Tag Archives: South America

Brazil

This will be my last scheduled post on Latin America for a while. I am shifting my gaze towards Asia where most of the action of my second book, Chita Quest, takes place. In passing I want to mention that Venezuelan President Maduro continues his search for a scapegoat for his country’s economic woes. Today he launched an attack on the national television stations, saying that the telenovellas so dear to the hearts of Venezuelans were eroding the country’s moral fiber.  No mention was made of his destructive economic policies.

Brazil. Roughly the same size as the continental United States, Brazil has a population of some 200 million people, about half of whom are classified as middle class.

A few decades ago, Brazil did some smart things and conquered hyperinflation. For more than twenty years, Brazil’s economy sizzled, reducing poverty by two thirds and virtually creating a huge middle class. Then government largess inflated the public debt with a large public sector and the accompanying large pension requirements. The increased bureaucracy had to justify its existence so spun out all sorts of business-unfriendly regulations. The tax system became byzantine and taxes soared. Infrastructure issues were not addressed. For example, air travel has doubled in the past two decades but airports have not kept pace—something that will bite the country in the butt during the upcoming FIFA World Cup this summer followed by the Summer Olympics in 2016. Productivity has suffered. Unit costs have doubled due to raising the minimum wage—in dollar terms, they have tripled, making it difficult to export manufactured goods. The education system is terrible—most spending is on university-level schools. The internal transportation system is shaky. And there are still millions of really poor people dragging down the social services.

The discovery of tremendous deep-water offshore oil reserves could bail Brazil out if managed properly. Already politicians are screaming to increase spending on social programs. Brazil needs to refocus public spending on infrastructure, education, public health and to reduce its tax structure. The question is whether Brazil will follow in the footsteps of Norway and, to a lesser extent, the U.K., or will it fritter away its oil opportunity like Mexico.

I used to fly to the Bolivian city of Puerto Suarez on business with the Bolivian Air Force. Puerto Suarez is right on the border with Brazil. We would stay in Corumba, Brazil where the food was wonderful and the night life extraordinary. John Grisham captured the essence of rural Brazil in his novel The Testament. Brazilians are fun-loving and semi-crazy. Great people and lots of fun to be around. I hope Brazil works out its problems and regains its economic momentum.

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/brazil/

As always, here’s a different view from across the pond. Amazing how stories involving World Cup preparations dominate the British press…just sayin’…http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/brazil/

For those of you who prefer their news delivered via video, here is a brilliant discussion the state of the economy and future opportunities from The Economist magazine:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2013/09/special-report-brazil#

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/30/world/americas/brazil-forging-economic-ties-with-cuba-while-hiring-its-doctors.html?_r=0

The CIA World Book points out that brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and borders every country in South America except Ecuador and Chile. http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=CIA+world+book+brazil&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

Edward Snowden has made quite a splash in Brazil. He has recently requested asylum there. The Brazilian president is particularly incensed at his revelations. Don’t be surprised if he ends up in Brazil, a major improvement to living conditions and life style–compared to chilly Russia.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/world/americas/snowden-offers-to-help-brazil-in-nsa-inquiry.html

Here’s the latest summary of the preparations for the World Cup:

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/Latin-America-Monitor/2014/0121/World-Cup-prep-or-welfare-help-Sao-Paulo-razes-centrally-located-shantytown

http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/10/3863470/brazil-has-long-way-to-go-before.html

Here is an update about the situation with the creaky Brazilian air traffic system:

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304732804579425360166993226

Many of you probably remember this disaster last November when a crane collapsed onto a stadium being built for the World Cup.

http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/sports/2013/11/30/sao-paulo-stadium-collapse-only-one-problem-in-brazil-world-cup-construction/

For more news about the Brazilian sports scene, try

http://www.foxnews.com/topics/brazil.htm

And just for grins, here’s a recent Op-Ed on the economies of the BRIC countries vis-à-vis the United States which paints a brighter picture for the U.S. and a bleaker one for the BRICs.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-an-emerging-market-problem/2014/01/22/173a984c-82f3-11e3-bbe5-6a2a3141e3a9_story.html?hpid=z3

 

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Venezuela Goes To The Polls

Life in Venezuela continues to be turbulent. President Maduro won a small majority in elections last Sunday. His last-minute attacks on the opposition seem to have paid off at the polls. Maduro used the state-controlled media to paint the economic woes of his country as the result of an economic war waged by the United States against Venezuela.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2013/12/venezuela

http://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2013/12/venezuelas-local-elections

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2013/12/maduro-survives-venezuela-electoral-test-20131299371326255.html

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/09/us-venezuela-election-idUSBRE9B707720131209

And this is what 50 + per cent inflation does to your economyhttp://homes.yahoo.com/blogs/spaces/world-s-most-expensive-cities-for-foreign-workers-014251972.html

This is a late addition to the post– updated June 9, 2014…which shows how entrepreneurial Venezuelans would be if government restrictions and crazy economic policies would allow them…http://finance.yahoo.com/news/venezuelan-prostitutes-making-killing-doubling-155947318.html

This is yet another update — February 2015…things continue to get more desperate in Venezuela:

http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/soviet-humor-protest-venezuela

La Carretera de la Muerte–The Highway of Death

As I have pointed out in other blog posts, Bolivia is a wonderful, gorgeous country. I will post a slide show in the future. In the meantime, I will show you another facet of Bolivia– beauty sometimes comes at a cost.

Bolivia has three main geographical divisions– the tropics to the east, the high mountains (and I mean high–over 20,000 feet!) that run through the middle, and the massive altiplano in the west which averages around 14,000 feet above sea level. To get from the altiplano down to the tropics is a major logistical feat.

Here is a video of one of the few highways available. I drove this a couple times. It was hair-raising. The Inter-American Development Bank declared this the most dangerous road in the world. The narrow road is dangerous enough by itself but the Bolivian drivers, most of whom have no licenses, driver training, insurance or sense of “share the road,” complicate the transit. Huge busses and large trucks take the right-of-way no matter which direction they are headed, crowding to the inside of the turn and forcing smaller vehicles to the outside edge of the road where there is often a sheer drop of a thousand feet. No kidding…watch the video. You will be astounded.

Another one of these highways, the one from La Paz/El Alto to Cochabamba is described in some detail in the Cochabamba Conspiracy. It would take no less than five hours on a good day to drive…I could fly to Cochabamba in forty-five minutes in the C-12.