Rio Olympics Slims Down as Brazil’s Economic Crisis Bites

Andrew Downie – Reuters, 01/19/2016

The grandstands for watching rowing and beach volleyball at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics are to be reduced in size to cut spending as Brazil’s economic crisis hits home, Olympic officials said on Tuesday.

The number of volunteers has also been cut from around 70,000 to 50,000 and the total of cars slashed by 20 percent to 4,000 from an original estimate of 5,000, Rio 2016 spokesperson Mario Andrada told reporters.

The moves come after four months of negotiations between Brazilian organizers, the International Olympic Committee and federations from around the world over how best to trim spending and ensure that South America’s first Olympic Games do not go over budget.

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Brazil Alleges Environmental Crimes in Response to Fundão Dam Collapse

Paul Kiernan – The Wall Street Journal, 01/14/2016

Brazil’s Federal Police have accused seven people and three companies, including mining giant Vale SA and its joint-venture Samarco Mineração SA, of environmental crimes in response to a major dam collapse in November.

The move, which has no exact equivalent in the U.S. legal system, will trigger the beginning of a deeper investigation by police. It typically represents a step toward formal charges, which in Brazil can only be filed by prosecutors, often after police have presented their findings.

The accusations mark the latest response by Brazilian authorities to what some have called the country’s worst-ever environmental disaster. On Nov. 5, Samarco’s Fundão tailings dam suddenly collapsed, releasing a flood of sludge that buried rural villages, killed 19 people and polluted more than 400 miles of the Rio Doce basin.

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Brazil’s Carnival Lovers Face Sobering Moment as Country Braces for Recession

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 01/12/2016

When it comes to mood making in Brazil, there are few institutions that can match the samba schools of Rio de Janeiro.

For a week each year at Carnival, they embody exuberance with a pulsating parade of spectacular floats, gyrating dancers and bateria throbbing with the rhythms of tamborims, chocalhos, surdos and drums.

But even these professionally upbeat performers are wondering how long the party can last as the country’s economy suffers what is forecast to be the deepest recession in more than a century.

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Brazil will be ready in time

Eric Farnsworth – The Miami Herald, 8/13/2015

Paraphrasing Ronald Reagan, there they go again. As Brazil readies to host the 2016 Olympic Summer Games one year from now, international observers have begun the countdown clocks and a familiar litany of complaints that are aired out before virtually every major worldwide sporting event.

Venues that will not be ready to host events. Infrastructure that can never be completed on time if at all. Community redevelopment projects that will remain on the drawing board. Security concerns and police over reaction. Cost overruns, debt accumulation, and corruption. Environmental clean-up and pollution control measures that are failing, endangering the health of athletes and spectators alike.

Hosting the Olympic Summer Games is not for the faint-hearted. It is a massive, risky, hugely expensive undertaking with increasingly questioned benefits. For approximately two weeks, cities and the nations they represent draw the eyes of the world, bringing the attention and anticipated revenue they might otherwise not have other opportunities to attract.

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Brazil’s latest growth agenda banks on slicing Amazon with railroad tracks

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 6/9/2015

Brazil’s latest infrastructure led growth agenda includes a R$40 billion ($13.1 billion) railroad that slices right through the Amazon rain forest. And it largely depends on China.

Now that China is interested in the now-called Trans-Pacific Railroad, Brazil decided to put it on its list of infrastructure concessions announced on Wednesday. The railroad is an old idea that’s been around since 2011. Back then, only Peru was in on the project. Now China has interest and, most likely, money to spend. But considering that this cuts through some of the rainforest, even guys at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will face serious opposition from non-governmental organizations in the area. In fact, this train is probably a train to nowhere even if the AIIB or the China Development Bank invested in the project.

The thing is, the railroad accounts for a sizable 20% of the new wish list of Brazilian infrastructure. Brazil’s government said today that it expects investments in railroads to sum to R$86.4 billion, almost half of it coming from the revamped railroad project announced earlier this month with China and Peru.

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A year later, Brazil’s FIFA World Cup infrastructure still not built

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 06/07/2015

The FIFA World Cup. It promises developing nations status, stadiums with wi-fi and cup holders, roads, bridges and new airport terminals. And let’s not forget, sponsorship parties! But I digress…

Last year’s FIFA World Cup left Brazilians crying in disbelief as their national team took looked like the Muppets on the field with the Germans. The consolation prize at least was all this new development that was promised when FIFA awarded the country with the soccer championship back in October 2007. Shiny trains. More efficient airports. Less traffic in Sao Paulo. FIFA might be worth it after all.

But an investigative report Sunday by Folha de Sao Paulonewspaper shows that R$11 billion ($3.5 billion) worth of 35 projects budgeted  in 2010 are not complete and a handful of simply been abandoned. A year after the World Cup, Brazil’s FIFA projects for public transportation and airport terminal extensions at places like Guarulhos International (GRU) in Sao Paulo and Afonso Pena International (CWB) in Curitiba are incomplete.

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The Betrayal of Brazil

Michael Smith, Sabrina Valle, Blake Schmidt – BloombergBusiness, 05/08/2015

In mid-2013, Brazilian federal police investigator Erika Mialik Marena noticed something strange.

Alberto Youssef, suspected of running an illicit black-market bank for the rich, had paid 250,000 reais (about $125,000 at the time) for a Land Rover. The black Evoque SUV ended up as a gift for Paulo Roberto Costa, formerly a division manager at Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras. “We were investigating a money-laundering case, and Petrobras wasn’t our target at all,” says Marena. “Paulo was just another client of his. So we started to ask, ‘Why is he getting an expensive car from a money launderer? Who is that guy?’”

Marena had spent the previous decade building cases against money launderers, and Youssef had been a perennial target. He’d been arrested at least nine times for using private jets, armored cars, clandestine pickups by bagmen, and a web of front companies to move illicit cash. But Youssef had been spared serious jail time by testifying repeatedly against other doleiros, Brazilian slang for specialists in laundering unreported cash.

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