Category Archives: Transport

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.


Ocupação Rosa Leão in front of Niemeyer’s City Admin building as Favela residents are forced from their homes

Favela residents protest outside Oscar Neimeyer Cidade Administrativa building

Residents of a favela in northern Belo Horizonte built a barricade of burning tyres across one of the main motorways out of Belo Horizonte yesterday to protest the forced removal of 8,000 families from their homes.

The burning tyres shut off the road throughout the evening outside the iconic Oscar Niemeyer-designed Cidade Administrativa building, the offices of the government of Minas Gerais.

Considering the motorway is the only route from the airport to Belo Horizonte’s downtown, it raises implications for tourists arriving for the World Cup if they do the same thing.

Protesters forced removal from favale Oscar Neimeyer Cidade Administrativa

The protest was part of Ocupação Rosa Leão, the name given to the fight against the forced removal of residents from their homes in the Zilah Sposito neighbourhood in Belo Horizonte. 

Residents of favelas are generally tolerated until the land becomes valuable as urban sprawl spreads to the outskirts of the city. The 2014 World Cup and Brazil’s economic boom since 2008 have raised property values into the stratosphere, and all those favelas sit on now-prime valleysides with beautiful views over the city.

When Belo Horizonte was built 115 years ago it was its central neighbourhoods that were prime real estate, as delineated by Avenida Conturno, which formed a barrier around the city. Only government workers could buy properties in the centre of the city, which is why the most-fashionable area of BH is still the “Funcionarios” neighbourhood, literally, “Government workers”.

Map of Belo Horizonte when it  was originally built

The residents of Zilah Sposito say the ground they built their homes has never been used by the city. As favelas grow they become mini-cities, complete with eletrical and water systems, roads, bus routes and all of them have little bars and supermarkets. 

Ultimately, however, the land is the property of the government, and the favelas are considered illegal settlements. 

“DROP THIS BACKWARDS BRAZIL” – Brazilian fashion designer ignites controversy with anti-bureaucracy rant to “Abaixo este brasil atrasado”

The catwalk yesterday. (Also, one of the beautiful faces in this image is top transexual model Lea T).
The catwalk yesterday. (Also, one of the beautiful faces in this image is top transexual model Lea T).

“Abaixo este brasil atrasado.”

The final catwalk-run by Brazilian designer Time Ellus (“Team Ellus”) featured a t-shirt slogan calling for the Brazilian government to catch up with the rest of the world by removing the inefficiency, corruption and lack of productivity that makes its traffic, airports, hospitals, schools and by definition its economy, so sluggish and slow.

Although it sounds like a call for a better society, the mission statement issued by the designer afterwards focused more on the fashion world and its problem with homegrown Brazilian designers being forced out of the market by cheap foreign imports “from poor countries”.

The slogan was never really about improving the situation for Brazil’s poor, who make minimum salaries of US$300 a month (in a country where an iPhone sells for US$1,250) and suffer terrible public schooling, transport and health systems, but about the fashion world getting better business breaks and tax-cuts.

Is there a problem with a rich, white Brazilian designer jumping on the “corruption/bureaucracy/failing public education and health sector bandwagon to promote her own personal commercial interests? A fashion designer who almost certainly went to a private school for her education, a private hospital when she was sick and travels the world in luxury, attending the most fabulous parties in the gentrified air of some of Rio de Janeiro’s best hotels?

A better writer than me has summed up the hypocritical issue of rich Brazilians complaining about Brazil’s social problems they themselves are financially and ideologically-intertwined within, so I won’t try.

Instead, here’s the statement “Team Ellus” released following the catwalk run for you to decide by yourself (Portuguese below):


Brazil is clogged, congested in everything. The transit system, airports, hospitals, roads, energy, schools, communications, bureaucracy (corruption), all don’t work… Even the water system’s blocked!
It’s difficult for everyone! Nothing flows! Everything is so difficult! All this trouble costs us.  Brazil = inefficiency, lack of productivity. That means we stay isolated from the rest of the world, making us fall behind in relation to the rest of the modern world.
It’s clear that those most responsible are the old-fashioned, pencil-pushing, quasi-medieval politicians and governors, with their backward ideas of protectionism just creating more and more atrophy (in the business market). 
Within the fashion industry, exporting our designs is too difficult with all of these issues, and, because we don’t have the right conditions to be able to compete, it creates an opportunity for clothes and accessories to just be imported from poor countries.
We need to cut red-tape and simplify the system to motivate, advance, open and internationalise ourselves, because if not, everytime we fall back we get more and more isolated in the glaciers of the South Pole.
What kind of Brazil is this where businesses and public fortunes are just destroyed?!?! 
– Team Ellus
And the original Portuguese:
DESABAFOO Brasil está entupido, um congestionamento em tudo. Não anda no trânsito, nos aeroportos, nos hospitais, nas estradas, na energia, nas escolas, na comunicação, na burocracia (corrupção)… Até a água está entupida!Dificuldade para tudo! As coisas não fluem! Tudo é tão difícil! Tudo isso gerando esse custo. Brasil = ineficiência, improdutividade. Isso faz com que fiquemos isolados do mundo, acarretando esse atraso todo em relação ao mundo moderno.É claro que os maiores responsáveis são os políticos e os governos antiquados, cartoriais, quase medievais, que com suas ideias atrasadas de protecionismo acabam por gerar atrofia.

Até para indústria da moda, exportar o nosso design fica difícil com todo esse custo, abrindo espaço maior para as importações de roupas e acessórios provenientes de países pobres, porque nós não temos condições de competir.

Precisamos desburocratizar, simplificar para motivar, avançar, abrir, internacionalizar, se não, cada vez mais, ficaremos isolados nas geleiras do Polo Sul.

Que Brasil é esse em que até as empresas e patrimônios públicos acabam destruídos?!?!


Time Ellus

Five things about Brazil tourists should know before visiting for the 2014 World Cup

Five not-so-well-known facts about Brazil every tourist visiting the country for the 2014 World Cup needs to know.

1) Napkin rollies: You’re going to eat in a restaurant or bar, you’re going to reach for a napkin from a little dispenser and you’re going to grab a piece of wax-paper.

Napkins in Brazil feel as if they’ve been coated in some kind of non-stick formula to stop any liquid adhering to them. They absorb nothing, they’re crunchy, and you need twenty to clean up the tiniest blob of grease, so good luck with that cheesy dribble of pizza hanging off your chin. You may as well use your hands.

So what are these napkins good for? Well, making spliffs, actually:

For educational purposes only.
For educational purposes only.

2) TP Backlog: I need to talk toilets. Brazil has a terrible plumbing system, and toilet-paper is not allowed to go down the drain. Next to almost every toilet in Brazil is a little plastic bin for your used toilet paper.

Note there is no toilet seat and a waste-paper bin for used toilet-paper
Note there is no toilet seat. This is fairly common.

The cumulative effect of hundreds of thousands of visiting World Cup tourists throwing their toilet-paper down the drains could result in raw sewage pouring out onto Rio’s beautiful tiled streets.

Don’t do it.

3) Income disparity: On a more serious note, tourists should be aware that Brazil’s minimum wage is around 700 reais a month.

That’s about £185, or $314 in the US. A month.

In a country where a McDonald’s Happy Meal costs 20 reais and Brazil’s cheapest car costs 35,000 reais (£9,400 or US$16,000), that’s not very much.

Sexy, though, isn't it?
Sexy, though, isn’t it?

The price for a Fiat Palio Fire includes rear-seatbelts, AC and electric-windows. Wow. That’s the “buy-now” price, too. You’ll pay 50,000 reais if you want to pay installments.

So here’s the reality: street-sweepers, cleaners, McDonald’s workers, sales-assistants, porters, bus-drivers and even police-officers in Rio are making just 700 to 1000 reais a month.

That’s especially hard to imagine when you consider a couple of World Cup tourists could easily blow 300 reais on lunch and a few glasses of wine in a restaurant in Rio de Janeiro.

A visit to a night-club might cost 300 reais each for entry and a few cocktails (See “Fifteen things foreigners should know about Brazilian night-clubs“). A night out can cost thousands of reais if you order table-service and a couple of bottles of Absolut.

And remember, 700 reais is the official minimum wage. Consider the street-sellers, the Giras (trash-collectors) and the homeless, scraping by on a few reais a day, surrounded by wealthy tourists and locals thinking nothing of spending 10 reais on a Coca-cola.

It’s important visiting tourists keep in mind the huge disparity between the rich and poor in Brazil. It leaks into everything; crime, education, health, transport, housing, entertainment, safety and culture.

4) Gridlock: What time should you leave your hotel to attend your World Cup game? An hour before kick-off? A few hours?

How about the day before?

Traffic in Brazil’s big cities is monstrous, and it’s only going to get worse for the World Cup. Dilapidated and neglected roads can’t take the amount of cars and trucks packed into them, in what is a modernising, industrialised country. Despite the ridiculous price-tag of the Fiat Palio Fire, it is a best-seller. And remember, Brazil has its fair share of incredibly wealthy people driving SUVs and sports-cars, too.

Bring a book...
Bring a book…

Driving is a source of independence and pride for modern Brazilians, even if you do just end up rolling off the forecourt and into two hours of gridlocked traffic.

If you can, tourists should just walk to the game. You’ll get there so much faster.

5) Fala ingles? Outside of the metropolitan tourist cities of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Salvador you’ll struggle to find many Brazilians that can speak a whole lot of English.

Sunset in deepest Minas Gerais
A little bar in the Brazilian sticks

If you’re visiting Belo Horizonte, Manaus, Cuiaba or any of the other host cities, you’ll need to brush up on your Portuguese, as even in some of the big hotels the management don’t really prioritise teaching their staff English. It’s a case of time, money and the jeitinho brasiliero (“Brazilian Way”).

In any case Brazilians are very friendly people, and they’ll try their best to help you, even if the conversation consists almost entirely of Beatles’ song lyrics.

I’ll be writing five more things you need to know about Brazil, talking about winter, power and protests , very soon. Please comment or like if you want to hear more!

Old-fashioned Brazilian bus conductors, taking cash and clicking the turnstile

London’s Oyster-card Boris-bus, it ain’t.

The job of the Brazilian bus-conductor, and the little chair and turnstile, has been well-known to foreigners ever since Knockout-Ned’s appearance in cult Brazilian crime film City of God (See “The story of Knockout Ned”).

Being a Brazilian bus-conductor is a low-paid, uncomfortable job. Buses in Brazil are loud, noisy, hot and smelly. Conductors sit all day facing into the bus, in traffic, rain or shine, without air-conditioning.

The job is slowly being phased out by tag-cards, but enough Brazilians still pay cash to make a bus-conductor necessary. The bus costs anything from R$2.65 to R$3.30 in the city, and it’s gone up about 60 centavas in 12 months. Last year’s riots began as reaction to a bus-price hike, which many poor use to get to work (a car being too costly up-front, but working out cheaper in the long run than taking the bus).

The system fits the Brazilian frame of mind about money; no-one can be trusted. Brazilians have a huge infatuation about appointing employees handling money, as if counting money required such constant attention and focus you could do nothing else, and certainly not drive a bus. So the job is split; one employee takes the money, the other provides the service.

Brazilian bus-conductors take cash and let passengers through the turnstile