Anadolu Agency

SÃO PAULO (AA) – The President of Brazil’s Supreme Court, Joaquim Barbosa, the first black person to hold the position, is to retire in June, it was announced on Thursday.

Nominated to join Brazil’s highest court by former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2003, Barbosa, 59, rose up the ranks to head the court as Chief Justice in November 2012.

He is one of Brazil’s most popular and influential public figures, and was voted in the top 100 influential men in the world by Time Magazine in 2013.

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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

Brazilian Architect Oscar Niemeyer in 2005

Brazilian Architect Oscar Niemeyer in 2005

Legendary modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer, who designed many of the most prominent government buildings in Brasília and the UN Headquarters in New York City – has died in a Rio hospital just days before marking his 105th birthday.

President Dilma Rousseff has extended her deepest sympathies to Niemeyer’s family.

Niemeyer’s body will be flown to Brasília on to lie in state in the Presidential Palace, the Planalto, in memory of the architectural legacy he bestowed on Brazil and many other countries, including the U.S. and Spain, before being returned to Rio’s Palácio da Cidade in Botafogo for a private ceremony with friends and family.

National Congress of Brazil Building, Brasília. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Niemeyer designed the National Congress of Brazil building in Brasília. Photo by Ben Tavener.

The public will then be granted access before he is buried in Botafogo.

Niemeyer rose to international fame in the 1960s as the new futuristic capital city was unveiled to the nation. The hallmark architectural swoops he used in his designs were, by his own admission, inspired by the “free-flowing sensual curves” of Brazilian women.

An ardent communist and atheist, he fled Brazil during the military dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s, and continued to build on his career in France. His innovative use of reinforced concrete and rejection of conventional angled designs earned him both admirers and critics.

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Personal experience

Contemporary Art Museum, Niterói, Rio

Niemeyer’s Contemporary Art Museum in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Oscar Niemeyer is difficult to miss in Brazil. He is simply everywhere, whether you are in Rio – where you’ll be struck by his Contemporary Art Museum in Niterói, or his swoop in Rocinha – or in Curitiba, Natal or Belo Horizonte.

But nowhere has he made his mark more firmly than on Brasília – the plane-shaped capital tailor-made for governing, which was inaugurated in the 1960s.

It’s a strange place – there’s no two ways about it. You feel like your in a blown-up version of a model of the city. The buildings don’t fit in, nor do they match with each other, but still – there is a certain charm to it all.

And it is impressive. The plan was to make a futuristic-looking Brasília, and if you look at it through the eyes of someone in the 1960s, you can see how it must have blown them away.

Oscar Niemeyer Museum in Curitiba, Brazil

Is it an eye or an araucária tree? The Oscar Niemeyer Museum in Curitiba, southern Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Nowadays, it looks like someone tried to make it look futuristic, and feels more like a theme park.

Most notably in Brasília, Niemeyer designed the striking government buildings around the Praça dos Três Poderes (“Three Powers Square” – the Supreme Court, the President, and the Senators and Deputies) and the hyperboloid-shaped Cathedral.

Despite criticism that his communist brain couldn’t fathom what it meant for his art to be touched by human love (although, to be fair, he was married for 76 years to the same woman before she passed away), he said the swoops that became his hallmark were inspired by nature and people – from the mountains and rivers of Rio, to curves of Brazilian women.

He said:

“When you have a large space to conquer, the curve is the natural solution. I once wrote a poem about the curve. The curve I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean and on the body of the beloved woman.”

Niemeyer was said to be designing until very near the end of his long life, with many unfinished projects and indeed many that never left the drawing board – including in Moscow, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, DR Congo and Portugal.

But despite that, he now has more than 600 buildings around the world to his name, including museums, monuments, schools and churches.