TIME brazil

Rio Unveils 2016 Olympic Mascots

Handout shows the unnamed mascots of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games during their first appearance in Rio de Janeiro
The mascots of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games are pictured in front of the Copacabana beach during their first appearance in Rio de Janeiro, Nov.23, 2014. Brazil Olympic Committee/Reuters

The official mascots represent the wide variety of Brazilian flora and fauna

The 2016 Rio Organizing Committee revealed the official mascots for the Olympic and Paralympic games in Brazil: a yellow feline creature standing for the Olympics, and a green foliage-headed one for the Paralympics.

“The Rio 2016 mascots represent the diversity of our culture, of our people,” said Rio 2016 brand director Beth Lula on Sunday. “They represent our joy, our way of being. Both of them are magical creatures with super powers and relate naturally with the young audience, who we want to engage with our event so much.”

Both mascots are currently nameless but the Brazilian public will be asked to decide between Oba and Eba; Tiba Tuque and Esquindim; and Vinicius and Tom.


TIME brazil

Militia Slayings in Brazil Shed Fresh Light on Police Brutality

10 killed in bloody night of violence in the northern city of Belém

The killing of ten people in a northern Brazilian city last week by a militia allegedly linked to the country’s military police has raised fears of a growing problem with police violence in a country where new figures reveal 2,212 people died in confrontations with law enforcement officers last year.

Ten civilians were gunned down last Tuesday in the impoverished suburbs of Belém, a city in the Brazilian Amazon state of Pará, in a bloody night of violence that lasted until the early hours of the morning. The massacre, apparently carried out by a single gang of masked men, followed the killing of a police officer hours earlier who was accused of being involved in a “militia” – in Brazil, the term for a criminal organization that includes former and/or serving police officers.

“There is a big probability that if there was not active police involvement then there were people who already passed through the police,” said Anna Lins, a lawyer from Pará Society for the Defense of Human Rights. “It was summary execution.”

Hers is one of a coalition of human rights groups, politicians and NGOs calling for a state assembly enquiry into militias in Pará. “We do not want the police to act alone in this investigation,” said Lins.

Alexandre Ciconello, a Human Rights Advisor at Amnesty International Brazil, said there were strong indications that police were involved. “It was an orchestrated massacre to kill people,” he said.

The night of mayhem began when Antônio Figueiredo, also known as ‘Pet’, was gunned down when he arrived home in the early evening on Nov. 4. He was a corporal in the special task force, ROTAM, of the state’s military police – Brazil’s street, or ‘offensive’ police force, which works alongside its civil police, which is responsible for investigations.

Amnesty said his fellow officers used social networks to call for vengeance. “Our little brother Pet has just been assassinated,” said a Facebook message posted by Figueredo’s colleague, Sergeant Rossicley Silva. “Let’s give the response.” He blamed a war between rival gangs.

A convoy of masked men on motorbikes and in two cars later drove through the dusty, crime-ridden neighborhoods of Terra Firme and Guamá, amongst others, randomly killing residents until the early hours. Police have since opened an investigation.

Sergeant Silva later said his Facebook post had been misinterpreted. “I asked for support in the sense of combating criminality. Our objective is not revenge,” Silva said, the local Diário Online news site reported.

A spokesman for Belém’s civil police, the department which handles investigations, told TIME that Figueiredo was suspended from duty for health reasons at the time of his death, and was being investigated for two homicides.

A military police spokesperson said it wasn’t possible to confirm a connection between the killings, six of which happened near to each other and five randomly. “All the questions, analyses and conclusions relative to the case and the participation or not of military police in the events in question are being investigated and will be made public,” said the spokesperson, in an e-mail.

Pará has a murder rate of 41.7 per 100,000, according to 2012 figures from the Violence Map produced by the Latin-American Faculty of Social Sciences in Rio. The Los Angeles murder rate that same year was 7.8 per 100,000.

One Terra Firme resident, who asked not be named for security reasons, claimed Figueiredo’s militia was competing for control of the drug trade in the lawless slums where much of the killing took place. The militia also acted as a death squad, said the resident, hired by local businesses to kill drug gang members. “They are like vigilantes who kill bandits, then they become killers.”

When ‘Pet’ was killed around 7.30pm on Nov. 4, residents celebrated by launching fireworks. “Pet was accused of killing many youths, he led a death squad,” the resident said. Some locals have since been placed under witness protection.

Eliana Pereira, Pará state ombudswoman for public security and a human rights activist, said that the revenge killings in Belém would be nothing out of the ordinary for police-linked militias. “This is not the first case. There have been other massacres,” she said, citing the case of former military police officer Rosivan Moraes Almeida, sentenced to 120 years prison in October for killing six teenagers in 2011.

Rio de Janeiro has long battled a problem with militias involving former and serving police officers involved in activities like charging protection money and controlling gas supplies and cable television in poorer areas.

Amnesty International said the massacre was representative of a wider problem with police violence in Brazil. “The Brazilian police is one of the forces that kills most in the world,” said Ciconello, the Amnesty advisor.

According to annual figures to be released Nov. 11 from the Brazilian Forum of Public Security NGO, on and off-duty Brazilian police killed 11,197 people in the five years ending 2013. By comparison, the Forum said, U.S. police have killed 11,090 people in the past 30 years.

The Terra Firme resident said those who were killed in Belém, which means Bethlehem in Portuguese, included a 20-year-old man who collected the money for local minibus transports and a 16-year-old boy. “We want the state to investigate and to live in a society with social peace,” the resident said.

TIME brazil

Brazilian Leaders Call for Unity after Vicious Presidential Race

The incumbent, Dilma Rousseff, secured a second term at the weekend after a gripping, and at times ugly, campaign

After what was the most aggressive Presidential election in recent Brazilian history, both the winner and loser have called for unity, striking a tone of reconciliation following the close of a nail-biting campaign that resulted in a second term for the incumbent, Dilma Rousseff. The Workers’ Party leader only just kept her job, securing 51.64% of the vote in a weekend run-off vote against Aécio Neves, the candidate of the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party who took 48.36%.

In her victory speech on Oct. 26, Rousseff, whose party has been in power since 2003, said the election had mobilized “at times contradictory ideas and emotions, but moved by a common feeling—a search for a better future.” Neves said he had “fought a good fight” and that the main priority for Rousseff should be “to unite Brazil.”

The two made common cause after a riveting and at times vicious campaign. Only weeks ago, Rousseff was expected to face a final-round challenge from Marina Silva, the environmentalist who made a late entry into the race after the sudden death of the Socialist Party candidate Eduardo Campos. But her support ebbed away as the Workers’ Party targeted her campaign. Rousseff said Silva would abolish the government’s flagship income support scheme, while a Workers’ Party campaign advert suggested the environmentalist, who promised to grant autonomy to the country’s central bank, would deliver Brazil to greedy financiers. She came third in the first round vote.

In the second round, with Silva out of the picture, Rousseff and Neves repeatedly insulted each other with accusations over corruption and nepotism. Neves enjoyed a last-minute surge of support as he capitalized on a corruption scandal involving the state-controlled oil company Petrobras. But it wasn’t quite enough to unseat Rousseff.

No sooner had the dust on Sunday’s victory settled than attention focused on the problems Rousseff now faces, and the political capital she had shed on her way to this narrowest of victories. “She came out weaker,” says David Fleischer, professor of political science at the University of Brasília. “I am not sure how she is going to put the country back together.”

Brazil split over the vote, with poorer states in the north and northeast, plus the southeastern states of Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, voting for Rousseff, while the rest of the richer states in the south and southeast chose Neves. “A very acute north-south divide,” adds Fleischer. “It is also a divide of rich and poor.”

Now Rousseff’s most pressing problem is the Brazilian economy, mired in a technical recession after two quarters of retraction, with inflation simmering above the government’s 6.5% target. A new Finance Minister will be appointed to replace the incumbent, Guido Mantega, who, like Rousseff herself, is seen as too interventionist and has been unpopular with the markets.

“I think she will nominate someone more market friendly,” says Tony Volpon, an analyst at Nomura Securities in New York. Volpon thinks Rousseff is also likely to ease off on her campaign’s anti-banker rhetoric. “There is no reason for her to keep beating on the class warfare rhetoric, against the elite, against the bankers,” he adds. “The market’s going to give her the benefit of the doubt to see if she is going to have a more market-friendly attitude.”

The danger, Volpon says, is that the Workers’ Party will see this election victory as an endorsement for its economic policies, which have kept unemployment relatively low but failed to stimulate growth. The government has blamed the international financial situation. Neves blamed the government.

Comments by Guido Mantega reported by local media on Monday confirmed this fear. “This shows that the population approves the economic policy we are doing,” Mantega said of the result.

Volpon says in the longer term market frustration will rise. “She will try and move policy in the right direction but the market will see it is not enough,” he explains. “Markets only look at profit. That clash of vision will lead to a nasty divorce.”

Rousseff’s other big problem is managing Brazil’s Congress, where she will need to unite nine unruly parties in her winning coalition. Her key ally is the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB, in its Portuguese acronym), of which Vice President Michel Temer is a member. While Rousseff’s Workers’ Party has a slight majority in the House of Deputies, in the upper chamber, the Senate, the PMDB is bigger. “The governability is dependent on the PMDB,” says Rafael Cortez, a political analyst at the São Paulo economic, financial and political consultancy Tendencias.

In Brazil’s labyrinthine maze of seemingly contradictory political alliances, parties that are allied at the national level often face off against each other in the states. In Rio Grande do Norte state, Rouseff’s predecessor and political mentor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva– or Lula, as he is widely known—supported Robinson Faria in his successful campaign to become governor. Faria is from another of Rousseff’s coalition members, the Social Democrat Party, and he defeated the PMDB’s candidate for state governor.

Rousseff will need to repair the damage caused by these state-level rivalries. “Her so-called partners are very discontented,” says Fleischer. “They are going to put some very heavy demands on her.” These will include more key ministerial posts, when Rousseff announces her new cabinet, expected before December.

But diplomacy is not Rousseff’s strong point, despite her conciliatory victory speech. “She does not like to do negotiation—which was the strong part of Lula’s game,” adds Fleischer. The charismatic former president was the first person Rousseff thanked in her speech and there has been speculation that he could return to fight an election in 2018. Current rules prevent Rousseff from seeking a third consecutive term.

Fleischer, however, discounted a Lula comeback. “He’s not very keen on risking his legacy, his charisma, or his prestige,” he says. Cortez, on the other hand, argues it is too early to call. “It will depend on the second mandate,” he says. “The government won, but lost political capital.”

TIME brazil

Brazilian Man Confesses to 39 Murders

Alleged serial killer Tiago Gomes da Rocha, center, suspected of killing 39 people, is escorted by police officers at the Department of Security, a day after his arrest, in Goiania, state of Goias, Brazil, on Oct. 16, 2014. Evaristo Sa—AFP/Getty Images

“We have been shocked by his coldness,” said a police official

A 26-year-old Brazilian man who allegedly killed at least 39 people in the span of three years has been taken into custody by local authorities.

Security guard Thiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha confessed to the murders after being arrested in the central city of Goiania, the BBC reports.

“We have been shocked by his coldness,” a police official who witnessed his interrogation told Brazilian television, saying that Gomes da Rocha referred to his victims by numbers one to 39.

He reportedly targeted women, homeless people and homosexuals, going up to his victims on a motorcycle with his face covered. He would then shoot them and leave without taking any of their possessions, although police said he would often demand valuables.

Other than the killings, he is also suspected of carrying out over 90 robberies.


Read next: Brazil Announces First Suspected Ebola Case

TIME ebola

Brazil Announces First Suspected Ebola Case

Electron micrograph of Ebola virus
A scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus buds from the surface of a Vero cell of an African green monkey kidney epithelial cell line. NIAID/EPA

But the case isn't confirmed yet

Brazil is treating its first suspected case of the Ebola virus, the country’s Health Ministry announced Thursday night.

A 47-year-old man arrived in Brazil on Sept. 19 from Guinea and reported he had a fever on Oct. 8, within the 21-day Ebola incubation limit. He has no other symptoms, like bleeding or vomiting, but has been put in isolation and flown to the National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rio de Janeiro per the country’s security protocol.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are the three West African countries hardest hit by the virus.

Brazil’s Health Ministry will hold a news conference on the case at 10 am on Friday.


TIME brazil

Brazil’s Presidential Election, Round 2: It’s the Economy, Estúpido

Brazil's President and presidential candidate for the Workers' Party Dilma Rousseff, speaks during a meeting with Governors and Senators elected in the first round of general elections, in Brasilia, Brazil on Oct. 7, 2014.
Brazil's President and presidential candidate for the Workers' Party Dilma Rousseff, speaks during a meeting with Governors and Senators elected in the first round of general elections, in Brasilia, Brazil on Oct. 7, 2014. Evaristo Sa—AFP/Getty Images

The economy takes center stage as incumbent President Dilma Rousseff takes on business-friendly challenger Aécio Neves in a runoff election Oct. 26

Brazil’s faltering economy will be high in voters’ minds when they return to the polls Oct. 26 for a second-round face-off in the country’s presidential election.

President Dilma Rousseff, whose Workers’ Party has run Brazil since 2003, won 41.59% of votes cast in a first-round poll on October 5 — not quite enough to beat outright Aécio Neves, a business-friendly candidate who was twice governor of Minas Gerais state. Neves, who had been trailing in third place in polls, came second with 33.55% in the latest in a series of upsets in a volatile campaign.

Neves’ resurgence can partly be explained by the worrying state of the country’s economy. The country is technically in recession, having retracted 0.6% in the second quarter of this year, and 0.2% in the first. On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund revised its prediction for Brazil’s 2014 GDP growth down to 0.3%, from the 1.3% growth it had estimated in June.

“In Brazil growth is very low. This puts the advance of social programs at risk,” said Ricardo Ismael, a political scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. Inflation is also running above government targets, at 6.62%.

Many voters, especially those in the upper classes, see Neves as a safe pair of hands. His Party for Brazilian Social Democracy ran Brazil from 1995-2002 under President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Cardoso had won a first-round vote in 1995 after the ‘Real Plan’ he coordinated as Finance Minister ended hyperinflation. His government stabilized the economy and introduced much-needed economic reforms. But the Left attacked the party’s privatizations of state companies and lack of focus on social policies.

On Monday, Rousseff resurrected that attack, alluding to “ghosts of the past” and noting that inflation had reached 12.5% in 2002. “They never put the poor in the budget. All the social policies were restricted, made for few people,” Rousseff said. Her party’s flagship income support program, the Bolsa Família, or ‘Family Purse,’ has lifted millions of Brazilians from poverty. The president has said in campaigning her opponents would end it.

Neves countered with a broadside over the stagnant economy and a corruption scandal which has linked payments to politicians from the Workers’ Party and other coalition parties to inflated contracts from state-controlled oil company, Petrobras. His program maintains the Bolsa Família.

“Brazilians are very worried with the monsters of the present,” Neves said in a speech Monday. “High inflation, recession and corruption.”

Rousseff was initially favorite to win this election. But when the Brazilian Socialist Party’s Eduardo Campos, a ‘third way’ candidate who was in third place in polls, was killed in a plane crash on Aug. 13, his running mate Marina Silva took his place, tripled his share, and was soon polling equal with Rousseff and ahead in a second round vote.

But Silva’s campaign faltered under a barrage of attacks from the Workers’ Party, and Neves was able to present himself as a stronger candidate for change, with a tough performance in the last two television debates. He rode a last minute wave of support to second place. Silva fell to third with 21.32% of the vote, only slightly more than she achieved in the 2010 election, when she also finished third. Brazilians also voted for governors, Congress and state assemblies.

“The electors that were anti-Workers’ Party became more sympathetic to Aécio,” said Ismael, using the candidate’s first name, as is commonplace in Brazil. “He managed to convince in this sense.”

Neves now has three weeks to prove his point. But in a sign of widening voter apathy, 39 million Brazilians either abstained, or voted for nobody – more than the 35 million that voted for Neves.

TIME Food & Drink

Coffee-Bean Prices Have Hit Their Highest Level in More Than Two Years

Devastating drought threatens Brazils coffee production
Coffee sales this season will be down after southeastern Brazil deals with one of the worst droughts in decades. Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Projections for continued drought in Brazil mean they'll likely rise again

Arabica-coffee prices reached their highest level in 2½ years on Monday, after projections for more dry weather in Brazil sowed worries about lackluster future harvests, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Arabica coffee ordered for delivery in December ended on Monday at $2.2080 a pound on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange — the highest price since February 2012, WSJ says. A commodities strategist betting on the futures market also told WSJ he expects coffee-trading prices to rise from here, to $2 to $3 a pound next year.

For cup-of-joe consumers, though, the effects will not be immediate. WSJ reports that Starbucks has already fixed prices with suppliers to meet its needs in 2015, though prices for 2016 are still in the works.

The recent coffee harvest in Brazil was the smallest in three years and follows Brazil’s worst drought in decades. Brazil is the world’s biggest exporter of coffee beans, though the largest importer to the U.S. market — where Americans spend about $40 billion a year on coffee — is Mexico, the U.S. National Coffee Association says.


TIME brazil

Brazil’s Tight Presidential Election Is Headed for a Runoff

First Round Presidential Elections Held In Brazil
Brazilians wait in line to enter a polling station in the Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro on the day of the presidential election on Oct. 5, 2014 Mario Tama—Getty Images

Leftist incumbent President Dilma Rousseff took the top spot in the first round but failed to get an overall majority

Brazil’s presidential election is headed for a runoff after incumbent President Dilma Rousseff took the top spot in the first-round on Sunday but failed to get the majority needed to win overall.

Rousseff, of the leftist Workers’ Party, won 41.4% of the vote in the tight race, riding the success of her social-welfare programs, the Guardian reports. She will duel with Aécio Neves, of Brazil’s pro-business Social Democratic party, who took 33.7% of the vote in a last-minute and unexpected surge.

The first round of the election closes an agonizing campaign season full of unexpected flips and flops, including one candidate’s death in a plane crash, another’s homophobic rant, and another candidate’s ties to a massive oil scandal.

The coming election — a squaring off between Brazil’s established left and the right — will be a disappointment to voters who had backed third candidate Marina Silva, a former Environment Minister who had at one point led the polls.

Rousseff is projected to win in the coming runoff, though Neves may further harness resentment toward the incumbent administration for continued sluggish economic growth, the New York Times reports. Silva may also choose to throw her weight behind Neves, the Guardian adds.

TIME brazil

Marina Silva Speaks to TIME as Brazil’s Presidential Race Enters the Homestretch

Brazilian Socialist Party presidential candidate Marina Silva attends a Mass for late presidential candidate Eduardo Campos at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 19, 2014.
Brazilian Socialist Party presidential candidate Marina Silva attends a Mass for late presidential candidate Eduardo Campos at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Brasilia, Brazil on Aug. 19, 2014. Eraldo Peres—AP

Thrown into the contest after the sudden death of Eduardo Campos, Silva has shaken up a race that until recently looked like a walkover for President Dilma Rousseff

Marina Silva was the running mate of the Brazilian Socialist Party’s presidential candidate Eduardo Campos when he died in a plane crash on Aug. 13, less than two months before elections on Oct. 5. His sudden death and her subsequent entry into the race changed the dynamic of the election. Silva tripled Campos’ share in the polls, and quickly surged ahead of the incumbent, the Workers’ Party’s Dilma Rousseff, though, with two days to go until the vote, Rousseff has now edged back ahead. As the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2010, Silva, who grew up in poverty in the Amazon rainforest, took 19% of the vote. This year, Silva could force a second round run-off with Rousseff. A former Brazilian environment minister credited with helping slow deforestation in the Amazon, Silva spoke to TIME about her proposals for the weak Brazilian economy, her thoughts on Brazil’s relationship with the U.S., and her upbringing deep in the Amazon rainforest.

On what she would do to put Brazil back to the path to growth after it tumbled into recession this year:

“The most important thing now is to elect a government that can give a clear signal that it will establish the fundamentals of our economy, maintaining the autonomy of the central bank, securing this autonomy, and passing a strong signal that we are going to control inflation, that we are going to reduce interest rates, and this would certainly resume our investment capacity. Resuming our investment capacity, we are going to return to growth.”

On where Brazil went wrong:

“While various countries in the world during the crisis that began in 2008 were doing their homework to gain musculature and go back to growth, Brazil under the current government underestimated the crisis. And in underestimating the crisis, did not do what it needed to do. And now when all of them start to recuperate from the crisis, Brazil is suffering the consequences.”

On Brazil’s relationship with the U.S.:

“The United States is an important country from the economic point of view, from the cultural point of view, ecological, and it is desirable that this partnership should be increasingly deepened, safeguarding the interests of both parts.”

On the 2013 allegations that the National Security Agency eavesdropped on Brazil’s President Rousseff and state-controlled oil company Petrobras:

“This created great discomfort in our diplomatic relations but we have to work so that this mistake can be repaired. Obviously for it to be repaired there needs to be a gesture from the country that committed the invasion of spying. And we have the opening for this episode to be overcome in the best possible way and we will always defend our sovereignty with vigor, the protection of our interests, but we don’t think this should deepen the crisis, the separation. Very much on the contrary, we want space for cooperation.”

On whether she would have cancelled a state visit to Washington as a result of the scandal, as President Rousseff did:

“Any government that feels invaded has to have a strong gesture. You can’t suffer an invasion of the protection of our security in terms of information without a strong reaction. I don’t imagine that if the United States had been spied on, that it wouldn’t have had a strong reaction.”

On the mass street protests that swept Brazil in 2013:

“What society was demonstrating was that in Brazil, in the world, there is a big change underway. A new political animal is emerging. This new political animal no longer moves in the way it used to, directed by the parties, by the unions, by the NGOs, or by charismatic leaders. This new political animal, that is mobilizing in the whole world, in the United States, in Europe, in Asia, in Brazil, is the fruit of the technological changes that happened, which provided communication from person to person, as in the case of the internet. They are authors, they are mobilizers, they are protagonists, they are people who do not want to be political spectators, they want to take on a political role, live, experience.”

On growing up in a family of rubber tappers in the Amazon forest:

“It was a very significant life, with many difficulties, but at the same time, with a lot freedom, with a lot of creativity, with a lot of learning, a lot of affection. I was a very stimulated child. We were eight siblings. Seven women with me and a man—except that my brother was one of the youngest. From the age of four, for five years, I was raised with my grandmother, in a house in the middle of the forest, a wooden shack on stilts, that was some 15 minutes from my father’s shack.”

On what she learned from her childhood:

“When I left the forest at 16, I was illiterate in modern literacy, but I was already a PhD in native stories. I learnt a lot with my grandmother who was a traditional midwife. I learnt a lot with my shaman uncle. I learnt a lot with my father. I learnt a lot with the forest. This was my universe.”

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