Brazil in the News

Rio’s Engenhao Stadium Closes

The Engenhão has been closed, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

(photo courtesy of riotimes.com)

Mayor Eduardo Paes has closed the Engenhao Stadium indefinitely. This has thrown the Carioca football schedule into a state of chaos, as there is the remainder of a state tournament to play, and the Copa Libertadores tournament to play later this year.

The stadium was closed due to problems with the structure which raised safety concerns. The match between Fluminense and Macae last night was moved to another stadium – the Sao Januario stadium in Vasco.

The mayor has stated the following on the situation “The problem has been identified, but I have not yet been presented with a solution. The stadium will only be reopened when the risk is definitively solved. It could be anything from a month to a year,”

The stadium is still relatively new, with it opening in 2007 for the Pan America games. The closing has caused embarrassment as the city gears up for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. The new Maracana stadium in Rio is still being completed, leaving Rio’s four large teams with only one major stadium.

The Sao Januario, Moca Bonita, Taca Rio, Copa do Brasil, Libertadores, and the Bangu stadiums will be used alternately for the games, however the Copa do Brasil and Libertadores stadiums do not have proper lighting for evening, making night games impossible. Instead, night games will be played in the meantime at the Moacryzao and Raulino de Oliveira stadiums.

Pope Francis to Visit Rio for World Youth Day

It has been confirmed that Pope Francis will be visiting Rio to attend World Youth Day in July. He announced this on Sunday at an address to mark the beginning of Holy Week.

The Pope spoke during his Palm Sunday homily in St.Peter’s Square, and stated  “I look forward joyfully to next July in Rio de Janeiro. I will see you in that great city in Brazil,”

On the trip the Pope will say Mass on Copacabana beach and visit the Christ Redeemer Statue in order to pray. This event is to be a “sign of faith for the whole world.”

Around four million people are expected to attend World Youth Day, which is the first of a string of mega events that are to be held in Rio within the next few years. This event is expected to test Rio’s capacity for hosting millions of visitors at one time.

Pope John Paul II began World Youth Day in 1985, and the only other time it was held in Latin America was in Buenos Aires in 1987 where 1 million people attended.

The Pope met with President Dilma Rousseff in the private library at the Apolistic Palace at the Vatican last week. This was the second meeting with a head of state for the Pope – President of Argentina Cristina Kirchner was the first meeting.

Before the meeting, President Rousseff told reporters “This is a Pope that speaks to the weakest, to the youth, to the elderly and to those who need help. I think he is a pontiff who has the capacity to be moved, that will dedicate himself to the poor and he has said that that is his main goal. It is a reason for us Brazilians and for all Latin America to be proud of, but above all it is good for the whole world.”

 

Violence Concerns in Rio Drop

Complexo do Caju UPP Installation, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

(courtesty of the Rio Times)

A recent survey by O Globo newspaper revealed that violence is a lesser concern among Rio residence, currently. The government’s established Police Pacification Units is contributed to this lowering concern, as well as to a reduction in the number of times the police have been forced to discharge fire arms.

The same survey displayed data as well that the number of stray bullets fired by police has also dropped by 81%. This further cements the standing that the Police Pacification Units are effectively lowering crime rates in the city.

Residents are saying that now that crime rates have dropped, the issues that need to be addressed are noisy bars and clubs, expanding favelas, refuse, sanitation, and waste water facilities. The Botafogo Resident’s Association President, Regina Chiaradia, states “The reduction in violence in the greatest prize that events such as the Olympics have brought us. Now we need to get our sewers fixed,”

There are also other associations that state that efforts should be prioritized in the education and health services areas of the community.

Since the effective crime drop in Rio, experts are now saying the police need to refocus operations in the Zona Oeste, which is Rio’s west zone, in order to decrease mortality rates.

State and federal security forces occupied the communities of Complexo do Caju and Barreira do Vasco in the city’s port zone earlier this month as the first preliminary step to installing Rio’s first Police Pacification Unit.

The number of homicides has been dropping in Rio, according to recent figures, however crimes and homicides elsewhere in the state have been on the rise.

16 People Have Been Indicted Over Night Club Fire

The Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, RS, Brazil News

(Courtesy of Rio Times)

Yesterday, the Rio Grande do Sul police announced their 55 day investigative results into the night club fire in Santa Maria that killed 241 people and left 632 people injured. The investigation will now call for the conviction of sixteen people. 35 charges are being pressed between them.

The night club owners and their manager will be facing indictment on the charges of negligent homicide. Also, two of the band members from that evening are facing the same charge, as it is believed that they ignited the blaze by putting one of the fireworks too close to the ceiling.

In the investigation, it was found that the incident was due to a “grotesque safety failure”. The night club was also licensed to have 600 occupants, however during the time of the fire it had 864.

Two of the city’s fire safety officials are also being indicted due to the club being allowed to operate without any emergency exits, poor lighting, and too few escape routes. The mayor of Santa Maria and the local fire fighters commander are also facing charges of administrative misconduct, as well as nine firefighters being held accountable because “evidence of manslaughter for the actions.”

Local police are also calling for an indictment for manslaughter for the town environmental and urban mobility secretaries, the head of supervision of urban mobility, and the official who issued the license to the club.

The investigation has almost lasted 2 months and covered 810 interviews and produced 1300 pages of evidence and testimonies. Police chief, Ranolfo Vieria Junior, stated “We want to give maximum publicity to the contents of this work. By the number of victims, the circumstances and complexity, I can say that this is the largest investigation ever undertaken by the police of Rio Grande Do Sul,”

Death Toll Has Reached 28 in Petropolis

Landslides in Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

(Photo courtesy of Rio Times)

Heavy rains in Petropolis in Brazil have caused flooding and landslides, leading to a death toll that has reached 28, according to the Secretariat of Civil Defense. The city of Regiao Serrana, which is in the mountains of north Rio, has been experiencing rainfall that has devastated the city.

Missing people were still being searched for as of Thursday morning. They are making use of search dogs and military personnel in the search process. Four people are missing in one of the landslides.

Firefighters, army, and volunteers concentrated most of their search and rescue efforts in the Boca do Mato and Alto Independencia areas on Wednesday due to whole families being buried beneath the landslides. In one case, seven members of a family were buried, including children and teenagers.

Sergio Simoes told the Rio Times that the main problem that search and rescue operators are experiencing is the instability of the land, with the soil being too wet and the mud too thick and deep. He estimates that in the Boca do Mato area there are still 10-15 missing. The city government has stated that 1,463 people are sheltiering in 27 different support units that are scattered throughout the neighborhoods that are worst.

As of Wednesday, the rains have stopped, and the Rio state warning system was no longer in a state of emergency.

This particular region of Rio is very mountainous and can be vulnerable to landslides and flooding when it rains. It is the same region that was devastated by Brazil’s worst recorded natural disaster in 2011 where landslides killed more than 900 people and displaced 30,000.

 

R$7.5 Million Dollar Fine Paid by McDonald’s

On Thursday, March 21st, Mcdonald’s was ordered to pay R$7.5 million dollars in compensation for collective moral damages after a civil action lawsuit was filed against the company by the Ministry of Labor in Pernambuco in Recife. The order was given by Judge Virginia Lucia de Sa Bahia of the 11th Labor Court of Recife.

In the suit, there were allegations that the corporation had been in violation of the Brazilian labor legislation because it was employing illegal working hours and also mandating that employees only eat food from McDonald’s during meal times.

This particular location was part of the Arcos Dorados McDonald’s, which is the largest franchise network in Brazil, with 1,800 stores in twenty different countries and territories. They serve an estimated 4.3 million customers every day. Arcos Dorados purchased the franchise rights in Latin America in 2007.

Arcos Dorados released the following press statement in regards to the charges of it mandating that employees only eat McDonald’s food during meal times: “We have changed the menu of meals provided to employees, according to the guidelines of the authorities of the area, with several choices of dishes balanced and developed by nutritionists.”

The company also released a statement in regards to the illegal work hours: “[Arcos Dorados] adopts legal working hours, without any violation of the labor law of its employees, with payment of minimum wages set by unions of every city in the country where it operates, but it accepts this change in procedure with technically feasible deadlines agreed to with the authorities in the area.”

A public prosecutor of labor, Leonardo Mendonca, explained that in the future “If the network breaches any of the items formalized the agreement they will have to pay a fine of R$2,000 for each employee.”

 

 

Rio Favelas Getting Eco-Friendly Homes

Green homes, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

(courtesy of RioTimes.Com)

The city of Rio delivered sixteen eco-friendly apartments to the citizens of the local favelas, Babilônia and Chapéu Mangueira. The buildings used sustainable materials as well as complying with construction methods in order to build homes in environmentally protected areas. This is being done as part of the mayor’s Live Carioca Green project.

The apartments feature a variety of things, such as solar heating, windows that allow for better ventilation, rainwater collection, energy efficiency, longer lasting light bulbs, motion sensor lights, insulation to keep homes cooler in the summer, and more.

These sixteen apartments are the first delivery of a project that will be delivering 117 more eco-friendly units in similar communities by 2014. Architects from the company Arquitraco Projetos, based in Rio, are in charge of the project.

One citizen that was placed in one of the apartments, Priscila Cristina de Souza Chagas, lost her home on the hillside during a mudslide in 2008. She was transferred temporarily to subsidized housing. She is happy with the new apartment and says “I’m very happy because there is no comparison between my new house and my old one. My old house was made of stucco and wood, but this new house is built right.”

When the mayor, Eduardo Paes, visited the eco-homes when they were placed last week, he said “Rio has a vocation for sustainability and the preservation of nature. This is the first model. The work is more sophisticated and that is why [the development] takes longer to complete, but our objective is to bring the project to other communities.”

Past efforts to improve the favelas have in a sense caused the city to take steps backwards and reinvest in areas that had previously fallen apart. However, these apartments now demonstrate a new standard for public housing in Rio. This is also part of the city’s plan to gear up and prepare for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Police in Rio Preparing for Major Events

Military police, civil police, and the city’s municipal guards have been training recently, learning crowd control techniques and more so they can best handle the major events that are taking place in Brazil in the near future. Following the course, seventy-six of the trainees then participated in a mock civil disorder exercise while using non-lethal weapons.

The training was focused on order management and coordination, with specialist trainers being brought in from Spain. Spain has had experience in hosting major world events. Grand total in 2013 are 4,250 police officers that are expected to be trained. Later in the year, further training will be involved to help in dealing with more violent crowd situations.

The reason for these preparations is the upcoming hosting of the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2013, the FIFA World Cup in 2014, and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Millions of tourists are expected to be arriving in the city for these events. There is also a large event, World Youth Day 2013, that is expected to draw a large crowd when it’s held later this year.

A member of the Spanish Police Force, Juan Francisco Molina, says of the training and preparations “We believe Brazilian police are highly-qualified, with well-established protocols, and are prepared to face the major events that are set to come to Rio.”

New Argentine Pope: Brazil’s Reaction

Upon the Catholic Church selecting it’s first Latin American pope on the 13th they made world history. However, many Brazilian residents were a little surprised that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was chosen over Brazil’s Sao Paulo Cardinal Odilo Scherer.

The tweet “’The pope is Argentinian, but I am Brazilian’ – God” gained popularity as thousands of Brazilians tweeted it after the selection of the new pope. Some Brazilians were also a little upset by losing to Argentina, who is a major rival for Brazil from trade to Sports. One congresswoman, Manoela D’Ávila, tweeted “To lose to Argentina makes me laugh.”

Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world, and they were sure that Cardinal Scherer, who has close ties with the Vatican, was a shoe-in. A Vatican expert, John Allen Jr. stated before the election “I would say that Scherer is the best bet. He has a good reputation and is admired here (in the Vatican).”

Some Brazilians are stating they are not upset, however, and are just happy that someone from Latin America was finally put in the position.Father Mauricio Cop from the Lady Guadaloupe Church in Brasilia told the Rio Times “No, [I am not disappointed], because the pope will not just be a father to Argentina or to Latin America, but to the whole world. However, while he could have been from Europe and I would still be happy, that God chose for the first time a pope from another continent expresses the universality of the church.”

While the new Pope Francis is not the most progressive choice, openly speaking out against gay marriage, Father Cop still sees him as a good choice “I see a man of great humility, who is a blesser of the people,” “When he worked in Buenos Aires he was known as helping the poorest people, of kissing the feet of people suffering with AIDS, and of caring for the sick.”

Real Estate in Macae Set to Grow

Macae is a city located about 180 km north of Rio and has been an up and coming city since the discovery of enormous oil and gas deposits. Interestingly, the city used to be a simple fisherman’s village. As an example of growth, within the past 30 years the population has increased from 75,000 to 220,000, and the economy has expanded 200% in the past decade.

The population in Brazil is booming, and with that more foreigners are visiting, more high-end hotels are being built, and new housing developments are being constructed – many of which are happening right in Macae as it evolves into a thriving metropolis. An American who now lives in Rio but commutes to Macae for work told the Rio Times recently:

 

“During just that time frame I have seen it change quite a bit. The hotels and pousadas [Bed and Breakfasts] if not booked at least a week in advance will not have room.[...] Traffic has increased, it can take a while getting around town [and] you can see the buildings going up with apartments.”

The Campos Basin, which is responsible for 80% of Brazil’s oil production and 57% of natural gas production, is located right in Macae. Royalties that were even recently levied on oil extraction from Macae account for R$1.8 billion of the budget for 2013. This increase in budget has allowed Brazil to invest in its education programs, health, and housing. Macae also has the lowest infant mortality rate and the state’s highest literacy rate.

The oil boom in Macae is certainly helping propel the city forward, and as a partner at Capital Negocios Imobilarios (a real estate company), Marcio Murade, states, the arrival of a large construction company and the building of luxury apartment buildings are definitely signs of the growth in Macae. He told the Rio Times recently:

“The market has changed. We have noticed the arrival of a rising number of builders, which bring a higher professionalization for the market. Now you see bigger companies here with even bigger projects: high-end housing with condominium club concepts, top hotels and flats so the change is very clear.”

He also believes that growth is set to continue:

“Demand here is much higher than supply and this is true for those looking for hotels and housing because the city doesn’t really have an infrastructure that is compatible with its actual size, so we will see a sizable level of investment to fill that gap. Macaé’s population will increase from 220,000 to 300,000 in the next four to five years, so it will continue growing and with that, we’ll see more projects and developments.”

Currently, square footage pricing is about 30-50 percent lower than in Rio’s prominent south zone, but prices in the Campos Basin have been doubling since 2009. Murade states:

“Macaé’s market has not stabilized and it continues to expand, so this is why there is a bigger opportunity for growth of real estate investments there.”