The Worst Predictions About Rio Haven’t Come True. That Tells Us a Few Things About Brazil and the Media.

Alex Cuadros – The New York Magazine, 08/11/2016

If you only saw the headlines in the lead-up to the Olympics, Rio de Janeiro sounded like the lawless city from a postapocalyptic movie: “Wave of deadly gunbattles hit Rio as the Olympics get closer”; “Body parts wash ashore next to Rio Olympic venue.” Glib listicles played up the threat of political unrest, terrorist attacks, Zika-carrying mosquitoes, and “super-bacteria” in the sewage-tainted bay. One writer used the term “disastrophe” to describe the situation and claimed that so-called “‘lightning kidnappings’ are nearly as popular in Brazil as feijoada” (a delicious bean stew). Another writer topped him with this analogy: “the global event equivalent of a fire tornado touching down on a killer bee sanctuary.”

It was like the Olympics of hyperbolic Olympics scaremongering. Now that the games are on, the hysteria is already looking misplaced. This would have been clear enough to anyone who simply took a walk around the city. The last time I went, at the end of June, Rio was functioning more or less in its usual way: slightly chaotic but manageably so, albeit with fresh construction for the Olympics marring what is perhaps the world’s most beautiful urban topography. Off of Copacabana Beach, I could see locals hopping waves — which suggested that concerns over the quality of the water might be somewhat inflated, too.

It was like the Olympics of hyperbolic Olympics scare-mongering.

I should disclose here that I myself have taken part in the Rio-bashing. I moved to Brazil in 2010, back when the country seemed on the verge of becoming a world power, and watched as the Olympics became an excuse to funnel public money to rich campaign donors for not always useful projects. Still, even I have to admit that Rio has made dramatic improvements in recent years. Perhaps the most dramatic is that the homicide rate, while still appallingly high, has fallen by two-thirds since the 1990s. Even after a spike in murders this year, it’s now less than half the rate in St. Louis, Missouri. And with 85,000 soldiers and police securing Rio for the Olympics, it’s probably one of the safest places in Latin America at the moment.

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Brazil’s Olympic Greeting: Welcome to Hell

Beth McLoughlin – U.S. News, 07/18/2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — In Brazil’s oldest favela of Providencia, Diego Deus lives with his wife and 6-month-old son. He can walk to work at the Museum of Modern Art, a gleaming new addition to the city’s port zone that has been redeveloped in advance of this summer’s Olympic Games.

Unemployment has been steadily climbing in Brazil, a country in its worst recession since the 1930s, but Deus is one of many Rio residents who has found work directly or indirectly as a result of the Games. Proud of his neighborhood, he resisted being moved when 200 people were evicted to renovate Providencia.

“They wanted to take my house out [to build a cable car], but I resisted,” Deus says. “I don’t see myself living anywhere else. It might seem strange to say it, but I feel safe here, I can go out and leave my door open. People look out for you.”

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Residents in Brazil’s notorious City of God are ‘scared to death’ of US shootings

Will Carless – PRI, 06/14/2016

“Where should I shoot you? In the hand or the foot?” That’s the menacingly cruel line uttered by Li’l Zé in the 2002 movie “City of God.” Zé is threatening two small boys, maybe 6 or 7 years old, with a shiny handgun, after catching them with a group of kids who were disrespecting him.

The little boys hold out their hands. Zé shoots them each in the foot, and laughs. Then he orders another kid to pick one of them to kill.

It’s one of many shocking scenes in the film, a visceral statement on the senseless violence that sometimes happens in Brazil’s favelas.

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From the favelas: the rise of rooftop solar projects in Brazil

Heriberto Araújo – The Guardian, 05/24/2016

Sunny days have long been considered a competitive advantage for Brazil. Before the 2014 World Cup, the country’s tourist board set up a website allowing visitors to compare the number of sunny days in US and European capitals to cities in Brazil (eg Brussels 103, Rio de Janeiro 212). But while tourism may have been capitalising on the sunshine, the solar industry has not.

According to statistics from the Brazilian electricity regulatory agency, Aneel, solar accounts for just 0.02% of the country’s energy. The bulk of the country’s energy generation (70%) is from hydropower.

However, while demand for energy is increasing, multi-year droughts andwidespread blackouts have created serious concerns about energy security for millions of businesses and homes. Despite a traditional lack of support (unlike Europe, China and the US, Brazil has not implemented feed-in tariffs or tax breaks), the government is now making efforts to diversify (pdf) the country’s energy mix with recent public auctions for solar and wind. Its 10-year energy plan released in 2014 estimates that 7GW of solar projects will be installed by 2024, making up 3.3% of Brazil’s energy mix.

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Zika epidemic uncovers Brazil’s hidden birth-defect problem

Alex Cuadros – Washington Post, 03/01/2016

As researchers race to establish a link between the Zika virus and a birth defect known as microcephaly, one of their biggest obstacles is the lack of reliable health data in Brazil, where the epidemic broke out there last year.

Since October, Brazil’s Health Ministry has received reports of about 5,600 suspected cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with unusually small heads. Many cases have been thrown out, and many more are still being investigated, but given that the country previously reported 150 such cases per year, the number would still seem to indicate a massive jump.

Many doctors, though, say that the jump is largely illusory — based on massive underreporting of microcephaly and other birth defects in Brazil. What’s more, this poor record-keeping reflects much larger public health problems here: poor prenatal care and woefully inadequate services for children with disabilities. Until the Zika epidemic, these issues were mostly swept under the rug.

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Pictures capture daily battle against Zika mosquitoes

Becky Little,  Tomás Munita- National Geographic, 02/25/2016

How do you stop disease-carrying mosquitoes from multiplying? That’s the question plaguing the Brazilian government, which has been sending army soldiers door to door on a mission to fight Zika—the virus suspected of causing microcephaly in infants born to infected mothers.

 

“They are giving leaflets saying you have to keep your backyard clean from rubbish,” says photographer Tomás Munita, who has been documenting Recife, a northeastern state capital with a population of 3.7 million. Any stray items left outside, even a bottle cap, can collect rainwater and become a breeding ground for the Aedes aegyptimosquitoes that are thought to be the main carriers of Zika.

But in Brazil’s favelas, or poor neighborhoods, Munita says it’s hard to imagine that the government’s information campaign will have much effect.

In Denial Over Racism in Brazil

Vanessa Barbara – The New York Times, 3/23/2015

One Friday night last month, the electricity was off in the streets of Palmeirinha, a favela in Rio de Janeiro. Three black teenagers were joking around in front of their houses. One of them started to run and the others followed, laughing. At that moment, the police came out shooting. Chauan Jambre Cezário, 19 years old, was seriously wounded. Alan de Souza Lima, 15 years old, died on the site with a cellphone in his hands — he had caught everything on video, including his own last agonizing minutes.

According to an official report released the next day, the boys were shot after a confrontation with the police. Officers allegedly found two guns at the scene and charged Mr. Cezário with resisting arrest. The boy, who sells iced tea on Ipanema Beach, was carried to the emergency room and handcuffed to the hospital bed.

Days later, the nine-minute cellphone video went public. Images clearly show that the teenagers didn’t have any guns on them and that there was neither confrontation nor resistance. Seconds after the shooting, a policeman asked why they had been running, to which a bleeding Mr. Cezário answered: “We were just playing around, sir.”

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