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A purely analytical perception...


BRAZIL
AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN

 

 

BRAZIL, AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN

 

A REPAST IN RIO

 

The people of Brazil speak a strange language, that of Portuguese, a language hardly spoken by any one else in the world. People ask, “How could those from such a gargantuan country with such enormous resources speak such a dinky tongue? We have come to the conclusion that it is time you knew the real facts.

It seems that in the year 1500, a Portuguese fleet commanded by Pedro Alvares Cabral was headed for India and during the voyage somehow made a wrong turn and arrived unexpectedly in Brazil. This was the beginning of a series of strange turns of fate. Cabral and other discover the brazilwood trees which are found in Brazil in some abundance and were soon used by the Europeans to make a very valuable red dye which was essential to their basic commerce. These trees were found off the northeast coast of the country and without it, Europe's burgeoning textile industry would have fallen flat. Early on a system of barter was set up between the Europeans and the indigenous natives where a trade was established in which the Brazilians delivered the dye and the Europeans delivered metal tools. Thus, the name Brazil.

The French at that time were than enormous manufacturer of  textiles, especially in Normandy and Flanders. almost purely for this reason, they vied with the Portuguese for control of the country and lost out only at the last moment. The key to the Portuguese was that they were able to gain control through efforts at  colonization, which broke their historical model of fortifying areas and using force to hold on to them when needed. However, the real battle for control of the country did not occur though until the late 16th century when it was found that sugar could be economically grown here. Nor was the fact that it was only a short hope from Africa to Brazil so that slaves could be imported whenever there were not enough indigenous workers to go around.

With the price of poker going up, Holland made a concerted attempt to dislodge  the Portuguese which failed miserably and the Dutchmen eventually moved their New World bases to the islands in the Caribbean. However, it became brutally evident that if you wanted to grow sugar you had to prepare the fields for cultivation which required cattle to plow the fields. These animals were brought in in profusion and a rapid expansion took place in their numbers with large plantations emerging to house them. Synergistically, the cattle begot the production of massive amounts of sugar earmarked for Europe's sweet-tooth along with hides and meat. Brazil was exploding.

If that were not enough, diamonds and gold were found in some quantities in the Brazilian interior and the country was beginning to open up like a sardine can. While the colonization effort by Portugal attracted numerous parties, many of them eventually gravitated to the country's interior and operated independently of that country's bureaucracy creating a somewhat destabilizing influence but they were on a roll and weren't about to look back.  At this time, early in the 18th century, another beast of burden made its entry into the country's landscape. Logistics had required that regular access to these out out-of-the-way spots that were sprouting out like weeds was critical and the mule was introduced into the mixture.

Eventually as the high grade gold started to peter out, coffee plantations started to emerge and cities such as Sao Paulo and Santos became urban centers. Brazil today is still the world's largest coffee grower and Sao Paulo is one of its largest cities in terms of population. But the cup was still running over and as the interior became more accessible, it was found that rubber could successfully be grown. However, in spite of the fact that cultivation was successful, Southeast Asia became the site of choice for this product.

As progress continued marching inevitably  forward, Brazil started connecting its far flung cities with airports and unbelievably became the owner of the third largest commercial airplane fleet in the world. The time was the early fifties and the plane was the war-proven DC-3. They could take off and land on a dime, they were inexpensive and would literally last forever. Brazil was only surpassed by the United States and Russia in this field in the field of commercial aviation.

In the 1980's Brazil became the world's largest food exporter and highways soon opened the Amazon to additional commerce. Brazil has been blessed with a combination of favorable geography, bountiful mineral reserves, good ports and industrious people. However, they like India have managed to clutch fail out of the jaws of victory in almost every endeavor that they have undertaken. It would seem that with these kinds of assets, sooner or later, they are going to get things right.

Moreover, the fact that Brazilians are stuck with this almost unique language has not been particularly helpful to them in the pursuit of international commerce. Primarily because of the fact that Brazil was somewhat isolated from the rest of the global economy, some of its practices became more ingrained and although faulty, were harder break than others. For example, Brazil was the last country on earth to make slavery illegal. However, there were more slaves in Brazil than any other country on earth, which accounts for the fact that nearly fifty-percent of the current population is black.

A Melting Pot

 The enforced migration and conversion of so many people have created a strange melting pot in Brazil. On one hand, there is practically only one religion practiced here, Catholicism. Sure, there is a small percentage of others but it’s no different than every other Latin American country. However, there is a certain mysticism in the Brazil religion that does not seem to exist anywhere else in the world. The people seem to dance to any number of different drummers and pay homage to all of them simultaneously. A great majority of blacks believe in “something called candomble, a form of Afro-Brazilian worship that is extremely popular today throughout Brazilian society. candomble and other related beliefs hold that spirits from beyond possess energy that can influence a person’s everyday affairs. People believe that they can communicate with the spirits through trained mediums.” ([1])

      “The Portuguese shipped in an estimated 3.6 million Africans to Brazil over four centuries, as they believed the local Indians were too weak to work. First arrivals came from the Congo, Angola and Mozambique in 1570. Known as “Negros Bantos”, they worshipped ancestor spirits and were spread along the coast of Maranhao, Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro. Many of these slaves managed to escape, and lived in communities called kilombos. The slave came into contact with Indian elders and witch doctors and took part in spirit session where they received both Indian and African ancestor spirits. Indians showed the Africans their gods, taught them their myths, and in return, Africans shared knowledge on medicinal herbs, and summoned spiritless the Indians had never seen or heard about…” ([2])

 Geography & Statistics

Brazil is slightly larger than the United States and has the world's fifth largest population ([3]), coming right after Indonesia. “Its economy is larger than those of Russia and India combined. During the period from the turn of the previous century until 1982, no other country on earth showed faster economic growth than did Brazil with the exception of Japan. Brazil’s consumers are the fifth-richest in the world, with an annual per capita income of $6,350. They are the world’s second-largest buyers of cell phones, and they account for two of every five Latin American surfers on the Internet.” ([4]

The country has been blessed with all of nature's bounties ([5]) and could be virtually self sufficient should it ever put its mind to the task instead of concentrating on political adventurism and graft. Moreover, boding well for the future is the fact that Brazil regularly alternates with China as the world’s largest receiver of foreign investment. ([6]) Furthermore, Brazil boasts of the most beautiful women and the most stunning scenery in the world and they may well be right on both counts:

“Here in Rio, photographers have their pick of exotic locations: the  famous Christ the Redeemer overlooks the city; cable cars run to Sugar Loaf Mountain; the white, sand beaches of Ipanema, Copacabana and Leblon are full of women in thong bikinis and bronzed boys pumping iron in golden sunshine; and by night, the moon and stars of the Southern Cross illuminate the waters of Guanabara Bay.” ([7])

However, the economy here is one of the most inefficient on earth and in terms of flexibility, it trails even the intransigent nation of Afghanistan by a considerable margin. There seems little desire or for that part ability of Brazil to technologically join either the 20th or the 21st centuries. Moreover, the World Bank recently granted Brazil the distinction being the country with the greatest disparity on earth between the rich and the poor. It has been said that only 4% of the country’s population purchases 100% of the microwaves, VCRs and other consumer durables.” 

The country may even be more bizarre than even that; in this country, more people watch television than can read. The United Nations reported that Brazil ranked 125th in the world in health care. No matter how hard the Brazilian Government may try, there just doesn’t seem to be enough money to provide even the barest of essentials to its people. Brasilia is Brazil’s capital and it started in life as a planned city. One would have thought that with the resources Brazil had its command that they could have created a haven on earth as their capital, instead, winning an election in Brazil and being to sent Brasilia is something many politician believe is akin to a Russian court sentencing a prisoner to hard labor in Siberia.

 “…The 36-year old national capital, a planned city thousands of miles into the interior of Brazil, is widely seen as a dull backwater and a city-planning version of a white elephant. Brazilians themselves usually act like being sent to Brasilia is a kind of a prison sentence. Even Communications Minister Sergio Motta, the president’s right-hand man, recently growled to reporters, “Brasilia is terrible – everyone there is either a lobbyist or a hustler.’ And indeed, it can often seem like Brasilia is the end of the earth. The landscape features high-plains scrub – deforested for farming in the 19th Century – embraced by Montana-sized big sky. The town seems permanently under construction, at the same time that constructions have already begun to decay.”  ([8])

If you can stand the dullness, this city that was for some odd reason created thousands of miles from the nearest ocean was built to bring creator comforts to the people that were running the country. Air quality is great, prices are reasonable, space is available in quantity and the indigenous population enjoys the good but the very quiet life. Crime other than those indiscretions committed by politicians is almost non-existent. However, I guess you could find the same type of life Siberia as well.

Corruption Capital

 Statistically, from the point of view of corruption, Brazil is not the class dunce by any stretch of the imagination.  As a matter of fact, according to Transparency International the folks out of Germany that rate the corruption index in each of the world’s country’s, Brazil places strangely high; in 1999 it was ranked 45th alongside of such stalwarts as Malawi, Morocco and Zimbabwe. However, as a citizen of Brazil you would probably find Transparency International’s findings hard to fathom. “In less than a decade, more than 300 huge scandals have been exposed. 

Accused of corruption, President Fernando Collor de Mello stepped own in 1992 ([9]). Almost 20 National Congressmen have lost their seats for bad behavior and worse. A couple of businessmen have been jailed.” ([10]) This indeed is the country in which a congressman explained his accumulation of a $51 million fortune by saying he had hit the lottery 24,000 times. ([11])

The story of Fernando Collor de Mello is of particular interest, because originally he was a man of the people and many believed that held the destiny of the country within his hands. He came from a poor area of the country, the state of Alagoas, and soon went into politics. He read a lot and followed the American Presidency avidly. He was appointed mayor of Macceio, the state capital of Alagoas at the age of twenty-nine. Collor ran for president of Brazil in 1988 and was elected in a runoff. His campaign was oddly enough partly patterned after those of both John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, a rather mysterious combination. However, if anything Collor was a student of politics and believed that if you played your cards right, you could get away with anything. He subscribed to P. T. Barnum’s description of the public, there is a sucker born every minute.

Early in Collor’s term of office, his reign was nicknamed “Brazilian Camelot” but from the time he entered the presidential office he seemed to become overly obsessed by the American President George Bush, the hero, the student, the highly decorated war veteran, the flyer and the president. Collor quickly switched from a Kennedy aficionado to a lover affair with Bush; and seemed to attempt to copy all of his exploits. 

As orchestrated, all of these actions from the young (38), handsome and rugged president elect seemed to play exceeding well to the Brazilian people. After all, he was a refreshing change from the string of dreary politicians that had ascended to the office by political acclamation, not a vote of the people. Collor was the first popularly elected Brazilian president in over thirty years.

He ran on a ticket deriding graft and corruption and told the people in no uncertain terms that he would ride the criminals out of town on a rail.

 “Collor promised to wake up Latin America’s sleeping giant, open its borders to trade and dump the crooks who riddled the ranks of civil service. ‘Whoever steals goes to jail,” he roared on the stump. No one-least of all Collor himself-objected to the inevitable comparisons between Brazil’s handsome young president and John Kennedy.” ([12])

However, his admirers were in for a bizarre surprise, upon entering office, one of the young president’s first acts was to seize 80 percent of all of Brazil’s private bank deposits. Whatever was behind this strange action never fully came to light but he said that it was his way of fighting hyperinflation. Nevertheless, in spite of his attempts to palliate a horrendous situation, hospitals immediately filled with folks that had suffered heart attacks and numerous unfulfilled suicides. 

Heart Attack City

Medical teams were forced to work around the clock for the next several days in attempts to resuscitate many of the stricken while undermanned hospital emergency rooms soon became overwhelmed as people streamed in, claiming pains in their chests. Untold numbers of legitimate citizens of Brazil died over that inconceivably thoughtless action. Thus, Collor entered office with more than a bang and he went straight down hill from there. You ask that after an introduction like that one, how could go any further down? Just wait.

He started taking massive bribes almost on his first day in office and soon had accumulated all the correct accoutrements he thought should go with the title, president of Brazil. Homes in Paris, Jewelry for his wife and the Dionysian gardens of his Brasilia residence that cost over $2.5 million. If anything, Collor was certainly dedicated. Nothing stopped the man from what he felt was his anointed task, the accumulation of every damn penny that he could get his hands on.

Well, apparently the president hadn’t counted on one small item. You see he had a brother, whose wife the president had greatly desired. It seems that Collor had made a number of overtures in that general direction and the word had eventually gotten back to his loyal brother, who by this time was breathing fire. First presidential brother, Pedro soon started telling it all. Pedro announced to all that would listen that Collor had set up a “clout-for-sale” organization that was being run by his Fairas, his campaign treasurer. He went on to say that the organization was taking in millions and sending it abroad. The people were stunned, “we knew the guy was nasty, but moving graft out of Brazil is not cricket,” they chirped.

As you well can believe, Collor twisted and turned and blamed his brother for everything known to man in order to avoid the inevitable. However, when it was pointed out that Collor who had always worked for the government, and who never had reported taxable earnings over $30,000 a year, the entire scenario came to a screeching halt. It was pointed out by investigators that over $200 million had passed through the president’s hands in a very short period of time. Most of it was earmarked for offshore banks and elegant real estate in foreign countries.

He did the only thing that he could do under the circumstances. “Toward the end, the president consulted clairvoyants and spiritualists. He burned candles in his bedroom window to ward off evil spirits. . By August 1992, thousands were marching in the streets demanding his resignation. The case against Collor is contained in 39 volumes and dozens of appendixes that form two stacks over six feet tall. 

The defense does not contend that collar didn’t get the money, only that the government cannot prove its case.” ([13]) In the meantime, it has been brought out that Collor’s labor minister was illegally receiving $3000 a month from the Sao Paulo state electric company and Police have accused one of Collor’s top fundraisers of paying gunmen to kill a state trooper he suspected of having an affair with his wife. ([14])

A Horse of the Same Color

Collor left the country in ruins. He was followed by politicians who gave their constituents even more of the same. He was followed into office by Fernando Henrique Cardoso and a number of his associates have been getting the royal “heave ho” over problems of their own creation. In the midst of economic miseries coming from Argentina, the economic slowdown in the United States, political problems in Peru and defaults in Ecuador, “Brazilian Senator Jose Roberto Arruda announced on Thursday (4-18-2001) he would step down as head of the government bloc in the Senate to defend himself against accusations of tampering with a voting panel.” ([15]) It seems that the senior senator had merely asked employees of the senate to tamper with the results of an election by a secret panel in vote to impeach a sitting senator. In the meantime on another front, once again, corruption charges are being heard all over the legislature and it will soon spread into open warfare leading to even more serious investigations.

 Judge Nicolau dos Santos Neto was accused of being directly involved in illegally elevating the costs of the construction project and is now a fugitive from justice. Further investigations implicated former senator Luiz Estevao[16], who was expelled from the Senate in late June due to evidence he took part in the fraud through his construction companies and because he lied in his testimony before the parliamentary commission….The acknowledgement that a judge accused of corruption had assisted the president’s office revived the issue and sparked new suspicions … Prosecutors from Brasilia and Sao Paulo hope to question the former presidential adviser, who recently purchased an apartment in Rio de Janeiro for an estimated $1 million.”  ([17])

And to cap off this currently sorry state of affairs, “Party boss Magalhaes has threatened to blow the lid on corruption within Cardoso’s party…” ([18]) It now appears that there is another $700 million that is missing from the treasury’s almost barren till. Things were not always so tense in Brazil. There was the time when the Folha de Sao Paulo, a large newspaper in Sao Paulo published a report that Cardoso was using undue influence to attempt to change the outcome of a $19 billion privatization. 

The politicians were up in arms and denied the papers story to the hilt. However, these political wags were in for a surprise, it so happens that the newspapers had made 46 transcripts of conversations between Cardoso and others relative to the bidding for Telebras, a telecommunications giant located in Brazil. To further embarrass the protesting politicians the newspaper then had the tapes played radio and TV. Magically, Senate president Antonio Carlos Magalhaes immediately came to Cardoso's aid by stating that "There's no involvement of the president whatsoever." This was a little hard to swallow when you consider the fact that  literally everyone in the country had heard the damning tapes firsthand. But this is the way things are done in Brazil, deny, deny, deny and then the people will forget. That is the motto. 

"Delivering a new blow to a government reeling from a looming energy crisis, Mr. Magalhaes accused President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of tolerating corruption, lamed the energy crisis on the government and claimed social conditions had not improved. He said: "Healthcare is poor, the roads are in terrible condition; this is the situation in all sectors of the government." FT.com Financial Times, May 31, 2001. Geoff Dyer

The Central Bank

This is a strange country where the Central Bank has made a regular practice of lending money to bankrupt, corrupt and mismanaged private banks. However, in defense of this obtuse practice, many of these banks have at their helms, friends and political cronies of the former Brazilian President, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The total amount involved in the lending has now been estimated to come to an astounding $7 billion dollars and the current government has officially determined that there isn’t a darn thing that they can do about it and worse yet, none of the money can be repatriated. Maybe if the put these ex-bankers on the rack, they would cough up a few reals.

In addition to its other duties, the Central Bank is supposed to be monitoring the country’s other banks and has on more than six-hundred occasions determined that something was definitely askew with one of its flock. However, in spite of the six-hundred cases brought to their attention, only six have resulted in any action whatsoever. It is interesting to note that as in the United States, when a bank goes wrong, the Central Bank acts as both the trial judge and the executioner. Usually the offender is closed by U.S. Marshals overnight and another bank is by this time handling the accounts.

Can you see the Federal Reserve System of the United States sending a economic swat team into an American Bank that is believed to have violated banking regulations and walk away empty handed. “Sorry sir, we were told that you were under funding by $2 billion, we find you are only $1 billion undercapitalized. Please forgive the interruption and we apologize profusely.” You bet! It could be that the FED may someday make this kind of mistake, but probably not in my lifetime. These folks just don’t pull that trigger in a vacuum. For the Brazilian Central Bank to have only brought to the bar of justice, one percent of those believed guilty as a result of their own investigation, defies both the laws of physics and those of gravity as well. With a system like this, there is little wonder that the Brazilian Banking system has become probably the most undercapitalized in the world. (Including Japan)

 But corruption in this country is pervasive and unusually, it begins at the top, not at the lower echelons as in other countries. However, if there is not a major change in the way the system operates, when talk of an investigation begins, all of the politicos line up solidly behind it, giving media speeches to the public about how soon the rotters will be found out and thrown out of office. It is usually the rotters that give the persuasive speeches. Nevertheless, in spite of all of the good words, the end of the investigation will result more wasted taxpayers money. The system used by people in high office to cover up these sorts of things up is usually terribly efficient. The only way that anything ever gets accomplished in Brazil is by total accident.

 A Congressional Inquiry Commission was formed in Brazil to investigate how pervasive that drug dealing was in the country. What they found was something else again. “The commission began its investigations without any publicity in late August (1999) but received nationwide attention when it began to accuse other Congressmen of laundering money, associating with death squads and drug smuggling. Federal Deputy Hildebrando Gomes, a member of the lower chamber of the National Congress was expelled and handcuffed in front of TV cameras immediately after being questioned by his former colleagues. The commission’s inquiries spread to almost all Brazilian regional states, where at least 25 local politicians are suspected of having links to drug dealers.” ([19])

A Place In The Sun 

However, the construction industry in Brazil offers politicians a wonderful opportunity to skim their fair share of vigorish with little risk. For the first time in the history of the country, the Brazilian Senate started talking about removing one of their brethren from office for his extensive construction shakedowns in projects within the capital city itself. Luiz Estevao, a man who firmly believes that charity begins and ends at home was simultaneously both a construction tycoon and a senator; the kind of situation that seems as though it would create a major conflict of interest in other countries. Like letting the rat guard the cheese, it appears that Estevao was able to steal enough from the construction of the Region Tribunal of Labor headquarters in Sao Paulo to set him up in great style for the rest of his life. However, what created the public outcry was the way the project was handled. 

From a construction point of view, the project had already become a disaster due to the fact that while it has been under erection for over eight years and has had its budget increased numerous times through questionable political maneuvering, it now appears to be coming in at three times the originally estimated price with no completion date anywhere in sight.

 Interestingly enough, the judge who presided over part of the investigation of the case was ordered arrested and he fled the country to avoid prosecution; two men who were supposed to be the owners of the project are in prison and it now turns out that none of them had anything to do with admitting their ownership of the project. Investigators after much searching found out that it was our friend Estevao all the time that both owned and operated the project. Aside from losing his Senate Seat, a police investigation is well underway and it appears likely that Estevao may wind up spending a substantial time in jail for his actions.

 “Estevao claims he is the victim of “incoherent accusations” and false rumors spread by his enemies. He pointed out that he won by a substantial margin in the Federal District with 460,000 votes, a far better showing than the other two senators elected in the same round of voting. “ ([20])

While we can certainly understand Estevao’s point of view, we are at a loss to figure out what his statement has to do with the case against him. His seems to have been caught red handed, lying about his ownership of the project, jacking up the construction price numerous times to be able to steal more money and becoming the first Brazilian Senator to ever face impeachment and now he seems to think that his argument showing how he had bought and paid for an election is going to help him in this is literally incomprehensible. But then again, in Brazil, you never really know for sure.

Moreover, this wasn’t the first time that Estevao came to the public’s attention for what can be characterized at best, as strange practices. The former president of Brazil, Fernando Collor de Mello, when faced with a long jail term, directly accused Estevao of giving him a bribe and what better source could you have than from the horse’s mouth. However, in this country, people often are blessed with short memories and that incident happened eight years earlier, or maybe the people thought that those who knew how to bribe others may be more effective in getting things accomplished and it was for that reason that he was elected senator. Who can tell?

The Staff of Life

Brazil has become a massive exporter of foodstuffs and natural resources and the country imports almost nothing primarily because of the fact that the national government has set tariffs inconceivably high, in an effort to protect and promote local industry. Brazil, interestingly enough does 25% more of its trade with Europe than it does with the United States. Moreover, during the year 2000, investors from Spain invested more in Brazil then did those investors from the United States. This statistic is rather startling when you consider the fact that Spain is hardly one of the richest countries around. There are also plenty of investment opportunities in Spain, which literally remains a third world country while part of Europe and the EU.

Whatever the reason, a balance of exports over imports combined with foreign investment in Brazil should aid up to a really healthy economy. When you aid the massive amount of tourism to the mix, you should have already reached the end of a great story.  However, this is only the beginning. We are talking about a country goes in and out of inflationary and recessionary cycles like a confirmed drunk between binges. Organized crime, (Brazil leads the world in non-military deaths from firearms, with nearly 27 per 100,000 inhabitants) ([21]) strikes, economic disasters and bureaucracy are rampant and the country’s natural resources being destroyed at a pace previously unknown in the world’s history.

Tourism

As we have pointed out, one saving grace for Brazil has been its tourist industry, which is multifaceted; the country has magnificent cities abutting on the Atlantic Ocean and the Amazon River Delta, which attracts attention in every geography book. Tourists bring substantial hard currency into the country and it is critical that Brazil constantly shows only its best face to the world’s travelers in order to maintain its spot as a premier destination. Tourists, particularly flock to the country around February, which is the height of the Brazilian season as it is at this time that the pre-Lenten Carnival goes into full swing. 

We all are well aware that nowhere is the celebrating done in more earnest than in Rio de Janeiro, a city blessed by fabled natural beauty where throngs consider it almost mandatory to visit the 124 foot high statue of Christ the Redeemer (Corcovado) which overlooks this magnificent city and its harbor. Reveling goes on at all hours of both the day and night. With all that celebrating going on, who could not want to be part of it?

However, things are not always idyllic here in Rio as they appear. Picture the surprise of travelers from all parts of the globe, when the tourist train they were riding in Rio was suddenly boarded by armed bandits wearing cowboy style clothing. In typical Wild Western fashion the thieves blockaded the tracks with trees and when the motorman slowed the train to avoid a collision, they boarded the train and threatening passengers with physical injury by brandishing knives and handguns. The robbers moved quickly through the cars taking whatever valuables the victims were carrying while other revelers “in season” partied just yards away thinking that this was just part of Rio’s carnival. The theft encompassed people from a literal United Nations of tourist: encompassing revelers from Denmark, Holland Canada, Japan, France Spain, Austria, the United States and Israel.

 No prejudices was shown by the holdup men as everything valuable that the riders were carrying that had the slightest value was quickly separated from them. Moreover, at first, many of the slightly inebriated passengers thought the daring robbery was just a gag and went along with it until they realized that the thieves were in deadly earnest about their mission. Some Brazilian historians noted that the robbery bore many of the earmarks of earlier American train robberies conducted by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Can you envision riding the Mickey Mouse railroad train in Disneyland and having characters dressed up like Minnie, Goofy and Donald Duck accosting you and demanding all of your money? 

 The then Rio de Janeiro Mayor, Luiz Paulo Conde, was horrified that word would spread about the train robbery and tourism, a staple for the city would suffer. However, the Mayor, if he were up on his history, would have been aware that Butch and Sundance never robbed the same train twice. However, while it may not be common knowledge in the rest of the world, incidents like these are everyday occurrences in Brazil and literally no one is exempt from the most brazen criminals on earth. However, we have a little secret for you; it did not take the mayor of Rio de Janeiro very long to get this message.

 The Environment 

The policies of both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, helped destroy a good part of the planet’s frail infrastructure. The creation of inferior and injurious infrastructure became their "Holy Grail" and uprooting of populations, destruction of species and rerouting of natural resources became a way of life.  No we aren’t trying to say that these were evil people or that they even planned things that way. It is just that there were many economic considerations that they did not take into consideration when they drew up their plans to create a better civilization.  

The majority of past projects funded by the major international lending institutions are in four ecologically sensitive areas: agriculture, rural development, and construction of power plants and roads. Expansive projects like hydroelectric dams in Latin American rainforests, government-sponsored migration into previously undeveloped areas, and single cash-crop agricultural and industrial expansion are some of the past projects that have not only destroyed the environment, but have also threatened the existence of many of Brazil’s indigenous native tribes. These projects have been designed to promote migration and development to remote areas. Unfortunately, many of these projects have failed and left the countries they were supposed to help with large foreign debts and environmental problems.  ([1]

For example, in the 1970's and 80's, Brazil used money borrowed from international lenders to promote migration into the interior of the rainforest. The government built large dams and roads that created easy access into the central regions of Brazil. The Brazilian government also offered subsidies to people who were willing to migrate into the rainforest. Many ranchers saw this as an opportunity to increase cattle grazing grounds, while simultaneously receiving tax credits for clearing thousands of acres of virgin forest. All of this mostly unnecessary development has caused increased foreign debt, runaway inflation, deforestation of Brazil's rainforest and the loss of many indigenous tribes.

 

 

 

Today, after years of development, Brazil has been blessed with one of the largest foreign debts of any third world country, as well as chronic problems of disease and overpopulation that are linked to environmental degradation. Farmers who could not support themselves in the rainforest have migrated to large cities looking for work, shelter and food just in time for Brazil’s worst drought of the century. Kind of an economic double header with devastating results. 

UNICEF reported one of the strangest statistics on record when Halim Girade, the Brazilian health director announced that the country’s drought and the corresponding food shortage in the northeastern cities have led to a substantial increase in child prostitution. The effects of El Nino have been particularly harsh in this area, Girade reported that; “The situation is getting worse, the rivers and ponds have dried up, and cattle are dying, children are being hired to collect water, which is now 60 kilometers away, and girls are turning to prostitution.” It is obvious that Brazil would have been better served by letting its farmers stay at home and dig wells than burning up the virgin Amazon forest in a futile effort to beat back the jungle.  

“Rio de Janeiro is a continuing source of petty crimes committed by street kids barely out of pajamas. Shopkeepers pay the cops to pick off the toddler thieves like coyotes o a Wyoming sheep farm. About five children are murdered a day, according to the University of Sao Paulo. Treated like vermin, most street urchins have a short life span. Many work for drug dealers; they sniff glue and gasoline to kill their hunger pangs. There is little sympathy on behalf of Rio’s citizenry for these prepubescent dope peddlers, and it’s unlikely that the police, who know them off on a regular basis, will be convicted for what is generally viewed as a socially beneficial act. It is estimated that there are 7 million kids living on the streets of Brazil. Hunted by death squads like rats in a sewer, they subsist by begging, stealing and demonizing themselves on petrol-based solvents. Are they a treat? You bet.” ([2])     

The World Bank's lending policies have not only been injurious by themselves.  As a powerful policy maker, its decisions influence various other lending institutions. The projects it funds and its role in shaping development policy through funding research, training, technology transfer, planning and other forms of support for borrowing nations has established policy for leading institutions for the past 40 years. Unfortunately, this type of development strategy has only hurt third world countries and Brazil may lead the hit parade. 

However, Brazil came in for its share of the blame, relative to its disinterest in harnessing wildlife traffickers. These environmental criminals are more often then not given either no sentence at all or light sentences when they are apprehended. Moreover, the Amazon region is such a marvelous breeding ground for wildlife that it also represents numerous species of animals that are either extinct elsewhere or are only indigenous to this region. There is a demand for these species for a number of reasons. Certain people feel that various parts of the bodies are cures for declining sexual powers, many of the world’s zoos desire these species because this may be the only place in which they can be found, ancillarily, many of these animals are provided to people to serve as highly exotic pets.  

Moreover, numerous of these animals have plumage which is in great demand for wearing apparel and for other ornamental reasons and many find that just plain hunting wild animals gives them great pleasure. Markups of 100 times or more are not unusual when the animals are sold to the illegal exporter and then to the consumer. “Animal trafficking is the third leading illicit trade in the world, surpassed only by drugs and weapons, according to international law enforcement reports…Brazil, with its enormous biodiversity, is a major source of the animals. The country is estimated to represent at least 10-percent of the global trade, or $1 billion.” ([3]

Brazil comes in for more than its share of abuse from environmentalists. The country’s resources are bountiful but much of these assets are deep in the jungles. Because of the country’s extreme poverty, many of the people have chosen to look for gold in the interior region where many have become fabulously wealthy. Getting into these locations means traveling light; there are no paved roads where these explorers go, but there are Indians still living in most of these regions who depend on nature to supply them with food, shelter and water.  

The average prospector’s equipment includes his pick and shovel and some mercury to mix with the gunk that makes up the small pools of water he creates in his search of gold. When he is done looking for gold in one dish he spells the worthless contents back into the water and repeats the process endlessly. What eventually results in this seemingly innocuous process is what is called mercury poisoning. The mercury tends to get into the environment, destroying valuable resources and caused sickness or death in both the prospectors and the Indians. Once infested with mercury, it is extremely difficult to remove it.  

Eventually the fish which live in the area become infected with the mercury; both the Indians and the prospectors live off the fish causing an ongoing problem. “Brazilian scientists announced the first cases of mercury poisoning in 1994. Tests revealed that fishermen living on the banks of river Tapajos, a tributary of the Amazon river, had concentrations of mercury in their bodies ad hair of as much as 151 particles per million (ppm) - far above the World Health Organization danger limit of 6 ppm. Visual impairment, loss of hair, severe headaches, impotence and involuntary movements of arms, legs and muscles are all symptoms of mercury poisoning. ‘Mercury poisoin9ng goes on for many years. It’s not easy to cure and can even affect unborn babies in pregnant women,” said Dr. Fernando Branches, one of the Brazilian researchers.”[4] 

Guys With Big Bucks  

The capacity to garner market share by literally throwing infinite amounts of money at the target is one of the more successful strategies developed by multinationals. This approach doesn’t allow breathing room for the opposition and is carried out with such surgical precision that the game is over before the other team has even touched the ball. Desiring to penetrate the soccer market for its athletic shoes, Nike ([5]), unbelievably purchased the entire Brazilian National Soccer Federation in one large gulp for an inconceivable $200 million. In essence, this would represent, in the United States, something akin a corporation purchasing the National Basket Ball League, the National Football League and the Major Baseball leagues and all of their franchises and players in one deft stroke. This probably is something that economically even William Gates couldn’t pull off. After all, “Brazil is the one country that has never missed a World Cup, the people whose game defines soccer, the land that gave us Pele.”[6]  

Nike, probably the "ugliest" American multinational, demonstrated that money is nearly everything when playing the global game, by capturing some of the world's best teams and players in one motion. From here on in, you can bet that the Brazilians will be seeing liminal and subliminal Nike commercials in their sleep. A selected number of world famous Brazilian athletes ([7]) will tour the globe, shouting the praises of wearing Nike's on the Soccer field, to all that are within earshot, and whether you agree with the strategy or not, they have made one of the best deals on record. ([8]

Nike’s move was hardly discrete when compared with quiet investments made by others, such as the rapid-fire investments made by Anheuser-Busch in Kirin, Japan’s largest brewery, Antarctica, the top beer seller in Brazil and Tsingtao, one of the largest beer manufacturers in China. In similar fashion to Nike, Anheuser has wired the sporting calendar to the degree that hardly a sporting event takes place in North American without the Beer Company’s trademark, solidly visible. Anheuser is the premier advertiser in American Car Racing, Boxing, Hydroplaning, Motorcycle Racing, Baseball, Football, Hockey and Basketball. Their dirigible even hovers over stadiums in which sporting events are taking place so that no matter where you are watching the game, you are exposed to their advertisements. They are now using the same game plan in 60 different countries worldwide, inundating the populace with their slogans and products. 

Speaking of soccer, interesting enough would you believe that: “The transfers of Brazilian soccer players to foreign clubs ‘are possibly being used as a guise for money-laundering.’ Adrienne Senna, president of the Finance ministry’s Council to Monitor Financial Activities, sad on Thursday. (11-23-2000) While this is a little hard to believe, even knowing what life in Brazil is like, it turns out that the 24 First Division clubs that make up the cream of Brazilian Soccer, owe an amazing, $114.7 million the country’s social-security system. In addition, it appears that when several of the Brazilian teams sold players to clubs in other countries, they neglected to report some $50 million to the Brazilian Government.

 

Among other measurers, the senators have asked both the Central Bank and the Federal Revenue office to disclose the accounts of business people and former players acting as agents for active players and involved in sponsorship of sporting events and organizations.”[9]     

Brazil is always going to get it right some other day, and that day is always right around the corner, Fernando Collor, ex-president of Brazil, on March 21, 1996 said something similar to what everyone else has been saying for decades, "In 1989 I stood at a crossroads and led Brazil into the 20th century. Today Brazil is at a new crossroads facing the 21st century - a sleeping giant with an economic potential that many have equated to the United States 70 years ago. When the giant awakes, and it will; when it stretches; and it will; when it reaches that potential, and it will, Brazil will stand along with the United States as a world superpower as a partner in world democracy, prosperity and peace."  

As with all sleeping giants, their eternal rest avoids facing harsh realities and so it is a land with great promise and many dreams. Brazil has been blessed with assets beyond conception and yet there is almost nothing to show for the billions of dollars that have been invested in its infrastructure. The National Geographic Atlas of the World, 1995 put Brazil into prospective. 

"The motto, "Ordem e Progresso---Order and Progress" appears on the flag of the nation that encompasses about half the Amazon rain forest, home to 150,000 Indians and countless plant and animal species. The lesser-known Pantanal region is South America's largest wetland. Road building, mining and construction, often funded by the World Bank, the European Union, and Japan, provide opportunities but at great cost. Construction of Highway BR-364 carried many farmers to Rondonia where the soil lost productivity when stripped of its nutrient-rich forest cover. Controversy over the opening of frontiers has placed some highway projects on hold. During the 1980's gold miners in Roraima polluted rivers with mercury and invaded the territory of the Yanomami, an indigenous people. As Indians succumb to imported diseases, their cultures also die, and knowledge such as the medicinal value of tropical plants is lost. In 1991, the government demarcated 93,000 kilometers for the Yanomami.

 Havoc in the forest mirrors disarray in the capital, Brasilia. Years of military dictatorship gave way to civilian rule in 1985, followed by democratic elections in 1989. Though reforms have begun, progress is slowed by constitutional questions, political corruption, and a seesaw economy: Brazil's foreign debt is the largest among developing nations. Shanties in Rio de Janeiro symbolize the problems facing the world's fifth most populous country, where 70 percent of the citizenry struggle to meet minimal nutritional needs. These problems have revived the secessionist movement by the more developed southern states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Parana and Sao Paulo."  

A bit of analysis would show the anomalies that are part of day to day life in Brazil. For example, government workers do not pay taxes, and yet assuredly make up the largest single segment of the workforce. On the other hand, they also make up the largest coherent voting block in the country. Thus, Brazil's leaders have had what could be called weakness of the heart when it has come to rectifying the situation. Another remarkable problem, is the fact that Brazil is extremely interested in fostering emerging companies and products and in doing so, has enacted protective tariffs that are so all-encompassing and repressive that in the Brazilian Government’s belief, foreign competition will not be able to snuff out these nascent industries of tomorrow. While an excellent theory in practice, it does not work in principal because of the hole in the dike that exists in Paraguay.  

Importers of foreign goods evade these restrictions by bringing in the products illegally from Asuncion in Paraguay. Thus, Brazil has lost the ability to collect reasonable taxes, while the protection that it sought to offer its new industry falls by the wayside. Yet, no one seems willing to do anything about the black market that exists in Paraguay, which could be stopped in a second if authorities determined to do so. Importation cannot compete with the black market but even if it could, effectively, Brazil adds insult to injury by forcing imported products to set high minimum prices and obtain hard or impossible to acquire licenses before products can be brought in.

 One industry that has been particularly hard hit by the literal embargo that Brazil protectively places on imports is the automobile industry. Counterband cars cannot be delivered to Paraguay and then to Brazil so the embargos that Brazil sets on goods entering the country is particularly effective in that arena. Thus, many foreign manufacturers have set up shop in Brazil. General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen, Fiat, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Peugeot Citroen, Honda, Renault and Mercedes-Benz have all setup shop in this country. However, the duties that keep imported products out also keep up or substantially increase of the price of necessary end products that are critical to the manufacturing process.  

Coupled with inflation and consistent recessions, Brazil offers an attract but dangerous market for the major auto makers. In addition, due to the fact that Brazil keeps a lid on imports from other countries, in most places protective tariffs have been initiated against Brazilian products. Thus, although, the country represents an attractive market in itself and with its membership in Mercosur, a free trade pact with Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay with Bolivia and Chile being associate members,  brings a large portion of South America into the equation, a world class car emanating from this emerging country is difficult to imagine.  

“However, neither has Mercosur, nor economic reform, transformed Brazil’s export performance. Between 1989 and 1999, India’s exports increased by 128%, China’s by 271% and those of the United States by 91%, while Brazil’s rose by a paltry 40%. Brazil’s share of world trade is smaller than in the mid-1970s. Brazil is less poor than India, China or Russia, but it is in some ways less open: its total trade amounts to a lower share of gross domestic product (GDP) than in any of those countries.”[10] 

Brazil has poured money into its infrastructure, or better put, the World Bank has at Brazil’s request has poured money into Brazil's infrastructure, and yet after the projects had been completed, it was found that it was prohibitively expensive to transport goods from one part of the country to another that most companies don't even bother to attempt it. As an example of the exorbitant cost of trans-shipping within Brazil, FedEx is so pricey that its cost has become a hot topic at the board meetings of many large corporations. Believe it or not, on several occasions, questions came up over the perceived abuse of the utilization of FedEx, and often things have literally gotten so heated that its use has caused directors to come to blows.  However, the alternative in most cases is not having the packages shipped at all, which can result in something far worse. There have been numerous bloodied noses and bruised egos over the expense of this service.  However, FedEx is not the only product whose use has become prohibitive, every check written by anyone in the country is taxed at a relatively substantially rate, and it appears that this tax is still on its way higher. Talk about stifling business, Brazil, with all of its deliberations about reform cannot seem to solve the simple problem of getting enough money into the treasury to encourage business not kill it off altogether.   

In the recent, old days, when inflation was running at a rate of 20% percent or more each month, wages had to quickly be turned into hard goods or the money would disappear. Businesses were loath to allow long term financing (over a week) on credit purchases because, as their currency (the real) depreciated, the business was being paid back with ever diminishing buying power. If businesses allowed the financing costs to continue too long, they found that they had effectively built a loss into the transaction. Yet, if the retail arena was a disaster because of inflation, banking conversely was both worse and better depending on what side of the track you were on.   

The majority of the banking that goes on in Brazil is conducted by government-owned institutions whose only reason for existence in inflationary times, is supplying money to governmental agencies by their collateralized lending against future tax collections (anticpacoes de receita orcamentaria) in most cases for the use of politicians to run for office. Since Brazil customarily does not allow its senior politicians to hold office more than one term, it is important to the office holder's power base, that a person of his choosing gets the post, assuring his assistance in their eventual run for a higher office or as insurance policy against getting indicted for bribery or fraud committed while holding the job. Thus, incredible amounts of money are spent on new projects just before election time to get the new guy elected and most of the campaigning is paid for by borrowings at government banks.      

Each new Brazilian President appoints a new finance minister, who immediately upon taking office has his hands tied tightly behind his back by his boss. These masochists for pay, holding this particular office have all been, only window dressing for decades. Inconceivably, since 1985, Brazil has had the equivalent of a new finance minister each and every year an almost frightening statistic. It becomes even more overwhelming when you consider that only one party has held office in the country during that period However, Brazilian Presidents have historically found it much easier to blame the finance ministers for the country's seemingly unsolvable problems than to admit that they have some culpability. Universally, all candidates for the highest office in Brazil run on a ticket of cleaning up the country’s debts and creating a surplus in the treasury.  

Candidates how really know little or nothing about economics use a lot of fancy words to convey how the impossible task of getting the economy back on track is going to get accomplished. Their ultimate public failure in accomplishing the lofty goals that they have set, usually comes sooner rather than later. Historically, this has infuriated the people and it doesn’t take long before they become restive when they learn once again that they have been taken for a ride and that inflation will be spirally higher along with taxes. The country’s president, facing the choice of getting tarred and feathered over they problem or finding a whipping boy on whom he can unload the blame, ops for the later. Thus, taking the office of finance minister has become an opportunity for people with clean reputations to get totally tarnished by their own party as well as the country’s media. In most cases the job becomes so difficult and they are made to look so bad that being finance minister of the country is probably their last political stop. Being aware of the fact that they will soon become totally expendable, finance ministers have recently started demanding ever more substantial perks in exchange for the expected ultimate embarrassment that the office will eventually bring to them. Finance ministers in Brazil have proven the old adage that, for everything in life, there is indeed a price.  In this office, it is a very large one. 

Moreover, the same thing may be said of Central Bank heads whose job life expectancy has been if anything, a tad shorter. The folks that run Brazil’s Central Bank have no independent life whatsoever and are overruled whenever the Brazilian President has another, more pressing agenda. They either do what they are told or are summarily dismissed.  Thus, by alternatively firing the finance minister and the central bank head every six months, the President has had a constant source of new fodder to use when he addresses his constituents at blame laying time.  It is an interesting to note the fact that in almost two-decades, that the citizens of this country haven’t yet gotten wise to what is going on.   

El Presidente’

However, there are worse jobs in this country, for example becoming the President of Brazil is a job that starts off unpleasantly and goes downhill from there. How would you like to walk into office and start the day with a request from twelve of your twenty-seven state governments for financial relief, just to make it possible for them to pay their bills for that day? This is not an imaginary example of what faces is incumbent, it is more often than not, the rule. Whether or not a state is solvent is no longer the issue; for the most part, they have all been insolvent for decades. In one case, that of the state of Mato Grosso, the Governor had a nervous breakdown and disappeared from sight when he was informed that employees could no longer be paid. At Mato Grosso's worst, the state was five months delinquent in salaries to state employees. Ultimately, the governor was forced to sacrifice the state's power company and the state’s bank to privatization in order to get the payrolls paid and to bring soaring debt back into line. 

The System

Subsequently, other states have announced their inability to service their debts, creating not only a national crisis but a global one as well. In 1995, nineteen states had to be saved from going permanently into a state of suspended animation. All nineteen were unable to pay their bills and pleaded with the Central Government for a tithing to stay in business. Among the supplicants was the state of Alagoas, which was a mirror image of Mato Grosso in not having paid their employees in five months. If it were not for the fact that the Brazilian State Banks are in reality, arms of the government, which historically roll state loans over on demand, the states themselves would probably all be out of business. However, the State Banks from a going business point of view are already out of business, they have just have not figured it out yet. Interestingly enough, national regulations are very precise about stating that neither loan concentrations nor self dealing by controlling interests could be entered into within the banking system of Brazil, but as with all else in the wondrous country, state banks were exempted from these regulations and self dealing here is the only way of life with no sign of letup.  

Thus we have a system that has totally gotten out of control and has been of-necessity strongly biased towards inflation, where the economy is presided over by finance ministers that glide in and out of office like the tide. Men chosen solely because they have graduated from a top school and appear viral and bright on Brazilian television. Moreover, these short-term employees are schooled in how to make an excellent resignation speech on the day that they take office awaiting the time when the president will come to the conclusion that their value to them is only in their resignation.  

Moreover, this bizarre system has allowed the Brazilian Banks to profit handsomely from the float. In point of fact, the so-called inflation tax which was almost $10 billion in 1993 fell to less than $500 million in 1995. Can you imaging what Citicorp would have made in Brazil in 1994 when inflation was zooming out of control at 48% a month if they just did nothing? By holding money for others, they collected interest on disintermediated funds rates. As an example, if Banco Brazil was paying five percent on passbook accounts in 1993 and inflation was rising at the rate of 48%, they would be able to charge that increased amount to new borrowers. It is not a stretch to see that they would be making the difference between the new rates that they were charging and the old rates that they were paying. Most of the sums that they would have on deposit were usually government funds and therefore, more often than not, the banks profit would be at governmental expense.   

By following that inflation driven scenario, It becomes critically clear that the Brazilian Government had supported the banking industry with inflation for decades. When the inflation ended or better put, subsided slightly, the profit on float dropped to levels that no longer produced a profit for the bank, essentially because of the bank's built in bureaucracy. (When one person would suffice, wouldn't two do an even better job)? In spite of continued inflation based on global standards, the banks were now forced to look elsewhere for profits. 

Being firmly stuck in a corner, they did the unthinkable and started making legitimate loans. This shift came about so suddenly that the banks that heretofore had only dealt with incestuous political situations, really were at a loss as to what to do first. Nevertheless, they did what came naturally, tried to get into a new business without any background whatsoever and really screwed things up to a far-the-well.  The Brazilian Banks proceeded with their far fetched plan to go legit and to make loans to real people and real businesses. However, because almost all of their lending had previously been done with the state, they were never adequately trained in figuring out the process of getting their money back once they had made a loan. There was literally no installment business in Brazil during the days of hyperinflation; thus the back office systems that banks usually rely on to service loans were nonexistent. Thus, default became the order of the day and most government banks became even more critically insolvent. An interesting study was done; cross section of banks (Big Six Banks) was taken that showed, from the last year of hyperinflation to the first year of relatively low inflation (1993-1995) provisions for bad loans rose 1200 percent.

An industry that had supplied almost 60 percent of all loans in Brazil, now is in a situation where in the private sector, almost 20 percent of their loans are in default. In the public sector, only the wildest of optimists would think that there is any chance at all for repayment of literally anything. If that isn’t a hopeless situation, we do not know what is.   An example of the foregoing, is in the financial condition of the Brazilian State of Sao Paulo. When the new governor, Mario Covas came to office, he found that the state's obligations exceeded its assets by an inconceivable, ten times. With interest continuing to compound, any solution other than re-inflating would just not have been possible.  Picture the new governor being told upon entering office that the state had only several hundred thousand dollars in the bank and a payroll or $800 million due in the next several days. No wonder that some of the people are already referring to the good old days, as those days when hyperinflation was running rampant.  At least the real amount that they owed on their outstanding loans was dropping as inflation increased. 

Covas was determined to set the affairs of Sao Paulo in order and in doing so may have come up with a new form of financing. He determined that the best way to get a fresh start was to sell of the state's airports and railroads. He was convinced that this would bring the necessary $15 billion to settle the more egregious of the Sao Paulo's debts. He proposed a transaction to the central government in which he would issue a tax anticipation privatization note to the government banks in exchange for the money, but he needed government permission to complete the transaction. In the painful six month period that it took to get a majority vote from the Brazilian Senate, the debt had increased by $3 billion, an amount which Covas had no way of ever realizing even with the sale and the deal was hastily called off.   

Sao Paulo

 The city of Sao Paulo is at the heart of the entire problem. With a population of 17-million ([11]), the city finds itself $5.3 billion in debt and most of its citizens live without the barest of human necessities. This has occurred in spite of the fact that Sao Paulo is the third most populated city in Brazil. Its problems range from a defunct sewage treatment system, an inept and corrupt political system, fog that is so dense you can’t see the nose in front of your face which is brought on pollution that is literally world class. The water is undrinkable, the traffic lines unending and the life has become so unbearable that Sao Paulo has probably established the highest suicide rate in the world. One million people are out of work, classrooms are overflowing and not enough beds in hospitals. Drought has effected the city’s reservoirs surrounding Sao Paulo and even taking a showers is considered a major luxury.  

“Millions of its residents live in two- and three-room shacks. Forty percent live without a sewage treatment system. The homicide rate is 66 deaths per 100,000, among the highest in the world. An in at least one poor community, the rate has vaulted to 123 slayings per 100,000 residents, which analysts say is reminiscent of a war zone. ‘Things are just horrible,” said Judith Ramos, 36, a Sao Paulo native. “It’s a city without any management. So many people don’t have public services. Traffic’s awful. The streets are falling apart. The killings don’t seem to stop. I mean, I’ve never heard people as pessimistic about life here as they are today.’” ([12]) 

However, on the other hand, Sao Paulo is Brazil’s richest metropolitan area.  “In recent years, Sao Paulo has become known for its accomplished symphony, world-class restaurants, an enormous economy, beautiful parks, great climate and friendly people. It offers almost every distraction known to man, that is, if you can get there. Sao Paulo is so congested that you must allow at least an extra hour if you want to insure getting to your destination in a timely manner. Talk about traffic jams, this city is in itself the mother of them all.  

Gasboys

Sao Paulo has a culture particularly all of its own. The majority of the people cook on gas stoves and count on delivery men to distribute their supplies in person. The small trucks that are used for this purpose are filled with canisters of gas (a blend of propane and butane) and delivered directly into consumers homes by route-people or "gasboys" many of whom have plied the same itineraries for decades servicing an ever more homey clientele. Unusually, their deliveries are made by filing balloons in the trucks with the flammable mixture and walking it into the house, in much the same fashion as boy at a circus would look like.

Because of the fact that, as a necessity, the gas must be delivered and these Gasboys are the only ones that have unlimited egress into the consumers homes, companies trying to break into the consumer markets here, hire  them to distribute their samples to create a consumer awareness. Moreover, these Gasboys have a special relationship with these people that they have been calling on for decades as it relates to trust. Even when robberies are pervasive in the neighborhood, the trusted Gasboy is allowed in and probably has a key to the front door. Because of this special relationship, the multinationals using this method of getting their message across are folks such as Nestle, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson Floor Was, Sarah Lee, Procter and Gamble and  Unilever.

This method of distribution is probably the world's most inexpensive. The gasboys like it because the are giving their customers something for nothing creating additional loyalty while making the stops that they would make anyway. The multinationals love the scheme because their sales always seem to take off like a bird after a Gasboy  immersion and the distribution channel itself costs next to nothing; maybe a nickel a stop. Moreover, the tourists visiting Sao Paulo can't get enough of these grown men walking around town with these enormous balloons in tow. Sadly, however, an end of an era is in sight. Sao Paulo is finally installing a gas distribution system utilizing a pipeline to deliver the product directly to the consumers stove. Another era is slowly coming to end here in the same way that the horse and buggy did in the United States.

A Place Apart

In an environment like this, it is not a push that you would also find one of the country’s most notorious prisons, Carandiru. Maybe this is because of the poverty living alongside prosperity that is omnipresent here, or maybe it is because there are no longer enough police to handle the city’s exploding criminal population or maybe it could even be the fist fights and resultant broken noses that result from road rage which seems to be the most common denominator in all of Sao Paolo. No matter what the reason, Carandiru was unquestionably the largest prison in all of Latin America, and possibly the world. Worse yet, it was located only a stone's throw from the Sao Palo financial district, a disaster waiting to happen.

This was a facility that made no attempt at rehabilitation, where health care was concerned, the building was condemned and as far as security for both the inmates and guards, it was a monstrosity. Sure enough, in 1992, there was an uprising in the prison over the rights of the inmates and in a horrific encounter, 111 of the prisoners were killed. This ignoble encounter began as mainly uphill prisoner’s rights battle. However, as a result of the massive riot, many inroads were made and eventually the prisoners were even allowed the ability to communicate with the outside world. Anyone that could afford a cell phone in most Brazilian prisons had one and it was a piece of cake for the inmates in the various prisons to talk on an regular basis about what was going on in one penitentiary or another.  

The scene had been set. A group called the First Commando of Capital became annoyed that some of their leaders were being transferred from Carandiru to other prisons in the vicinity. On February 18th 2001, the First Commando’s found it a simple matter to call the 27 other jails in the Sao Paulo State area and tell the leaders in each and every one of them that their own leaders had been dispersed, torture was still being practiced at the prison and that Carandiru was crumbling from ill-repair and severely overcrowded. The leaders indicated that prisoners were being treated like cattle. Amnesty International stated that torture in Brazil remains "widespread and systematic" because of lack of policing and judicial indifference. The New York Times on October 19, 2001 in story on the matter by Larry Rohter said:

"To many people, torture is a crime of the past," said Tim Cahill, an Amnesty International researcher who worked on the new report. In contrast to the middle-class white students and intellectuals who suffered in the past, "many of today's victims are poor or African-Brazilians, and so what they undergo is not deemed torture, " he said. Many police officials who engaged in torture under the dictatorship benefited from amnesties under democratic rule and remained in their jobs. As a result, the amnesty International report concluded, "the failure to investigate and punish the crimes committed under the military government has built up an ethos of impunity within the security forces, which has allowed torture and ill-treatment to flourish."

First Commando’s leaders were so incensed over the scattering of their leaders that they called for riots at the other prisons at a particular time and date. At the appointed hour, twenty-thousand of Sao Paolo’s most ignominious prisoners went bonkers, and while they were at it, they immediately grabbed 7,000 hostages. Many of these were visitors or guards. The scope of this uprising was hard to imagine, especially for the Sao Paulo city fathers and the police. How do you deal with twenty-thousand unhappy inmates holding seven-thousand hostages, many of them, women and children. The decision was unanimous, very gently.  

One of the reasons that so many women and children were in involved in being taken hostage was the fact that women were allowed to make "intimate" and family visits every weekend. Moreover, should they desire, the inmate's children and mothers were also allowed to visit. Prison officials felt that conjugal visits would cause tempers to calm, found that under these circumstances, it only stirred the pot and made the overall situation extremely dangerous.

In spite of an attempt to hold damage to a minimum, the women and children formed  human barricades to keep the guards from getting to their men, who they felt would be slaughtered once captured. “May wives and mothers did not want to leave for fear riot troops would retaliate once they were gone but finally agreed to file out five at a time after searches. Hundreds of the women and children who were released formed human barriers try to prevent from entering and shouting ‘Assassins!’ at them.” ([13]

Eventually a satisfactory peace was worked out, only 16 people had died in what could have turned out to be a world-class massacre. Human rights activists opined that  severe overcrowding and torture fueled the riots and helped the gang rally supporters. However, Brazil’s 240,000 inmates stage frequent riots. ‘This shows how tenuous the control authorities have over prison conditions is,’ said James Cavallaro of Justica Global human rights group. ‘This can repeat itself at any time’” ([14]) and the State of Sao Paulo learned a little something about letting prisoners bring cell phones into an overcrowded jail with a jaded history.  

In 2001, the largest single jail break in the history of Brazil occurred and the government had enough. In celebration of their latest lesson, the prison also known as Casa de Detencao, which once housed over 8,000 was closed in 2002. The last 76 inmates were removed in paddy wagons while both the Governor of the state and shock troops stood guard. It had stood for 46 tumultuous years and had been the home for 170,000 men. However, Sao Paulo is used to prisons and prisoners because over half of the country's male incarcerations are housed in its vicinity. One could wonder why, but it doesn't take long to come up with the answer, this is where the crime is. The state government has determined that it will demolish the prison's cell blocks and turn the property into a youth park with recreational and educational facilities. Jesus Martins the last director of the prison said of its demise: "Detencao is like a person with so many illnesses that the only solution is to issue the death certificate."

Inflation

Things got even worse, Brazil stopped defending its currency in January of 1999 and in order that inflation not be allowed to take hold again, they literally raised interest rates for prime borrowers to an annualized 40 percent. Thus, small borrowers were tossed to the wolves and rates of over 200% a year became the norm. The program that had been designed to create a middle-class in Brazil, died stillborn and no one has a clue as to how to revive it. The default by several Brazilian States coupled with the collapse of the real ([15]) created international panic. Globally, economist's felt that the Pacific Rim economic crises had spread from the West into Latin America, and that Argentina and Mexico would soon be next. In short order the IMF stepped up to the plate and arranged a bailout package of $41.5 billion. Nevertheless, Brazil wasn't at all sure that they could afford the harsh medicine proposed by the IMF, but after some substantial miscues and unimaginative wishful thinking, soon agreed to the harsh terms.   

One of the problems faced with getting the country back on the right track is that Brazil has as part of its heritage, an almost suicidal aversion to bankruptcy and the closing of public institutions. However severe their problems, locking the doors of a business that employees people is literally unheard of in this country. Moreover, the word for public reorganization does not exist in the Brazilian vocabulary. Rather than even consider the liquidation of these failed banks; Brazil has taken the line of least resistance and made the atrocious determination to throw good money after bad by handing funds to a system containing some of the worst managed banks in the world.   

As a matter of fact, a noted economist once said, that the only banking system in the world that makes Japan look good is Brazil. The International Monetary Fund, as part of their arrangement with Brazil, told government officials that it will no longer abide the support of mismanaged and corrupt financial institutions. The problem is, when they finally get a closer look at the size of the problem, $41 billion is not even going to even scratch the surface.  But there is much more than meets the eye involved in this situation. Banks in Brazil are not banks as they are known anywhere else in the world. Brazil’s financial institutions are piggybanks for politicians and if they were ever closed, the system would collapse.  

Brazilian Bank Abuse

 When talking about just plain bad bank management, we have to take our hat off to Banco do Estado de Sao Paulo (Banespa) Brazil's second largest bank, which has seriously campaigned for designation as the world's worse. Brazilians seem to take some morbid pride in comparing the Banespa disaster with some of the great banking catastrophes of all time. The say that the $10 billion cost of Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and even the $14 billion hosing administered to Credit Lyonnais are not even in the same league with the $23 billion blood bath suffered by Banespa. Banespa has over 50,000 employees' people and has over 600 branches, its administrative mass compares with that of the domestic arm of Citibank, with only ten percent of Citibank's capital.  

A few years ago the regional government responsible for the Sao Paolo district persuaded the bank to lend it money to cover shortfalls in its annual budget. Before long, this had become an annual ritual and at a certain time every year, the city fathers would visit the bank’s headquarters and add to their loans in order to keep the city’s gears moving. Future tax receipts were used to guarantee repayment of the money, but when the regional administration began to default on its loans these guarantees proved all but worthless. Sao Paulo’ debts to Banespa, which amounted to around $20 billion, constituted one of the biggest black holes in banking history. As they always say, $20 billion here and $20 billion there and soon you are talking about real money.  

To give you a capsule look at how bad off Banespa is, you only have to perceive the fact that of the two million accounts still with the bank, 1.7 million are people that are legally obligated to leave their money in the calamitous institution, state employees. Eighty percent of Its capital is made up of deposits made by the state government.  At one time, the bank serviced over 3 million people, but most of those that were able to escape ran for the hills, sensing the bad things to eventually come. However, those that are still locked into the bank are only praying that they are still open when they either escape from civil service and get a real job or when they retire.  

As with Credit Lyonnais, the only reason that Bank Banespa still exists falls into two categories, one being national pride and the other being the old "too big to fail" syndrome. Caught between the two, no one seems to know what to do. Banespa, in its favored status as a state bank where all government employees are forced to keep their funds as well as all businesses contracting with the state, legal escrow accounts and other state and city funds in all of Sao Paulo. The logical choice in a disaster of this sort would be to privatize the bank and pray that a miracle happens. However, no miracle can occur when the bank's only profits come solely from its monopoly, the same benefits would not accrue to any privatized entity because if they did, it would not be privatized.    

The people are so used to Brazilian banks being on the edge of disaster  that they hardly pay attention anymore. Of the ten largest banks in Brazil, five have recently gone out of business or are on the brink of extinction. The central government has had such a difficult time in dealing with the situation that they have once more gone back to printing money to pay bills. However, this becomes one hell of a trick, when you have a currency that is pegged to the dollar. They found out that this program just didn't cut the mustard when they dropped the peg by about eight percent and then let their currency float for a time. This dim-witted repositioning almost capsized the entire Brazilian government. The currency dropped right through the artificial floor that government indicated was sacrosanct and never looked back. Massive intervention efforts by the government were produced abysmal results and when the smoke had cleared, their currency stabilized substantially below the government's avowed level. This caused a chain reaction and the real had to eventually be repegged. Brazil is probably the only country in the world that has embarked on a program of pegging, repegging and money printing, but then again what other choice do they have?  

Healthcare, For What Its Worth 

While every governmental agency in Brazil was broke, newly elected Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso ran on a ticket of “Broke Shmoke, Health Care Comes First”. Apparently this was a winning line and he was victorious in a landslide. One of his first acts upon entering office was to arrange for the Brazilian Health Ministry to receive almost $16 billion to pay its bills. According to Brazill magazine in an article entitled, "The Health System in Brazil", April 1996, "Thanks to this (the money), the Sistema Unico de Saude (Unified Health System) (SUS) was able to conduct one million doctor consultations a day, perform 4,120 heart surgeries, maintain 508,700 hospital beds and hospitalize 11,350 cancer patients. In 1989 Brazil became the first Latin American country to eradicate polio, while measles has almost been eliminated, with only around 1,500 new cases in 1995. And, Insituto Butanta a leading research institution, has just announced that in a few months it will start producing a vaccine for hepatitis B, helping the country rid itself of this preventable disease. From the early 50s to today, life expectancy has increased from 46 to 65 years. Brazil has 6,500 hospitals and proportionally, as many doctors ([16]) as England (1.46 professionals for 1,000 people) Quite impressive, huh? 

However, before you start cheering about the fact that Brazil may have gotten something right, you have to examine all of the facts. When all is said and done, statistically all of this puts Brazil just a cut above Paraguay in resources devoted to healthcare and behind such pathetic countries as India and El Salvador. Moreover, from the almost $16 billion spent in 1995, $2.7 billion was used to pay staff, and another $2.9 billion went to cover old loans.  

While the US allocates 12.7% of its GNP to health, Brazil reserves only 4.2% for this purpose. Compare these number with those of France (8.9%), India (6%), El Salvador (5.9%) and Paraguay (2.8%). In hard terms, this means that less than $80 per capita was allotted to healthcare in Brazil last year, whereas in neighboring Argentina the number was nearly $300 and in the United States it was $2,300. That's what was being spent in the sector in 1987. The situation hit bottom in 1992 when a mere $45.7 per capita from federal funds was used for healthcare. In 1950 the number of hospital beds offered by the state was roughly the same as the private sector, the participation of the public sector has decreased to 29% of all beds available." 

Well, now that we have seen the good news, what about the other side of the coin? Mortality for mothers is 50 times higher in Brazil than in Japan and this is in spite of the fact that as a percentage, Brazil leads the world in cesarean deliveries which in reality ought to be safer. Brazil has over six times the infant mortality of the United States. Seventy percent of the people in Brazil over fifty years old have no teeth in spite of the fact that there are over 160,000 dentists practicing in the country. However, doctors under the Brazilian medical system receive $2 per patient visit, considerably less than the $2.50 standard fee for a shoeshine in the Sao Paolo Airport. Doctors are not well paid in this country as the average monthly wages for them are around $400. However, the use of the word doctor is deceptive by American standards as sixty-five percent of Brazilian doctors never train in a residence program, they go directly into business. This is why many Brazilians check to see how long their doctor has been practicing before placing their bodies in jeopardy.  

So the medical system in Brazil is not up western standards. As a result of this, even with a large number of under-trained doctors, a disease that has been stamped out in most of the world, Cholera, runs rampant in Brazil, as do yellow fever and dengue. In addition, in spite of the fact that, the it has been publicly announced on numerous occasions that the Aedes aegypti mosquito, has been eliminated the disease that it causes is running rampant. Worse yet, over 500,000 Brazilians per year get malaria and tuberculosis has been growing at an exponential rate. Some of this can be chalked up to the great distances involved in getting medicines and medical help to outlying people, but there is still little excuse.  

Moreover, some of the reasons for this dismal record are just pure and simple fraud. Investigators have turned up healthcare money being used for parties, clothes and strangest of all, obstetrical services for men. Political donations are high on the list of expenses for clinics and labs; many of which perform literally no known service and are paid millions of dollars a year. In the state of Maranhao alone, over 20% of all medical funds were found in private bank accounts and of course, that was only what was found. The world record for phony hospitalizations occurred in Campo Grande do Sul in the state of Parana where over 60% of the population was hospitalized in one year.  

Many of these people would have had a hard time getting to the hospital on their own, as their names were shown to have been lifted directly from some of the area's cemeteries.  However, no matter what you think, with poverty as pervasive as it is in this country you can not fault the people for these marvelous improvisations. An inclusive audit of the system revealed that 24.12 percent of all diagnoses for health care in Brazil were incorrect. Malpractice cases against doctors are growing at epidemic proportions and if it were not for interminable court delays for these types of hearings, the medical population of the country would have been severely decimated by long prison sentences.  

In addition, the Brazilian law clearly requires that each drug store have a pharmacist on duty during the hours that it is open. Statistics indicate that there are approximately 50,000 pharmacies in Brazil and between 30,000 and 40,000 pharmacists. We will leave it to you to figure that one out but it seems like someone is not watching the store. But nobody will ever accuse the country of not having some medicine for everyone’s taste. While the World Health Organization recommends a list of about 400 basic drugs; the Brazilian market stocks approximately an astounding 12,000. Such redundancy and over inventorying in a country practicing socialized medicine is beyond obscene.  Worse yet, in a country that is fudging on pharmacists to begin with, how can a novice possibly become familiar this massive number of medicines. 

There are 353 laboratories that are registered in Brazil under the law; Jose Eduardo Bandeira de Mello, President of Abifarma, which represents the pharmaceutical industry in Brazil, says that 60% of those 353 are illegitimate. That is not very comforting for Brazilian patients, especially those with severe medical problems. Moreover, someone contracting AIDS in Brazil can look forward to living less than 25% as long as his fellow sufferer in the United States or Europe.  This particular problem has caused a spillover effect. Many Brazilians who have become infected, flee to the United States for treatment, where they make up a high percentage of the total undocumented aliens getting medical attention in this country. Do these patients return to Brazil once they are cured.? As to that question, the New York Brazilian contingent said, "forget about it".  

Privatization, The Only Hope 

Many Brazilians believe that, as they sell off their government industry to privatization, money will roll in, allowing problems such as medical care, police brutality and infrastructure deficits to be finally addressed. While, we too would wish that would occur, we became less than sanguine when reading a recent report covering the results of what government officials termed a successful privatization. 

Diametrically opposed to Brazil’s systematic liquidation of state owned assets was the Russian system which effectively gave away the store immediately after the Berlin Wall came down. So anxious to please the Western financiers were the Russians, that through their disastrous coupon system, the prize resources of the country were hastily redistributed to the very people that were running the factories and businesses in the first place.  Worse yet, the peasants, not really understanding the value of what they had been given, traded the perceived worthless pieces of paper that they were given for valuable really consideration such as cigarettes and canned goods. Well-placed individuals were able to buy up the certificates en masse, purchase the state's assets for a pittance and, the same people are still in charge when the music stopped playing. However, as bad as  the Russian system was, Brazil did even worse.

Brazil sold its telephone company, Telebras for a goodly sum, $19 billion. The Brazilian Government is on record relative to the fact that it uses the money derived from privatizations for financing the deficit in its external current account balance of payments. This is not a bad idea as it has a stabilizing effect on the Brazilian Currency as well as reducing the country's foreign debt and helps in trade. The incumbent President, who is running for election again shortly in an attempt to win a few extra votes announced that he would use part of the $19 billion to beef up public spending.  However, there are two major problems with this statement, the first is the fact that government doesn’t get the whole $19 billion, they only get 60% of it, with the rest paid over a period of time. The second but less important in Brazil is the simple fact that it is clearly against the law to do it. Nevertheless, this has never stopped Brazilian politicians in the past. In Brazil, where there is a will there is always a way.  

When they were informed of the illegality of the program that they were sponsoring, they were nonplused. One of the President's spokesmen immediately came up with another idea, he announced that the money would be used to pay off internal debt and the interest savings would be used to help drought victims in Brazil's hard hit northeast. While that played to the sympathy bit, it was just as illegal as the first proposal and everyone had to go back to the drawing board once again. It may be that they thought that no one would be the wiser and that any news would be good news to their long suffering electorate. 

The Workers Party Doesn't Work

However, privatization is not considered to be a panacea everywhere in Brazil. In this very strange country, the important state of Rio Grande do Sul is now run by a party that seems to aspire to some kind of weird political cross between socialism and communism. It is called the Brazilian Workers Party (PT) and it has Rio Grande do Sul’s major city well under their control. Moreover, the party seemed to be growing dramatically and with almost religious fervor, the people in the state were preaching its virtues as the only way out for impoverished people.    

A few months ago, PT candidate Olivio Dutra won the gubernatorial elections. For the first time in Brazil’s history, one of the country’s most important states is administered by a team that bases itself on socialism and the interests of working people. Olivo Dutra is a former bank workers union director and a well-known figure on the PT’s left, he defines himself, according to a conversation we had a few months ago as a “Christian Marxist.” The elected vice-governor, Miguel Rossetto, belongs, like the mayor of the state capital, to the Socialist Democracy tendency.” ([17])

Obviously Olivio would not have been elected if things in Porto Alegre weren’t going swimmingly for the populace. The city has formed an anarchistic type of government where a town meeting is held and a vote is taken with everyone invited. Whatever, way the majority votes in these meetings becomes law. Moreover, the State has now indicated that it will take a similar course. The laws that are being passed are totally at loggerheads with both the Brazilian Constitution and the Brazilian Judicial Process. What has happened here is that the state is becoming a place where causes are ripened and decent with the existing system becoming commonplace. Privatization has been stopped, repayment of what is considered to by illegal debt to the government has been put on hold, the cause of the landless Brazilians is now at the top of the calendar and socialism is rampant. You could say that this is an economic rebellion.  

“This is a system that lets local populations in each neighborhood of Porto Alegre decide, in assemblies that are open to the entire population, the priorities for the public budget allocated to their locality. In other words, it is the population itself, which determines, in an original demonstration of direct democracy, if the budget’s funds should be used to build a road, a school, or a medical center. Subsequent assemblies let the population monitor the implementation of the chosen projects, while a City Council of the Participatory Budget, made up of delegates elected by the assemblies manages the distribution of the budget to the different neighborhoods, following criteria decided on in common.” ([18]) 

We believe that if the clueless folks in Brasilia don’t get their act together in a hurry, the Rio Grande do Sul type of governance will sweep the country. After all, ninety six percent of the population can be considered poor or worse in this country. Under the current regime they don’t have either a hope or a prayer. After all the money that the United States has poured into stopping this type of political activity all over the world, it is right back at our doorstep and it seems to be working its way throughout our large neighbor to the south. In comparison to the Brazilian Government’s activities, these guys from the Brazilian Workers Party look to gain a lot more followers as they pick up speed. Who knows what will happen next? 

The Next Event

Eventually there was a Workers Party Candidate for Presidente. His name is Lula da Silva and he is about as far left as you can get and still be dry. With the rise of the left has come the advent of psychodrama.    The Washington Post did the following piece on the man after he was elected. "Today President George W. Bush is to meet with President-elect Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, who will take office on Jan. 1, 2003. There will be cordial statements on both sides, photographs of friendly handshakes, and most observers will continue to believe Mr. Lula da Silva — despite his more than 20 years of self professed admiration for Fidel Castro — will govern as he posed during the election campaign, when he left behind his radicalism and projected the image of a pragmatic reformist." 

"That could happen, and many in the U.S. State Department seem to be making this hopeful assumption. But the more likely future is one in which the Lula da Silva government combines a strong interest in promoting Brazilian exports and maintaining good relations with U.S. business, foreign investors and international financial organizations with a parallel series of actions, both visible and hidden, that are intended to help pro-Castro anti-U.S. radicals take power in other neighboring countries such as Colombia — racked for decades by communist guerilla attacks."

However, it was not just a twinge of Castroism that Lula brings to the table, he is also part of party that seems to want to be somewhere else, whether in real time or not. For one day in March of last year, the city of Sao Paulo became the Broadway of psychodrama, when Workers Party Mayor Marta Suplicy , a trained psychologist encouraged ordinary citizens to turn their daily struggles and grievances into theater. Ms. Suplicy conceived this epic exercise in civic therapy in hopes of purging her polluted, crime-ridden city of what she diagnosed as "low esteem,." The mayor, a former TV sex therapist, dispatched 700 psychodrama coaches to dozens of parks, plazas and public halls to organize impromptu amateur dramas. In the many venues, street people pretended to be lawyers, while doctors portrayed laborers. One student striving for authenticity in his role as a government bureaucrat, pretended to solicit a bribe. Ms. Suplicy also took part, playing an overdressed robbery victim seeking help from an unsympathetic security guard. Carried away by the sketch, the make-believe guard called Her Honor a "pain-in-the-neck peacock." (The Wall Street Journal, As Brazil Tilts Toward the Left, Some Citizens Are acting Out, Matt Moffett, September 13, 2002.)

This type of activity allows the Brazilian population to occasionally believe that they are somewhere and someone else. Because of the oppression that surrounds this promised land of insecurity, it has become the psychodrama capital of the world and with the emergence of a more powerful "left", Brazil is fast becoming an Alice In Wonderland Place where nothing is quite what it appears. It psychodramic "Theater of the Oppressed" has now spread to over 60 countries a former Brazilian politician, Augusto Boal, is in charge of its Rio de Janeiro component.

But back to the real world, universally, there was some anticipation that in the near future, under a new administration,  at least, the country would have phones that would stretch across the land for the first time. But what good is that if you can't get from here to there?  There phone system doesn’t go anywhere but neither do their roads. However, a national highway system in Brazil probably wouldn’t work anyway. Many of the areas would not have much traffic and it would not be very long before the jungle reclaimed these road. However, even if they were in good repair and they went somewhere, there are not gas stations. There are not parts suppliers in various regions should something go wrong and no way to fly in a missing part.  However, even if these problem all went away, it still might not matter. Brazilian drivers have probably the worse driver’s safety record on the planet.

 Getting Around

Brazil has set a world record with 50,000 traffic fatalities a year and almost 400,000 injuries. If you contrast that figure with the fact that the United States has ten-times as many cars and 20% less fatalities you get some idea of the extent of Brazil’s problem. And as far as traffic jams are concerned, Brazil also sets the standard in this as well, “It’s not uncommon in the world’s second largest city (Sao Paulo) for traffic jams to stretchy 140 miles. During a typical rush hour, traffic jams average 53 miles in length…” ([19]) If I knew that I was in back of a 140 mile traffic jam, I would not only go bonkers but probably attempt suicide by plowing into the car in front of me. This would save the drivers of both cars from a seemingly endless wait. It may be that this is the reason for so many road accidents in this country.  

Certainly there are many reasons to chastise the strange goings on in Brazil and their almost childlike way the government and the people have of running their affairs. To some degree, the Brazilians have let their country operate on the “manyana”  principal of “why bother to do today what can be accomplished tomorrow.” In this country that saying has both real meaning and real value because of the grueling effects of hyper-inflation. It is hopped here that inflation will solve all of the people’s problems that on a day to day basis go un-addressed. However, the Brazilians do know how to have a good time and how to forget about their problems. The Brazilian pre-Lenten carnival is the grandest of them all and during the carnival, everything goes. Gaudy costumes, booze, rowdy behavior and sex are just a sampling of the ingredients making up one of the greatest shows on earth.  

Many of our famous dances have originated in Brazil and were inaugurated turning the caravel season. A recent new form of Brazilian Samba put to new music has not received rave reviews from many legislators and women’s groups in this country but has taken the country by storm. The song composed by a group called Pagod’art was initiated during the carnival season and has stayed on the top of all of the country’s charts for months. It consists to two elements, music and words depicting a male and a female lover singing and dancing about how she wants some rough stuff along with her sex.  

The male is happy to oblige and does so in the dance. Imaging the scene with millions of Brazilians dancing and slapping to the music. The dance has become so pervasive that there has been governmental concern that women in this country will become abused. Laws are currently being discussed to somehow ban the dance and the song. In the meantime, the craze is rapidly is spreading all over Latin American and will soon come to the United States. The chances of stopping this music which Brazil has fallen in love with are either zero or none. ([20]) At least the people will have a great time, that is until the legislators pass their silly little laws against fun.


 

[1] “The IMF and the World Bank share a weakness in creating macroeconomic strategy plans/programs in concert with national governments and identified beneficiaries. The World Bank notes that the commitment of borrowers to funded operations has received little attention in the past, but also acknowledges that host-country participation and commitment of operations are essential to success.” Perspectives on the Role of Science and Technology in Sustainable Development, Congress of the United States.  

[2] Robert Young Pelton’s, The world’s Most Dangerous Places, Fourth Edition Harper Resource, 2000.

[3]  Environment-Brazil: Wildlife Traffickers Elude Punishment, Inter Press Service English News Wire, 4-12-2001

[4] Environment-Brazil; Mercury Curse Continues to Haunt Gold Miners, Beauty Lupiya and Jens Kristensen, Inter Press Service, English News Wire, 8-6-1998

[5]  $9 billion in sales worldwide and $20 in sales from each and every man, woman and child in the United States.

[6] Amid Inquiry Into Corruption, Brazil Battles Wrath of Blatter, International Herald Tribune, Rob Hughes, 11-15-2000

[7]  One of the players, Ronaldo, was voted world soccer player of the year at age 20.

[8] Nike’s success has been so overwhelming that other advertising programs are analyzed in relation to the athletic shoe manufacturer. In this regard, countries are attempting to tidy up a rather tarnished image.  “According to market research, many people associate Britain with poor labor relations, low-quality products and late deliveries. That just won’t do if Britain wants to market itself as a modern, high-tech country. ‘We have to do for Britain what Nike did for athletic shoes’.   

[9]  Soccer-Brazil / Fraud, Government Suspects Player Transfers Are a Guise for Money-Laundering, EFE News Services, 11-23-2000

[10] Brazil’s 500 years of solitude, The Economist, 4-22-2000

[11] Statistically, the population of Sao Paulo represents 10% of the total Brazilian population. Brazil is the fifth most populated country in the world.

[12]  Sao Paulo: Prosperity, Poverty and Corruption; Brazil’s Largest, Richest City, Burdened by Lack of Basic Services, The Washington Post, Stephen Buckley, 7-4-2000

[13]  Troops Take Back Brazil Prisons, ABCNews.com

[14] Police Gain Control in Brazil’s Biggest Jail Riot, The New York Times, By Reuters, Sao Paulo, Brazil, February 19, 2001.

[15] The Brazilian currency.

[16] Because of the large number of people that are killed in Brazil every year by firearms, doctors in this country go through mandatory training in treating wounds from AK-47s, FAL rifles, M-16s and Colt AR-15s. Newsweek, Deliver Us From Evil, Mac Margolis, 7-3-2000

[17] A “red” government in the South of Brazil, Monthly Review, Michael Lowy, 11-1-2000

[18] Ibid

[19] Robert Young Pelton’s, The world’s Most Dangerous Places, Fourth Edition Harper Resource, 2000.

 [20] No Mixing Sex and Violence for Carnival, ABCNews.com 4-27-01

 



[1] Out of this world, in Brazil: The mystical and the bizarre find fertile ground in South America, Tracey Eaton, The Dallas Morning News, 8-17-1996.

[2] The Origins of Candomble, Gringoes.com, 4-27-2001.

[3] 165 million people

[4] Trade: Brazil’s Brush-Off, National Journal, Bruce Stokes: 4-14-2001

[5] It is the world’s largest exporter of cane sugar (seven-million people are employed in this industry, a major force in the export of hides and cattle and a serious competitor in the export of most grains as well as steel.

[6] Cracking Crime in Brazil. (Industrial security) James Wygand, Security Management, Information Access Company 7-1-2000.

[7] A Model Country, Linda Diebel, The Toronto Star, 11-2-2000

[8] Letter From Brasilia, The Frontier Wanes in a Backwater Capital, Patricia Aufderheide, Newsday, 10-6-1996

[9] In 1992, an investigation ultimately led to the impeachment of then-president Fernando Collor de Mello, after he allegedly took kickbacks. Several high-level administration officials and friends of Collor were accused of criminal wrongdoing, but only one major player served jail time and only for a few months. The Washington Post, Brazil Probe Uncovers High-Level Corruption, Stephen Buckley, 11-25-1999.

[10] In Brazil, an oblique clean-up begins, The WorldPaper, USA, Carlos Castilho, 1-1-2000

[11] Brazil’s Bright, Shining Knight goes on Trial, Kerry Luft, The Chicago Tribune 12-6-1994

[12] Brazil’s Bright, Shining Knight Goes On Trial, Kerry Luft, Chicago Tribune, 12-6-1994

[13] Ibid

[14] Scandals, Fraud Making Life Tough for Brazil’s President, Ken Silverstein, The Associated Press, 5-5-1991.

[15] USA: Wall Street edgy over widening Brazil corruption probe, Hugh Bronstein, Reuters English News Service, 4-19-2001

[16] Luis Estevao de Oliveiera became the first senator in Brazilian history to be ousted from the body for his role in a major corruption scandal. EFE News.

[17] Politics – Brazil; Corruption Probe Turns to Presidential Adviser, Mario Osava, Inter Press Service, 7-12-2000.

[18] Brazil – Corruption, Brazilian Congress Mired in Corruption Scandal, Eduardo Davis, EFE News Service, 4-21-2001

[19] Ibid

[20] Corruption-Brazil: Senate Prepares for First-Ever Expulsion, Inter Press Service, English News Wire, 6-22-2000

[21] Deliver Us From Evil, Mac Margolis, Newsweek International 7-30-2000.

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