security measures for continuity of the project.

Production manager of the construction of Line 4, Aloísio Coutinho Júnior, confidently states that there is no risk of collapse of the buildings on Rua Barao da Torre. According to representative of the Consortium, teams have stopped digging and are now focusing on cleaning and monitoring the site.

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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.

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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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