Considering the Diversion of Public Monies in Brazil -A Cool US$35 Billion for Starters

US$35 billion of public monies stolen. A colossal affront to the cities and country they work for? Yes. Preventable? Not yet. The most significant news item on the diversion of public monies I have seen in some time appeared in yesterday’s Globo as the lead opinion piece: “The Indicators Show Billions Stolen.” The article cites grim figures: of 131 municipalities audited by the Comptroller General, 90 percent showed irregularities; and it is estimated that municipal officials and their accomplices steal 30% of federal and...

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The Threat of Media Reform as Effective Media Control

Your party will win the next election and you want to make sure the media keeps providing you with reliably un-critical if not favorable coverage– here is your media strategy: you promise to change the regulatory status quo of the media before the election, and you renege on the proposed reform following your victory. The media behaves with deference for fear of reform, and treats you favorably once entreaties by media lobbyists to “delay” reform are met. On December 20th 2010 President Lula asked the party’s National...

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Bursting Bubble-Thinking About Brazil

000…Brazil is a country of the future. —-…Brazil will always remain a country of the future if average educational achievement stays at seven years of formal schooling per capita. Higher education enrolls only 2% of the population, but consumes a quarter of the total education budget (see Hunter and Sugiyama 2009). 000…Brazil is economically stable. —-…Brazil is still mainly a commodity exporter, and in the long run commodities will always be the most volatile type of export. 000…Brazilian policies...

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Government Decides to Keep Archives Closed: Opacity to Prevail Under Dilma?

The Brazilian government has decided to keep its historical archives on the military dictatorship (1964-1985) closed, according to a report published today by ABRAJI. The move breaks with previous promises and effectively renders a conference I paid $100R to attend– International Seminary on Access to Information and Human rights –irrelevant. A boycott of the seminary (see banner photo) is now underway, with prominent NGOs Artigo 19 , Transparencia Brasil, and ABRAJI (Brazilian Association for Investigative Reporting) refusing to...

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Large, Insular Countries

It’s a peculiar thing about countries with large populations that they often tend to be insular, uninformed about what goes on in other parts of the world, and mildly paranoid, if not xenophobic. The U.S. provides a leading example: the intermittent periods of “isolationism” provide a testament to insularity. Proverbially clueless about the world outside their borders, Americans have also gained fame for their paranoia and xenophobia. But the prominence of these characteristics is tempered by the country’s historic openness, large...

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The Brazilian Validation of my Ph.D.

I’m still months away from being validated. But at least 95% of the paper work is in. It was easy, really: -Sent Diploma and full academic transcript to Brazilian consulate in Houston (closest consulate to graduating institution). $10 verification. -Had documents sent to Brazil. $93 -Had said documents verified by a notary: $11 -Documents translated by an “official” translator: $217 -Paid fee to the “validating” Federal University (UFRJ) in my case: $41 -Handed-in documents to UFRJ! -Realized that they also want a...

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Moralistic Blockaders versus Subversive Altruists

Carol and I have been watching political candidates advertise their wares on TV. The Brazilian election is just around the corner and as I mentioned before, it’s not looking promising. Things are good economically, so there’s little incentive for reform. I am reluctant to venture the opinion that someone “looks” corrupt – as the adage goes: looks often deceive – but it’s hard not to infer from the slick manner and silky words of some candidates that they’re in the game for more than just helping their country get ahead...

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Economic Progress, Political Complacence, and the Tenuous Citizen-Government Connection

Most gringos don’t realize that Brazil and Latin America’s experience with democracy is relatively recent. Brazil has come a long way since it returned from dictatorship to democracy in the late 1980s. It only drafted its current constitution in 1988, just over twenty years ago. Today, politics is less polarized, the military has less influence, consumers have greater choice thanks to fewer barriers to imports, and most crucially, inflation is no longer the unslayable dragon it was in the late 1980s and early 1990s...

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The Beach and the end of Inequality

Well, perhaps not the end of inequality, but the beach certainly is something of an equalizer. Although the beach has its classes and groups, it is the closest Brazilians come to indiscriminate association. Perhaps you have a few class indicators, like a pair of sunglasses or a fancy bathing suit, but except for some very informal segmentation it’s often difficult to tell rich from poor, poor from rich. Conversations and activities among strangers intermingle. Carolina and I observed one little fat white kid playing with a frisky group...

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Brazil: Culturally Self-Possessed.

I admire Brazil most for its self-possession. Its culture is uniquely distinct and, as I will write about next entry, it even follows political and economic policy that is out-of-step with the dictates of first-world orthodoxy. For the most part, the country’s self-possession is accidental– it’s the sole Portuguese-speaking country in the Americas, and its large population and young median age allows its large market and wealth of human resources allows it to be more self-contained than other countries. One of the reasons...

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