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.
Paul Kiernan and Paulo Trevisani – The Wall Street Journal, 06/22/2016
RIO DE JANEIRO—Acting Brazilian President Michel Temer authorized on Tuesday the transfer of 2.9 billion reais ($849.0 million) from the federal government to Rio de Janeiro state, which is struggling with a fiscal crisis less than two months before the Olympic Games.
Rio declared a “public calamity” last week as a result of its deteriorating finances, which have forced deep cuts to crucial services such as education, health care and policing in recent months.
According to a presidential decree published late Tuesday, the transfer is to be used for public security during the Olympics and Paralympics, set to be held in August and September, respectively. But according to a communications official in Brazil’s presidential palace, it should free up funds within Rio’s state budget to pay for other obligations.
The National Treasury has a target of phasing out annual capital injections into BNDES “within a few years,” Finance Minister Guido Mantega said.
In addition, both the Treasury and BNDES will put the brakes on lending to states, which might have to tap private-sector and state-run commercial lenders other than BNDES for new financing, he said.
The decision comes after years of criticism of President Dilma Rousseff’s efforts to use BNDES to speed up growth in Latin America’s largest economy. The Treasury has funneled more than 300 billion Reais (138 billion dollars) of taxpayer money into BNDES, a situation that some analysts have said stoked a rapid increase in government debt.
Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht ODBES.UL plans to spend $8.1 billion in Mexico in the next five years in what appears to mark the biggest investment pledge yet from a Brazilian firm in Latin America’s No. 2 economy.
Odebrecht, one of Latin America’s biggest family-owned companies, will invest in petrochemicals, renewable energy, ethanol and sugar production and highway concessions, according to a statement put out by the office of Mexico’s president.
Marcelo Odebrecht, the company’s chief executive, on Tuesday met Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, the statement said.
The Economist, 09/29/2013
FOUR years ago this newspaper put on its cover a picture of the statue of Christ the Redeemer ascending like a rocket from Rio de Janeiro’s Corcovado mountain, under the rubric “Brazil takes off”.
The economy, having stabilised under Fernando Henrique Cardoso in the mid-1990s, accelerated under Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the early 2000s. It barely stumbled after the Lehman collapse in 2008 and in 2010 grew by 7.5%, its strongest performance in a quarter-century.
To add to the magic, Brazil was awarded both next year’s football World Cup and the summer 2016 Olympics. On the strength of all that, Lula persuaded voters in the same year to choose as president his technocratic protégée, Dilma Rousseff.
Leonardo Goy – Reuters, 08/12/2013
Brazil’s government put off bidding for a high-speed train project for at least one year because there was only one confirmed consortium competing for the 38 billion reais ($16.7 billion) deal, Transport Minister César Borges announced on Monday.
Lack of competition led the government to postpone the tender for the bullet train linking Brazil’s two largest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, after Spanish and German groups guaranteed that they will bid if given more time, Borges said at a news conference.
After massive protests against corruption and misuse of public money paralyzed Brazilian cities in June, the government preferred not to open itself to further criticism by awarding the bullet train contract to the one bidder, analysts said.
Presidential chief of staff Gleisi Hoffmann announced the date for the auction to sell concessions to run. Rio’s Galeao airport and Belo Horizonte’s Confins at a Brasilia press conference.
Officials said bidders will have to make a minimum offer of 2.1 billion dollars for the Galeao concession and 450 million for Confins,
In February 2012, 20-year concessions were granted to manage three airports: two in Sao Paulo and one in Brasilia, breaking the monopoly of Infraero, the federal agency that runs more than 70 airports.