Brazil is expensive. Everyone keeps saying it, we all keep paying it. Here’s an example from yesterday. I filled up a very small car with gas, R$104 (US$65, about six dollars a gallon in a country that doesn’t import oil and has its own refineries). Then, it was time to change the oil. The synthetic quarts, sucked out of the ground, processed, produced and sold in Brazil were R$39 each. That’s twenty dollars a quart of oil. The oil change set me back R$186. So, between filling up the car and getting the oil changed I spent R$290 or US$ 175. Not to even mention the cost of buying and maintaining cars here, nossa senhora. If you can say carro caro five times quickly without having both words sound the same then you are probably used to such prices and don’t even think about it anymore.
Brazilians are getting more and more into debt as the consumer society expands. The front page of OGlobo’s Economia section from Sunday: Brazilians already commit 22% of their salaries to pay down debts. This is up from 13.9% in 2003. The banks in Brazil charge up to 180% per year for credit card debt, and for short term cash loans, the percentages can be even higher. The best possible business to have in Brazil is a bank. As people begin to borrow against the inflated values of their homes and apartments and buy more and more things that they didn’t even know they needed until they had someone offering just that very thing, then wow! When the bubble bursts in 2017(?), it will probably still be good to be in banking (as the recent experience in the USA has shown).
There is a direct correlation between occupying a foreign country and occupying Rio’s favelas. The Brazilian military has been leading the UN’s occupation of Haiti for many years and has used the strategies and tactics of that occupation in the military exercises in the Complexo do Alemão. Sensitive as ever to the cultural nuances of “indigenous people”, a Brazilian coronel was quoted as saying, “it doesn’t get to be an organized crime unit like in Rio. Violence happens here may times because it is a part of their culture.” (Não chega a ser uma organização criminosa como no Rio. A violência acontece aqui, muitas vezes, por fazer parte da cultura do povo.) There are other comparisons to be made here between the USA and Brazil, but I will leave it to the reader to make those connections.
O’Bama is planning a visit to Rio for St. Patrick’s Day week. He’ll give a big public speech in Cinelândia. I’m trying to call this the “Visita d’Obama” but was told this is not grammatically correct. It’s the “Visita do Obama”, which for me is one too many O’s.
Dilma officially indicated Henrique Mirelles as the head of the APO (Autoridade Pública Olímpica). The former head of Brazil’s Central Bank will preside over an institution that was significantly reduced in size during the deliberations in the Senate. The APO went from 480 to 181 official posts. The Lula government was sparing no expense, for anything, but Dilma has had more fiscally responsible ideas in her head. Sergio Cabral and Eduardo Paes also wanted the APO to have reduced powers and they appear to have been successful in their negotiations with the federal government. I haven’t been able to find the revised text of the Medida Provisória 510, so if anyone out there has some time and inclination, I’ll update this post and give due credit!
Classes started this week. I’m teaching a course called “Producing the Olympic City” in the Master’s program of Architecture and Urbanism at UFF. If anyone wants to get on the blog, google group, or zotero send me an email and I’ll get you signed up. Falando nisso, se houver Brasileiros interessados em participar no curso, estou abrindo as portas para vocês! (BTW, for those of you not familiar with zotero.com, it’s perhaps the best thing ever invented for researchers, even though it only functions in Mozilla).