Happy but Dangerous

Brazilians are famous for being friendly, happy people. They are so happy, in fact, they ranked 9th of 144 countries on the 2009 Happiness Index. So how does one of the happiest countries in the world also rank as one of the most murderous? Globo just reported that official are going to try to “disarm” the population, a response to news of the country’s 50,113 recorded murders in 2008. In Canada, about 550 people are murdered a year in a country of 35 million people, roughly one-sixth Brazil’s population. In...

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Correction

A correction on my last post must be made. The Committee to Protect Journalists apparently did not reveal all the facts when they disseminated news on Brazilian officials censoring news on Google. They mis-communicated Brazilian requests to remove material as requests to remove news— which is not the case. As a result of the CPJ’s mistake, reports in major newspapers also got it wrong, and so did yours truly. As I reported in a past blog post, virtually half of Brazil’s interventions on Google were for the social networking...

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The Right to Information in Brazil– Censorship, Fines for Sharing Wi-Fi

Following up on several other related posts, two recent news items give us reason to wonder about freedom of information in Brazil. First, Brazil’s telecommunications regulator, ANATEL, confiscated the computer equipment of three young people and fined them $3000R (about $2000US) for sharing an internet signal among their three dwellings in an effort to save money. Second, news has surfaced that in the first half of last year, Brazil asked Google to remove more news articles from the internet than any other country in the world, a total...

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São Paulo Traffic: Collective Pathology or Poor Policy?

Just a quick note to express my utter amazement at traffic here in São Paulo. I’ve been here for a week and a half now, attending a workshop at the University of São Paulo (USP) and I have had enormous difficulties getting to and from the USP. For the eight kilometers I need to traverse, I take two buses at approximately $2US each (3R), and I don’t believe I’ve done the trip in under an hour and a quarter. When it started to rain one day, I jumped in a taxi. But the meter had run to 12 R (about 7 US) and we had only moved...

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The Price of Consumer Debt

Credit is a difficult issue in Latin America. Credit card APR interest regularly runs at 30-50 percent, upwards of five times what it is in North America. Bank loans are not a lot cheaper. Yet more than ever  Brazilian consumers are borrowing and financial institutions are encouraging them to do so. When I recently opened up an account at Itaú, Brazil’s biggest private sector bank, I was surprised to see that the checking account automatically included a 500R line of credit on the account (equal to about one month’s minimum wage)...

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Dilma to the Legislature– A Few Promises

PROMISES 1.  The PAC2 stands for the Program for Growth Acceleration 2, and it’s not a midnight TV infomercial. It’s government’s gimmicky excuse to spend lots of money, $955 billion Reales over the next four years, or close to $600 billion U.S. The Program is for national development—highways, hydro-electricity projects, school and hospital building—the stuff you would expect a government to spend its money on anyways. We just hope there is transparency in what is spent. Anecdotal evidence tells us no: the PAC website makes no...

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Dilma to the Legislature- Wages will go up

President Dilma Rousseff addressed Brazil’s National Legislature on its opening yesterday. The next few posts will address a few concrete policies to expect in the coming years, as well as a few aspects of the speech that are worth further consideration: MINIMUM WAGE The minimum wage was $510 Reales per month in 2010 and the proposal—an executive decree issued by Lula and awaiting approval in Congress—is to raise it to $545 per month. Unions are demanding $580 and employers are silently pushing for the minimum. Given that...

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