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The Latest on Brazil
Alex Steffen, 14 Dec 04

We pay close attention to events in Brazil, a country which seems to be inventing much of the future, when it's not busy falling apart. Here are the latest blips on our Brazildar:

Lula: "Brazil Is More Than Carnaval and Street Kids." It's also a growing economy, running a massive and successful microcredit program, investing in biodiesel as a strategic priority, making a big move into wind energy and opening its carbon emissions trading program.

Lula profile:

''In a country where the elite have always held a stranglehold, it was never written anywhere that someone like me could become president,'' Lula told me as we sat aboard the Brazilian equivalent of Air Force One. ...

"Brazil, so goes a common gibe, is the country of the future -- and always will be. With 175 million people, it is the world's fifth most populous nation, and its territory is slightly larger than the continental United States. In the 16th century, Portugal claimed this immensity as a colony, and the crown soon divided 2,500 miles of coastline into a dozen captaincies, some of them larger than the mother country itself. Sugarcane was introduced, and Brazil today still lives with the legacy of a plantation culture that consumed four million African slaves and left land ownership hideously askew. An elite 1.7 percent of the landowners continue to own nearly half the arable land; the top 10 percent of the nation earns half the income.

"In Rio de Janeiro, the poor have ended up with the breathtaking vistas of the ocean, having clustered their hovels onto the unstable terrain of the cliffsides. The value of swanky apartments down below often depends on whether a window faces these elevated slums, exposing the occupants to stray gunfire from warring drug gangs. Crime is rampant in Brazil's cities. During my stay, an out-of-work pauper in Brasilia climbed onto the ledge of the Senate's balcony, threatening a suicidal leap to punctuate his misery. After security guards wrestled the man down, tenderhearted legislators gave him some spare cash and wished him godspeed. He was robbed on the way home.

Lula's still the darling of the global Left for his serious diplomatic and trade mojo. The Left in Brazil is less enamored of the austerity measures he's put in place to keep the real stable and the IMF from doing an Argentina on their butts.

Finally, Brazil, I'm told, is going to be flavor of the month for the Spring fashion lines, with the Sao Paulo Fashion Week grabbing lots of spotlight. We'll see if that means telecentros, anti-hunger campaigns, popular science education and cheap, sustainable condoms are in, too, or whether the international environmental court is now hip.

Ordem E Progresso!

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Re: The picture.

"I am Lula. I'm gonna make you an offer you can't refuse."

Posted by: Paul on 15 Dec 04

I was very disappointed by the absence in Alex Steffen's report on the continued destruction of the Brazilian rain forest, largely due to conversion to range land and farm land. The failure of Lulu's government to slow, much less end, this rampant destruction of one of the world's most important remaining biological regions is a tragedy. Leapfrogging agricultural development without consideration of the environmental consequences is not the policy path Brazil or anyone else should be on, assuming that you place any value whatsoever on the long-term wisdom of preserving the earth's biological diversity.

Despite international calls to protect the Amazon, deforestation appears to have been increasing through 2002, according to a Smithsonian research team.

And in a truly chilling article in the New York Times, "Brazil is leading an agricultural boom in South America," 12/12/04, reporter Larry Rohter
reports in excruciating detail how Brazil's rush to become a leading agricultural exporter is leading to the conversion of millions of hectares of rainforest.

In a 2,007 word article, here is what Rohter has to say about the effects of this boom:

"The real estate boom has not been without social tensions and other costs, particularly to the environment, as the expansion of farm and grazing lands has accelerated Amazon deforestation."

One sentence.

Any article talking about LuLu's policies in Brazil that fails to mention deforestation is omitting one of the most far-reaching of all the changes taking place in Brazil. Leaving aside the morality of species extinction, the Amazonian rain forest is a major absorber of CO2. The destruction of the forest will further accelerate global warming, changing in negative ways the lives of almost all the creatures on the planet.


Posted by: Dick Bell on 15 Dec 04

You may remember that Larry Rohter has been kicked out of/banned from/left a number of Latin American countries (Brazil this year) for not telling the truth or for massive distortion. His specialities are character assasination (Lula, Rigoberta Menchu) and Fox-like tenacity for perpertual, cynical overexaggeration.

He is roundly detested by all :-)

Just something to remember if you come across anything written by him that makes a claim to journalism.................

Posted by: Justicia on 16 Dec 04



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