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Foreign Correspondent

Being the Ongoing Tales, Triumphs, Struggles (mostly struggles) and Occasional Adventures of Freelance Foreign Correspondent Shawn Gerald Blore, based in Rio de Janeiro

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Guns, Rio, Violence

Back in the Correspondent Game again, and this time it's close to war correspondent exciting. Doing a piece about guns and violence in Brazil and specifically Rio. It's a war in all but name. On one side the armed drug trafficking gangs of the favelas. On the other, the police. About 1200 get killed every year, by police. About 300 police die. And then there's the bystanders. In the course of investigating, it was necessary to interview one of the drug chieftains. Here's what that interview lookied like. Later I'll add some photos of police and innocent bystanders. Hoping to sell this all to the CBC.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What you learn by Travel Writing

Okay, so I'm still finishing up next year's Frommer's Guide to Brazil. It's not war correspondent exciting, but it pays the bills. And you learn things.

Yes, you learn things, even doing travel writing. Brazil, for example, must have the most politicized civil service in the world. Every time a new government comes to power – at any level - they scrap everything the previous government has done, and fire a large percentage of the employees. That way, they can hire their friends and put their own stamp on new programs.

For example, just spoke to the tourism agency of the state of Mato Grosso. The state had an excellent tourism department. The website was vast and informative, the books and brochures colorful, informative and attractive. Despite that, the new regime has closed the downtown office and the airport kiosk, taken down the website, apparently pulped the old tourism books, brochures and CDs, and moved everyone out to a new office in the government precinct on the edge of town. Now they’re awaiting funding to re-create all this stuff from scratch.

This happens not just with tourism, but with every single government department in Brazil, at city, state and federal levels. The new Lula government wanted to scrap an innovative micro-credit program that was lending small amounts of money to under-capitalized micro-business people who had been frozen out by the banks. They were seamstresses who wanted to buy a sewing machine; fruit vendors who wanted to expand his stock of merchandise.

Why? It seemed the perfect kind of program for a left leaning government, and it was. But it had been created by the evil previous regime of Fernando Henrique. Program managers only succeeding in escaping the axe through some very deft political maneuvering.

It’s this stupid political tie in to everything that ensures that programs never have any continuity. It’s why nothing ever gets done in Brazil, because even useful programs get scrapped every four years.

And that’s my rant for today.