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Monocle are shifting their attention to São Paulo.

Nine months after the magazine wrote a special section about Rio de Janeiro, two writers came to South America’s biggest city to anchor a similar section.

I’ve written a few stories for the Monocolumn from São Paulo, this about the floods that besieged the city in January and this about the city’s expanding metro system.

And I got involved with the special section last week, writing reviews on the best bars and restaurants, suggesting top shops and hot chefs and reviewing some of the most important businesses in the city.

The format will be similar to that of the Rio section and I am covering much of the same topics.

Choosing restaurants was made easier because I’d done a similar thing last year for the Wall Street Journal. I hung out with Veja’s Restauranteur of the Year Paulo Barroso de Barros, the chef and owner at Due Cuochi, and we visited his 10 favourite restaurants (see my blog here with links to the Journal piece).

I am also writing about Embraer, which I’ve covered a few times recently for the Financial Times, including this piece for their Aerospace report.

And of course, this being Brazil, there’s an obligatory piece about football, which is always easy, and a pleasure, to cover.

The section is scheduled to come out in a couple of months.

You always know how busy or important a minister is by his willingness to take your calls. (Unless you are The New York Times or The Economist, or one of the other top publications, as I referred to in this earlier post.)

I managed to snag an interview with the Energy Minister by phone earlier this month for this Christian Science Monitor piece. I was surprised he had the time but then I realized this is a guy who’s been in office only a few weeks.

His predecessor resigned to run for some other office in October, as is common in election years in Brazil, and the new man is essentially a stopgap. Appearing in the press is probably not a bad move for him.

The real issue here, though, is the incredibly irritating one of hierarchy in Brazil. When you call a Brazilian ministry, organization, company, or whatever, more often than not the only person authorised to speak to the press is the top man. Even if you just want some basic quotes and information. In Brazil, there is nothing in between an interview with the head honcho or information grabbed from the official web site.

It’s absurd because more often than not any mid-level official can answer questions and in many cases they can answer them better than their superior. The important thing is that the person knows what he is talking about and can be quoted

But this is a hierarchical nation and the big cheese is the big cheese. He wants you to know he is the big cheese.

The answer to this of course is to hire press officers who know the company they represent and are authorised to speak on their behalf. A good example is Embraer, who have the most knowledgeable and efficient press officers I’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with.

But the vast majority of assessores de imprensa, as they are known in Brazil, are outside hires and serve only as a bridge between reporter and organization. They don’t know anything about their employers.

The result is that companies get no press at all. Which might be exactly what they want.

Embraer, the Brazilian plane maker whose success has made it a symbol of Brazil’s often overlooked hi-tech expertise, found itself in an unusual position in 2009.

Brazil’s economy bounced back from the crisis faster than almost any other big nation but that had little effect on the São Jose dos Campos-based firm. More than 90 percent of Embraer’s business comes from abroad and so impressive domestic consumption meant little. The company laid off 20 percent of its workforce.

Now, its president and CEO says it is altering its focus towards giving military aircraft a larger portion of its portfolio.

“The tendency is that the defence and executive sectors will grow to be more important than they are today,” Federico Fleury Curado told me in October for this Financial Times piece. “In five years I see the commercial sector as being worth 50 percent of our business, down from between 65 and 70 percent now. Executive will go from 15 percent to 30 percent, and defence and services will go from about 10 to 15 percent to 20 percent. Right now we don’t have the best balance.”

One new option comes with the production of KC-390 transport and cargo planes for the Brazilian military. The planes are expected to enter service in 2015. Another option is increased production of Tucano trainers and Supertucano fighters.

Embraer has made and sold around 100 Supertucanos to five Latin American nations outside Brazil and has orders for 60 more. It is also producing dozens of military reconnaissance aircraft for patrolling the Amazon and is working with India to produce similar planes for the subcontinent.

But the biggest boon will come when Brazil finally decides from whom it will purchase 36 state-of-the-art fighter planes. The 5 billion Euro negotiations are in the final stages with French Rafale fighter favourite to win out over the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet and the Saab-built Gripen.

Brazil has made any deal contingent on the transfer of technology, a fact that is of enormous importance to Embraer. Although the company would likely build only small parts of the winning plane, the technological gains would be vital in taking in helping Embraer broaden its expertise.

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