Venture Capital Heads to Brazil, Defying Economic Slump

Jonathan Levin – Bloomberg Business, 5/4/2015

To understand the venture capital scene in Brazil, follow the smartphones — not the economy.

That’s the message from Doug Leone, a partner at Sequoia Capital, an early investor in both Google Inc. and LinkedIn Corp. His firm committed funds last year to Sao Paulo-based Nubank, a technology-based financial-services company.

Local startups are reaping the benefits of a global venture capital community that’s hunting for markets with large, uptapped bases of Internet-using consumers. The current economic malaise aside, Brazil fits the bill: Tens of millions of people joined the middle class during a decade-long commodities boom.

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Venture Capital Heads to Brazil, Defying Economic Slump

Brazil faces surge in number of dengue fever cases

BBC News, 5/5/2015

Brazil has registered nearly 746,000 cases of the mosquito-borne disease dengue fever this year with nine states experiencing an epidemic, the health ministry has announced. At 368 cases per 100,000 residents it amounts to an epidemic by World Health Organisation standards, but officials say the outbreak is not nationwide.

Relaxed prevention and an increase in home water storage have been blamed. More than half of the cases were in Sao Paulo.

The number of cases there – the most populous state – has tripled since last year. Nationwide there have been 235% more cases than in the same period (from January to 18 April) last year.

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Brazil faces surge in number of dengue fever cases

World Cup stadiums leave a troubled legacy in Brazil

Associated Press, 5/2/2015

Brazil spent billions of dollars renovating and building World Cup stadiums that were supposed to help modernize and improve local soccer. Almost a year after the tournament ended, the nation is still trying to figure out what to do with them.

Some of the 12 new state-of-the-art stadiums are just now being completed as originally planned. Others are already up for sale.

The Itaquerao Stadium in São Paulo hosted the World Cup’s opening match last June, a 3-1 win over Croatia for the host nation. But the stadium has only now been completed, nearly 11 months after the tournament. Some of the glass that is part of the stadium’s roofing was installed several weeks ago, along with other items that were still missing at the arena, which cost $450 million.

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World Cup stadiums leave a troubled legacy in Brazil

Brazil’s Real Climbs as Higher Rates Seen Attracting Investors

Filipe Pacheco and Paula Sambo – Bloomberg Business, 4/27/2015

Brazil’s real rose for a fifth straight day amid speculation the central bank will raise borrowing costs by another half-percentage point this week, making local assets more attractive to international investors.

The real gained 1.2 percent to 2.9170 per dollar at the end of trade in Sao Paulo, an eight-week high. The rally that began April 20 is the longest since June 2014.

Buying the real with borrowed dollars has returned 11 percent this month, the most among the 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg after the ruble. The real climbed Monday as analysts forecast that Brazil will lift the target lending rate on April 29 by 50 basis points for a fourth straight meeting to curb above-target inflation. The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, is expected to hold borrowing costs steady that day as U.S. economic growth shows signs of slowing.

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Brazil’s Real Climbs as Higher Rates Seen Attracting Investors

Dengue fever in Brazil: When it rains, it pours

The Economist, 3/28/2015

A MOIST March, combined with the wettest February in 20 years, has brought respite to Brazil’s parched south-east. Last year’s record drought in the region, where two in five Brazilians live and where more than half the country’s output is produced, had stretched into January. So the drenching is welcome. But the rains have also stirred up an old scourge: dengue fever, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Its early symptoms resemble flu but it can cause fatal internal and external bleeding.

At least 224,000 cases had been registered across Brazil by March 7th, 162% more than in the same period in 2014, when the dry weather left fewer stagnant puddles in which mosquitoes could breed. The situation is gravest in the state of São Paulo, where 124,000 people have been diagnosed since January, an eightfold increase on last year. Infections have reached epidemic levels in nearly half the state’s municipalities (mostly the smaller ones). São Paulo has seen 67 confirmed fatalities. Mercifully, things in the rest of the country are better, meaning that the situation is less severe than the full-blown epidemic that infected 1.5m people in 2013.

The rain is not the only reason for the current outbreak. Paradoxically, another cause is last year’s drought. Faced with the threat of rationing, people have been storing rainwater, often in open containers, which make good breeding-grounds for mosquitoes. In São Paulo, many of this year’s worst-hit towns were spared during previous dengue flare-ups, so fewer inhabitants have had a chance to develop natural immunity.

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Dengue fever in Brazil: When it rains, it pours

Brazil: At breaking point

Samantha Pearson – Financial Times, 3/20/2015

Emilio Pastore normally spends the weekend visiting his elderly parents or taking a quiet bike ride in the countryside around São Paulo. But last Sunday the 50-year-old systems analyst printed out a banner with the slogan “no more lies” and took to the streets for the first protest of his life.

The multibillion-dollar corruption scandal engulfing state-controlled oil company Petrobras and President Dilma Rousseff’s ruling coalition was too much to bear, he says.

“Corruption has escalated from random cases to a state strategy — it now seems to be the official source of party funds, from the small-town mayor all the way up to the nation’s president,” he says. “We’ve had enough.

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Brazil: At breaking point

Protests in Brazil: The wisdom of crowds

The Economist (print edition), 3/21/2015

DILMA ROUSSEFF, Brazil’s president, expected the anti-government protests on March 15th to be big. She convened a meeting of a crisis group at her official residence to monitor them. But nobody, including the organisers, imagined they would be as massive as they turned out to be. Police in São Paulo put the size of the crowd on Avenida Paulista, the preferred venue for such gatherings, at more than 1m; Datafolha, a pollster, counted 210,000. Either way, it was the biggest political demonstration in the country’s biggest city since the diretas já (“elections now”) movement that helped end military rule in 1985. Overall, police estimated that 2.2m people turned out in dozens of cities across all 27 states. That dwarfs the number who took to the streets on any single day in June 2013, the most recent occasion when Brazilians vented their anger at politicians en masse.

Trade unions, which had organised (much smaller) pro-Dilma demonstrations two days earlier, dismissed the protesters as privileged white people. Many were not. “I am black, poor and want Dilma out,” declared a demonstrator from one of the nine mobile stages along Avenida Paulista. Many wore the national football team’s yellow-and-green jerseys. Opposition politicians wisely stayed away. They realised that their presence would obscure the bottom-up message and reinforce the government’s claim that behind the protests were sore losers of last October’s elections, won by Ms Rousseff and her left-wing Workers’ Party (PT).

The grievances of 2013 were diffuse. Today’s are directed squarely at Ms Rousseff and the PT. Some protesters—about a quarter on Avenida Paulista, according to one poll—want her to be impeached over a multi-billion-dollar bribery scandal at Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant. Most others simply want to show that they are fed up with sleaze and economic mismanagement, which has pushed up inflation and is likely to trigger a recession this year. A vocal fringe called for military intervention—but was shouted down.

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Protests in Brazil: The wisdom of crowds