Monthly Archives: March 2014

Ben Tavener Russian Twitter / Бен Тавенер Твиттер / bentavener_ru

Я открыл себе новый аккаунт в Твиттере для тех, кто хочет узнать больше о важнейших событиях в Бразилии и Южной Америке на русском языке.

Следить за мной на русском языке сможете, кликнув здесь: @bentavener_ru

И конечно, по-прежнему я сообщаю о событиях в регионе на английском языке через акканут-близнец – @bentavener

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For those who don’t speak Russian, the news is simply that I have opened a twin Twitter account in Russian – @bentavener_ru – alongside my regular @bentavener account.

Singer-superstar Shakira has revealed she has made a special version of her new song Dare for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, The Daily Star reports.

The World Cup version of the song will be called La La La, the British newspaper says.

The official FIFA 2014 World Cup song was announced in January and is called We Are One (Ole Ola) by Pitbull featuring Jennifer Lopez & Claudia Leitte – who is from near Rio de Janeiro.

Although the Daily Star says Shakira’s song is an “official” World Cup song, it is as yet unclear whether her song will run in tandem with the FIFA-announced official Pitbull song, and whether one will be the official song and the other the official “anthem”, as has been the tradition in recent years.

This year’s World Cup is being hosted in Brazil and begins on 12 June in São Paulo.

It is the second time the 37-year-old singer, who is originally from Barranquilla, Colombia, has written a World Cup song, after her hit Waka Waka for the 2010 South Africa edition of the tournament.

“It’s an upbeat, Brazilian track. The lyrics are personal and I’ve actually recorded a version for the World Cup,” she was quoted by The Daily Star as saying.

The news comes just before the singer is set to release a new, self-titled album on 25 March. Its lead single – Can’t Remember to Forget You – was released in January and features Rihanna.

The singer has been in a relationship with Spanish footballer Gerard Piqué since 2010 and has an apartment in Barcelona.

UPP Mandela. Photo by Ale Silva/Futura Press/Estadão Conteúdo

The Police Pacification Unit (UPP) in the Mandela favela, part of the Manguinhos complex, was torched on Thursday 20 March. Photo by Ale Silva/Futura Press/Estadão Conteúdo.

Brazil is to deploy federal troops to the city of Rio de Janeiro to ensure public security after a number of serious attacks on favela (shantytown) police stations across the city.

Rio state governor Sérgio Cabral and Federal Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo made the announcement on Friday following a meeting with President Dilma Rousseff.

Cabral and Rio’s public security secretary José Beltrame had traveled to the capital, Brasília, on Friday to ask the government for federal support to help quell the violence.

No further details were given in a subsequent press conference, but ahead of the announcement on troops Beltrame said: “We are ready […] to make sure there is no kind of threat to Rio’s citizens. We are out in maximum force on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.”

Military police had already bolstered their presence in a number of favelas (shantytowns) after a series of attacks on communities with Police Pacification Stations, known as UPPs, local media reported on Friday.

Extra officers and backup from tactical divisions were deployed in the favela communities after at least three separate “pacified” favela communities saw attacks on Thursday night.

Manguinhos favela. Photo by Felipe Dana/AP.

Manguinhos favela in Rio’s North Zone now has a far greater police presence due to a slew of attacks. Photo by Felipe Dana/AP.

Thirty-eight communities have so far undergone “pacification”, a city-wide policy by which police bring lawless areas, often controlled by armed gangs involved in drug trafficking, under their control by force, with UPPs left to consolidate gains.

On Thursday attacks were reported in three communities in different parts of the city with parts of the Manguinhos, Lins and Alemão favela complexes consequently waking up to a major police presence on Friday morning.

Manguinhos, in Rio’s North Zone, suffered the worst attack, Globo News reported. The head of one of the region’s UPPs suffered gunshot wounds and another officer was hit in the head by a rock. Both are reportedly stable in hospital and undergoing treatment.

The Mandela UPP, located in the Manguinhos complex visited by Pope Francis in June 2013, was set ablaze and gutted. Two police cars and five support bases were also torched.

The police chief in overall charge of Rio’s UPPs said he believed the attacks were coordinated.

‘On high alert’

The attacks brought some parts of the city to a standstill on Thursday night, with trains stopped in places due to running gun battles between criminals and police.

Local media in Rio de Janeiro reported that the Manguinhos community was without power after the attacks and schools were unable to teach around 4,000 school children on Friday.

All UPP communities have been put on high alert and police have had time-off suspended and are ready to carry out operationwhen deemed necessary, the local authorities said.

After meeting with the cabinet, Beltrame said the city’s security problems were down to Brazil’s “archaic” penal and prison systems, as well as a growing problem with crack use and gun crime within the country, the G1 news website reported.

Rio’s controversial pacification policy has been praised for integrating previously-lawless areas into the wider community and bringing security and public services to the city’s most underprivileged communities.

However, an underlying sense of distrust between residents and police remains. A number of incidents in recent weeks in which favela residents have been shot dead – by police or during police operations with criminals – has brought the topic of pacification back into the spotlight.

Written for Anadolu Agency

Brazil’s incumbent president Dilma Rousseff would win a second term in office comfortably and without a runoff if this year’s general elections were held today, an influential pollster in the country said on Thursday.

Despite a first term in office dominated by a stagnant economy and, later, anti-government protests, Rousseff would still hold a wide lead over her rivals, according to the poll by the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics, IBOPE.

Brazil President Dilma Rousseff. Photo by Roberto Stuckert Filho.

Brazil President Dilma Rousseff has a wide lead over rivals for October’s presidential elections. Photo by Roberto Stuckert Filho.

The survey of 2,002 people conducted between 13 and 17 March, which had a margin of error of ±2%, gave the current president a vote share of between 40% and 43%, depending on which opponents she faced.

IBOPE gave those surveyed a variety of scenarios given not all candidates may yet have officially entered the race.

Rousseff’s nearest rival was Aécio Neves, a senator from Minas Gerais state and member of the country’s main opposition party, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB). He would garner around 13% of the vote, the poll suggested.

PSB candidate Eduardo Campos, who recently launched a scathing attack on the president, would get 6% of votes and third place.

Crucially, the IBOPE survey showed that many Brazilians have yet to make up their minds. Many responded that they would spoil their vote or simply did not know yet.

Ibope survey

The IBOPE survey shows Rousseff would get 40%, Neves 13% and Campos 6%, but that 24% would spoil their ballot and 12% were unsure. Graphic by G1.

Although the Brazilian electoral system would normally require a candidate to reach the 50 percent threshold in order to avoid a second round, the pollster said that Rousseff would get more votes than all other candidates combined and therefore take the election in the first round.

Voting in the general elections on 5 October, based upon which the president, deputies, senators, state governors and state legislatures are appointed, is mandatory but Brazilians can spoil their vote or not vote for a legitimate reason which they then have to ‘justify’ to the authorities.

The news was welcomed by Rousseff and her Workers Party (PT), particularly after her approval ratings slumped from over 60% towards the beginning of her presidency to just 31% in the wake of last year’s mass anti-government protests, which saw over a million Brazilians take to the streets – although this had recovered to around 40% by November 2013.

Some 7% of respondents said they would vote for the former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, although he is not running and has publicly backed Dilma Rousseff, whom he put forward for the 2010 elections after reaching a maximum of two terms in office.

President Lula left office with approval ratings of 83%.

Extended version of report written for Anadolu Agency

FIFA inspection. Photo by Nacho Doce/Reuters.

FIFA and the LOC will now inspect the six stadiums not used in last year’s Confederations Cup. Photo by Nacho Doce/Reuters.

With less than three months until kick-off in Brazil, FIFA and the Brazil 2014 Local Organising Committee (LOC) began a final, week-long round of operational inspections on Thursday for stadiums hosting this year’s World Cup, even though three of the venues have yet to be completed.

After visiting the six stadiums which hosted last year’s World Cup warm-up, the Confederations Cup, in January, the final round of inspections will visit the remaining six stadiums – in São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Cuiabá, Manaus and Natal.

LOC stadiums operations manager Tiago Paes said the inspection tour was a final chance to “consolidate operational plans” and would allow the various World Cup departments, from security to catering, to make sure everything planned over the last few years is in place.

First on the list is São Paulo’s Arena Corinthians, also known as the Itaquerão, which will host the World Cup opener on 12 June between Brazil and Croatia.

But the 65,800-capacity stadium is now causing the biggest headache for soccer’s world governing body, as it is still at least six weeks from completion.

The Brazilian construction company working on the stadium, Odebrecht, says it will be operational by 15 April, but Corinthians, the soccer team behind the work, says some items will take longer, including some VIP boxes and the all-important big screens.

Curitiba’s Arena da Baixada and the Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá are also as yet unfinished and work on both is expected to go to the wire.

Even if the stadiums are completed on time, there are concerns that temporary structures, such as those set to house broadcast teams and sponsors, may not be.

FIFA said its secretary general, Jérôme Valcke, is expected back in Brazil next week for a “series of meetings” to discuss World Cup preparations. Inspection teams are expected to report their findings back to him on 27 March in Rio de Janeiro.

The twelve stadiums were meant to have been ready by December 2013 to meet FIFA’s deadline and allow for the venues to be tested but when the New Year arrived, six of the stadiums were not ready.

Host cities are now working round the clock to get both stadiums and associated infrastructure projects ready, or at least in some working form, for this June’s much-anticipated tournament.

Written for Anadolu Agency

Brazil – the biggest country and economy in Latin America – has achieved an 89% reduction in the number of its citizen living in extreme poverty in the last 10 years, the country’s minister for social development and hunger alleviation (MDS) said on Monday.

Minister Tereza Campello praised efforts by the Brazilian government over the last decade, during which time Brazil has implemented the world’s largest family income support program, the Bolsa Família, which gives around 50 million people, or one-in-four of the country’s population, a monthly slice of government money.

Bolsa Família at 10 with Development Minister Tereza Campello. Photo by Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom / Agência Brasil.

Development Minister Tereza Campello celebrated 10 years of the Bolsa Família. Photo by Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil.

The official figures were announced at the start of the week-long South-South Learning Forum 2014, which began on Monday with representatives from 50 countries in Rio de Janeiro. Sponsored by the World Bank, the forum will discuss different social protection policies from around the world.

Brazil is planning to launch a new anti-poverty information platform at the end of the forum called World Without Poverty (WWP), an online tool that the South American country is helping to develop that will allow for information exchanges with other nations. Campello said the tool would cut costs and speed the dissemination of information.

Brazil has been globally praised for its fight against poverty, which has seen 35 million people rise into the burgeoning lower-middle class, eager to spend their new-found cash on TVs, smartphones, cars and white goods.

However, the government has recently come under local attack for its handling of rural and indigenous communities, where malnutrition remains rife. Some have criticized the Bolsa Família as a quick fix to far deeper socio-economic problems.

Still other critics go further and say it’s a way for the ruling Workers Party (PT), fronted by both President Dilma Rousseff and her charismatic predecessor President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to gain support at the polls. Although the amount is very small, it is of symbolic importance to many.

“The population looks at PT and says ‘They’re bad but they give us the Bolsa Família’,” said Ricardo Antunes, professor of sociology at São Paulo’s Unicamp university. Whereas the opposition PSDB party looks “insensitive” and would put an end to it.

Bolsa Família

Although some recipients have complained that the Bolsa Família is not enough, mother-of-two Aline Ferreira, 24, from Recife in Brazil’s poorer northeast region says the welfare “top-up” has allowed her both to work and study, as well as feed her children:

Bolsa Família

Receiving the Bolsa Família in Brazil is contingent on your children going to school and getting vaccinated.

“I get about 100 reais a month and it helps quite a lot,” Ferreira said. “Before, we just ate beans and rice but now my children are eating meat and vegetables throughout the month.”

Natal airport cleaning assistant Elaine Galdino, 27, who also has two children, is similarly positive about the scheme: “It’s not much, but I work as well, and it allows me to buy things that I couldn’t afford otherwise.”

Defending the Bolsa Família program, which will take R$24 billion (US$10.2 billion) from public coffers in 2014, Campello said at the start of the forum that the program was not just a handout, but a complementary part of the country’s social protection network along with “other aid” to help families live “in dignity.”

The Bolsa Família benefit payments are contingent on all family members under 16 going to school and receiving basic vaccinations. Once they meet these requirements, families below the poverty line earn R$32-38 (around US$14-16) per month per child, and those below the extreme poverty line get R$70 (around US$30).

Funds are normally received through a type of bank card mailed to the female head of the household. Some 13 million families have registered for the scheme.

“Poverty is not something natural,” the minister said, arguing that the government had to intervene. She added that 70% of recipients work. A direct response to repeated criticism that the program dissuaded those receiving the benefit from taking up gainful employment, which she blasted as a “myth against the poor population.”

A poll in 2013 said half of Brazilians did not believe the policy was effective at bringing people out of poverty, blaming a want of effort rather than a lack of opportunities.

But Campello said that for every $1 invested into the program, $1.78 was returned to the economy as Brazilians who previously had access to the benefit become better-off and contribute themselves.

In a recent interview with Portuguese newspaper Público, Ms Campello described it as “giving the fish, teaching [them] how to fish, and giving whatever we have to give to change Brazil.”

Written for Anadolu Agency

Rio police drag woman along road. Photo: reprodução/Globo Extra.

Amateur video shows police dragging Cláudio da Silva Ferreira, 38, along a road in Rio de Janeiro on her way to hospital. Image: Reprodução/Globo Extra

Three military police officers have been arrested after a dying woman was dragged along a road by a police car that was meant to be taking her to hospital in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, the military police service confirmed on Monday.

The woman, 38-year-old Cláudia da Silva Ferreira, had reportedly gone out to buy bread on Sunday morning when she was shot twice by what police described as “stray bullets” in gunfire between officers and drugs traffickers in an operation in the Morro da Congonha favela (slum) community in Madureira, in Rio’s North Zone.

Officers then put the mother-of-four into the trunk of their police car to drive her to hospital and at some point during the journey to hospital, as amateur mobile phone footage testified, the trunk opened and she was dragged along the road for approximately 250 metres.

Shocked onlookers said the police were only alerted to what was happening by pedestrians and drivers when the car pulled up at traffic signals.

Health officials say Ferreira was pronounced dead upon arrival at hospital.

A police spokesperson said Ferreira should have been in the back seat alongside an officer and that the case was already being investigated internally by the military police:

“This type of conduct did not fit with the principal values of the corporation – which are the preservation of life and human dignity,” the spokesperson told reporters.

The investigation will also seek to establish whether Ferreira had been shot by police or traffickers in the anti-trafficking operation.

But local people took to the streets on Monday to protest the woman’s death, bringing a major local road to a halt as protesters burned piles of trash and accused the military police of killing favela residents indiscriminately.

‘Treated like an animal’

Ferreira, who took care of four relatives as well as raising four of her own children, was buried on Monday afternoon at a local cemetery.

“They [the police] treated her like an animal. Not even the worst trafficker in the world would have been treated like that,” Ferreira’s husband, 41-year-old security guard Alexandre da Silva was quoted by Brazilian daily Folha de S.Paulo as saying at the funeral service.

Silva said he believed his wife would have survived the gunshot wounds if she had not subsequently been dragged behind the police car.

Tensions have been running higher than usual in a number of favelas in Rio after new communities were ‘pacified’ – forcibly brought under police control – and previously-pacified areas reinforced by tactical squadrons after an increase in the number of attacks against police, including the notorious North Zone swathe of favelas known as the Complexo do Alemão.

Indeed an officer at one of the city’s UPPs – so-called “police pacification units” installed inside newly-pacified favelas – was killed last week after criminals attacked the station in Vila Cruzeiro, part of the Complexo da Penha group of favela communities.

Adding to the tension is an ongoing investigation into the alleged torture and murder of Rio bricklayer Amarildo Dias da Souza who disappeared in 2013. Local UPP police officers are the main suspects and proceedings against them have begun.

In 2008 Rio policymakers set out plans to ‘pacify’ forty favela communities and install UPPs. Last week saw the installation of Rio’s 38th UPP, in Vila Kennedy in the west of the city.

The policy of pacification has been largely praised by the wider community, but there remains significant distrust between favela community residents – which make up around 22 percent of Rio’s population – and military police.

Written for Anadolu Agency

Hundreds of people took to the streets of São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and business centre, on Thursday night in a largely peaceful protest against the country’s hosting of the World Cup – which begins on 12 June this year at the city’s Arena Corinthians stadium.

See photos from the event

13 March 2014 - World Cup Protest in São Paulo, Brazil - Photo by Ben Tavener

World Cup Protest in São Paulo, Brazil. 13 March 2014. Photo by Ben Tavener.

The event, dubbed the “Third Act against the World Cup”, drew over 1,500 people onto the streets, according to police figures, although correspondents at the event say the figure appeared to be higher.

Police say 1,700 military police and riot troops were deployed to keep order, and differed greatly from the last anti-World Cup protest, on 22 February, when martial arts-trained police detained some 260 potential troublemakers in “kettles”, and tear gas and stun grenades were fired on protesters. This included at least five journalists, who were kept in the kettle despite showing their press passes.

Thursday’s march, which wound its way 10 kilometres through the heart of the city, saw only five arrests, according to police – one of which was a 15-year-old.

13 March 2014 - World Cup Protest in São Paulo, Brazil - Photo by Ben Tavener

This bank was vandalised in the mainly peaceful World Cup protest. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Military police were noticeably better behaved than before, and even acted with restraint when an explosive object – which police described as a type of ‘mortar’, was thrown at them on Avenida Paulista – the city’s central business street.

At least one bank – Banco do Brasil Estilo – was vandalised on Avenida Paulista, but businesses and wary onlookers – mainly workers and customers – were shielded by police while more volatile parts of the protest passed, with troops forming lines to seal off businesses and metro entrances.

‘No World Cup!’

The protest again ran under the banner of Não Vai Ter Copa – “There won’t be a (World) Cup” – and over 14,000 had signalled their attendance – or rather solidarity – on Facebook.

Brazil is spending R$33 billion (around US$18 billion) on the World Cup and many of the protesters are angry this money is not being invested into sorely-needed public services and infrastructure.

“I’m here not just because I’m against the World Cup, but because of everything that’s happening in Brazil, which hasn’t been going well for ages,” Débora Aoni, a 35-year-old actress from São Paulo, told an Anadolu Agency correspondent at the protest.

13 March 2014 - World Cup Protest in São Paulo, Brazil - Photo by Ben Tavener

Some 1,700 military police and riot troops accompanied the protest along its 10km course. Photo by Ben Tavener.

“We’ve got problems with transportation and infrastructure – nothing works,” Aoni continued.

“I hope a lot of people will join us at the next protest,” 24-year-old student Thiago Weber told AA. “I know people are afraid of the police but we have to stand up for our rights and our opinion about the government spending billions on this World Cup.”

This may well be helped by Thursday’s relatively uneventful protest – which both protesters and police will claim as a victory.

But while headline news in Brazil, Thursday’s protest was still a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of protesters than took to the streets in June and July 2013, during the World Cup warm-up, the Confederations Cup, but a fourth ‘Act Against the World Cup’ has already been called for Thursday 27 March.

And protests for the World Cup itself are more or less a certainty.

Unedited version of story written for Anadolu Agency