Easter deaths spark Brazil protests near Rio

April 21, 2014

BBC, 4/19/2014

Residents of a poor neighbourhood near the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro have set fire to vehicles in protest at the deaths of two people in incidents involving the police.

One of the victims was outside a church with his family on Good Friday when he was hit by a stray bullet.

He was caught up in a shootout between police and suspected drug dealers.

Amnesty International says some 2,000 people die every year in Brazil in careless and violent police actions.

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Olympic committee says no talk of taking Games away from Brazil due to Rio 2016 construction delays, yet

April 10, 2014

CBS News, 4/10/2014

With sports federations demanding a “Plan B” because of the chronic delays in Rio de Janeiro, the International Olympic Committee said Wednesday it was “premature” to speculate about taking the 2016 Games away from Brazil.

IOC President Thomas Bach and other Olympic officials said the construction holdups and political paralysis have reached a critical point, requiring the IOC to take special measures to save the games.

“It is about time for action,” Bach said following an unprecedented public outpouring of criticism and complaints from international sports leaders about the lack of progress in Rio.

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Brazil set to send army into Rio slums as violence escalates before World Cup

March 24, 2014

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 3/24/2014

Brazil is poised to send the army into the slums of Rio de Janeiro less than three months before the World Cup following a spate of attacks on police has resulted in the most tense standoff for years in the favelas.

The Rio state governor, Sérgio Cabral, has requested the reinforcements after attacks on police bases, apparently co-ordinated by the city’s biggest gang, Comando Vermelho.

An escalation of fire-bombings, murders and revenge killings have prompted talk of a war between the police and gangsters. Favela residents and NGOs say the situation is now tenser than at any time since 2010, when the authorities began a “pacification” programme to regain control of communities from armed traffickers.

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Rio’s race to future intersects slave past

March 10, 2014

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 3/8/2014

Sailing from the Angolan coast across the Atlantic, the slave ships docked here in the 19th century at the huge stone wharf, delivering their human cargo to the “fattening houses” on Valongo Street. Foreign chroniclers described the depravity in the teeming slave market, including so-called boutiques selling emaciated and diseased African children.

The newly arrived slaves who died before they even started toiling in Brazil’s mines were hauled to a mass grave nearby, their corpses left to decay amid piles of garbage. As imperial plantations flourished, diggers at the Cemitério dos Pretos Novos — Cemetery of New Blacks — crushed the bones of the dead, making way for thousands of new cadavers.

Now, with construction crews tearing apart areas of Rio de Janeiro in the building spree ahead of this year’s World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, stunning archaeological discoveries around the work sites are providing new insight into the city’s brutal distinction as a nerve center for the Atlantic slave trade.

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Sepherd of the City’s rebirth, Rio’s mayor feels the strains, too

March 3, 2014

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 2/28/2014

IN his fits of rage, Eduardo Paes, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, has thrown a stapler at one aide. He threw an ashtray at another. He berated a councilwoman in her chambers, calling her a tramp. Stunning diners at a crowded Japanese restaurant where he was being taunted by one constituent, a singer in a rock band, he punched the man in the face.

While Mr. Paes, 44, has apologized to the targets of his wrath after each episode, he adds that he is under a lot of stress. Normally clocking 15-hour days as he tears up and rebuilds parts of Rio in the most far-reaching overhaul of the city in decades, Mr. Paes is finding that consensus over his plans is elusive.

“Don’t ever in your life do a World Cup and the Olympic Games at the same time,” Mr. Paes recently said at a debate here on Rio’s transformation, making at a stab at gallows humor over the street protests that have seized the city over the past year. “This will make your life almost impossible.”

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Rio’s slums the hot World Cup destination

February 26, 2014

Shasta Darlington – CNN, 2/26/2014

High above the beaches in Rio de Janeiro’s hillside slums, you can get some of the best views in town. And now, they come from some of the cheapest rooms as well.

With the World Cup less than four months away, residents in many once infamous favelas are opening their doors to tourists, renting beds, rooms or even entire houses, and building youth hostels.

“If you want to see the World Cup, see some football matches and experience true Brazilian life you should really check this out,” says Michael Blommers, a Dutch backpacker staying at a hostel in the Vidigal shantytown.

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Brazil scrambles to ready 2016 Olympics

February 19, 2014

Paul Kiernan & Matthew Futterman – Wall Street Journal, 2/18/2014

Brazilian officials are racing to prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games, hoping to avoid the embarrassment suffered this month by their counterparts in Sochi, Russia, as a number of projects are behind schedule.

With little more than two years remaining before Rio de Janeiro is set to host the Summer Games, the 15 projects comprising Rio’s Deodoro Sports Complex—where events including canoe slalom, fencing, pentathlon and shooting will be held—have yet to be fully defined. Only four of the total 52 construction projects outlined last month by the Public Olympic Authority are complete.

Organizers of the Rio event have a chance to learn from this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, where construction delays led to spiraling budgets and some unwanted publicity from visitors who arrived to unfinished hotel rooms. Jean-Claude Killy, chairman of the International Olympic Committee’s coordinating commission for Sochi, said this week that the planners for the 2016 Games don’t have a “tenth of a second” to waste.

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Brazil protests: heavy police presence

February 12, 2014

BBC, 2/11/2014

A heavy police presence has been in force for the latest protests in Rio de Janiero.

Violent protests have erupted in Brazil over a proposed 9% increase in public transport fares.

On Monday, Brazilian cameraman Santiago Andrade was declared brain dead after sustaining an injury while filming the protests.

The BBC’s Julia Carneiro said protesters on Monday’s march were “almost outnumbered by police”.

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Rio: Brazil’s silicon beach

February 10, 2014

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 2/8/2014

Anyone doubting Rio de Janeiro’s techward shift need only look at the famous pavement mosaics that mark the promenade along Copacabana beach. The black and white patterns have traditionally resembled the waves across which early settlers and modern tourists travelled. Last year, however, that antique, analogue design has been partly reconfigured to reflect a digital future with the addition of tiled QR codes for smartphones.

The pavement symbols link to online maps and tourist websites. That should be useful to the throngs of visitors expected in this resort during this year’sWorld Cup and the 2016 Olympics, but the significance goes far beyond the mega sporting events.

The tiled codes are a small part of an attempted makeover of party-town Rio into a Latin-American technology hub. Driven by multinational tech companies, local startups and city universities, the mayor, Eduardo Paes, is trying to shape a future for this resort that is as much about being smart as having fun. This is partly an attempt to ride a nationwide trend. Brazil – which is vying with France and Britain to be the world’s fifth biggest economy – is belatedly embracing wireless technology and social networks. Thanks to a surge in recent years, there are now more mobile phones (268.4m) in this country than people. Tablet sales have jumped from 220,000 at the beginning of 2012 to more than 5m today. And Facebook use has increased to the point where Brazil is now second only to the US in terms of the number of users.

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Assault on UPP base sign of cracks in Rio’s “Pacification” Program

February 5, 2014

James Bargent – In Sight Crime, 2/4/2014

Brazil‘s military police have killed six people in response to a gang assault against a Rio de Janeiro Police Pacification Unit, as the city’s “pacification” program wavers in the face of regrouping gangs and a lack of progress in resolving social problems.

On February 2, several cars of armed men pulled up in front of the Police Pacification Unit (UPP) base in a favela in north Rio, reported Estadao. Men in one of the cars opened fire, shooting two police officers, one of which later died. Two passersby were also wounded in the assault.

In the aftermath, military police retaliated with an operation against alleged members of the Red Command drug trafficking organization, who authorities are blaming for the UPP base attack, according to Estadao.

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