Category Archives: Wealth

In Brazilian novellas, Brazil is an all-white country with a couple of happy-to-be-poor black people

Brazil’s Globo TV company is producing a new novella called “Sexo e as negas (“Sex and denials“), about a group of four black women living in a lower-class neighbourhood in the Zona Norte of Rio de Janeiro, loosely based on Sex and the City.

Instead, however, of it being about four white women working prominent jobs in Manhattan, the wealthiest neighbourhood in the wealthiest country on earth, the four black characters are poor (but glamorous), and work as a cleaner, a seamstress, a manual labourer and a cook.

sexo-e-as-negras like sex and the city, but with black girls in Rio

(Also don’t search that title on Google, or you’ll come up with a lot of naughty pictures).

Despite Brazil having a huge share of black people in prominent and senior positions (including a potential future black female president in Marina Silva), Globo’s novellas on TV prefer to cast black people in poor, subservient roles where they are the comic foil or lackey. Black men and women are cleaners, manual labourers or shop assistants in the world of Globo scriptwriters.

That’s if black people feature at all in the novellas.  Despite Brazil being the second most-populous country in the world for black people (over fifty-per-cent of Brazilians identify themselves as black), novellas are predominantly dramas based in a Brazil where only white people exist.

In the latest smash-hit novella from Globo, Meu Pedacinho de Chão, here is the main cast (which you’ll notice doesn’t feature any black characters at all):

Meu pedacinho de chao, the rest of the predominantly-white cast

 

And here’s the black character:

Meu pedacinho de chao's diapo, the one black character is a clown...

And here’s the female lead protagonist, just because:

Meu pedacinho de Chao seio hot Brazilian novella girl with huge breasts on TV

The cast is whiter than milk, which obviously doesn’t represent the real Brazil. In fact, the characters are so white it only represents the small contingent of European descendant Brazilians that live in southern Brazil and still have blue eyes and blonde hair. They’re a tiny percentage of Brazil’s population (think Gisele), but they receive the most amount of attention on TV, are considered the most glamorous and hold the most senior positions.

The majority of Brazilians are a mix of caramel, coffee and chocolate skin colours.  Most of them aren’t that poor; they hold down jobs and buy cars and drink beers and speak other languages and have dreams.  but Globo doesn’t want to portray that side, which is pretty sinister and cruel when you think of the insane popularity these shows have in Brazil and what that would do to a person’s psyche.

For Globo, it’s everyone in their place, forever, and for black people, that means staying poor and pathetic.

 

Fear and loathing in Sao Paulo: citizens driving armoured cars in Brazil’s richest city

How do you spot an armoured car in Sao Paulo? Check out the distorted reflection from the windows. The toughened glass they use to protect the car from bullets is slightly wavy, and the glass has a thick black border. Also, look at how they sit a bit lower to the ground, and how the tyres have a plastic sheen rather than the matte finish of rubber.

When you know how to spot an armoured citizen’s car (um carro blindado) you’ll begin to see them everywhere. Sao Paulo residents love their armoured cars.

A single shot fired at the driver of a “carro blindado” or armoured car, in Sao Paulo.

But is Sao Paulo really that dangerous? And what happens when you get out of the car? You can’t wear an armoured vest for the rest of your life, so armoured cars are only really useful when you’re waiting at traffic lights.

It’s not exactly cheap to make a car blindado, either. Depending on the size of the vehicle it runs from 50,000 reais (£15,000 or $25,000) to 80,000 reais (£25,000 or $40,000) to reinforce the suspension, put armor-plating in the engine and door-panels, replace the glass with a toughened resin and change the tyres for run-flats.

The car has a shorter life-span carrying its extra shell, and depreciates quicker than a normal car. Engines are constantly strained and the chassis buckles under the extra weight. Armoured cars are good for scrap in a few years.

Totally-destroyed armoured car, although the glass never smashed through.

And probably a total waste of money, and for why I’ll give you an example. My Paulista friend told me a story about his friend that drove an armoured car around Sao Paulo. At the traffic lights a ladrão approached his friend and pointed a gun at the glass. He demanded his watch.

Now, the friend was in an armoured car, so the bullet wouldn’t go through the glass. But the friend remembered that replacing the bullet-proof glass would cost 5,000 reais, and his watch only cost 2,000 reais.

So the friend cracked open the window and handed over his watch, saving himself 3,000 reais in the process…

The perception of security is often used by car-manufacturers to sell expensive cars. SUVs like Humvees and Range-rovers (military vehicles) in the US and Europe offer a kind of sanctuary, where the outside world can’t get to you. As a result you feel safe, even though you can’t live in your car forever.

In Brazil, crime is a serious problem. But armouring a car still seems like overkill. I’m not sure it really offers either security or safety. If they want you, they will follow you and either force you from the vehicle or wait until you get out.

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.

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.

Brazilian advertising posters for beer, cosmetics, planes and from 1890 to 1939

A look through some Brazilian advertisements from 1900 to 1939 for fortification medicines, air-travel, Antartica beer, a kid’s almanac that rips off Mickey and Minnie Mouse, baby milk-powder, cigarettes, hats, stockings and cold medicine.

These Brazilian adverts are interesting as they reveal some of the preoccupations, dreams and lifestyle choices of wealthy Brazilians at the turn of the 1900’s until the Second World War. Illness, travel, drinking, smoking and looking good are all focused upon, suggesting that some appeals remain universal.

Farinha Lactea Nestle (1916) is a now-controversial ad for baby milk-powder, in which a newborn baby is being fed Nestle’s “Milk Flour” substitute in its bottle:

Farinha Lactea Nestle

The creepiest ad is this one for Bromil cough medicine, in which the devil pours a drink as Death creeps in the background. The tagline is “The death of death”, whatever that means:

Bromil cough medicine

Antartica beer and Guarana soda are both still sold in Brazil to this day:

Guarana Antartica beer

Pan-Air’s “Brazilian Clipper”: Notice how the planes go right along Brazil’s coast, cutting in only once to the Amazonian city of Manaus:

Pan-Air Brazilian Clipper

Instantina’s little cough-mints in a Tintin-esque cartoon style. The tagline is “If it’s Bayer it’s good”:

Instantina cough medicine

Quinddo Constantino being sold as a liquor, a medicine, a tonic and good for the constitution, but probably actually just some of sweet sherry:

Tonic

Mousseline Tights: These tights will make you look sophisticated in any scenario, even if you’re just reading a book in a tree:

Mousseline tights

Almanach do o Tico-Tico: This kid’s almanac from 1936 is ripping off Mickey and Minnie Mouse:

Almanach do O Tico-Tico 1936

Biotonico Fontoura: This ad doesn’t even show the product, just a couple of hyper-futuristic swimsuit-wearers looking up at the latest technological advance, the aeroplane:

BIOTONICA FONTOURA fortification medicine

PS. Why don’t we have “fortifying drinks” anymore? Are Red Bull and Vitamin-Water the modern equivalents?

Brunette hat-sellers in Sao Paulo:

IMG-20140510-00524

And finally, La Reine Veado (translated: “The queen deer”, a pun on “Reindeer”), the “chic” cigarette:

La Reine Veado cigarettes

Interview with Brazil’s “Chainsaw Queen” politician, who wants to loosen laws to chop down more trees in Brazil

Brazilian politician Kátia Abreu leads agricultural lobbying in loosening controls on Amazon deforestation. She wants to make Brazil a powerhouse in the exportation of soy products, a plan which will require deforestation to take place, unless it can be carefully controlled in areas like Minas Gerais’ Triângulo Mineiro.

Here are the highlights from her interview with The Guardian about a country in which more environmental activists are murdered than anywhere else in the world.

Running for president is not a plan – it is fate. Criticism from radical environmentalists is the best form of endorsement. It gives me satisfaction. It shows I am on the right track and playing the right role.”

“We have all the essential elements: abundant water, advanced technology and plenty of land for production. Based on this, we can become number one without cutting down trees.”

She alleges environmentalists, indigenous groups and landless peasants are working for foreign interests. “I don’t have concrete proof of this but I get a very strong impression that this is the case.”

“Forty years ago, the average Brazilian spent 50% of his or her income on food. Now the proportion is about 18%.”

“For many years, environmentalism reached an extreme pitch and we in the agribusiness sector were treated like criminals. Now, our agribusiness sector can influence the choice of kings and queens in Brazil. In the past, we only exercised economic influence. Now we also have political power.”

Most chillingly, Abreu said:

“We cannot rest on our laurels. There are many things holding back progress – the environmental issue, the Indian issue and more. But even with these problems we keep producing high levels of productivity. Imagine how high it might be without those obstacles.”