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Gang violence rocks Rio

Drug gang violence in Rio leaves twenty-nine people dead after a helicopter is shot down. The UN Security Council approves Brazil for a two-year seat. A two percent tax is instituted on foreign investments in Brazilian stocks. Over one million jobs have been created in 2009. Mining giant Vale is slated to invest billions this year. Also, the under-twenty national team loses their World Cup, an article details what potential presidential candidates do in their downtime, and the paperwork for the renovations on Brazil's version of the White House is "irregular."

Top News: The violence in Rio de Janeiro over the weekend, barely two weeks after Rio was selected to host the 2016 Olympics, drew coverage by news outlets around the world. The invasion of one favela by the drug gang controlling the neighboring favela was not all that unusual, but the downing of a police helicopter by gang members during the ensuing police actions was shocking. Three policemen died and others were seriously burned. Ten public buses were set aflame the following day, and police mobilized 4,000 officers for subsequent actions in the favelas. As of Wednesday morning, the total death toll was 29, including the three policemen and three innocent residents of one of the favelas.


Brazil was approved as a rotating member of the United Nations Security Council this week. A spot among the permanent members has long been a goal of Brazil, and its two-year term is being looked at by some as a trial run. Meanwhile, opposition continues to grow both at home and abroad against Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s planned visit to Brazil in November.


A trip by Lula and his chief of staff and potential successor, Dilma Rousseff, officially to examine public works along the Sao Francisco River funded by the Growth Acceleration Program that has been central to the Lula presidency, came under attack by opponents (and many opinion columnists and bloggers) as an illegal campaign trip funded with government money. The government invited press (including GlobalPost, which declined) to accompany them, and newspapers and television news programs were full of images of the two. Opposing parties are suing in the electoral court. The official campaign season does not begin until next year.           


The MST, a controversial land reform group known in English as the Movement of Landless Rural Workers, invaded the Santo Henrique ranch in rural Sao Paulo state, an orange plantation owned by the multinational Cutrale. It is a typical tactic for the group, but this time the destruction was great and drew wide condemnation, including some from the president. Up to 10,000 orange trees and 28 tractors were destroyed, and homes of some of the workers who lived on the land were allegedly entered and robbed. The Brazilian government has long been accused of indirectly funding the movement’s actions. Pressure increased by opposition leaders to open a formal investigation, and as of today it looks like they will succeed.


Money: As rumored for several days, the Brazilian government instituted a 2 percent tax on foreign investment in the Brazilian stock market and fixed income instruments. It’s an effort by the Brazilians to reduce demand for the Brazilian real and thus beat back the ever-strengthening currency against the dollar. The real has gained 36 percent against the dollar this year, more than most other currencies in the world. The dollar gained, up to 1.75 reais from 1.70 a few days ago. Of course, people have already found ways around the new tax.


The creation of official jobs continues to rise, with over 250,000 new positions registered with the Labor Ministry in August. Brazil has now gained more jobs in 2009 (just over one million) than it lost during in its two-quarter recession.           

It looks like Vale, the Brazilian mining giant and the country’s biggest privately controlled company, will invest $12.9 billion in Brazil in 2010, a sharp rise over 2009, when it was criticized for scaling back investments because of the economic crisis. Reuters had this earlier piece about initial reports of Vale’s plans.


Elsewhere: The Formula One champion for the season was crowned at the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo this past weekend: Jenson Button clinched the year’s victory in one of Brazil’s most popular sports.


In Brazil’s other most popular sport, the under-20 national team lost the U-20 World Cup in a penalty-kick shootout to the Ghanaians, thanks to a series of saves by the Ghanaian goalkeeper and one final Brazilian shot that sailed over the net.


An article in Folha de Sao Paulo detailed what potential candidates for president in 2010 like to do to relax.  Here they are, in approximate order in which they appear in polls: Jose Serra gets massage and acupuncture; Ciro Gomes takes sax lessons; Dilma Rousseff took a meditation class; and Marina Silva makes necklaces and reads the bible. (Though as of today it looks like Ciro will not become a candidate.)


And in an only-in-Brazil moment, the $57 million project to renovate the Planalto Palace – the Brazilian White House – was being conducted without approval and is now considered “irregular.” They were given 45 days to get their paperwork in order.