Give freely, or else

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 5.11.43 PMMy day shift at the hostel in Ipanema had ended and, as usual, I stuck around chatting with the friendly manager and some of the guests. Upon noticing it was already dark out, I said goodbye, then ran a quick errand before heading to the nearest Zona Sul supermarket, kiddie corner to General Osório square, to pick up some spaghetti for later. With the errands completed, I went a few blocks towards the beach to catch a public transport van back to Rocinha. Numbered according to their trajectory, I was hoping to catch the less frequent of the two lines that went through Gávea because it would leave me closer to my apartment.

I waited there like on any of the other hundreds of times I had caught a van back home, aware of my surroundings, even though this was Ipanema and I was dressed in the usual shirt, shorts and flip-flops. As I held my grocery bag with its one item inside, I thought about the dinner I’d soon share with friends, accompanied by a beer from the bar across from my front door.

Right then a lone young man (reminiscent of those I saw daily in the favelas) appeared on the median strip, shouting out to someone on the sidewalk where I was.

Rio wasn’t a stranger to me and I had always kept my wits about me while living there. Even though I had never found myself in any kind of unwanted situation before, this guy didn’t immediately make me think twice, but he made me want to think twice. “Calma, just be cool”, I thought to myself, “I’ve got nothing visible he can steal,” knowing full well that prior to the supermarket, I had made a stop at the bank to take out R$60 for the next week. Luckily, while still in the bank, I had folded the bills up and stuck them, along with my bank card, under the waistband of my underwear.

He shouted again, across the sparse lanes of traffic, which prompted me to take a quick look around me to see whose attention he was trying to get. It was mine. I was alone and it was dark. That’s when he went for my bag, with his eyes.

Tem comida aí? Me dá alguma coisa,” he suddely mumurred.
(You got food there? Give me some.)

É macarrão, tem que ser cozido,” I reluctantly responded.
(It’s spaghetti, it has to be cooked.)

E daí, dou um jeito, cara.
(So what, I’ll find a way to cook it, man.)

Não posso, é pra janta.
(I can’t, it’s for dinner.)

I didn’t want him to think I was an easy target, and by that I mean gringo. I considered playing the sympathy card, telling him I was a resident of the morro, the comunidade (favela), without specifying which, but that might lead to more talking, and more talking might reveal I’m a foreigner. Two or three more times he asked for food but as many times as he asked, I denied him. That’s when he changed tatics.

Então, me dá um real aí.
(So give me R$1.)

Tem, não, cara. Preciso pro transporte.
(I don’t have it, man. I need what I got for transport.)

Ô, me dá um real!“, he repeated, a little more directly.
(Hey, give me R$1!)

Não posso“, I said.
(I can’t.)

I realized this was going to continue for a while unless I either gave him money or food, which meant getting close to him physically, or I would have to go back to General Osório and walk down ‘Visconde’ (a main street in Ipanema) all the way to Leblon where I could also catch the same van. Just as I was about to offer up R$1 to get it over with, I heard another person shouting at me. It was the cobrador (fare collector) of the van I had been waiting for. Giving him a quick wave to stop the van, it blocked out the view of the lone peddler and I got on and went home.

To this day, I don’t know what would have happened if I let him approach me. At the most, I suppose I could have lost a simple bag of spaghetti or maybe the bus fare. In the least, I would have helped someone in need. He was the one breathing thing that could have stood in the way of my belief that, crime-wise, Brazil isn’t as bad as others say it is.

Hacker reportedly helped politicians change votes

Apparently, this is news from late last year, but it’s still being reported (but not mentioned in large newspapers). One issue with the veracity of this report is something I read about votes being printed, and voters and political parties being able to request the printed numbers from the voting location at any point. 

urna-agencia-brasil

“At a seminar  last year titled “Is the voting machine reliable?”, which took place at SEAERJ (Society of Engineers and Architects of Rio de Janeiro), a young hacker of 19 years of age, identified merely as Rangle, for security reasons, revealed how he defrauded elections in Rio de Janeiro.

Rangel showed how, via illegal and privileged access to Rio de Janeiro’s Electorial Justice intranet – under the telecommunications company Oi – intercepted data from the totaling system and, after delaying the sending of this data to its destination, he altered the results, benefiting some candidates in detriment of others.

According to Amilcar Brunazzo, a specialist engineer on the subject, in spite of this, no activity was detected by the official system.

“We get on the Electorical Justice’s network when the results are being transmitted for totaling and after 50% of the data has been transmitted, we act. We modify the results even when the totalization is ready to be closed”, explained Rangel in general terms. The information, as reported, ended up shocking critics and specialists towards the fragilities of the system.

The hacker declared that he didn’t act alone, participating in a group that utilized privileged information relative to the Oi system, altering the results before they were registered by the TRE – the Regional Electorial Tribunal. Rangel is under police protection and has already given his statement to the Federal Police.

He also denounced the deputy Paulo de Melo (PMDB), then-president of the ALERJ – Legislative Assembly of the State of Rio de Janeiro – as one of the beneficiaries.

For Fernando Peregrino, a coordinator of the seminar, despite many complaints, the police in general don’t focus on them for the very reason that electronic voting in Brazil represents the cornerstone of democracy in the country.

At the same seminar, Dr. Maria Aparecida Cortiz told of monitoring difficulties created by the Electoral Justice themselves, which would act to snuff out scandals of fraud. She also discussed, among other things, cases of fraud in Bahia, Maranhão, Londrina (PR), and in Guadalupe (PI). The meeting will be transformed into a book, and also give rise to a documentary on the subject, and new meetings.” – Source (PT)

Paving The Way for People Who Matter

The picture above is of Cidade de Deus in Rio de Janeiro where municipal workers are working quickly to fill potholes in the community. Ideally, this scene would be about the local government’s intention to normalize road and safety conditions for its own citizens. The reality is that such an act effectively ‘kills two rabbits with one stick’, as the Brazilian-Portuguese saying goes, since the betterment of the roads only started so that it may prevent discomfort and unsightliness for foreigners visitors.

Could it be that foreign tourists wish to get up close and personal with residents of the namesake of the hit-film Cidade de Deus? Perhaps the purpose is for foreigners to take pictures of ‘poor people’ in their native habitat, as some favela tours invite one to do. No, no. the reason has to do with an important foreign visitor’s mother who enjoyed another famous Brazilian film, Orfeu Negro, which also was (partially) filmed in Cidade de Deus. That important visitor happens to be Barack Obama, who will be in Brazil for two days on March 19th and 20th…along with several hundred heavily armed police and military.

So, readers, get ready for two things. First, for the media to get tired of Japan and look towards the next newsworthy item. Second, to see a microcosm of public works being built for 2014 and 2016. As the picture above demonstrates, improving the lives of Brazilians is easiest when precipitated by a foreign catalyst.

“Olha o Globo!” – Brothers, Biscuits & Beaches


(with Two Brothers in the background)

Ask any beach-going Brazilian that has been to Rio de Janeiro what images come to mind when they think of Rio and I’d bet Biscoito Globo is one of them. The famous doughnut-shaped powder biscuits are as common a sight as the sunbathers in Ipanema applauding the beautiful sunsets, silhouetted by Two Brothers hill. Speaking of brothers, three from São Paulo deserve some applause, too, as they are responsible for another pleasing sight, one that can be sweet, like catching some rays, or salty, like the sea itself.

The brothers’ success lies in the simplicity of their product. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Two flavors – Sweet or salty
  • Easy to recognize – Always the same packaging
  • Easy to open – Good for kids (though bad for those who want to close it, meaning you should eat them all)
  • Strictly word of mouth – No advertising costs and savings passed on to the customer
  • Great with another favorite – Often sold with soft-drink Matte-Leão (and vendors wear Matte-Leão shirts)
  • Easy to remember – Globo is a name everyone knows

The rest is history (or, at least the next part is)…

History

According to the Biscoito Globo site, it all started in 1953 when, after their parents separated, the three Ponce brothers went to live with their cousin who had a bakery in Ipiranga, in São Paulo. It was there that they learned to make powder biscuits with their cousin, which were sold on the streets of downtown São Paulo.

In 1954, taking advantage of a large religious conference in Rio de Janeiro, the brothers decided to sell their biscuits in the carioca capital. With their recipe for success, the Ponce brothers foresaw that, given the biscuits characteristics, Rio de Janeiro would be the ideal market for what they were selling.

The powder biscuit was given the name Globo in honor of the bakery contracted to make them in Botafogo. The year was 1955 and the biscuits were sold in the Globo bakery and in seven others, owned by the same people. Realizing the large demand for them, the Ponce brothers started to sell them to other bakery chains and in 1963, they formed a partnership with a Portuguese baker, an expert in breads.

Benefits

There are other positive aspects that accompany a bag of Biscoito Globo, such as the fact that it’s perfect for making one’s stomach believe it’s fuller than it is. After all, who wants to swim on a full stomach? Other associated benefits mean the customer receives something that is low in calories, low in fat, without neither coloring nor preservatives.

The biscuit vendors are called ‘ambulantes‘ and they can buy a package for 60 cents then turn around and sell it for an average price of R$1 on the beach. A pretty good deal where everyone walks away happy. Since the famous snacks don’t contain the aforementioned preservatives, they aren’t sold to the supermarkets, meaning the customers must seek out the individual vendors if they want to get their hands on the biscuits. On the beaches of Rio, that’s not a hard thing to do because the vendors are omnipresent, the packaging is unique (save for a few imitators), and the holler is the same…”Olha o Globo!”

Originally written for Street Smart Brazil.

TEDx takes place in Rio de Janeiro on Feb. 15th

On the 15th of February, Rio de Janeiro will play host to TEDx. For an entire day, cariocas interested in subjects such as health, transportation, education, culture, arts, design, science, technology and sustainability, will be able to share in the experience “in TED style”, as the event’s site says. Like the other TEDx events in Brazil that have come and gone (in São Paulo, the Amazon and most recently, in Porto Alegre), TEDxRio is an independently organized event that will follow TED principles. – Terra

TEDxRio

Bringing Business to Brazil’s Slums

An audio version is available on the link at the bottom.

“Brazil’s economy is growing at an astounding rate, and many expect the country to soon become an economic superpower. The recent success has even begun to spread into Rio de Janeiro’s notorious slums known as favelas. Some residents say movies like City of God or tours that highlight the poverty and drug trafficking in Brazil’s favelas don’t give the whole picture of what life is like here. Inside of Rocinha, one of the largest and most notorious favelas, the government estimates that there are now some 5,000 locally owned businesses.

“People think that there are only dirty and uneducated people here,” Eduardo Casaes, a lifelong resident of Rocinha who serves as a liaison between his community and the Rio government, told PRI’s The World. “But we have jobs, it’s really a middle class neighborhood. People go to work and children go to school here.”

The main problem with Rocinha and other favelas is their infrastructure, according to Casaes. Buildings are dilapidated and the streets are narrow and clogged with motorbikes and pedestrians.

Other people believe that Rocinha’s layout actually works to their advantage. Carlos Roberto de Azevedo, who owns two minimarkets in the favela, told The World, “There are a lot of opportunities for various types of businesses, because it’s a very concentrated area with many people walking around. There’s a lot of demand for different types of businesses.”

More and more companies are trying to get to consumers, according to Andrea Gouvea Viera, a city official working closely with the Rocinha community association. “But we still have a problem,” she says, “that’s the security, and we still have a problem with the trafficked drugs.” There are also problems with people illegally tapping into energy supplies, and tax evaders in an almost exclusively cash economy.

Local business people, however, dismiss these problems. Minimarket owner Carlos Roberto de Azevedo says the setbacks and reputation shouldn’t prevent outsiders from setting up shop. He points out that a Brazilian franchise restaurant opened up a while ago and it hasn’t had any problems. He says:

It will help the favela’s image if more businesses come here. Nothing bad has happened to the restaurant, it’s never been robbed. Companies and banks need to stop being afraid of opening businesses here. PRI’s “The World” is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. “The World” is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. – Source