Monday, August 27, 2012

Crime rate down in Sao Paulo

Violent crime is down in Sao Paulo, 13% lower than last year

This is great news, principally because we are thinking of moving back home to Sao Paulo and after living in the US for 15 years we are as scared of news regarding crime as your typical/garden variety American expat. :)
We had heard and read a few articles here and there about more crime in Sao Paulo and that freaked us to no end, even our BFF and fellow blogger Alex has writen us before asking about certain articles he was reading around about the increase in crime in Sao Paulo and we all searched about it together, called people and searched a little more.
I happen to have a very close family member who is a Police Chief in Sao Paulo and this person has kept me very well informed about what is going on with the news of crime being up and then being down.
First and foremost I read this article today HERE, that goes on to say that murder rates are down in Sao Paulo by 13% compared to the same time period last year. Which is great news.
Before you go lighting up fireworks to celebrate, let me share the insider's information on the situation.
What happened in Brazil recently is a shift in the balance of power among criminal organizations, they are loosing space and shifting Geography, they are going into new areas and trying to find their niche.
With the approaching "Soccer World Cup" in 2014 and the Rio "Olympics" in 2016, the state of Rio de Janeiro needed to help locate phisical space to built some of the venues where the Rio Olympics will take place, and some of the Soccer events for the World Cup.
If you are familiar with Rio de Janeiro, there isn't much space to go around, the Geography of the region is very peculiar, which in my opinion makes Rio on of the most spetaculars places on earth, principally where natural beauty is concerned, the beaches, lucious green mountains, giant bolders, water falls, lakes, just out of the world beautiful.
Space is limited, the city is squeezed between Ocean and Mountains on a thin strip of land.
The city has to find space, which is already mostly occupied by urban development. The only alternative for the government of Rio is to claim back some of it's stolen government land to built the new venues.
If you are from Brazil, you most likely HATE favelas, you are not proud of them, you don't think they are cute, you don't think they are decent and you don't think it's a matter of human rights to keep this people in favelas, there is no way we should improve life in the favelas.
We should move them to safe areas, period. If you think otherwise, you are most likely not familiar with the situation.
The obvious traditional defenders of the favelas "status quo", are religious leaders, who want to be popular and gather more pupils to their churches, opportunistic politicians who want the obvious extra vote in their districts, foreign human rights watch groups, who in my opinion don't really understand the situation and other groups that have various random reasons to think favela living is worth preserving.
First of all, Rio favelas are built on dangerous cliffs that are suceptable to mud slides, not to mention fires with no access to Fire Department services in case of emergencies.
Favelas dwellers cut down natural vegetation that holds the "MOUNTAIN" together, and build flimsy little wooden shacks on top of it, and eventually build some fragile concrete and block walls, without proper foundation and nothing with the supervision of an civil engineer or any infra structure to hold the building/house firmly on that cliff.

Police moves into Rio Favelas, thugs run away to other Brazilian cities

Long story short, in my opinion, no human being belong in favelas, these people deserve a decent, safe place to live, with sewer services, police, ambulances and fire department access, a place well built and firm ground and proper public transportation.
They deserve a place with legal electrical, water and internet/telephone connections that won't just burst into flames because they steal electricity and clump up 300 connections in one and cause explosions, fire and death.
And ultimately, with the end of FAVELAS in Brazil, crime will have a much harder time to find "hiding" places and easier to control.
I have no doubt in my mind we will see that in our lifetime.
So, back to our main topic of discussion here, crime in Sao Paulo is up and then crime in Sao Paulo is down and there is a good reason for that.
I will tie it all together with my previous favela rant in Rio and the removal of some Rio favelas along with the "pacification of some of Rio favelas", bare with me.
See, when government started bulldozing some favelas down to the ground in Rio, and claiming their land back, they also started to bring in highly organized and powerful police forces into the remaining favelas, with the goal in mind to make the entire city safer for the upcoming sports events.
Police goes in, organized crime comes out and where did they go?
If you answered "other" cities, you got it.
Organized drug crime moved to other large Brazilian cities, wherever they could hide and continue to do business.
By the way, in my opinion, if you smoke pot and think it's an inocent thing to do, you are a direct part of the crime problem, come on, where do you think that pot comes from? Not from Lojas Americanas or Pao de Acucar, that is for sure.
I am not anti pot, if you can/could get it from a legal source, and if you like/enjoy/need it, good for you, but please either get it from a legal source or stay the hell away from it.

Rio favelas remain occupied by Police and the Brazilian Army and see an instant reduction in crime

They moved to Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Salvador, you name it, and upon their arrival, gang wars errupted, increasing the crime rate in Sao Paulo for example.
Sao Paulo was caught off guard, until they noticed increase in murder rates in the outskirts of the metropolitan region.
Sao Paulo, different than Rio, has a lot of space, we are not limited and surrounded by mountains like Rio, so our favelas and poor areas where most of the crime takes place is far away from the Sao Paulo I grew up and know as my home town.
There has been a fight for power over the drug business between the newcomers, who are "just kicked from Rio criminals" and the long established Sao Paulo crime gangs.
It took the state of Sao Paulo and it's police force a little while to catch up with what was happening and built a strategy to tackle the new challenge and we are now finally seeing the results of their efficient and hard work.

Principles of crime reduction, Sao Paulo Police is using efficient methods to fight crime

Violent crime is down again and continue on it's lowering trend that started back in 1998, about the same time Gil and I left Brazil, when crime had reached it's peak in Sao Paulo.
I am glad to see that the reduction of crime rates in Sao Paulo continues on a down spiral trend, not that it ever bothered me too much, because truth be told, in Sao Paulo crime happens far away from the parts of the city my family and I always lived, so it realistically doesn't affect me or my family directly, but less crime is always good news and always good for the overall image of the city.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The price of a CAR in Brazil!

I found this video today on a series of YouTube videos called "O Canal do Otario", which translates to "The Sucker Channel".
This particular video uses the Volkswagen Gol as an example of how Brazilian consumers are swindled by excessive taxes and abusive profit margins by Car factories and Car dealers established in the country.
By the way, I just found out Brazil has the largest amount of car factories anywhere in the world, who knew? Interesting fact, and proof that high import tariffs are a by far one of the most successful strategies adopted by the Brazilian government. Even the Chinese are ticked off they can't just import their cars into Brazil and are being pressed to open their car factories in the country and employ locals.
Long story short, the video calls the Brazilian consumer, or actually any consumer in Brazil for that matter, so they might as well be talking to you if you live in Brazil and have bought a car in recent years, and it will make you feel even worse if you bought a Volkswagen Gol.
So, the video goes on to say that a brand new Gol in Brazil costs R$37,000 and change, while the same car considering all import tariffs and shipping goes for R$22,000 in Argentina and for R$18,500 in Mexico. For the same amount you could buy a brand new Chevrolet Camaro in the United States.
Also, it shows that a brand new Volkswagen Gol costs only R$8,5000 to be made, including materials and labor, before taxes, and dealer and factory profits.
So if you would add 100% for taxes, 100% of profit margin for the factory and 100% profit margin for the Volkswagen dealer, you are still at R$32,000, and R$5,000 short of the price of the car for the end consumer in Brazil.
The video announcer goes on to say that he is not picking on Volkswagen in particular, he just chose the Gol as an example because it has been the NUMBER 1 car sold in Brazil for the past 25 years and it is also exported to a large number of countries around the world.
However the example is similar to all car companies with established manufacturing plants in the Brazilian territory, and in case you are not aware (like I wasn't before watching this video), they are the following:

Volkswagen, Ford, General Motors, Fiat, Mitsubishi Motors, Citroen, Peugeot, Nissan, Hyundai, Honda, Mercedes Benz, Chevrolet, Toyota, IVECO, Renault, BMW, Audi, Chrysler, Dodge and the list goes on... *this list is just for Car factories, it doesn't apply for buses or trucks.

The video ends with a plea for consumers to avoid buying cars and walk, use a bicycle or public transportation instead, saying it is better for your health and your pocket.

I noticed the Portuguese in the video is very clear so I decided to post anyway, it might be a good training if you are a Portuguese beginner.




Monday, August 20, 2012

To Kiss or not to Kiss! Brazil edition!

We Brazilians love to kiss and we start early!! :)

After reading and making a comment on THIS POST on Rachel's blog, I decided to write this post (as per my dear friend Rachel's suggestion ;) )
This is one of the most talked about culture characteristic for new comers and expats moving to Brazil.
It is ever talked about among Brazilians, trust me.
First and foremost, let me be clear, crystal clear when I say this, we are talking about an "air kiss", it's a gesture, and symbolic form of greeting, you are not supposed to give or receive a juicy wet kiss on anybody's cheeks, PLEASE!!

Wrong way to kiss when greeting in Brazil!! Yes, you will get bitch slapped if you try this!! ;)

I think it's important to clarify that, when I see and hear about people behaving in such a senseless defensive way, as if they are avoiding being tongue French kissed by everyone they see, it's not that people, relax... it's a simple warmer than you are used to form of greeting.
So I decided to talk to Gil about it to help me remember what are the "rules" on the greeting kiss in Brazil. I also called my mother, an aunt and my grandmother in an effort to be as informative and helpful as possible.
Please read my answer to Rachel's post below, it's pretty complete and it should help you feel more confident with the so talked about "Brazilian greeting kiss"!!  :)


The cardinal rule of Brazilian good manners is to never ever turn your face away or block the other person by extending your arm, this would be the quickest way to offend Brazilians and show them you could care less for local customs or any possibility at friendship or a friendly existence. Such a rude sign would contribute to the wrong “stereotype” some people have that Americans overseas are rude and arrogant.
Having said that, there are some basic rules when greeting folks in Brazil, here we go:

-As a general rule, 1 Kiss in Sao Paulo, 2 Kisses in Rio, but don’t stress, people brake this rule all the time, just go with the flow on this one, it is even cool to make a little joke while going for the kiss, and ask, 1 or 2 kisses? it helps to brake the ice and puts the other person at ease, I always did that and sorted out the other person’s intentions and avoided awkward moments :)
-If a lady is sitting down, and someone arrives to greet, she can choose to remain siting while greeting or she can decide to stand up, women get to choose as they please.
-Gentlemen never get to choose, in Brazil, it is always polite and expected that a gentleman stands up to greet whoever is arriving at the scene.
-There is a very popular joke of the Brazilian “kissing game” that we say ( 3 pra casar ), usually people throw that in to brake the ice, make a joke, put people at ease, and it means, “3 kisses to marry”, as in wishing the person good luck to get married soon…and married people do it too and laugh about it.

Guys don't kiss while greeting in Brazil!! :)

-If you come into a room filled with strangers and a few friends, you kiss your friends and family, not every one in the party. Now if you are going to a family reunion, good luck, you will be kissing every one you see… and you don’t kiss anyone in a room filled with strangers…:)
-If you are being formally introduced to someone, 2 kisses is the custom, but if it’s a professional setting, a hand shake is enough and kisses not expected.

Relax people, it's an air kiss, like air guitar!! R E L A X!! :)

-You should never approach to greet and kiss, someone that is eating, this is a really big no-no in Brazil, we are very particular about meal times, and if you can’t avoid it, keep it short and don’t ever go for the kiss, EVER during a meal, a short wave and a smile are more than enough, even with family and close friends. :)

Absolutely NO KISSING while someone is eating! Brazilians are very peculiar about meal time!

-As a general rule it’s not really a class thing, but it is a thing of your inner circle. You kiss people that belong to your inner circle, mainly family and close friends. If someone at work is close enough, you kiss them, but as a general rule, people don’t kiss each other at work environments, and again, keep in mind, some people will always brake this rule for different reasons, and if they do, it’s ok, don’t panic, and NEVER extend your arm or turn your face away, again, this is the ultimate insult in Brazilian culture, just go with the flow, and you will survive another awkward moment ;)
Answering your specific questions, first your observations are all correct, the teacher will kiss a parent if they have become close enough and consider each other friends.
If you saw someone in the morning, you kissed and greeted them in the morning, no need to repeat it when you see them again, once a day is fine.
The surprise hug moments, I always ask 1 or 2 kisses and I avoid that issue for myself, like I said, it’s both a way to brake the ice and know what the person intends to do. :)
I hope I was able to clarify the kissing etiquette rules in Brazil… :)

E um beijo ( Paulista ) no seu rosto… :)


I hope you guys will find this useful, and just like any culture, there are exceptions to the rule, and parts of Brazil that might have different customs, this is more in the Rio-Sao Paulo-Minas and South of Brazil areas. I am not too familiar with the North and Northeast parts of Brazil but I would be surprised if the culture rules change too much.

Forte abraco a todos


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Somos São Paulo / We Are Sao Paulo. 7 bilhões de Outros / 7 billion Othe...

I just found the video above on "Eyes on Brazil" and I thought it was very interesting to share them with you.
These are interviews from "Expats" or "Immigrants" to Sao Paulo, from people who immigrated in the beginning of the last century, people who came during or after WWII and all the way to recent arrivals.
I would like to point out to M, from Born Again Brazilian that at the 20 minutes mark a grandson of Japanese immigrants shares the story of his grandparents "hating" mortadela and throwing it away while preferring to eat plain bread  ;)
I also thought it was interesting to hear the Chinese/Brazilian girl saying her Chinese parents called her a "Banana" because she is "yellow" looking on the outside, and "White" in the inside, because for the Chinese, Brazilians are white, as in "Western Cultured".
We usually hear people talking about Brazilians as if they have an impression that we are all darker, and have a darker complexion, which might be true for some parts of Brazil but definitely not for Sao Paulo and the south of Brazil. I will never forget when I was 17 years old in Oklahoma and a man told me I couldn't be Brazilian, because I wasn't "dark enough"!!! His exact words were "How come you are white? If you are from Brazil...and my reply was... because my parents are white... and I left at that... :)
Ok, so when you have a whole hour available to immerse yourself a little deeper in what it means to be in Brazil, to live in Brazil and to become a Brazilian, take the take to watch this amazing collection of interviews from Sao Paulo immigrants.



Thursday, August 2, 2012

Brazil more equal than the US?

I decided to share this great blog post that I read today.

Sao Paulo, my hometown

I was very surprised when I read this post at Bill Maher's.
Brazil is indeed on a roll.
Take a look at what he wrote:

Brazilians believe that God is indeed Brasileiro

  Rio de Dinero

By Bill Maher

The greatest thing about America was that you could come here with nothing and, purely by hard work, become fabulously wealthy.
But this isn’t happening anymore. More and more money is concentrated in the super-rich while wages for the middle-class are stagnant and the poor are, well, if they’re lucky they might get some cheese and a flu shot. 
The worst part is, while America is turning into a banana republic, actual banana republics are starting to turn into what America used to be. 
I don’t know much about Brazil, other than that they do amazing things with wax. And have you seen the carioca? It’s not a foxtrot or a polka. There I go quoting 1930's show tunes again.