Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, has visited Brazil, as part of a tour which also includes a visit to Colombia and Trinidad and Tobago. The Vice President’s visit to Brazil is of the highest-ranking U.S. official since President Obama travelled to Brazil in 2011.

US Vice President Joe Biden in Rio de Janeiro. Photo from Yahoo! News.

Vice President Biden visited energy companies in Rio, including Brazilian oil giant Petrobras, before heading to Brasília for talks with President Rousseff. Photo from Yahoo! News.

This and other visits between the U.S. and Latin countries scheduled for 2013 have been billed as “the most active high-level engagement with Latin America in a long, long time.”

Biden began his three-day visit to Brazil in Rio where he is spending two full days meeting business figures, particularly from the energy sector. He is also expected to meet with community leaders, including a visit to a pacified favela community.

Biden will meet President Dilma Rousseff and Vice President Michel Temer at the Planalto in Brasília on Friday 31 May.

An official statement said the Vice President looks forward to discussing “ways to deepen our economic and commercial partnerships and further our engagement on the broad array of bilateral, regional and global issues […].”

Ahead of the trip, Biden praised Latin America’s achievements in reducing poverty and noted the region was “experiencing a unique moment,” as he told Veja magazine.

The U.S. has made clear that it wishes to forge stronger ties with its partners in the Latin region through strong trade and investment. Recently, U.S. oil companies ExxonMobil and Chevron bought stakes in Brazil’s 11th oil and gas auction, signalling a return for the companies to Brazil.

Some commentators are suggesting that Vice President Biden’s visit to Brazil will act as a precursor to a rare state visit by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to the U.S. later this year – the first state visit in almost 20 years.

Commentators say that both regions want to seize on opportunities missed in the past. Brazil, for its part, has been accused of focusing too close to home, particularly on Mercosur, in terms of trade agreements in recent years. Brazil’s 200 million-strong population is seen as a big potential growth market for U.S. companies.

This fourth visit by Biden to Latin America as Vice President builds upon President Obama’s recent visit to Mexico and Costa Rica. Meanwhile, the White House has also announced visits to the U.S. by the Peruvian President Ollanta Humana and Chilean President Sebastián Piñera in June this year.

Read the full article on The Rio Times website.

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The Brazilian government has announced that the application process for work visas to Brazil has been simplified significantly in response to demands from industry, calling for more qualified overseas workers to fill gaps in the Brazilian labour market.

Brazilian visa. Photo by Ben Tavener.

The process for applying for a work visa to Brazil should now be quicker and require fewer documents. Photo by Ben Tavener.

The government says it hopes that regular work visas, which currently take around three months to be issued, will take just 30 days.

The new rules, published under Normative Resolution (RN) 104, aim to speed up the process by requiring fewer documents and allowing documents to be sent online.

Industry and foreign workers have long complained that the process for granting a work visa was too long and overly complicated, requiring some fifteen documents and sometimes a number of visits to the Consulate; just three documents will now be required.

The government admits the new rules were a direct response to demands by industry, which struggles with Brazil’s lack of specifically qualified workers – particularly engineers, oil and gas experts, and systems analysts – to help ready the country host the World Cup and the Olympics.

Two other recent changes in work visas should also prove interesting to companies in Brazil and foreign students:

Resolution RN 100 provides a work visa of up to ninety days to foreign nationals providing technical assistance or technological know-how to Brazilian companies. Applicants go straight to their local Consulate, without the need for a permit from the Ministry for Labour and Employment (MTE).

Resolution RN 103 allows students with a Master’s degree or above to work up to ninety days in Brazil during their vacations. This work still requires MTE authorisation, but is expected to be popular with temporary jobs appearing for highly-qualified professionals for the World Cup and the Olympics.

Despite past concerns that Brazil should not encourage foreigners to work in Brazil but instead focus on improving the quality of homegrown professionals, Brazil’s Minister for Labour and Employment, Manoel Dias, says that boosting worker numbers from abroad would not take jobs from Brazilians.

Read the full article on The Rio Times website.

The Brazilian Senate has approved by a wide majority a bill that changes rules governing how the country’s ports are regulated, in a victory for the ruling government, despite last-minute attempts by opposing senators to derail the bill.

Leônidas Cristino, minister for Brazil’s Special Ports Secretariat (center), heralded the passing of the bill, photo by Fábio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr.

Leônidas Cristino, minister for Brazil’s Special Ports Secretariat (centre), heralded the passing of the bill. Photo by Agência Brasil.

The bill aims to open state-run ports to more private investment and lift restrictions on the building of privately-run ports.

Officially known as MP 595, the bill was voted in without amendment after receiving the support of 53 votes, with just seven votes against and five abstentions. The text now goes to President Dilma Rousseff for evaluation.

The bill finally reached the Senate on Thursday after a final 40 hours of debates in the Chamber of Deputies, many of whom had expressed their frustration and sheer exhaustion following the longest-running debate by deputies in the last 22 years.

According to Leônidas Cristino, minister for Brazil’s Special Ports Secretariat, this approval was vital, but most of the work remains ahead to work out the finer detail of new ports regulations, which would be analysed “item by item.”

Paulo Skaf, President of the Federation of Industry of São Paulo State (FIESP), said the bill was vital for the country’s competitiveness:

“Brazil is calling for a clash of competition. The measure meets the demands of the most important production sectors: it allows an increase in what operators can offer, promotes greater competition and, consequently, reduces port costs,” Mr Skaf said.

The bill was also seen by many as an important step towards making sure the country’s ports – considered a serious bottleneck in Brazil’s external trade – work more efficiently, eradicating excessive waits currently endured for cargo to be unloaded.

It was recently reported that ports that should have started running 24 hours a day since mid-April were still failing to do so.

The government has earmarked over R$54 billion for 159 port projects through Brazil to be implemented by 2016 as part of plans to improve the country’s infrastructure, also including upgrades to airports, roads and railways.

First published on The Rio Times website.

Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue in Rio. Photo by Ben Tavener.

With the FIFA Confederations Cup and World Youth Day (WYD 2013) set to arrive in Rio, the city has seen pacification operations in favelas at the base of Corcovado Mountain.

Rio’s 33rd Police Pacification Unit (UPP) will establish a permanent presence in the area and should improve security not only for local residents, but for tourists visiting the world-famous Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue.

On Monday, 420 special forces and military police, including elite BOPE (Special Police Operations Battalion) tactical teams, entered three favelas under Corcovado, site of the thirty-meter-tall Christ statue.

Police say they occupied the Cosme Velho communities of Cerro-Corá, Guararapes and Vila Cândido quickly with no gunfire or arrests. The new UPP, with 190 military police, should be operational within a month.

Rio Governor Sérgio Cabral said the communities would no longer become a refuge for criminals and that the new UPP would “offer security and peace to residents.”

Police had monitored Cosme Velho for information about traffickers and other criminals that had been flushed there from previously-pacified favelas.

Cosme Velho is the location of the Trem do Corcovado (Corcovado Train), which takes tourists to Christ the Redeemer, and military police were at pains to show that the occupation would afford tourists visiting the statue greater safety, particularly during WYD on July 23rd-28th when Catholics from around the world will gather.

“The Pope’s visit and the increased influx of tourists are why we went in. Intelligence showed that criminals were sheltering here. Now they’ve lost the territory,” military police spokesperson Col Frederico Caldas said.

WYD 2013 will be the first major overseas mission for Pope Francis; it is the first time the event has been held in Brazil and only the second time in Latin America. Special police training exercises have been staged to represent a number of scenarios, including the well-trodden tourist route to see the statue.

Read the full article on The Rio Times website.

Sales of Brazilian-made firearms to the U.S. increased 187.5% while former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was in office, compared to the same eight-year period that his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, was in power.

The U.S. purchased nearly 7.9 million, or 80%, of the 9.9 million exported Brazilian firearms in the past forty years, Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reports.

Gun by Brazilian company Taurus have proved popular in the US. Photo by Flickr/castironskillet.

Gun by Brazilian company Taurus have proved popular in the U.S. Photo by Flickr/castironskillet.

The total of 7,873,321 firearms sold to the U.S. between 1971 and 2011 dwarfs sales to the next biggest importers of Brazilian guns: Argentina (215,216), Paraguay (154,711), Yemen (112,272) and Germany (109,273).

Of the 9.9 million firearms sold, 42.2% were revolvers, 23.8% were shotguns (espingardas), 17.8% were pistols, with the rest a mixture of different types of rifles, including semi-automatic weapons.

Figures from the Brazilian Army Command, released after a request by the São Paulo newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that 59% of this total, 4.6 million units, was exported between 2003 and 2010, enough to arm every person in the state of Louisiana today.

In 2011, the final year included in the Army report, Brazil exported more firearms to the U.S. than Austria and Germany combined, the second and third biggest firearms exporters to the US, after Brazil.

Brazilian arms manufacturer Taurus, headquartered in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, has been responsible for over half of Brazilian arms exports to the U.S. since 1971, and around half of the products this company makes are sold to American buyers.

The company, founded in 1941 and arriving in the U.S. in 1968, is now one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of small firearms and the fourth biggest in the States. Taurus USA was created in 1984 and, along with its factory in Miami, the company reportedly arms police forces in over 70 countries.

In Brazil, according to Taurus, the company’s revenues were R$701 million last year, a 13.4% increase.

Read the full article on The Rio Times website