Earlier this week, many people around the world waited with bated breath for a grand jury’s decision in a case where a police officer shot dead an unarmed young black man on the street. While the 9 August shooting of Michael Brown took place in the US suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, the case has a deep resonance here in Brazil. The tragic course of events leading up to the teenager’s death could just as easily have played out on the streets of our cities orfavelas.
Of the 56,000 homicides in Brazil every year, 30,000 are young people aged 15 to 29. That means that, at this very moment, a young person is most likely being killed in Brazil. By the time you go to bed, 82 will have died today. It’s like a small airplane full of young people crashing every two days, with no survivors. This would be shocking enough by itself, but it’s even more scandalous that 77 per cent of these young people are black.
Since 1980, more than 1 million people have been murdered in Brazil. According to Global Burden of Armed Violence 2008, in the period from 2004 to 2007, more people were killed here than in the 12 main wars worldwide. However the violence doesn’t impact Brazilian society equally. Murders are rampant in poor and marginalized communities. Prejudice and negative stereotypes associated with the favelas and city outskirts have a key role in perpetrating this violence.
Cristiane Lucchesi and Blake Schmidt – Bloomberg, 09/22/2014
Sao Paulo’s most expensive real estate got even pricier this year, surging 10 percent as wealthy buyers in search of safe neighborhoods ignored Brazil’s recession, according to one of the city’s biggest brokerage boutiques.
Apartments in high-end communities such as Vila Nova Conceicao are selling for about 25,000 reais ($10,600) per square meter, said Amir Makansi, partner and chief executive officer at Anglo Americana Consultoria de Imoveis S/C Ltda, which caters to high-net-worth individuals, banks and multinational corporations.
“The market for wealthy individuals is always surprising,” Makansi said in an interview.
Few countries can boast income inequality quite like Brazil. Now, current research shows that the incomes of low earners in Brazil have risen rapidly. But, will the improvements really help the country’s poor?
The perception that social inequality has been declining in Brazil can now be backed up with data. A study from the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA), a Brazilian institution that works closely with the national government, shows a rapid retreat in economic disparity over the last 10 years. Inequality is now at its lowest point since census data began in the 1950s, the researchers say.
During the period between 2001 and 2011, income levels for Brazil’s poorest increased much faster than for the richest. The poorest 10 percent of the population nearly doubled their income during that time, while the richest increased their earnings by just one-sixth.
A steep rise in credit; rapid increases in house prices to levels way beyond available income; use of overvalued property as further collateral to demand additional funding from the banking system, resulting in even higher levels of debt; an increase in the amount of credit needed for the marginal growth of gross domestic product; a constrained installed capacity that yields to inflationary tensions; a labor force with double digit wage rises; limitless liquidity flowing into sectors with low productivity, such as real estate; a relaxation of the rules for granting loans; a rapid increase in corporate debt as a consequence of accelerated investment, mergers, and acquisitions, all fanned by the intoxicating feeling that demand will just keep going up; a central bank incapable of containing such a self-complacent liquidity binge, with interest rates far below those recommended by the Taylor rule; a political class living off an apparent bonanza, refusing to carry out the reforms needed to avoid disaster when the cycle eventually changes, ignoring calls for serious cutbacks in spending, or rises in taxes that could counteract the exuberance.
Spain in 2006? The U.S.? Britain? Iceland, Greece, Ireland? No. I am talking about emerging countries, in particular Brazil, Russia, India and China, the four known collectively as the BRICs. In my opinion, the BRICs are repeating many of the same errors committed by Europeans and North Americans in the lead-up to 2007, namely the following:
A housing bubble. Lax monetary policy has allowed unsubstantiated rises in the price of housing vs. available income, fuelled by bank loans. The growing value of houses has in turn brought about rampant consumerism coupled with even greater mortgage debt, piling yet more pressure on house prices.
The “Annual Report 2011: The state of the world’s human rights” documents specific restrictions on free speech in at least 89 countries, cases of torture and other ill-treatment in almost 100 countries, and unfair trials in at least 54 countries.
In the chapter on Brazil, the London-based global rights watchdog says the country’s “favelas” or shanty towns continue to face “a range of human rights abuses, including forced eviction and lack of access to basic services.”
A newly released regional report on economic inequality ranked Chile as one of the top 15 countries in the world with the worst inequality of income distribution and declares Latin America and the Caribbean to be the region with the worst inequality worldwide.
According to the report, which was put together by the United Nations Development Program, 10 of the 15 worst countries in terms of inequality are in Latin America or the Caribbean, with the rest in Africa.
The Latin American country that ranked the worst in the UNDP report was Bolivia, with an index of 60 out of 100, a score it shares with Madagascar and Cameroon.
The ranking measures the distribution of per capita household income within countries and places them between Zero (absolute equality) and 100 (complete inequality).
A group of teenagers loitering outside Bob’s, Brazil’s equivalent of McDonald’s, adjust the machine guns slung over their shoulders as they turn to fixate on a passing tour bus.
“No pictures! No pictures!” shouts the guide at the English and American passengers, who stare back at the young men with a mixture of horror and delight.
Rio de Janeiro is well-known for its striking contrasts, both geographical and sociological, but it is here in the favela of Rocinha, estimated to be South America’s largest slum, that the disparities have become particularly stark over the past decade.
Clinging to the forested mountains overlooking the city, Rocinha and Rio de Janeiro’s hundreds of other favelas are home to about a fifth of the city’s population, according to the IBGE national statistics office. Rocinha also plays host to an increasing number of tourists, some seduced by the views but others by the stylised images of violent ghettos portrayed in films.