Medium & BBC Brasil

CURITIBA, Paraná — Brazil oozes inequality: while some live in abject poverty, others get rich from the country’s commodities. A few, of course, get rich in ways that are less than legal. You might think that life behind bars would level out these huge differences in fortunes.

But in reality, while some rot in mouldy, dank cells without charge and given scant access even to daylight — others are given clean, fluffy pillows, regular medicals and TVs to watch.

Nowhere has this been more clearly exemplified than with the recent jailings of top executives, held over corruption and money laundering charges relating to Brazil’s biggest company.

Read Full Article

Anadolu Agency

SAO PAULO – Just 41% of projects promised by the Brazilian government for the World Cup tournament are complete as the final 30-day countdown to the tournament begins, a report said on Tuesday.

Brazil’s Folha de S.Paulo newspaper said it had checked all 167 World Cup projects announced by the government in 2010 and found that just 68 were ready.

A further 88 projects are unfinished or will be left until after the key football tournament. Eleven have been abandoned altogether, the newspaper said.

Read Full Article

The construction company behind the Arena São Paulo stadium that will open this year’s World Cup on 12 June was given an ultimatum on Wednesday to implement four emergency safety orders to allow a partial suspension on work at the site to be lifted.

Arena São Paulo. Photo: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters/1Apr14

Arena São Paulo on 1 April 2014. Photo: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters.

Earlier this week an inspection by fire services, ordered after a fatal accident on Saturday, found 26 irregularities and work was halted on part of the stadium.

A local public prosecutor asked fire services to provide a shortlist of top-priority emergency measures that needed be taken to get the stadium back on track, in response to which four major demands were set out.

In an interview with GloboNews, local prosecutor José Carlos de Freitas warned that if steps were not taken, “that partial ban on these areas, in theory, could extend to even when the stadium is officially open or mid World Cup.”

Odebrecht, the overall construction company behind the stadium, vowed to carry out necessary actions; the authorities will reassess the site next week.

Delays and safety concerns at the Arena São Paulo, also known as the Arena Corinthians or the Itaquerão, were already proving to be the biggest headache for tournament organisers FIFA.

To the wire

The stadium’s revised delivery schedule is for mid-April, but construction overseers had already admitted work will not be completely finished by then.

But this was further complicated by Saturday’s tragedy where a worker fell eight metres while working on the stadium’s temporary stands. He later died of his injuries.

Fábio Hamilton da Cruz became the third person to perish at the stadium, after two men died in November when a crane manoeuvring a section of roofing collapsed.

There have now been eight deaths at World Cup stadiums in the country.

Some have expressed concerns that construction is being rushed to meet deadlines and safety concerns, even after the two November fatalities, have been left lacking.

Two other stadiums, in Curitiba and Cuiabá are also way behind schedule, however Cuiabá’s Arena Pantanal was officially opened on Wednesday, 71 days before the start of the tournament and just hours before its first test match.

Curitiba’s Arena da Baixada has now held its first game, albeit with just a fraction of seating areas open.

FIFA also considers Porto Alegre unfinished, although it has now been official opened. Some lingering concerns about temporary structure remain.

UPDATE: Speaking from South Africa (host of the 2010 World Cup) on Wednesday, FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke said that neither FIFA nor Brazil were ready for the World Cup: “If you want me to summarise, we are not ready.”

Beset by problems

The run-up for the World Cup, which should have been a time of growing expectation for the “Land of Football”, has been beset by major delays, budget overruns, and a slew of scaled-down or scrapped infrastructure projects.

Although smaller than those seen last June during the Confederations Cup, street protests have also continued and a major demonstration is planned for opening night in São Paulo.

The government had promised a swift response to any vandalism or other violence and police have undergone special training for general crowd control, protests and riots.

New loosely-worded “anti-terror” legislation being rushed through parliament to target potential troublemakers has been criticised by civil rights groups as too general and unnecessary.

There has also been particular concern at some World Cup stadiums over temporary structures for security and hospitality.

Work to install a telecommunications network required by the sports broadcaster and other media has not even begun in São Paulo, reports say. The network should have been in place 90 days before the start of the tournament for testing.

Despite recently saying that it was confident the remaining unfinished work on stadiums would be ready in time, FIFA has now ordered all stadiums not to stage matches after 20 May, according to Globo Esportes.

Five-time World Champions and gunning for a record-extending sixth title, Brazil has already announced a six-week hiatus in its football championship from 1 June while the World Cup, last held in the country in 1950, is being held.

Written for Anadolu Agency – SÃO PAULO – 2 April 2014

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’s President Dilma Rousseff has publicly condemned two recent incidents in which figures from Brazilian football were racially abused.

In a sequence of messages on Twitter published on Sunday, Ms Rousseff said that Brazilian football had been ‘stained’ by last week’s events, and that racism was ‘inadmissible’ in the world’s biggest black population outside Africa.

Brazil Santos midfielder Arouca. Photo by Wikipedia/CC/jikatu.

Santos midfielder Arouca was called a “monkey” by football fans. Photo by Wikipedia/CC/jikatu.

Marcos Arouca da Silva, a defensive midfielder for Santos football club known as “Arouca”, made headlines last Thursday when football fans at a game between Santos and rivals Mogi Mirim hurled abuse at him, chanting “macacão” or “big monkey”.

On Friday the São Paulo Football Federation banned Mogi Mirim from hosting games at their stadium, the “Romildão”, until an investigation into the incident – and any subsequent disciplinary process – has been concluded.

Arouca later released a statement labelling the episode as “unacceptable”, emphasizing that there was “no place” in football for racism.

In a second incident last week, referee Márcio Chagas reported he had been subject to a racist attack following a game in the country’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul.

“Márcio and Arouca have all my solidarity, and that of all Brazilians. It is inadmissible that Brazil, the biggest black nation outside Africa, should live with scenes of racism,” President Rousseff wrote on her official Twitter account.

She continued: “Let’s stand up to racism! I have agreed with the UN and FIFA that our #WorldCupofWorldCups will also be a #Cup for Peace and a #CupAgainstRacism.”

Football racism also made the headlines in Brazil earlier in February, when fans at a Copa Libertadores match between Brazilian club Cruzeiro and Peru’s Real Garcilaso chanted “monkey” at black Brazilian midfielder Paulo César Fonseca, better known as “Tinga”, in the Peruvian city of Huancayo.

In a little over three months Brazil will begin hosting this year’s edition of the World Cup in twelve host cities spread across South America’s largest country, whose 200 million-strong population is one of the most racially-mixed in the world.

This includes the Bahian city of Salvador, where 27.8% of the population is black and 51.7% mixed race, according to the country’s most-recent 2010 census.

Sunday also saw the ninth World Cup stadium being inaugurated in the Amazonas state capital, Manaus. Three other stadiums – in Cuiabá, Curitiba and São Paulo – have yet to be finished and have caused serious concern for World Cup organizers FIFA.

Story written for Anadolu Agency

Curitiba's Arena da Baixada. Photo by Reuters.

Curitiba’s Arena da Baixada is one of the World Cup’s cheaper stadiums and will seat 41,500 people. (Photo: Reuters)

Brazil’s southern city of Curitiba has been granted a reprieve and will be kept on as a World Cup host city, FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke confirmed on Tuesday.

The news was confirmed on Valcke’s personal Twitter account ahead of appearing before members of the press at the FIFA Workshop in Florianópolis:

Valcke continued that: “It’s a race against a very tight timeline. Collective effort by all the stakeholders involved in Curitiba must continue at highest pace.”

Even before the official FIFA announcement came, Curitiba mayor Gustavo Fruet had confirmed to local media that the city would remain in World Cup, citing an earlier telephone conversation with the FIFA Secretary General to inform the mayor what would be said at the press conference.

Valcke said Curitiba had understood the pressure it faced but had convinced FIFA that it could finish the job on time.

Curitiba is due to host four first-round fixtures, starting on 16 June with Iran v Nigeria, and followed by Honduras v Ecuador on 20 June, Australia v Spain on 23 June, and Alegria v Russia on 26 June.

FIFA’s biggest headache

Valcke told reporters on Tuesday that the Curitiba stadium, known as the Arena da Baixada, would be handed over to FIFA on or around 15 May, a month before holding its first World Cup fixture, and that at least two test matches – one at the end of March, one at the end of April – would be conducted ahead of this.

The decision was made as FIFA’s Charles Botta visited the stadium. Workers reportedly scrambled to cover muddy patches in the stadium entrance just before the official arrived, Folha reported.

This inspection, plus ‘guarantees’ from Curitiba, finally convinced FIFA that the city should be retained as a World Cup host.

The city’s newly-renovated 41,500-seater stadium has been FIFA’s biggest headache in the run-up to the tournament, and even now is only reportedly 90 percent ready and is the country’s most delayed stadium.

Last week some Brazilian media outlets, including Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, said FIFA had started working on contingency plans to move games schedule to be held in Curitiba to nearby stadiums – likely to include Porto Alegre, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro or Belo Horizonte – but this was denied by FIFA and local officials.

However, most Brazilian commentators said it would have been unthinkable to many for Curitiba to have lost its World Cup venue status: both for a local government that is in an election year and for FIFA itself in effect to admit that it had lost control of one of its tournament’s host cities.

Beset by funding delays

Local officials say one of the main reasons that the Arena da Baixada has been so delayed was that crucial funding was delayed.

After private funding of R$234 million (US$97.5 million) to renovate the 100-year-old stadium ran out, an extra R$90 million of public money was pledged used to get the stadium finished. Local authorities recently released another R$39 million for additional workers.

Even so, it is the cheapest of the twelve World Cup stadium projects, alongside the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre.

It is understood that both private and public sources came up against severe delays securing and receiving funding from the country’s National Development Fund Bank, the BNDES.

However, concerns over safety have also contributed, after work at the stadium was temporarily halted in October 2013 after a slew of reported safety breaches.

Public reaction to the news

A sense of relief now reigns among Curitibanos – people from Curitiba. Among them is 24-year-old student Ricardo Becker, who has tickets for the match on 23 June when Australia take on reigning champions Spain:

I’m thrilled. It would have been a real shame if not, not to mention testament to a city’s incompetence and lack of accountability. Even so, I do resent how overpriced the work on the stadium has been and how public money has gone missing,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Communication corodinator Camila Tremea, 29, said she was also relieved, given the amount of time and money that has already been invested by the city in the project: “With just a few months to go to the World Cup, you couldn’t have taken it away from the city. The city’s businesses have prepared for this.”

Leonardo Bittencourt, a 35-year-old English teacher also from Curitiba, told AA he thought the World Cup would be a “good thing” for both Curitiba and Brazil as a whole, as it should improve its international image in the end, despite the “obscene amounts of money apparently wasted and misappropriated,” he added.

Workshop overshadowed

Coaches of all 32 qualifying FIFA World Cup teams have gathered in Florianópolis, one of Brazil’s top beach resort cities, for a three-day workshop that is traditionally used to thrash out the finer details of World Cup rules and regulations, logistics and the like.

Delegation leaders, team managers, security and medical officials and members of the press from World Cup finalist nations are taking part in the event, which should ideally be held at a time when the finishing touches are being put in place by the World Cup host nation.

However, this time the seminar has been overshadowed by speculation Curitiba would be stripped of its hosting rights, which was in the end proved incorrect.

Edited, extended version of article written for Anadolu Agency

CNIg deferido page, Ben Tavener

“DEFERIDO” (“granted”, not “deferred”) was the magic word I had so long been waiting for. Immigration processes are all transparent and freely accessible online – anyone can see migrants’ applications.

It has finally happened.

After over a year of gathering documents, filling in forms, lawyers, judges and a lot of waiting, I have finally been granted a permanent visa, the Brazilian equivalent of the UK’s “indefinite leave to remain”, in accordance with the now-famous Resolução Normativa 77, a piece of legislation from 2008 that granted “stable partners” a raft of new rights, including the opportunity to bring their partner to Brazil on a temporary or permanent visa, regardless of gender.

The law allows a Brazilian to bring their “stable partner”, i.e. in an união estável (“stable union”) – less than “married”, but with many of the legal rights and safeguards, regardless of gender, into Brazil to live, work and stay.

Full marriage would have made the process much simpler, but we were not ready for that (and gay marriage had not been introduced in any states at that point) and were happy with the união estável solution, which appeared simple. In essence it is, but there have been many unforeseeable hurdles and we have come up against more than our fair share of useless people.

One of the big problems is that an união estável is easy to do – you walk into a cartório (legal registry office), pay R$90 or whatever it was, and you are partners – with many legal rights, including pensions and – now – immigration rights for your partner.

However, the fact that it is easily obtained means that if you wish to bring your partner into the country, you must supplement this união estável with other documents, and in some cases an audience with a judge, to back up the claim you’re asserting that you are a couple – and not just trying to get into Brazil on a “visa of convenience” for work or whatever else.

However, many of these documents have to be of a certain “age” – at least one or two years old. Some of the documents are rather “catch 22”, such as having a joint bank account: we couldn’t open one without me having the appropriate visa. Some of the documents were too big for us – joint mortgages, joint property…

deferido closer, ben tavener

For a number of reasons, mainly incorrect advice from a number of sources (even some official advice was wrong), we did not take out the easier documents – a will, life insurance – at an earliest stage in proceedings, and this demanded a more difficult solution – the legal trump card.

This trump card is an application to the local federal or family court to get a judge to vouch for you as a couple – for this, he or she looks into your relationship – with all the supporting documents (photos, statements, plane tickets, etc.) that you can muster. Then an audience of your friends is called for them to vouch for you, your status as a couple and your reason for wanting a permanent visa.

If the judge is satisfied, you get a document that goes to along with your application. This more or less forces the Immigration Service’s hand.

However, this takes time, and our our first, useless lawyer messed up proceedings in spectacular – initially not even lodging the application for a number of months, and then asking for the wrong document from the judge. In the time, thinking that the application was moving on, I decided not to renew my temporary visa – which could have been renewed for another year – and came back to Brazil after a summer break on a tourist visa.

We then discovered the application still had not been made and forced the lawyer to do his job. Luckily, we soon found a better, specialist lawyer to take over the case.

But the process took a long time: from August 2012 when it was initiated lodged with the judge, we finally got the document we needed in February 2013. By this point, my tourist visa had run out and I was stuck outside Brazil.

With an array of documents, plus our judge-signed trump card, I applied to Brasília and, to give them credit, my application for a permanent visa was authorised in a little over a month, and the word DEFERIDO (“granted”) finally appears on my application – all of which are visible to the public.

Now, once authorisation has reached the Brazilian Consulate in London, I can finally apply for the permanent visa that goes in my passport – for the princely sum of £160 (plus a reciprocal fee of £124).

That is the final step allowing me to return to my life in Brazil – return to a new chapter, as I will be living in São Paulo and not Curitiba.

Please get in touch if you would like information about the specialist lawyer that helped me in my visa authorisation application and court audience.

Oscar Niemeyer Museum, Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Oscar Niemeyer Museum, Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Brazil and bureaucracy are pretty much synonymous. You can’t escape it: you just have to play the game, which is a waiting one, and keep calm.

For most visitors, particularly those from the UK and Europe, visiting Brazil is a doddle. Just turn up, and you’re allowed 90 days, which can be extended by another 90 days to a maximum of 180 days.

But for those who want to remain longer than that – the options are limited.

I’m now back in the UK, waiting for my new temporary-permanent visa – a trip which also cunningly doubles up just in time to spend Christmas and the new year (and probably the first couple of months of 2013) with my family.

However, when I do get back to Brazil, I will be in São Paulo.

For this reason I spent my last few days, for now, revisiting sights around Curitiba, which had been my home in Brazil for the past 18 months.

I particularly wanted to see the Oscar Niemeyer Museum again, after the architect’s recent death.

See my goodbye photos HERE.

Curitiba Cathedral, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Curitiba’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Largo da Ordem - Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Largo da Ordem – Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Centro Cívico - Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Centro Cívico – Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.