Video undermines U.S. swimmers’ account of Rio robbery

Rodrigo Viga & Jeb Blount – Reuters, 08/18/2016

Brazil TV aired a video on Thursday that showed four U.S. Olympic swimmers did not tell the whole truth when they said they were robbed at gunpoint in an incident that has marred the image of South America’s first Olympic Games.

The security-camera images broadcast on Globo TV appeared to show the swimmers, including Olympic gold medallists Ryan Lochte and Jimmy Feigen, in a dispute with staff at a Rio gas station, a fact they did not mention to police in their accounts.

“The athletes lied to us about their story,” a top Rio police official told Reuters on Thursday, declining to be identified because the matter was still under investigation.

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Two U.S. Olympic swimmers prevented from leaving Brazil by authorities

Dom Phillips & Dave Sheinin – The Washington Post, 08/18/2016

Two U.S. Olympic swimmers were prevented from leaving Brazil on Wednesday night as differences emerged in their accounts of an armed robbery they said they endured last weekend.

The U.S. Olympic Committee said Wednesday evening that swimmers Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were removed from their return flight to the United States by Brazilian authorities.

Early Thursday, the USOC released a statement indicating that Conger and Bentz were no longer being detained but were not yet free to leave the country.

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Brazil’s Fiscal Plan Could Falter Without Pension Reform

Anna Edgerton – Bloomberg, 08/16/2016

Acting President Michel Temer’s prized fiscal austerity proposal tocap public spending will only succeed if he can convince Brazil’s Congress to pass a controversial pension reform as well, according to a leading member of his economic team.

While Temer’s administration is confident it can win congressional approval this year of a constitutional amendment to limit federal spending, the inability to cut back on retirement benefits would put public finances at risk, said Mansueto Almeida, the Finance Ministry’s secretary of economic monitoring. A spending cap with growing pension obligations would squeeze other areas in the budget such as health care, he said.

“With the constitutional amendment, spending will be limited, and without pension reform, those costs are going to just grow and grow and grow,” said Almeida, who studied public policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and ran a popular blog on public finance before joining the ministry.

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Rousseff Appeals to Senators Before Brazil Impeachment Trial

Anna Edgerton – Bloomberg, 08/16/2016

Dilma Rousseff appealed to Brazilian voters and legislators less than 10 days before her impeachment trial starts in the Senate, pledging to hold a plebiscite on new elections if she survives in office.

Rousseff presented her case in a four-page letter to the Brazilian people and Senate on Tuesday, reading the text to reporters in Brasilia without taking any questions. She was flanked by some of her former ministers.

 “The solution to the political and economic crisis we face is through the popular vote,” she said. “Democracy is the only way to build a partnership for national unity.”

Brazil justice authorizes probe on Rousseff, TV says

 Maria Pia Palermo and Guillermo Parra – Reuters, 08/16/2016

A Brazilian Federal Supreme Court justice has authorized the opening of an investigation into President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for allegedly working to obstruct the course of a sweeping corruption probe, GloboNews news channel said on Tuesday.

According to GloboNews, Justice Teori Zavascki’s ruling has given Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot permission to look for additional evidence that Rousseff sought to name Lula to a cabinet post to help him avoid prosecution. In June, Zavascki barred the use of some wiretaps that showed Rousseff and Lula negotiating the cabinet appointment.

The news channel, without saying how it obtained the information, also said Zavascki authorized the opening of separate investigations against Aloizio Mercadante and Jose Eduardo Cardozo, two former Rousseff ministers, for similar allegations.

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Bernie Sanders Fails To Influence Vote, In Brazil

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 08/16/2016

It’s all the rage to try and influence votesin another nation. Everybody’s doing it, so why not Bernie?

Last week, Sanders put out a statement against the pending impeachment of Brazil’s suspended first lady president Dilma Rousseff. He noted that “many observers” continue to say that her ouster resembles a coup d’état. His statement made the rounds on social media, thrown about by Dilma supporters looking for some affirmation from afar that they’re in the right. His statement was perfectly timed, too. That night, the Senate was voting on whether or not to actually hold the impeachment trial after gathering all the evidence needed against her. They needed 54 votes. They got 59. Bernie backed the wrong horse. Dilma is a goner.

Where Sanders got these ideas about Brazil is unknown. After seven days, five emails and phone calls to their press office, no one returns requests for comments. So something that was supposed to be a mere news article, is now going to be an op-ed.

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Brazil’s Uplifting Olympics

Roger Cohen – The New York Times, 08/15/2016

When I was a correspondent in Brazil 30 years ago inflation was rampant. It ran at an average of 707.4 percent a year from 1985 to 1989. The salaries of the poor were wiped out within hours of being paid. The country went through three currencies — cruzeiro, cruzado and cruzado novo — while I lived in Rio. The only way out for Brazilians, people joked, was Galeão, the international airport.

 Antônio Carlos (“Tom”) Jobim, the composer of “The Girl from Ipanema” (whose name is now affixed to that airport), famously observed that, “Brazil is not for beginners.” It was not then and it’s not now. It’s a vast diverse country, a tropical United States, whose rich and poor are divided by a chasm. High crime rates are in part a reflection of this divide. Flexibility is at a premium in a culture fashioned by heat, sensuality, samba and rule bending. Life can be cheap. You adapt or you perish.

Edmar Bacha, a friend and economist, had coined the term “Belindia” to describe Brazil — a prosperous Belgium perched atop a teeming India. I wrote a story about the poor kids from north Rio, far from the beaches of Ipanema and Leblon, who would get their kicks as “train surfers” — riding the tops of fast-moving trains — rather than surf Atlantic waves. Often they died, electrocuted. I will never forget the twisted corpse of one in the city morgue.

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