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At least 28 of the 47 shopping centres in Sao Paulo are operating illegally because they do not have the proper permits to function, according to an investigation published on the front page of the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper today.

Some were built where or when they shouldn’t have been by construction companies, others did not get the proper documentation and permissions before opening and others don’t have the required number of parking spaces.

This news comes just days after it was revealed there are 45 obstacles along the flight path to Sao Paulo’s Congonhas airport, one of the busiest in Brazil. The obstacles range from buildings that are too high, to trees, to a hospital and – surprise, surprise – two shopping centres.

The point here is this: If we can’t rely on the state or the city to enforce laws designed to protect us – and in the case of the airport save lives – then who can we rely on? Why were these buildings allowed to be built?

And now that we know they are illegal why haven’t they been closed down?

I wrote this story in Time magazine in February about a building in Rio that collapsed, killing several people inside. It was reported that authorities had looked the other way while granting building or work permits on the building and I said this in my story, prompting Mayor Eduardo Paes to publicly criticize me (as I reported in this post).

There’s a clear connection between not following the proper building procedures and tragedies like the one in Rio.

Don’t people who pay bribes and the officials who take them or overlook the law get that?

I can’t think of a company that has so comprehensively betrayed its starting ethos as Gol Airlines.

Before starting Gol in 2001, Constantino de Oliveira Jr. visited low cost, low fare airlines around the world to see how they worked.

He then came home to Brazil and set up a similar model by, he told me in 2005, “taking a bit of Southwest, a bit of Ryanair, a bit of JetBlue, and Easyjet and tropicalizing them for the Brazilian market.”

De Oliveira Jr.’s preparation paid off handsomely.  Gol took on established carriers Varig and Tam and won. Varig went bankrupt – in part because of the cheap competition provided by Gol – and Tam is now neck and neck in market share with the erstwhile upstart.

But Gol, rather than continue with its progressive policy, betrayed itself and its customers by becoming the new Varig. As soon as it could, it hiked fares and abandoned any pretensions to offering customers a cheap and quality alternative to the so-called legacy carriers.

Online right now, it is selling flights from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo for a minimum of 727 reais, one way. (Prices are for tomorrow’s flights.)

That is more than twice the cheapest flight available tomorrow from Edinburgh to London on British Airways (which is incidentally a shorter distance).

Gol last year bought Webjet, a startup low cost, low fare airline, and took over some of its routes.

Now we find out it is charging three times what Webjet charged for the same trips (see more in this Portuguese language story from today’s Folha de S. Paulo).

Gol’s aim is clearly to wipe out any such carriers so it can continue with its price gauging. Its resposne to the Folha story was that it is not breaking any laws.

Maybe not, but de Oliveira Jr. (who, by the way, heads one of the poorest press operations I’ve ever come across) should be ashamed.

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