05 September 2011

Mobility, Death, Stadiums, Strikes: Normalcy

GEOSTADIA MILESTONE: 25,000 HITS!!!! 120 Countries!!! Thanks everyone!

Good news first – there is a plan to extend the Metrô across the bay to Niterói and São Gonçalo. The linha 3 project video link is here and is a much, much, much needed improvement in metropolitan mobility. No timeline has been set, but at least the state government has recognized the impossibility of transporting tens of thousands of people across a narrow bridge. There will even be a stop at the Universidade Federal Fluminense. Holding one’s breath for this project to be completed is not recommended.

Bad news. Really bad news. The quaint and picturesque bonde that shuttles people around Santa Teresa has had yet another accident. Remember that last year a bonde collided with a bus, crushing a woman to death. Last month a French tourist fell to his death off the aqueduct in Lapa. Ten days ago, five people died instantly and more than fifty were injured when the bonde brakes failed on its way down the hill. In most places in the world a major transportation line killing a handful of people and critically injuring others would be a major and permanent scandal – especially when the secretary of transportation blames the dead conductor instead accepting any kind of responsibility when only 7% of the maintenance budget had been spent. Apparently, instead of using nuts and bolts to secure the brakes, something else was used as a temporary fix. Rumor has it that instead of replacing the wheels of the trams with the same size, used wheels from the SuperVia trains were put on and these were perhaps too large for the bonde tracks. Who knows? What we do know is that the total disregard for public safety inevitably led to the evitable deaths of five people. There are some criticisms being launched in the proper directions but no real outrage, no one demanding the Governor’s head on a platter. The Transportation Secretary retained his post despite massive evidence of incompetence.

That there was a disaster waiting to happen is evidenced in this video that shows the bonde heading downhill against traffic.

More ridiculous news coming out of the Ministério do Esporte. The MoS, responsible for the governance of all sport in Brazil, paid R$6.2 million to register soccer fans. The money was delivered, the project never was. The problem is not only in that the project was not carried off or that the company hired to do it pocketed the money (at least temporarily) but that it never should have been considered in the first place. The Brazilian government has consistently and incrementally implemented a policy of criminalizing all football fans, but especially those who are members of the torcidas organizadas. The “registration” of torcidas organizadas is another step along the way to the hyper-surveillance of all fans and curiously one that the torcidas of Rio de Janeiro are willing to accept. For those interested in the minutiae of Brazilian football culture, the torcidas of Rio e Janeiro are the only torcidas in Brazil that are not affiliated with the national association. I’ll save the explanation for another post.

Not surprisingly, and as I predicted here, there is a shortage of qualified labor for the 2016 Olympic projects. It is a very good time to be a civil engineer in Brazil. The shortage of labor is being used as a justification by the Olympic Organizing Committee to elevate the salaries of the personnel that they already have under contract. This will also necessitate the imporation of more expensive experts from abroad, so those of you thinking of making the jump to Brazil , come on in, the water’s lovely, although you’re still likely to get your electronic goods stolen on the street (an Italian friend of mine was robbed twice yesterday, the second attempt, obviously, not as fruitful as the first as there was nothing left, coitados).

The general strike at the Maracanã continues! There was a brief resolution last week, but all work has stopped again and the Consorcio Maracanã (Odebrecht, Delta and Carioca) is making no attempt to re-start negotiations with the union. One of the major complaints of the workers is that they were being served rotten food and that even after the last round of negotiations, the food provider was not changed. There are likely two sides to this story, maybe even three, but serving rotten food to one’s workers is certainly not in the best interests of the nation. Come on Dilma, get your petit-bourgeois party back to the left it left ten years ago!

After strikes at the Maracanã and Minerão, threats of striking in Cuiabá, there is now the possibility of a strike at the Fonte Nova in Salvador. Salvage capitalism meets head to head with relatively strong syndicalism! Drama total!

In case you thought that no one in the government was watching what is going on with these insanely inflated budgets, the Tribunal das Contas Da União (TCU) identified some price inflation in the Maracanã project. The official cost is now around R$859 million, or R$11.300 per seat. By contrast, the new privately financed Grêmio stadium in Porto Alegre will only cost R$6.600 per seat and Palmerias’ Palestra Italia stadium in São Paulo will privately finance 45.000 at R$6.670 per seat. Corinthians’ publically financed stadium in São Paulo will cost at least R$12.000 per seat.  Lesson: where public money and post-Cup privatization contracts are happening, the pigs are at the trough. Where the private sector is involved, costs are much lower. Does this mean that all the WC stadiums should be privately financed? No. But it does mean that there is a pervasive culture of getting hands in the till as often and as deeply as possible and that there is little or no control over public spending in the pursuit of mega-event legacies [sic].

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