Category Archives: Brazil

Local Brazilian Funk DJ shot to death outside his home last night

(WARNING: Disturbing image in link at end of article)

A Funk DJ in Belo Horizonte was shot dead outside his house in Pampulha last night by two motorcyclists that rode past him, confirmed it was him and then circled back to open fire. He was shot ten times and died at the scene.

Although police say they don’t know the motive for the killing, rumours are that DJ Paulinho was mixed up with the wrong girl – a girl already attached to someone dangerous. His death could have been as petty as that – seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?

The worst thing about it is that this motive has been seen before in the Brazilian music scene.

The rumours echo the murder of MC Daleste a few years back, a huge Funk star making $60,000 a night when he was murdered (reportedly by cops) live on stage. MC Daleste was supposed to have been fooling around with a girl attached to a big drug-trafficker. For that, he was killed.

DJ Paulinho wasn’t a mega-star DJ in Brazil, but he had enough sets that he would work the local Funk circuit in Belo Horizonte, and he’d toured in the US, Portugal and France. He had a song called “Vai Paulin Vai Paulin” which got pretty famous.

Below is a video of him doing a Funk mix at Conexão Rio. The crime-scene image for DJ Paulinho is here – don’t click the link if you don’t want to see a dead body or blood.

Rest in peace – descanse em paz.

 

 

Cliff-top view of South America’s largest favela Rocinha from “Dois Irmaos” in Rio de Janeiro

Here’s a video looking over the edge down into Brazil and South America’s largest favela, Rocinha, from the “Dois Irmaos” mountain 500 metres above, in Rio de Janeiro.

It zooms right into the favela and across to the luxury beaches and apartments by the ocean, and then back out towards the mountains further along the Rio de Janeiro coastline.

The Rocinha favela is considered “pacified” by the police, and it’s true tourists can walk along the main road without fear of robbery. However, further into the favela the drug-trafficking regimes still rule the area, and crime is still ongoing for most of its 800,000 residents. As proof, I heard the sound of automatic gunfire echoing through the valley one morning as I hiked the Dois Irmaos mountain alone.

Access to the Dois Irmaos trail is through the Vidigal favela, itself a pretty difficult hike through steep, twisting favela streets. The neighbourhood’s really interesting, though, and there’s an Acai shop along the way.

The view from Dois Irmaos is better than the views from either Christ the Redeemer or Sugarloaf mountain, both of which you can see from Dois Irmaos.

Six reasons Neymar represents everything that’s wrong with Brazil and its wealthy elite

Although the advertising machine around Neymar works hard to make him appear a pretty nice guy, here’s six reasons why the footballer – rightly or wrongly – represents everything wrong with Brazil’s wealthy, corrupt elite and the crushing inequality these powerful figures create.

1) He, or the people around him, are corrupt: When Neymar signed for Barcelona its vice president Josep Maria Bartomeu said Neymar’s transfer fee was €87.2 million. They then declared the  official transfer fee on documents as €57 million, as €40 million “supposedly… flowed to a company which is close to Neymar’s family.”

Brazilian politicians are famously corrupt. One politician was elected to Brazil’s Congress while under investigation for murder after having an adversary killed with a chain saw. Another is wanted by Interpol after being found guilty of diverting more than $10 million from a public road project to offshore bank accounts. I can’t find the source but I read recently that 60 per cent of Brazilian politicians are currently under police investigation.

2) He’s rich: Neymar was making 1.5 million reais a year at just 16 years old. He makes 9 million euros a year now playing for Barcelona.

Similarly, Brazilian politicians are among the highest paid and least productive in the world.

And in the world of business the 15 Richest Families In Brazil are worth an estimated $122 billion — or about 5% of the country’s total GDP. Out of 65 Brazilian billionaires listed by FORBES in its World’s Billionaires list, 25 are blood relatives.

3) He’ll sell himself to the highest bidder: Neymar has sponsorship deals with Castrol, Red Bull, Volkswagen and Panasonic and an 11 year boot deal with Nike worth at least $1 million per year. There’s nothing wrong with footballers making hay while the sun shines, though.

Brazilian politicians see nothing wrong using the same “sponsorship” tactics, however. Municipal and state officials are close to the mega-corporations that run Brazil’s construction, beverage, transport, energy and food industries. The cost of building Brasilia’s World Cup stadium nearly tripled to $900m in public funds, for example, largely due to allegedly fraudulent billing.

This after the construction company for Brasilia’s stadium increased its political donations 500-fold in the most recent election.

4) He’s light-skinned: Neymar’s dying his hair blonde might seem insignificant, but it takes on huge cultural significance in a country that has a legacy of slavery and inequality. It’s known as “Branqueamento”, (“Whitening”) and can lead to a prosperous shift from the darker-skinned underclass to the lighter-skinned Brazilian elite.

Neymar a few days ago: tall and tanned and young and blonde?
Neymar before the Brazil-Mexico game: tall and tanned and young and blonde.

Over 70 per cent of Brazilian politicians are light-skinned.

The Berkeley Review suggests this is because white Brazilians have more money on average than non-whites. Brazilian politicians elected to office had significantly higher mean total assets, at 432,000 Brazilian reais (R$), than those who were not elected, whose average assets totaled only R$188,000. White Brazilians have an average net worth of R$440,000, compared to R$247,000 for non-whites, indicating that on average white politicians simply have more cash to spend on campaigns than non-whites, and therefore gain power more easily.

5) He left Brazil: In 2010 Neymar’s agent said Neymar “wants to become the best player in the world. The chances of him doing that while playing in Brazil are zero.” Neymar added that  it was a “dream” of his “to play in Europe”.

There’s nothing against a football player wanting to play for one of the biggest teams in the world, and those teams are in Europe. But it is a familiar desire amongst the wealthy Brazilian elite to leave the country (they have the power to change, rather than rob from) and in which they have made their fortune to hide their money in Cayman Islands bank accounts or spend it on handbags, iPhones and suits in New York and Europe.

In 2005 a senior politician in Lula’s government was seized at an airport with $100,000 in his underwear as part of the Mensalão corruption saga.

6) He’s not afraid of backing out on a promise: Neymar promised his youth club Santos he wouldn’t leave them until after the 2014 World Cup. Santos consequently doubled his wages to raise him to European footballer salary levels.

…And in 2013 Neymar signed for Barcelona, anyway.

Politicians are familiar with breaking promises. A trainline between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro promised for the 2014 World Cup has, as of today, never even started. A huge number of World Cup projects remain unfinished or were never started. Belo Horizonte’s metro system was supposed to be extended for the World Cup. As of today it has one line.

Dilma, Cade o Metro? ("Where is the Metro?")
Dilma, Cade o Metro? (“Where is the Metro?”)

So there you have it; six reasons why Neymar represents everything that wrong with Brazil and its wealthy elite.

If you’re coming to see England in Belo Horizonte, make sure you visit the nearby Inhotim Art Gallery

If you only do one thing during your visit to the 2014 Brazil World Cup in Belo Horizonte, visit Inhotim Art Gallery.

Fruit of the Palmeira-barriguda tree.
Fruit of the Palmeira-barriguda tree.

It’s about a two-hour drive out of the city (it’s only 70km away but traffic takes care of the rest) but it’s definitely worth it. The art gallery/botanical gardens is built within the huge grounds of the former English mining magnate Senor Tim (pronounced “In-yo-cheem” in old Brazilian, hence the name).

The surrounding mountains around Inhotim.
The surrounding mountains around Inhotim.

Dotted around Inhotim are modern art installations of glass, mirror, water, brick and sound buried deep in lush Brazilian forest. It’s a really beautiful place to walk around on a sunny day.

Multi-coloured walls in Inhotim by Helio Oiticica

This huge tree-hugger truck sits forever tipping over in a glass dome structure in the middle of the jungle.

Brazilian tree-hugger truck  tipping over inside a glass dome at Inhotim, Minas Gerais

Paths lead through thousands of different types of flowers and trees as you look for each of the hidden installations.

A tree held up by four others.
A tree held up by four others.

The art installations are really, really cool. Photography inside the galleries is banned but I managed to snap the Cildo Meireles installation below.

Looks like the moon's surface.
Looks like the moon’s surface.

Another installation has you walking across broken glass (you’re wearing shoes).

The Dr. Seuss-style Paxiuba tree, which looks as if it's dancing on its roots.
The Dr. Seuss-style Paxiuba tree, which looks as if it’s dancing on its roots.

A spectacular sound installation called The Murder of Crows has you sat facing fifty different speakers in a dark warehouse as a girl recounts a dream beginning in the warehouse and moving through jungle to a beach.

There are 5,000 types of flowers at Inhotim, including this blue tiger-print flower.
There are 5,000 types of flowers at Inhotim, including this one with blue tiger-print petals.

Another has you in a pitch-black room as a strobe-light illuminates a fountain, making the water look like molten glass.  In another you enter a room with a mirror, but you can’t see your reflection. You can literally step through the mirror, as crazy as that sounds.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s a really cool place.

A few tips: wear a good pair of walking shoes, tickets are 30 reais to enter and the best place to eat is the Oiticica self-service restaurant (where they weigh your plate; it’ll cost about 40 reais for a really nice meal and a drink).

FIFA won’t pay any tax to the Brazilian government on its sales and merchandise at the 2014 World Cup

In 2002, Japan and South Korea spent 10 billion reals (£2.8bn, $4.4bn) each on hosting the World Cup,  and (after taxes) FIFA made a profit of 3 billion reais.

In 2006, Germany spent 9 billion reais on its World Cup, and (after taxes) FIFA made a profit of 5 billion reais.

In 2010, South Africa spent 11 billion reais on its World Cup, and (after taxes) FIFA made a profit of 6 billion reais.

In 2014, Brazil has already spent 35 billion reais on hosting the FIFA World Cup. And for the first time ever, FIFA will be exempt from paying all taxes to the Brazilian Treasury.

As a result, FIFA stands to profit 15 billions reais from the 2014 Brazil World Cup.

FIFA told Brazil it would only allow the country to host the World Cup if it made the football organisation exempt from imported goods taxes (IPI), the contribution to Social Security Financing (Cofins) on imported goods and services, and the Contribution to the Programs for Social Integration and Heritage Formation of the Public Servant ( PIS-Pasep) on imports.

The savings from FIFA not paying tax amount to around 2.5 billion reais. That’s money that would have gone into the government coffers that will now remain in Switzerland, where FIFA has charitable status and pays almost no taxes anyway.

“Brazil stands to win a lot more by the stimulating effect on the economy,” said the Brazilian sports minister Orlando Silva back in 2010. Brazil’s economy has slowed to 0.2 per cent in the run up to the World Cup, an indication that huge sporting events don’t bring quite the stimulus politicians were expecting, although it has made a few people very rich.

If nothing else, Brazilians should be angry that FIFA is paying no tax for the sales it makes on its merchandise. It’s giving nothing back to the country financially. It’s also using an army of unpaid volunteers to make sure the World Cup goes well. Protests against the government are already shutting down entire highways in Belo Horizonte – it will be interesting to see how many protests flare up in the next few weeks.

 

Behind-the-scenes video tour of Brazil’s $270-an-hour Love Motel “Le Monde”, in Belo Horizonte

Last Friday I visited Belo Horizonte’s most expensive and luxurious “love motel” Le Monde for a behind-the-scenes tour. It’s absolutely not what I expected from a motel, or even a five-star hotel. The level of luxury is astounding.

This drive-in motel on the outskirts of the city is a place where, for just £160 ($270) an hour(!), clients have access to their own private pool and jacuzzi, as well as beds with mirrored ceilings, steam-rooms and sex-furniture. Of the more interesting aspects, the motel offers sex-toy room-service, private underground nightclubs (available for a mere 5,000 reais a night) and retractable roofs (to bathe under the stars).

Above all, it offers absolute discretion for you and your girlfriend, wife, mistress or prostitute.

Have look at the video:

Now, although it may seem seedy to visit a motel for a few hours to have sex, this is an entirely normal act in a country in which one in four Brazilians live with their parents long into their 30’s. Young lovers go there to celebrate their one-year anniversaries, for example.

All of my friends I asked about the motels said they had visited them, often regularly in the case of those with girlfriends and boyfriends. Having a motel to take your lover is crucial when your parents sleep in the bedroom next to you.

The "Japan" themed room at Le Monde love motel.
The “Japan” themed room at the “Le Monde” love motel.

Motels are also legally required to offer the utmost privacy for their clients. Garbage from the room is kept in a closed garage until it’s disposed of in an unmarked truck. Staff deliver food and drink through a network of hidden corridors that run behind the rooms, and revolving cupboards mean staff never even see the client.

The whole transaction, from parking up and entering the room from the garage, to ordering food and then settling the bill, can all be done without any face-to-face interaction.

You could do it completely naked and no-one would know.

The entrance to Le Monde's most luxurious and expensive room.
The entrance to Le Monde’s most luxurious and expensive room.

What’s more, overseas tourists visiting Brazil for the 2014 World Cup are set to be staying, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in these love motels. Ricardo, Le Monde‘s General Manager, confirmed 500 tourists from China, Finland, the UK, the US and Arabic states have all made reservations at his love motel. 

I guarantee they will enjoy their stay there.

This is a high-end luxury motel, and its cleanliness and professionalism reflect that. For my next trip I’ll try and visit the cheapest one I can find and report back on my findings. Love motels get as low as 20 reais an hour here (about £5, $8), so it could get pretty seedy.