Rio Floods: Fixing Favelas and the Future

April 9, 2010

At least 170 people died after a week of heavy rain prompted mudslides and floods in Rio de Janeiro state. More than 50 houses were engulfed as mud and rubble poured into the Morro do Bumba favela near Rio de Janeiro. The shantytown was built on top of a disused landfill which makes it prone to landslides.

Most of the victims were swept away in landslides that roared through favelas (slums) built on steep, unstable hillsides. The tragic affects of the floods do not touch tourist areas.

With the images of the deadly mudslides and flooding in Rio de Janerio circling the globe, the Brazilian government has sought to preempt any ideas that rains risk turning the preparations or the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympic games themselves into debacles.

In a conference call with international reporters this week Brazilian Planning Minister Paulo Bernardo said funds were being marshaled to repair damages from the flooding in Rio and elsewhere (other Brazilian population centers have also been lashed by floods lately). In the call, Bernardo said 7 billion reais ($3.9 billion) had already been set aside for recovery of flood-stricken areas as part of the government’s pro-economic growth package.

He also said that investments will be made in sanitation, housing and infrastructure so that Rio and other cities will be better prepared for heavy rains in the future.

“So the government is not predicting—is not foreseeing any type of major hindrance or disaster in this regard because all the measures are being taken … We do not foresee any natural disasters … during the World Cup or the Olympic Games because … they will be held … outside the rain season in Rio de Janeiro particularly.”

On Thursday, the government also announced it was dispatching some $100 million in emergency funds as well as a new fleet of ambulances and medical systems to help Rio de Janeiro cope with the impact of the flooding.

For more maps of the areas around Rio, click HERE.

Brazil Oil Update

April 9, 2010

China Showing Interest in Brazil’s Oil

Chinese energy companies will likely participate in bidding for Brazil’s offshore subsalt oil reserves when auctions begin and are already seeking to buy stakes in existing oil projects.

Chinese President Hu Jintao plans to visit Brazil next week to strengthen ties with Brazil as it taps tens of billions of barrels in the offshore subsalt province that has become a new frontier for petroleum exploration.

Auctions for the subsalt blocks have been yet been scheduled because Congress is still discussing new rules for companies investing projects there, part of an attempt by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to boost state control over those areas.

Chinese companies are also interested in investing in refineries and biofuels projects, possibly allowing them to import finished motor gasoline that is already blended with ethanol.

Chinese companies have been insistent on being majority shareholders in new joint ventures, which would prevent them taking part in projects with state oil company Petrobras that are already in development.

Brazil’s 11th bidding round for oil blocks, which includes onshore and shallow water projects but not subsalt blocks, will likely not take place until 2011.

Petrobras Finds Light Oil in New Tupi Well

Brazil’s oil giant Petrobras said on Wednesday it found light oil in a new well that confirmed its estimate of 5 billion to 8 billion barrels in the Tupi offshore field.

The oil field is part of the country’s massive offshore subsalt area, which Brazil hopes will turn it into a major player in energy markets.

The new well, known as Tupi OW, is located at a depth of 2,131 meters (7,000 feet) and is 270 km (167 miles) from the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

Petrobras holds a 65 percent stake in Tupi, Britain’s BG Group has a 25 percent stake and Portugal’s Galp has10 percent.

For relocation to Rio de Janeiro, visit

Brazil Announces $880 Billion Infrastructure Plan

April 1, 2010

Brazil has announced big, big plans to build $880 billion-worth of infrastructure between 2010 and 2016.

The projects are part of an economic stimulus program whose first phase is half-completed, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced Monday.

The new plan, named the ‘Growth Acceleration Program 2’ or PAC 2, places importance on increasing the country’s energy production capacity, construction of homes and necessary improvements for hosting the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“PAC 1 and PAC 2 are a commitment by the Brazilian state to the redemption of this country. Whoever arrives in the presidency will not be able to tear it up and do something else,” Lula said while rejecting the opposition’s allegations that the announcement only hides the electoral motives of the ruling party.

The president, however, said bureaucratic red tape has been delaying the PAC projects, which ‘cannot stop’ and must begin ‘as soon as possible.’

The new programs include construction of two million homes, which will contribute to reducing the country’s housing deficit by half, and a high-speed rail service between Rio and Sao Paulo.

Visit to plan your stay in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro: The Past on Film

April 1, 2010

American fascination with Brazilian culture is nothing new—we’ve been enamored with the beats, bright lights, and gyrating bodies of Rio de Janeiro for centuries. Modern Brazilian Carnival originated in Rio de Janeiro in 1641 when the city’s bourgeoisie imported the practice of holding balls and masquerade parties from Paris. It originally echoed the European form of the festival, and later absorbed elements derived from Native American and African cultures.

Until the dawn of the technological age of the 20th century, the only way to simultaneously witness the sights and sounds of Rio was to sail to Brazil and experience it firsthand. With the development of movies, Americans became voyeurs of this exciting and exotic culture.

Here are two examples of films that aimed to portray Brazilian culture in the early 1940s.

It’s All True
An unfinished Orson Welles feature film, this compilation contains three stories about Latin America. “My Friend Bonito” was shot in 1941 and both “The Story of Samba” and “Four Men on a Raft” were shot in 1942.

It was the subject of a 1993 documentary written and directed by Richard Wilson, Bill Krohn and Myron Meisel. Both a documentary and a unique exercise in film restoration, The documentary It’s All True tells the complex story of Orson Welles’ ill-fated attempts to make an anthology film about the life and culture of South America and concludes with a reconstruction of one of Welles’ unfinished segments, edited together from rediscovered original footage. The idea for Welles’ South American project was conceived by the American government as a sort of cultural exchange to improve relations with Latin America. Using interviews and period footage, the filmmakers tell of how the project quickly turned sour, as both the Brazilian government and RKO studio executives objected to Welles early footage. They wanted Welles to use more people with white skin coloring, and often asked Welles to try and avoid using black people. Thanks to a local witch doctor, the film could literally be said to be cursed. Although Welles stuck with the project, RKO eventually withdrew support from the film. It’s All True concludes with a partial reconstruction of the “Four Men on a Raft” segment, in which Welles tells the true story of a dramatic, thousand-mile raft journey by four Brazilian peasants.

Here is a clip of Welles discussing the project

Carnival in Brazil (1942) Directed by Leslie Roush

Review from Variety:
“Sock Latin-American one-reeler, lacking a dull moment. The annual Mardi Gras of Brazil is excuse for parading Latin-American artists and atmosphere, with newsreel shots of actual Rio de Janeiro festival trimly dovetailed into production material. Singing of Elsie Houston, Brazilian soprano, fits nicely into the opening sequence while the wild gyrations of Jose and Lolita Vega are nearly as primitive as some of Brazilian stepping captured (but a mere flash) by the newsreel camera. Fernando Alvarez supplies change of pace by introducing the current South American carnival anthem, Carolina. Exciting enough to make on want to visit Rio at carnival time. Another to Les Roush’s credit.”

One interesting thing to note about this production is the lack of black faces. This says a lot about the US in the 1940s. After the failure of Welles’ film It’s All True, Paramount Studios, in an attempt to appeal to the American public, opted to not portray the black population in this follow up project.

Truly important works, these historical films capture the essence of Brazilian culture as seen through the eyes of the American voyeur.

-Jennifer Bunin

Museums of Rio de Janeiro

March 26, 2010

Whoever visits Rio soon finds out that his/her agenda is always full – that is the pride of the local population. There is never a lack of exciting activities— from exhibitions, theater plays, dance and music shows to sports events for all tastes. But the Wonderful City has yet a wide range of other attractions to offer, such as cultural centers, churches, famous confectioners’, old streetcars and numberless museums. On your visit, be sure to set aside time to learn about the culture and the history of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil by utilizing one of Rio’s most important resources—museums. These institutions range in subject from all sorts of modern and indigenous art to natural history and political history. Here are a few of our favorites:

The Modern Art Museum
Inaugurated in 1958, the Modern Art Museum (MAM) is located in a privileged area and has a great history to tell. It hosts a collection of four thousand works. It exhibits the Gilberto Chateaubriand collection – with paintings by Anita Malfatti, Tarsila do Amaral, Lasar Segall, Di Cavalcanti and Portinari. Its gardens were designed by Burle Marx and were restored in 2004. It offers also an art cinema, a library and a bookstore. It is located on Avenida D. Henrique, at Flamengo Park. It opens from Tuesday to Sunday: during the week, from noon to 5:30 pm; on Saturdays and Sundays, from noon to 7 pm. Information: +55 (21) 2240-4944.

Museu da Republica

National Historical Museum
The architectonic complex became a museum in 1922, during the Presidency of Epitácio Pessoa, and hosts a priceless collection with 275 thousand pieces, including paintings, guns, royal carts, furniture and rare objects – such as the plumed pen used by Princess Isabel to sign the Áurea Law, which abolished slavery in Brazil. The Museum is located on a 18 thousand m² land and occupies three separate buildings erected at different times: the Train House, from 1762; the Royal Arsenal, from 1822; and the Annexed Building for military quarters, from 1835. It is located on Praça Mal. Âncora, Downtown. It is open to visitors from Tuesday to Friday, from 10 am to 5 pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays, from 2 pm to 6 pm. On Sundays, the entrance is free. For more information: +55 (21) 2550-9224.

International Museum of Naïf Art
Naïf art – “naïf” means “naive”, in French – is made by self-learnt artists, without much technical skills, The museum hosts the works of 520 national and foreign artists with the predominance of live, strong colors and irregular, abstract traces. It is considered as one of the largest collections in its genre in the world. It is located on Rua Cosme Velho, 561, at Cosme Velho. It opens from Tuesday to Friday, from 10 am to 6 pm, and on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from noon to 6 pm. Information: +55 (21) 2205-8612.

The National Museum of Beaux Arts
It hosts rarities from Brazilian artists such as Victor Meirelles, Rodolfo Amoedo, Pedro Américo, Almeida Jr. and Eliseu Vasconcelos – works that comprise the largest collection of Brazilian art from the 19th century. This institution also keeps a much-prized collection of foreign paintings, including Italian baroque paintings, landscapes by Dutch painter Frans Post and paintings by French Eugène Boudin. Rooms are divided by themes and there are always excellent temporary exhibitions. It is located on Avenida Rio Branco, 199. It opens from Tuesday to Friday, from 10 am to 6 pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays, from 2 pm to 6 pm. For ticket prices and other information: +55 (21) 2240-0068.

The Catete Palace – the Republic Museum
It hosts the Republic Museum and what used to be the headquarters of the Brazilian Republican government 1897 and 1960, the Catete Palace; with a neoclassic architecture, with granite and rose marble façade and white-marble engraved portals. 18 Brazilian Presidents lived and worked there and it witnessed some of the most events in the Country’s history – such the Brazilian decision to enter both Great World Wars and the dramatic suicide of President Getúlio Vargas. Turned into a museum after the Capital Federal moved to Brasilia, the museum offers an intense cultural agenda and offers also a bookstore, a bar, a restaurant, a souvenirs store and a beautiful garden. Located on Rua do Catete, 153, at Catete, the Museum opens from Tuesday to Friday, from noon to 5 pm, and on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 2 pm to 6 pm. Information: +55 (21) 2558-6350.

For accommodations in Rio, visit

New Report Provides Positive Analysis of Brazil’s Tourism Industry

March 26, 2010

Brazil Tourism Report Q2 2010 – New Market Report Published

This quarter’s tourism report has shown that Brazil’s tourism industry has already benefited greatly from the announcement of several high profile events planned to be held in the country. The 2014 FIFA World Cup is set to be a huge draw for visitors and the addition of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will further boost the industry. In January 2010, the government said it would invest 1 million Brazilian reals to improve facilities throughout the country before of the World Cup. 

Inbound visitor numbers had been growing but the industry could benefit from greater stability. While arrivals rose from 4.7 million in 2001 to 7.2 million (about a 65% increase) in 2008, the report estimates a fall in that number in 2009 because of the impact on developed countries of the global financial crisis. The recovery should be relatively quick, with a forecasted increase of tourist arrivals of 9.2 million by 2014.

The number of Brazilians looking to travel within their own country and that can afford to do so is growing. According to Instituto Brasileiro de Turismo (Embratur) president Jeanine Pires, the revenue generated by tourism in 2008 was nearly 17% higher than in 2007, which was the best year on record. 

Sector growth appears to be building up momentum as the global economy recovers. Brazilian airline Gol Transportes Aéreos reported an increase in year-on-year (y-o-y) growth for January 2010. Compared with January 2009, Gol’s revenues were up by 32.1%. 

In the hotel sector news has been positive too, with French corporation Accor planning to add nearly 5,000 rooms in Brazil with an investment of about EUR200mn. This will be achieved through expansion of their 20 Formule 1 and Ibis hotels in Brazil throughout 2010.

Renovations are a positive area for investment in Brazil’s tourism infrastructure. A lack of infrastructure has held the sector back to date but this looks set to change as investment increases over the coming years.

View the report here.

To rent long and short term vacation apartments in Rio, visit

Brazil’s Favela Conditions Improving

March 25, 2010

A United Nations report published ahead of the Fifth World Urban Forum in Brazil says the proportion of the population of Brazil living in “favelas” or shantytowns was reduced 16 percent between 2000 and 2010.

In Brazil, a country of 192 million people, those that have escaped slum conditions annually over the last decade did so as a result of slum upgrading. Most of the families in this country who have left behind their status as slum dwellers actually stayed in the favelas, but with more services and urban infrastructure, or neighboring municipalities and the outskirts of cities.

Geographer Jailson de Souza, founder of the Observatorio de Favelas, a social organization that carries out research on Brazil’s shantytowns, and who is currently secretary of education in the Rio de Janeiro municipality of Nova Iguaçu, said the term “favela” is not necessarily synonymous with “slum.”

“U.N. experts might not consider some of our most populous neighbourhoods informal settlements or slums,” he said, citing La Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro, classified by some as a lower middle-class or working-class neighbourhood.

He said that what has been seen in Brazil is “a steady improvement in living conditions in the favelas, which does not mean a reduction in the number of people living in those areas.”

In fact, some of the country’s favelas have even expanded in size, such as those of Rio de Janeiro, the second-biggest Brazilian city after São Paulo to the south.

According to the Pereira Passos municipal institute, between 1999 and 2008, the surface area covered by favelas in Rio de Janeiro expanded by around three million square meters.

And the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) reported that in 2008, one-third of Brazil’s 5,554 municipalities contained favelas.

But many of these neighborhoods experienced improvements, as a result of spending on housing by governments – which has increased although it has not kept up with demand – and of rising income and employment, which has “enabled workers to spend more on their homes and seek new housing alternatives,” de Souza said.

Today, the middle class absorbs more than 50 percent of total income in Brazil, compared to one-third in 1992, he pointed out. Between 2003 and 2008, some 32 million people experienced an improvement in their socioeconomic status, including 2.6 million who joined the consumers market for the first time, the economist said.

And according to the U.N. Habitat report, the number of Brazilians living in slums was reduced by 10.4 million people over the last decade, with the most significant improvement being seen in sanitation.

The report refers to certain socioeconomic policies that have been adopted and mentions the drop in the birth rate and in rural-to-urban migration in Brazil, although it notes that 54 million people still live in favelas.

Rio Battles Over Brazil’s Oil

March 25, 2010

The debate over Brazil’s oil riches is heating up.

The lower house of Brazil’s Congress voted last week to split the portion of the country’s royalties from oil revenues that go to Brazil’s states equally among the states. The vote is part of a broad overhaul of the nation’s oil laws being undertaken due to huge offshore oil discoveries that occurred over the past three years. This vote came as an outrageous blow to the state government of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s biggest oil-producing region.

If the bill becomes law, Rio and other oil-producing states will only earn a fraction of the royalties they once expected. Rio’s annual oil revenue would fall to about $134 million from about $4.3 billion, state officials said.

Sérgio Cabral, Rio’s governor, is not giving up without a fight. Cabral called the vote in Congress a “lynching” and contended that it was unconstitutional. He said promised public works projects for the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio could be endangered by a sudden drop in revenues, although the federal government has pledged to back Rio’s Olympic effort.

Gov. Cabral organized a large march through Rio’s streets on Wednesday afternoon to protest the move by Congress. Tens of thousands of people, many of them state employees who had been given the day off, showed up despite the heavy rains, with many arriving on buses from all over the state.

“No one has the right to take away that which nature has put within the limits of Rio de Janeiro,” Carlos Lupi, Rio’s labor minister, said in a speech at the march and rally.

The government is seeking to alter the Brazil’s oil laws to centralize control over future oil revenues in the federal government’s hands. The new region is estimated to hold more than five billion barrels of crude oil and could transform Brazil into a global oil power.

Although the bulk of the oil will not be drilled for least four years, President da Silva and his allies in Congress are pushing to get a series of four oil-related laws passed before Congress goes into recess in June or July.

The bills would attempt to make the Brazilian national oil company, Petrobras, the operator of all future oil discoveries from the new region, known as the presalt region. They would also include the capitalization of Petrobras, a stock issuance expected to be valued at more than $50 billion.

With what could be hundreds of billions of dollars at stake over decades, the proposed bills have become extremely contentious in Congress, where opposition politicians are seeking to stall a full vote on the bills until after the presidential election in October.

The proposals on oil reform and the issuance of stock in Petrobras came under a cloud last week when two members of Congress from states that do not produce oil, Ibsen Pinheiro and Humberto Souto, proposed the idea of equally distributing the portion of royalties from oil revenues that go to states and municipalities. This would include both past and future oil developments. The lower house approved the proposal 369-72.

The federal government receives about 40 percent of the nation’s oil royalties, and most of the rest currently goes to the oil-producing states.

Analysts said they expected that Mr. da Silva would eventually veto any bill that included a radical redistribution of royalties. However, faced with the presidential election in the fall, in which he is trying to transfer his huge popularity to his chosen successor, Dilma Rousseff, his chief of staff, the president has been treading softly on the proposed redistribution.

For information on relocation to Rio de Janeiro, visit

Brasileirão (Brazilian Soccer Championship) 2010 to Begin May 8th

March 12, 2010

The Brazilian Soccer Confederation (CBF) announced on March 8th that the Brazilian Soccer Championship 2010 will open with three games on Saturday, May 8. The Campeonato Brasileiro de Futebol is aptly called Brasileirão (the “Big Brazilian”) due to its massive popularity and large number of competitors. The competition features 40 teams in two divisions (“Série A” and “Série B”), playing hundreds of games until the last round ends on Dec.5.

This year, the championship will have a pause from June 6 to July 14 because of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Here are the 20 teams that will compete in the main division (“Série A”) this Brasileirão:

Atlético Mineiro
Atlético Paranaense
São Paulo
Vasco da Gama

To see the full schedule for the fist phase of games, open this CBF page and click on “Veja a Tabela da Série A”.

For accommodations, visit

Brasília to Celebrate 50th Anniversary

March 12, 2010

Catedral Metropolitana de Brasília

Yesterday Brasília, the capital of Brazil, announced the attractions for the party celebrating its 50th anniversary on April 21.

Disney World characters will parade on Eixo Monumental at 10:30 a.m. Concerts at Esplanada dos Ministérios will start at 6 p.m. and feature Brazilian artists NX Zero, Para lamas do Sucesso, Luan Santana, Daniela Mercury, Bruno and Marrone.

In order to fully enjoy all Brasília has to offer, you must not think of the city as an image of corruption, and discover every good thing this UNESCO World Heritage Site has to offer. Be sure to see the amazing plan and architecture by Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer, check out the bars and restaurants, and visit the surrounding cerrado, home to Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Parks, also UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Unfortunately, the Metropolitan Cathedral, one of Brasília’s top attractions, won’t be fully renovated by anniversary day. Work should be concluded by June. However, according to recent reports in Brazil media, the cathedral will be opened for anniversary day celebrations.

For accommodations, visit