You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category.
The legendary Maracana stadium was modernised at a cost of more than 1 billion reais and now boasts room for 78,838 fans.
A massive press area was set up for the Confederations Cup and thousands of journalists covered the FIFA-organised final between Spain and Brazil in June
But now that the running of the stadium has been turned over to Rio authorities they are unable to find room to house the few hundred local and international reporters who want to cover the Brazilian Cup Final.
Several foreign correspondents have been refused permission to cover the game. The new Maracana’s press box “isn’t big enough for big matches,” admitted Eraldo Leite, Acerj’s president.
So, the biggest stadium in Rio and the most emblematic of all Brazilian grounds hasn’t built a press box big enough to handle press for big games. That forethought. That’s planning.
I’ve always loved the noise of a football crowd when a goal goes in. There’s something visceral and emotional about that roar, it’s a release like none other.
That’s one of the reasons I absolutely love this video about Sport’s campaign to boost the number of organ donors in Pernambuco, where the club plays its home games. The emotion of the crowd at the start of the clip is a thing to behold.
That emotion is nothing when compared to what comes next. Sport fans awaiting transplants guarantee their future donors that their passion for the club will live on after they die.
“I promise your eyes will keep on watching Sport,” says Adriano dos Santos, a fan awaiting new corneas.
“Your lungs will keep on breathing for Sport,” says Luiz Antonio, a fan awaiting a lung transplant.
And “I promise your heart will keep on beating for Sport,” says Marleide dos Santos, who is awaiting a new heart.
It’s such a simple and yet brilliant idea and it has led 57,000 Sport fans to register as organ donors. Enough of them, in fact, that the waiting list for heart and cornea transplants in Pernambuco state has been cut to precisely zero.
More clubs should join up.
Here’s one of the reasons why.
A couple of weeks ago I spotted an unfamiliar charge on my bank statement. It’s hard to know what Brazil’s banks are charging you for because they deliberately make the statement unintelligible.
For example, instead of writing: Payment for Private Health Plan – 601,94 reais, they write AG. PAG TIT 236431171236362 – 601,94.
After taking a closer look I saw they’d been taking 20 reais out my account every month since the start of the year. I knew it couldn’t be a monthly charge for running my account because I’d last year specifically asked Itau not to charge me the monthly fee and they’d removed it.
(Banks won’t tell you this but you are not obliged to pay a monthly fee. As long as you’re not using a certain number of checks or withdrawals, banking is free.)
So I went to the bank and asked about the mysterious charge. They opened an investigation and promised to call back within a week. They didn’t so I went back and complained again. A few days later I got a phone call.
After half-heartedly trying to shift the blame on me the bank eventually admitted they had illegally reinstated the monthly charge. For seven months I’d been paying them 20 reais a month even thought I had specifically asked them to remove it.
The bank apologised (in their own unapologetic way) and promised me they would reimburse me the 140 reais.
Excellent, I thought and celebrated one of life’s tiny victories.
I told a friend about this triumph and he laughed. They’re still screwing you, he said.
How’s that, I asked.
The answer is this:
When a bank or utility illegally charges you or overcharges you they are obliged not just to pay you back what they owe but pay you back DOUBLE.
I checked. He’s right. Here‘s the Defesa do Consumidor page saying exactly that.
So I went back to Itau and asked them if I was entitled to receive double. They said Yes, and promised to begin the process to pay me the extra 140 reais.
Why didn’t you tell me that under the law I was entitled to receive double, I asked.
We only pay double to those that ask, my bank manager responded.
So even though you know the law says you should pay back double, Itau doesn’t do that unless customers ask specifically for the letter of the law to be applied.
She hummed and hawed and told me that was the culture here and that all banks did it this way.
I told her Itau were nothing short of thieves.
She shrugged her shoulders and looked sheepish.
I will now wait and see if Itau pay me double as they’re supposed to. But I at least established another reason Itau’s profit last year was the second biggest in Brazilian banking history.
By deceiving their customers.
The Economist’s recent Brazil report started a huge debate that in Brazil at least centered on criticism of both the report’s style (the flashy cover) and its substance (impeccable reporting and reasoned analysis that dared to suggest Brazil is far from perfect).
The magazine asked “Has Brazil Blown It?”and over 14 pages wrote about where Brazil is doing things right (agriculture, social policy) and where it is doing things wrong (education, infrastructure, politics).
I’ve lived in Brazil for more than a decade, and written about it for dozens of magazines and newspapers and I long ago realized that if you write 10 nice things about Brazil and one not-so-nice thing Brazilians and Brazil-lovers will seize on the not-so-nice thing and presume you hate their country.
It’s a sign of Brazil’s immaturity and lack of engagement with the wider world as well as an indication of how passionately people (including expat residents) feel about the place.
For far too many Brazilians and Brazil-lovers, pointing out that there’s too much corruption, or red tape, or that the judicial system only works for the rich, or that the banks are nothing short of thieves means you hate Brazil.
Because in Brazil, if you criticize something it means you’re against it.
I think the opposite is true.
Here’s my question for all those who think there’s a conspiracy against Brazil:
Who loves Brazil more? A corrupt Congressman who siphons off money that should be going to schools and hospitals? A young businessman whose drink driving kills an old age pensioner out walking her dog? A banker charging interest rates of 238% a year?
Or the person who denounces the corrupt Congressman, the young businessman whose drink driving kills and the banking system that allows bankers to rob (and stunt growth and investment) with their criminal bank charges?
To criticize doesn’t mean to hate. Sometimes it means exactly the opposite.
A Brazilian Congressman was found guilty of embezzlement and organized crime earlier this year and sentenced to 13 years in jail, thus becoming the first parliamentarian in almost three decades to be imprisoned while holding elected office.
Last night, his colleagues in the Chamber of Deputies voted that Natan Donadon should not lose his parliamentary perks.
Brazil’s hated political class could not have sent a clearer message to their citizens.
Your protests against corruption, abuse of power and impunity were a waste of time. Their vote last night said, “We don’t care what you think.” It screamed, “Business as usual.”
The mass protests that shook Brazil in June lasted just a few weeks and only a hard core have continued protesting in the weeks and months since. (I explain some of the reasons here.)
But if Brazilians really want change, then this is the time to act. It is at moments like this they must make their voices heard. They must tell their politicians that such decisions are unacceptable.
Impunity is the grease that oils the wheels of corruption. It is time to take to the streets again and say, once again, Enough is Enough.
Vitinho is a football player for Botafogo. Or was,.He just signed for CSKA Moscow. Which makes him an idiot.
Vitinho is 18 and could have gone to Porto, the Portuguese club that also reportedly tried to sign him. At Porto, he would speak the language, enjoy an amenable climate almost all year round, play for a club that has a reputation for bringing on young players, and be close to his family in Brazil. And he would earn a fortune.
Instead, he chose to go to Russia. He will earn a fortune there too but the sub-zero temperatures will make him miserable, he will never learn the language, and he will be a long, long way from home, in every sense.
Moreover, if he had chosen Porto they might have allowed him to stay with Botafogo until the end of the season and help the club keep up its title challenge.
Instead, Botafogo fans hate him; some have already daubed the walls of the club with insults. Every time he comes home to Rio he will be looking over his shoulder.
Vitinho is an idiot.
Still, why would he decide to go to Moscow rather than Porto? At either club he would be richer than he could ever have imagined. But his life at one would be infinitely better than at the other. What advice did he get from his parents? What did his advisers tell him? How much did they make from the deal?
We’ll probably never know the answers. But we do know one thing: Vitinho is an idiot.
I came to Recife last year and took a public bus to the Ilha do Retiro to see the Sport-Ponte Preta game.
The ride was more memorable than the game. Passengers were thrown to one side and another as the driver careened round corners. People were quite literally shrieking with fear and begging him to slow down.
I took a taxi home as there was little public transport still running at midnight when the game ended.
On Sunday, I came to Recife’s sparkling new Arena Pernambuco to see Spain play Uruguay in the Confederations Cup. I was taken here and dropped off by an air-conditioned FIFA shuttle bus and got a nice seat in a beautiful stadium.
The two trips were both to see football matches in Recife but the only thing they had in common is 22 players, a ball and the trip along appalling roads filled with pot holes the size of televisions.
Much of the protests that erupted across Brazil last night are not against the World Cup per se. They are directed at the double standard of beautiful new stadiums being built for FIFA at a rush (and huge cost) while the government neglects much more necessary investment in hospitals, schools and sanitation.
This video was made by a friend and that sentiment is summed up by one girl around the 2:40 mark.
“We don’t have health, we don’t have education, we don’t have anything dignified,” she said. “The only thing that they gave us was a stadium. If our child is sick we don’t want to take him to a stadium. We want education for our children and decent health. We don’t have this in Brazil.”
The protesters who took to the streets of Brazil’s biggest cities last night are to be congratulated on a significant victory.
Few people imagined that after the violent police crackdown on Sao Paulo’s protesters last Thursday an even greater number would come out in sympathy just four days later.
But they did just that and across Brazil hundreds of thousands of people, most of them peacefully, expressed their dissatisfaction with the status quo.
Exactly how many people took part in the protests is impossible to know. But estimates suggest 65,000 people took to the streets of Sao Paulo, almost twice that in Rio and smaller, but still considerable, numbers made their presence felt in Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Porto Alegre and dozens of other towns and cities.
The big question is what happens now. The protesters have the wind at their backs, so what will they do? They have called another march (in SP at least) for Tuesday night. Will they call more? Enter in to talks with authorities? As yet no one knows.
A lot of that depends on exactly what they want.
The unrest was originally sparked by a hike in bus fares and many of the protesters come from the Free Fare Movement, a group that wants free public transport for all. That’s an unreal demand. No serious country provides all its citizens with free public transport.
But since then the demonstration has expanded to include broader issues. One major complaint is the cost of hosting the World Cup and the Confederations Cup, the second of which kicked off in six Brazilian cities on Saturday.
One of the challenges facing the movement’s leaders is articulating a message beyond that of, ‘We want better treatment and more rights.’ And until they do that it will struggle to achieve anything concrete.
Anyone who has spent any time in Brazil knows that people are treated abysmally. As I said here last week, Brazilians pay first world taxes and get third world services. No one respects no one. Complaining is futile and the deck is heavily stacked against anyone who raises their voice in anger. (Which is one of the reasons a more generalized outrage hasn’t taken hold until now.)
Brazil deserves great credit for lifting 40 million people out of poverty over the last decade. But ironically, that class of newly enfranchised people might be a cause of the unrest.
- More people can afford to buy cars and hundreds of new cars pour onto the streets of Sao Paulo each day. But the government hasn’t invested in infrastructure like roads or highways and public transport is underfunded and inefficient and an unappealing alternative.
- More people can afford health insurance but the companies selling them not only provide a risible coverage, they fight tooth and nail to stop their clients from getting the treatment they are paying for, sometimes with tragic consequences.
- More people have cable television but just try calling up and complaining about the service or trying to cancel it. The companies sadistically force their clients to jump through online hoops in order to hold them to costly contracts.
- More people have cell phones and Brazilians pay some of the highest rates in the world. But calls frequently cut out, the signal is patchy, and after sales service is a joke.
- More people have banks accounts but banks charge abusive interest rates – 237 % a year for credit cards – and they sneak additional charges onto bills, and treat customers more like waling wallets than valued customers.
- Education is a joke. A tragic joke.
In short, there are lots of reasons why Brazilians should be angry.
The other big question is how politicians will deal with the crisis. What possible answers can they provide? Not only are they discredited, they cannot hope to provide quick solutions to resolve long-standing infrastructure issues.
They are in bed with the multinationals and conglomerates whose consistent mistreatment of and disdain for their customers is a complaint I hear every single day from Brazilians.
It is hard to see how they can provide quick and satisfactory answers to the questions above.
And last but not least, Are Brazilians going to see this through to the end?
Brazil is not a politicised society nor one where memories are long or protests lasting. In neighbouring Argentina, hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets to protest graft and they do it again and again and again.
Brazil’s media will play up the violence and they will play up the fear. If political parties try to hijack the movement it will lose its credibility. The middle class must get involved and stay involved.
If Brazilians really want to see change they will need stamina and resolve. They may have to shout themselves hoarse over and over and over again. If this is really going to turn into something lasting then Monday night is not the end. It is only the beginning.
Brazil is not a country where people protest. It is not a country of revolutionaries.
As Mauricio Savarese explains in this clear and didactive blog, Brazilians abhor violence and they avoid it all costs. If your cause embraces violence then you’ve lost. The only way to win in Brazil – and that means by getting the larger public behind you – is through peaceful protest and negotiation.
That’s one of the reasons the reaction to last Thursday’s protest and police violence in Sao Paulo are so interesting.
Lots of people are asking whether this wave of protests can really be over a 20 centavo rise in bus fares. (20 centavos is about 10 cents or 7 pence.)
Phillip Vianna in this CNN blog says “it is the uprising of the most intellectualized portion of society.” Marcelo Rubens Paiva in today’s Estado de Sao Paulo says the protests are “a collective revolt against the state that treats individuals as a nuisance, the enemy.” And the RioReal blog suggests that “the twenty centavos could represent a tipping point in Rio’s general panorama, as citizens wake up to authoritarian government and a longtime lack of dialogue.”
I’d love them to be right. Rubens Paiva’s definition of how the state treats its citizens is certainly spot on.
Brazilians pay first world taxes and get third world services in return. Their politicians represent big interests and treat voters with little more than contempt. Corruption is ingrained, a part of the country’s culture and fabric.
No one protests. No one gets angry. Anti-corruption demonstrations rarely unite more than a few thousand people. (Clicking a button on facebook doesn’t count as anger, or protest.)
Brazilians can’t be bothered taking to the streets because they know that unless the protests gain nationwide scope they will be ignored. And they know that won’t happen because most people don’t see the point. It’s a vicious circle. “Why bother demanding change; nothing changes so why bother.”
But there’s an awful lot of wishful thinking going on in some of the analysis. It is way too early to say last week’s protests mark a turning point. They could very easily peter out. If there is more violence then support will erode and the protesters will be marginalised.
Is this the start of something? Are Brazilians waking up? Have they finally decided enough is enough?
I certainly hope so and I do think it is inevitable, sooner or later. As incomes grow, people will start demanding better treatment.
When enough Brazilians can make the trip to Miami and see they can buy a white tshirt in GAP for $8 dollars, rather than pay $30 for the same inferior quality garment in Sao Paulo and Rio they might be shaken into action. Last week’s protests might be the first sign of that.
But I am not convinced that moment has arrived.
A lot will depend on the character of the next week’s protests. If they are hijacked by the same extremists, who often glob onto anything anti- then they will fail. The middle class will take fright and abandon them. And without middle class lending their voice en masse they are doomed.
If they can get lots of people out on the streets, from all sectors of society, and if they can demonstrate peacefully, even in the face of police provocation, then they might be on to something and the optimistic predictions of a paradigm shift might be realised.
Next week is going to be very interesting.
I just got home after wandering around the streets near my home and I have to say that of all the thousands of nights I’ve spent in Brazil, this was one of the more remarkable.
Not just because there are police helicopters overhead in my normally gentile neighbourhood. Not just because the main roads are blocked with burning rubbish. And not even because there is tear gas in the air and periodic bangs caused by the police firing off shock bombs and rubber bullets.
It’s all that. But what I really can’t believe is Why? Or rather How. How did things get so bad so fast? How did the state and municipal governments, and most importantly the police, let it get to this?
This is a protest over a small hike in bus fares that went into effect a week ago.
I won’t go into the rights or wrongs of the fare rise – from 3.00 reais to 3.20 reais – as I don’t know enough about it. (Although I will say that protesters demanding free public transport for all are living in cloud cuckoo land.)
But what has become crystal clear tonight, even through the haze of tear gas, is that the Sao Paulo government has once again overreacted with a breathtaking brutality and incompetence. They never learn.
The police are military police and therein lies one of the main problems. Historically unprepared to deal with dissent and opposition and untrained to meet the demands of a democratic society, their first response is to reach for their batons or their guns.
I won’t get into any of the other cases in which Sao Paulo police officers have been accused of brutal overreaction. (But here’s three links to cases where they are accused of murder, here, here and here.)
The fact is that with a modicum of common sense and leadership from state and municipal authorities, tonight’s protest would probably have passed fairly peacefully.
The overwhelming majority of protesters were non-violent. They even chanted “Sem Violencia!” (No Violence!) But even if there were a few troublemakers (and that’s not unlikely) it wouldn’t justify such a heavy handed response.
Basic common sense dictates that unless protests are violent you sheperd protesters away from sensitive areas. You let them have their say and then wait for them to go home. You don’t send in the riot police, the cavalry, and fire tear gas and rubber bullets at unarmed students.
What are these people thinking? Who was giving the orders? And perhaps most importantly, will they learn from their mistakes?
I am not holding my breath….