How naive…I should know better

Thankfully the rains have  arrived in North East Brazil; though  too late for farmers to catch up with the usual planting protocols and too late to avoid the grinding poverty that will follow.
Fabiana family

But help and support is at hand in  the form of  a BR$9 billion package for the North East  announced by the  government as new action against the drought.  Surely an indication  that the  government is  doing something to help and  heartening to think that those who control the purse strings were showing that they appreciate the problems and care about the people. A welcome contradiction  to the cynical claims that  the people of the North East are largely ignored because on the ground cost benefit studies shows  insufficient  voter leverage to make it worth the while of investment.

Stop the hurrahs because on closer reading, the spirits sank as  I discovered that a third of the money covers the cost of deferring debt repayments,  a chunk is to cover a scheme announced in 2012 ( much of which has already been spent) and a further chunk is to extend social payments.  Not the capital investment potential it suggests!

And guess what ? One of the governors in the region is a possible election rival in 2014.  Home from home.


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Street children united!

In 2014 the beautiful game returns to its spiritual home: Brazil. Brazil will host teams of street children from up to 20 countries, drawing from a network of outstanding projects all campaigning for the rights of street children. This will ensure that street children’s voices are heard and that they will have the chance to play in the festival of football.

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Pope Francis to visit Rio in July

popeFrancisPope Francis has announced in his Palm Sunday homily that he will be attending the Catholic youth gathering in Rio de Janeiro in July.  According to the BBC report

… he will be saying Mass on Copacabana and praying at the Christ the Redeemer statue.

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The truth about the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio

This YouTube video tells a very interesting story of how the World Cup 2014 and the Olympics are being used by big business, politicians and the police (all intimately connected) to remove the poor from their homes to provide business opportunities for the wealthy.

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The spread of the BBQ protest!

Annoyed by the lack of progress on issues that matter to you? Well, as reported by the FT, you could follow the Brazilian lead and organise a mass BBQ protest.  All you have to do is broadcast a time and location on Facebook (or some other suitable social media site) and wait for the party to begin.

barbequeProtestNaturally, if you can bring your own portable BBQ and suitable BOOM BOX it will all add to the festival atmosphere!

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Troops move in to Rio shanty town


BBC News Report

Brazilian police backed by troops, helicopters and armoured vehicles have moved into shanty-towns near Rio de Janeiro’s international airport.

More than 1,300 security personnel were involved in the operation in the Caju and Barreira do Vasco neighbourhoods.

Read more …

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Yes, I want to learn English!

What really surprised me was to find out that my students at the Agricultural College are motivated to learn English. Maybe you ask, what is so surprising about that? Everybody needs English nowadays! But you have to imagine a different reality. We are in the northeast rural Brazil, far away from the industrial south and the  big multinational companies and where it is very rare to meet a  tourist or a  foreigner.


During the first lesson the students had to answer three questions – if they like English, if they find it useful for their life and finally if they want to learn and understand English. Just to help them to be as honest as possible, I didn’t ask  them to write their names. I was expecting anything but the final result was a surprise. All of them (except one) want to learn English and they understand the importance of a new language, to improve  better job opportunities, to travel out of Brazil (they mentioned Slovakia a couple of times; flattering and at the same time make me smile as not everybody in Slovakia speaks English). Or to marry an American woman – why not – it is said that love is the best motivation.

Indeed, I was surprised and happy about the honest answers  those teenagers gave and I think this ‘revelation’ will keep me going for a long time!



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Brazil’s Marina Silva launches ‘sustainability party’

newPartyIn Brazil, a former presidential candidate and environment minister has launched a new political party, Sustainability Network, ahead of next year’s presidential elections.

In a speech to hundreds of supporters in the capital, Brasilia, Marina Silva stressed the party’s green credentials.

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Favelas in Rio are drawing more tourists

favela-tour 2Distasteful and disconcerting mildly describes my response to the above  header  which  appeared in the on-line Rio Times earlier this week.  It went on to report that  the Federal and State Government  have agreed to work together to  promote tourism in the favelas. A  strategy that they hope will  help to revitalise the communities.

More disconcertion followed,  as I learned that the  research data underpinning the decision shows that   46 % of foreign tourists and 47% of home tourists cite visiting a favela as part of their visit to Rio.  Why I ask ?  This phenomenon known as  Poverty Tourism is neither  new nor  confined to Brazil. Other  mega cities in Mexico, South Africa and India have their own unique poverty tourism with the townships in  South Africa and the slums in India.  In the UK, we have the term ‘to go slumming’, which  began in the  late 19th century, with trips to an area of social deprivation in London  called  Whitechapel.

In  their defence the tourist operators claim that there are   benefits to the  receiving communities, such as an  increase in  employment, the stimulation of  infrastructure projects,  the  boost to the local economy from tourist spending, and the supposition  that the visits  raise awareness of the plight of people. There is an interesting discussion around the credence of these claims over at tourismconcern.

For me, of the  many well intentioned schemes implemented to improve life in the favelas, this seems to be the least plausible.  When asked by Janice Perlman, during her forty year study of Favela life, what the residents themselves saw as the barriers to social mobility, almost top of the list is the discrimination by employers against those who live in a favela.

The tour operators claim that the activity brings benefits to the favela communities does not sit well  with the notion that they  have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. In fact, I would argue that they help to perpetuate it. I wonder if they find that distasteful and disconcerting?

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Nightclub fire in Santa Maria

fireIt was with great sadness that the staff of VinB heard about the nightclub fire in Santa Maria.  Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go to all who have been caught up in this disaster.

BBC Latin America coverage

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