Monthly Archives: November 2015

VICE News

SÃO PAULO — Violence has stalked Joana* throughout her life.

After surviving a brutal childhood she had to defend herself and her two children from an abusive husband from whom she eventually ran after he tried to stab her to death. It didn’t stop there.

Struggling to make ends meet in her new home in a violence-plagued shantytown in São Paulo, Joana took in a nephew in order to help pay the rent but he was lured into local drug gangs.

“They wanted to show us who was boss,” the 40-year-old black Brazilian told VICE News, cracking a smile that quickly faded. “They raped me and my young daughter, and threatened to do the same to my son.”

Sitting in a small stuffy room with black mold creeping down the walls, Joana remembered her desperation over five lonely years of near-daily violent abuse.

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VICE News

SÃO PAULO — An American investment giant that manages multi-billion-dollar pension funds in the United States, Canada, and Sweden faces allegations that it has circumvented Brazilian laws on foreign acquisition of farmland, including land from a shady Brazilian business figure accused of two murders.

Acquisitions of Brazilian farmland by the US-based Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association–College Retirement Equities Fund, or TIAA-CREF — which promotes transparency, social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and respect for land rights — grew by over 145 percent between 2012 and 2014 to 256,324 hectares, as part of a $5.1 billion global portfolio of farmland in several countries, including the United States.

A three-year investigation by a coalition, including Barcelona-based Grain that monitors land purchases worldwide, concluded that the pension fund’s farmland investment unit TIAA-CREF Global Agriculture (TCGA) — the largest in the world to focus on retirement savings investors, and into which Swedish AP2 and Canada’s CDPQ and bcIMC pension funds have also invested — had created “complex company structures” that effectively skirt Brazilian law.

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SÃO PAULO — Hundreds of Frenchmen, Brazilians and people of other nationalities gathered outside the French consulate in São Paulo today in a ceremony to remember the victims of the recent attacks on Paris.

After a minute’s silence, the crowd broke into song with an emotional rendition of the Marseillaise.

The Consul General of France in São Paulo, Damien Loras, who led the ceremony, said: “The shock was extremely big, and it is a relief at this time of pain and suffering to know that we have friends in São Paulo, that we are together and that we are not giving up on being a free and democratic country.”

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Houston Chronicle – by Mihir Zaveri, Susan Carroll and Ben Tavener

HOUSTON/SÃO PAULO — Sandwiched between U.S. and Texas flags, the Brazilian banner waves outside a set of discolored tanks and pipes at the site of a Pasadena refinery. A sign marked “PRSI” – for Pasadena Refining System Inc. – hangs over chain link fence with razor wire that surrounds the compound that dates back nearly a century.

From her porch, Hilda Perez and neighbor Lorie Soliz can see that refinery across a grassy field and train tracks – its glowing flares and sulfurous fumes are familiar. Both friends remember four years ago when an explosion there rocked the neighborhood and a giant flame rose into the sky. “There’s always something going on over there,” said Soliz, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1992.

But they didn’t know that their hometown refinery – owned by Brazilian state-run oil company Petrobras – has become a flashpoint in an explosive political scandal abroad.

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Mashable

SÃO PAULO — Over a dozen people are thought to be have been killed after two dams burst in rural southeastern Brazil, triggering a wall of sludgy mining spoils to cascade down a valley and wipe out an entire town, burying residents alive.

It was initially reported that the 170-meter (560-foot) high Fundão Dam, which was holding back a 40 square kilometer (15.4 square mile) lake of “tailings” – the spoils of mining operations, breached at 4:20 p.m. local time (GMT 18:20), swamping the small town of Bento Rodrigues below.

The mining company operating the dam later said that two dams had in fact failed.

The muddy tsunami swept away cars and swallowed entire buildings in the town of approximately 600 people, which is around 15 miles from Mariana, a colonial town in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais.

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VICE News

SÃO PAULO — Activists in Brazil say a proposed law defining terrorism will criminalize protest movements, including those looking to use media attention on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to highlight social injustices and push for reforms.

The bill, authored by President Dilma Rousseff’s office, was amended on its way through the lower house of Congress to add specific exemptions for social movements, but these were removed when it sailed through the Senate last week. It now heads back for a final reading by Brazil’s deputies, and would require final approval by the president.

Supporters of the bill argue Brazil needs legislation to define and fight terrorism, though experts charge that the move stems from pressure from the U.S.-led anti-terrorism body — the Financial Action Task Force, or FATF — amid fears of sanctions that could exacerbate the country’s recession.

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