I'm not sure where this came from (a few friends posted it on Facebook), but it is very, very cool and worth a read! It's also a handy list of people I'd love to meet and interview. I recommend making it full screen for easier reading.
Much ado has been made about Tiririca, the clown and TV comedian running for congressman in Sao Paulo. While Brazilians from all over the country are pledging to vote for the silly candidate (even though you can only vote for him if you live in Sao Paulo), others are up in arms.
From the BBC: "Tiririca - which means "Grumpy" in colloquial Portuguese - has been the sensation of the election campaign, with humorous campaign adverts on YouTube that have attracted millions of hits. His campaign slogans include 'It can't get any worse' and 'What does a federal deputy do? Truly, I don't know. But vote for me and I will find out for you.'"
Now, a judge has threatened to force Tiririca to take a literacy test after rumors spread that he was illiterate, which could ruin his chances of holding office if he is elected.
But Tiririca isn't the only unusual candidate running in these elections. There's Romario, the famous football player, running for congressman in Rio, Suellem Rocha, or Mulher Pera (Pear Woman), a model running for Congress in Brasilia. According to one source, there's also a whole other host of celebrities running for congressmen and women: two other comedians in Sao Paulo, four well known singers running in Sao Paulo and Rio, a boxer from Sao Paulo, two football players (also paulistanos), a former reality show star, and a famous transsexual singer. Here's a couple of them:
There's a couple of reasons so many celebrities are in the running. First, as the BBC points out, the system is built as "open list proportional representation" which also allows parties to push through more candidates. Brazil's party system is extremely fractured, and in some ways, parties serve a similar role that interest groups serve here in the US. Unlike the rigid two party system in the US, Brazilian political parties are extremely numerous and very flexible in their beliefs. Politicians sometimes bounce from party to party, or even create new ones to serve certain interests or groups (for example, football clubs have been known to sponsor candidates). It is for this reason that some analysts are saying this year's presidential candidates seem to be showing very little political differences in their promises, despite being on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, and that voters are having trouble distinguishing between the party platforms. Dilma's success, some say, is largely due to Lula's popularity and his endorsement, as well as the stable and thriving economy.
Anyway, as far as the wacky congressional candidates go, there's another reason I think there are so many. Some Brazilians are fed up with politics and the system, tired of voting for change and not getting any, and sick of constant corruption scandals. When you lose faith in system, there's a kind of gratification in seeing others make fun of it, and a feeling that there's not much to lose voting for a clown (literally). Which is worse: an idiot who won't do anything, or a sleezeball who will steal your tax dollars?
On the other hand, other voters who really are hoping for a better system are offended that just when Brazil is on the upward climb with a strong democracy, actual candidates are mocking the entire institution. They've working toward a serious institution (or at least, hoping to vote for one), and these types of candidates seem to promote the idea that the government is just a huge joke.
I can commiserate with both sides, given how much of a joke the US Congress has been in recent years. But in the end, the beauty of democracy is allowing anyone to run, and allowing the people to choose who they want to serve them. So if a clown is the people's choice, that's who must be allowed to govern - or at least try. But as someone from the land of George Bush and Sarah Palin, believe me - I sympathize.
It feels like everywhere I look, there's another glowing story popping up about Brazil's economic and political success on the international stage. Even though Lula didn't make it to New York for the UN summit this year, Brazil's foreign minister made it clear that his country is now one of the big players.
Andres Oppenheimer lays out like this: "The Chinese and the Indians have a healthy dose of constructive paranoia, which drives them to constantly improve themselves. Unless Brazil adopts that same attitude and avoids the complacency that may result from so many outside prophecies about its inevitable rise, it will never become a true emerging world power."
This falls in line with an exhaustive study by the Pew Center showing that Brazilians have an extremely positive outlook on their country and international relations, despite misgivings about lingering social problems and poverty.
"At a time when global publics are mostly glum about the way things are going in their countries, half of Brazilians say they are satisfied with national conditions, and 62% say their nation’s economy is in good shape. Of the 21 other publics included in the 2010 Pew Global Attitudes survey, only the Chinese are more upbeat about their country’s overall direction and economic conditions."
Despite confidence in the president, national institutions, the economy, and Brazil's relations with other countries (except for Iran), Brazilians listed several issues as being major problems: illegal drugs, crime, political corruption, social inequality, pollution, and infectious diseases. Economic problems and access to drinking water were also listed as concerns.
My personal take is this. Brazilians should bask in their country's success and enjoy a moment so many people have worked for and dreamed about. It's a healthy and natural response, especially after years of self-doubt. But it's also important that the country's leaders, from government to business to even celebrities, work on the challenges that most Brazilians have to deal with on a daily basis. It's really easy to become complacent, and it's even easier to develop a bloated self-confidence like so often happens in the United States. It really is Brazil's moment to shine, but it's critical that at least the powerful stakeholders keep their feet on the ground to attack the most pressing problems. A country's strength is based on the strength of its people, and there are definite limits in a country where over half of the populace is afraid to walk alone at night.
Usually, a lot of the news in the international media about business in Brazil is a lot of salivating over macroeconomic indicators or oil discoveries, but this week I've found some more interesting stories about the people behind Brazil's growing wealth.
"In three decades of deal-making, Lemann, 71, engineered the $52 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch Cos., founded a firm that became Brazil’s largest investment bank and amassed $11.5 billion to become the nation’s second-richest man after EBX Group Ltd. owner Eike Batista, according to Forbes magazine. His latest transaction is a $3.3 billion takeover of Burger King Holdings Inc., the biggest restaurant acquisition in at least a decade."
"Brazil's foreign minister says his country has offered to help Cuba develop small and medium businesses as part of a drive for economic growth. Celso Amorim was quoted as describing Cuban plans to lay off half a million public-sector workers in the next six months as "very courageous"."
"Banco Santos's former president was convicted of bank fraud in Brazil and sentenced to 21 years in prison. 'For years, important contemporary art works by Lichtenstein, Basquiat, and others have been held hostage by Ferreira's fraud,' Bharara said. 'The return of these paintings to Brazil is especially significant because it highlights how important international cooperation is in the pursuit of justice.'"
"Eike Batista may soon be adding billions to his bank balance. Shares of the energy group OGX, the flagship vehicle of Mr. Batista, Brazil’s richest man, value its seven billion-odd barrels of shallow water oil reserves at about $5 apiece. That looks like a bargain against the $8.51 a barrel the government is extracting from Petrobras for deepwater crude. It’s no wonder China’s Sinopec Group and CNOOC are considering buying into OGX assets."
The former Brazil bureau chief of the New York Times outlines a brief history of Rio, an excellent overview of the current challenges it faces, and a quick profile of the city's key players. It also makes the case that Rio is Brazil's culture capital, rather than Sao Paulo. It's definitely worth reading!
Excerpt: "...I found many Cariocas full of optimism. The city looked much as it did a decade ago, but the future looked different. And with good reason. Last October, Rio was chosen to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, the first to be held in South America and, after Mexico City in 1968, only the second in Latin America. As if in one fell swoop, Cariocas recovered their self-esteem. Further, Lula’s strong support for Rio’s Olympic bid represented a vote of confidence from Brazil as a whole. And this commitment looks secure with either of the main candidates to succeed Lula in general elections on October 3—Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s hand-picked nominee, and José Serra, the opposition challenger. Now, with federal and state governments pledging $11.6 billion in extra aid to prepare the city for the Olympics, Rio has a unique chance to repair itself."
I actually wrote something similar to this shortly before I left Rio, but never submitted it, so I was just a teensy bit bitter, but I'd say this is a very nice little cheat sheet for someone (with a lot of money) planning on spending a vacation in Rio. Still, I could do better :)
Julia is a gringa who's been living in Rio for decades, and recently started a blog where she discusses the real Rio and all of the things going on that aren't always reported in the international media. Writing in both English and Portuguese, she provides a great resource for those looking to keep up on politics, current events, and social realities in Rio. Also, for those of you living in Brazil, Julia will be teaching a four week course at Casa do Saber this October about Brazilian history and culture, so it's an excellent opportunity for gringos to learn more about their adopted home.
The Economist did a feature issue on the rise of Latin America, heavily focusing on Brazil and Mexico. Quick, read some of the articles they put online before they're for subscribers only! I'd also recommend buying the print edition, since it's really an excellent issue.
"The danger for Latin America is complacency. Compared with much of Asia, Latin America continues to suffer from self-inflicted handicaps: except in farming, productivity is growing more slowly than elsewhere. The region neither saves and invests sufficiently, nor educates and innovates enough. Thanks largely to baroque regulation, half the labour force toils in the informal economy, unable to reap the productivity gains that come from technology and greater scale."
"Latin America’s new resilience and faster growth is starting to attract increased interest from outsiders. That is especially true of Brazil, now often perceived to be in a league of its own. That is only partly because Jim O’Neill, an economist at Goldman Sachs, did it a huge favour when in 2001 he bracketed it together with Russia, India and China as one of the BRICs which would dominate world economic growth over the coming decades. Another reason is Brazil’s sheer size: with a population of 191m it accounts for a third of Latin America’s total and 40% of the region’s GDP. Since 2007 Brazil has begun to grow faster than the regional average—although by common consent its red-hot pace of 11% in the year to March 2010 will subside to less than half that rate next year."
"Thanks to the commodity boom and rising revenues, governments in many countries have had an easy time of it in the past few years. Presidents have generally been able to avoid difficult reforms. All this has generated a sense of complacency, even triumphalism in the region. After all, as Lula put it, it was “blond, blue-eyed bankers” elsewhere who screwed up world capitalism on a scale that not even Latin America managed in the past."