March 10, 2014
Simon Romero – The New York Times, 3/8/2014
Sailing from the Angolan coast across the Atlantic, the slave ships docked here in the 19th century at the huge stone wharf, delivering their human cargo to the “fattening houses” on Valongo Street. Foreign chroniclers described the depravity in the teeming slave market, including so-called boutiques selling emaciated and diseased African children.
The newly arrived slaves who died before they even started toiling in Brazil’s mines were hauled to a mass grave nearby, their corpses left to decay amid piles of garbage. As imperial plantations flourished, diggers at the Cemitério dos Pretos Novos — Cemetery of New Blacks — crushed the bones of the dead, making way for thousands of new cadavers.
Now, with construction crews tearing apart areas of Rio de Janeiro in the building spree ahead of this year’s World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, stunning archaeological discoveries around the work sites are providing new insight into the city’s brutal distinction as a nerve center for the Atlantic slave trade.
March 3, 2014
Simon Romero – The New York Times, 2/28/2014
IN his fits of rage, Eduardo Paes, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, has thrown a stapler at one aide. He threw an ashtray at another. He berated a councilwoman in her chambers, calling her a tramp. Stunning diners at a crowded Japanese restaurant where he was being taunted by one constituent, a singer in a rock band, he punched the man in the face.
While Mr. Paes, 44, has apologized to the targets of his wrath after each episode, he adds that he is under a lot of stress. Normally clocking 15-hour days as he tears up and rebuilds parts of Rio in the most far-reaching overhaul of the city in decades, Mr. Paes is finding that consensus over his plans is elusive.
“Don’t ever in your life do a World Cup and the Olympic Games at the same time,” Mr. Paes recently said at a debate here on Rio’s transformation, making at a stab at gallows humor over the street protests that have seized the city over the past year. “This will make your life almost impossible.”
February 19, 2014
Paul Kiernan & Matthew Futterman – Wall Street Journal, 2/18/2014
Brazilian officials are racing to prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games, hoping to avoid the embarrassment suffered this month by their counterparts in Sochi, Russia, as a number of projects are behind schedule.
With little more than two years remaining before Rio de Janeiro is set to host the Summer Games, the 15 projects comprising Rio’s Deodoro Sports Complex—where events including canoe slalom, fencing, pentathlon and shooting will be held—have yet to be fully defined. Only four of the total 52 construction projects outlined last month by the Public Olympic Authority are complete.
Organizers of the Rio event have a chance to learn from this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, where construction delays led to spiraling budgets and some unwanted publicity from visitors who arrived to unfinished hotel rooms. Jean-Claude Killy, chairman of the International Olympic Committee’s coordinating commission for Sochi, said this week that the planners for the 2016 Games don’t have a “tenth of a second” to waste.
February 12, 2014
A heavy police presence has been in force for the latest protests in Rio de Janiero.
Violent protests have erupted in Brazil over a proposed 9% increase in public transport fares.
On Monday, Brazilian cameraman Santiago Andrade was declared brain dead after sustaining an injury while filming the protests.
The BBC’s Julia Carneiro said protesters on Monday’s march were “almost outnumbered by police”.
February 10, 2014
Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 2/8/2014
Anyone doubting Rio de Janeiro’s techward shift need only look at the famous pavement mosaics that mark the promenade along Copacabana beach. The black and white patterns have traditionally resembled the waves across which early settlers and modern tourists travelled. Last year, however, that antique, analogue design has been partly reconfigured to reflect a digital future with the addition of tiled QR codes for smartphones.
The pavement symbols link to online maps and tourist websites. That should be useful to the throngs of visitors expected in this resort during this year’sWorld Cup and the 2016 Olympics, but the significance goes far beyond the mega sporting events.
The tiled codes are a small part of an attempted makeover of party-town Rio into a Latin-American technology hub. Driven by multinational tech companies, local startups and city universities, the mayor, Eduardo Paes, is trying to shape a future for this resort that is as much about being smart as having fun. This is partly an attempt to ride a nationwide trend. Brazil – which is vying with France and Britain to be the world’s fifth biggest economy – is belatedly embracing wireless technology and social networks. Thanks to a surge in recent years, there are now more mobile phones (268.4m) in this country than people. Tablet sales have jumped from 220,000 at the beginning of 2012 to more than 5m today. And Facebook use has increased to the point where Brazil is now second only to the US in terms of the number of users.
February 5, 2014
James Bargent – In Sight Crime, 2/4/2014
Brazil‘s military police have killed six people in response to a gang assault against a Rio de Janeiro Police Pacification Unit, as the city’s “pacification” program wavers in the face of regrouping gangs and a lack of progress in resolving social problems.
On February 2, several cars of armed men pulled up in front of the Police Pacification Unit (UPP) base in a favela in north Rio, reported Estadao. Men in one of the cars opened fire, shooting two police officers, one of which later died. Two passersby were also wounded in the assault.
In the aftermath, military police retaliated with an operation against alleged members of the Red Command drug trafficking organization, who authorities are blaming for the UPP base attack, according to Estadao.
February 5, 2014
Loretta Chao & John Lyons – The Wall Street Journal, 2/4/2014
A wave of headline-grabbing violence in Brazil’s two biggest cities, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, is reviving concerns about security during soccer’s World Cup, which begins here in June.
Among the incidents, that came to light on Tuesday: Police are investigating an armed attack Sunday on the son of São Paulo state’s law-and-order governor. Some suspect it was an assassination attempt by a criminal gang.
Elsewhere in São Paulo, which will host the cup’s opening game, at least one public bus was burned by vandals on Monday night, bringing the total number of buses burned to 30 so far this year, officials say. Social scientists say the practice is a form of protest by youth in the city’s poor slums against heavy-handed police tactics and other societal ills.
January 31, 2014
Dom Phillips – The Washington Post, 01/31/2014
The Gávea Tourist is an empty shell of a hotel, a 14-story modernist monument of disintegrating concrete and decaying beauty that has been abandoned for four decades. It is one of three huge, architecturally stunning ghost hotels in Rio de Janeiro, all of which are vacant in a city facing a chronic shortage of rooms for June’s World Cup soccer tournament.
Rio could use the Gávea Tourist’s 400-odd rooms. Instead, it is an emblem of the obstacles that hinder Brazil’s World Cup preparations: cumbersome bureaucracy, a slow-moving judiciary and a lack of imaginative planning.
“The bureaucracy is phenomenal. The technical capacity of the Brazilian state to produce infrastructure . . . is very low,” said Christopher Gaffney, visiting professor in architecture and urbanism at Rio’s Federal Fluminense University.
January 27, 2014
Tariq Panja – Bloomberg, 1/26/2014
Sidney levy, who heads Brazil’s preparations for the 2016 summer Olympics, says the projected 30 billion reais ($12.5 billion) games are a chance to show that the country can run a major project without scandal.
The 57-year-old took over Rio’s organizing committee in January 2013, and says preparation for the 2 1/2-weeks of competition can rebuild trust between the country and its business elites by proving things can be done “without corruption.” Last week, his committee said the operating budget increased by 25 percent to 7 billion reais, and tomorrow, a new capital spending plan — originally estimated at 23 billion reais — will be released.
“The time has come for the Brazilian people to understand and to believe that there are people in Brazil skilled enough to raise and spend 7 billion reais in a transparent way,” Levy said in a Jan. 23 interview at Rio 2016’s headquarters shortly after announcing the operating budget.