TIME brazil

These 5 Facts Explain Brazil’s Crippling Scandals

Brazil Dilma Rousseff
Giuseppe Lami—AP Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff speaks during a joint press conference with Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, at Chigi's Premier Palace in Rome on July 10, 2015.

From a tanking economy to rampant corruption scandals, the 'B' in BRICS is in trouble

There are a series of scandals growing in Brazil, Latin America’s biggest country and one of the world’s most important emerging markets. The fallout could bring down a president who was reelected less than a year ago. Here are the 5 facts that tell the story:

1. Brazil’s Economy

Scandals are most damaging when an economy is slowing down. Brazil had a $2.35 trillion economy in 2014, the seventh-largest in the world. But 2015 has gotten off to a rocky start; foreign investment is down from $39.3 billion in the first five months of 2014 to $25.5 billion this year. Overall investment in the country has fallen for seven straight quarters.

Even worse, Brazil’s currency, the real, has lost 20 percent of its value since January. This by itself isn’t a bad thing—a less valued currency should make its assets cheaper and more attractive to foreign investors. Instead, Brazil’s economy is expected to shrink 1.5 percent this year.

Political scandals, and the uncertainty they create, are helping to scare off investors. The most visible involves Petrobras, the state-controlled oil company. As the scandal has unfolded, Petrobras stock has fallen 60% over the past year, and the company has had to write off $2 billion in bribery-related costs, while grappling with low oil prices.

(World Bank, Economist, Google Finance, CNN Money)

2. Petrobras Investigation

Why is a corruption scandal involving one company causing such shockwaves? Because it implicates the country’s highest political officials. The scandal began in March 2014, when Petrobras’s chief of refining was caught in a money-laundering investigation. In a bid for leniency, he confessed that companies awarded contracts from his division had diverted 3 percent of each contract’s value into political slush funds. Most of the money went to members of the governing Workers’ Party or their coalition allies. Initial estimates value the bribes at nearly $4 billion. Over two dozen executives from Brazil’s largest construction companies have already been arrested, and more than 50 politicians are now under investigation.

(Economist, WSJ)

3. Dilma Rousseff

This scandal could reach to the political mountaintop, because current Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff served as energy minister and chairwoman of Petrobras during the years of alleged corruption. There is still no evidence that Rousseff had knowledge of wrongdoing. But given the number of politicians from her Workers’ Party implicated in the scandal, a growing number of people say she is at least guilty of unpardonable negligence. Political opponents are calling for her impeachment, and the public’s suspicion is reflected in her poll numbers. In June 2012, Rousseff enjoyed a 59 percent favorability rating; in March 2014, around the time the scandal broke, her numbers had fallen to 36 percent. Her favorability rating has now plummeted to just 15 percent, according to Brazilian pollster CNT-MDA. Nearly 63 percent of Brazilians favor impeachment. On March 15, 1 million demonstrators gathered to protest Rousseff and the corruption of her government and the worst is probably yet to come.

(Financial Times, Bloomberg (a), Bloomberg (b), Reuters (a), Reuters (b))

4. Lula

Why? Because her mentor and political patron, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is now being investigated for influence-peddling on behalf of Brazil’s construction giant Oderbrecht. Oderbrecht’s CEO was arrested last month on charges that he paid Petrobras nearly $155 million in bribes. When Lula left office, he held an approval rating of 90 percent, and Rousseff, his chosen successor, rode his coattails to the presidency. Rousseff should be worried; if Lula is indicted, he may blame Rousseff’s government, withdrawing his support for her. If so, Rousseff defenders within the ruling party may finally turn their backs on her.

Lula isn’t the only former president being investigated over Petrobras. Fernando Collor de Mello, Brazil’s president in the early 1990s, had over $1 million is cash and vehicles seized last week while investigators determine his role in Petrobras bribes.

(Wall Street Journal, Guardian, New York Times)

5. CARF and other scandals

Petrobras has dominated international headlines, but it’s not the only corruption scandal threatening the government. The latest involves the Administrative Council of Fiscal Resources (CARF), a division of the finance ministry. It’s alleged that some of its members, tasked with resolving tax disputes filed by corporations, ruled in favor of firms in exchange for 1 to 10 percent of the saved revenue. Over the last 10 years, the government is believed to have lost tax revenue of much as $5.8 billion. That’s nearly 50 percent more than the bribery figures associated with the Petrobras case. But because this case involves mid-level bureaucrats instead of top government officials, it receives far less attention from international media.

By the way, don’t forget Brazil hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics. Brazil has budgeted $8 billion for the Rio de Janeiro games—but Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes has bragged publicly that 57% of the financing will come from private sources instead of taxpayer pockets. Given Brazil’s current political climate, this news will raise eyebrows and new questions.

(Economist, Guardian)

 

TIME India

India’s Leader Wants His Country to Play Brazil at Soccer

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Getty Images

This should be interesting

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants the Indian soccer team—currently sitting at 156th spot in the global rankings—to play soccer powerhouse and five-time World Cup winners Brazil, currently ranked 6th.

He also wants India to meet the other nations comprising the BRICS bloc of emerging economies on the soccer field.

“India could host a football event next year,” Modi said at the ongoing BRICS summit in Ufa, Russia, on Thursday, according to the Times of India.

Whatever Modi’s intentions behind suggesting the event and volunteering to organize it, demonstrating India’s sporting prowess cannot be one of them. India recently lost to 174th-ranked Guam — a Pacific island nation of less than 200,000 people — in a recent World Cup qualifying match.

Among the other BRICS nations, 2018 World Cup hosts Russia are 28th, and South Africa (which hosted the 2010 World Cup) is at 70 followed by China at 77.

It remains to be seen whether Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff or her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will offer to host a cricket tournament to balance things out, but until then India should probably start practicing.

TIME health

Brazil Tries to Cut High Rate of C-Section Births

Over 8 in 10 births in private hospital are currently cesarean deliveries

It’s not a well-known fact, but Brazil is the C-section capital of the world: 85% of all deliveries in the country’s private hospitals are done by cesarean section, and 45% of births in public hospitals.

Now, Brazil is attempting to reverse the trend with rules introduced Tuesday that require doctors to inform expectant mothers of the risks that accompany having a C-section. A woman who chooses a C-section must sign a consent form prior to the procedure. Her doctor must also sign a form justifying the C-section.

The law is aimed at reducing the number of unnecessary C-sections that have been criticized for their negative health consequences; many wealthier women opt for cesarean births for their speed and predictability.

But the issue driving the rate of C-sections in Brazilian maternity wards may in fact be a low bed count. The scarcity of beds, combined with hospitals ill-equipped to deal with natural births that can be unpredictable, is likely to keep the method of delivery popular.

“The best way to guarantee yourself a bed in a good hospital is to book a cesarean,” Pedro Octavio de Britto Pereira, an obstetrician and professor with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, told the BBC last year.

[BBC]

TIME faith

‘Facebook for Christians’ Takes Off in Brazil

Faceglória owners say 100,000 have signed up for site that bans content offensive to Christians

A Facebook alternative for the devout launched by evangelical Christians in Brazil has amassed 100,000 users in one month, its founders say.

“On Facebook there is a lot of violence and pornography, so thought we’d found a network where we could talk about God, love, and share your word,” Faceglória web designer Atilla Barros told AFP. Barros and three other co-founders got the idea for the site, which features an “Amen” button instead of a “like” button, three years ago.

Faceglória prohibits content that is profane, violent, erotic or features gay couples. More than 600 terms are banned from use on the site, and more than 20 volunteers at a time patrol the site for content that violates the rules.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of Brazilians identify as Catholic, making the country home to the world’s largest Catholic population. But Brazil’s evangelical Christian population has exploded in recent years, growing from 6% of the country in 1980 to 22% in 2010. At that rate, the faith may become the most popular in South America by 2040.

Barros says the company wants to reach 10 million users in two years and believes its upcoming mobile launch will help it meet that goal. “We want to be better morally and structurally that Facebook,” he says. “What we want is that the entire Brazilian evangelical public migrate to Faceglória.”

[AFP]

TIME brazil

Sao Paulo Bans Foie Gras in Restaurants

Brazil Foie Gras Ban
M. Spencer Green—AP In this Aug. 9, 2006 file photo, a serving of salt-cured fresh foie gras with herbs is displayed at Chef Didier Durand's Cyrano's Bistrot and Wine Bar in Chicago.

Restaurants that don't abide by the new law will be fined

The Brazilian city Sao Paulo officially banned the production and sale of foie gras in restaurants on Friday.

Foie gras is a delicacy that’s made from the fatty liver of force-fed ducks and geese. The legislation was passed out of concern over the suffering the making of foie gras causes the animals.

“Foie gras is an appetizer for the wealthy. It does not benefit human health and to make it, the birds are submitted to a lot of suffering,” City Councilman Laercio Benko said, according to the Associated Press.

While animal rights advocates are pleased with the decision, some chefs in the city are reportedly upset, arguing that people shouldn’t be told how to eat.

The law will go into effect in 45 days so restaurants have time to adapt. Those that break the law will be fined.

Other countries have banned the production of foie gras, BBC reports, such as Germany, Italy and Argentina. In many of these places, however, it is not illegal for it to be sold.

TIME celebrity

‘Human Ken Doll’ Dies After 5-Month Battle With Leukemia

The 'doll enthusiast' had begun his fame as 'human ken doll' after winning a modeling contest at age 16

Fé em Deus e vamo que vamo!🙏😀🍀

A photo posted by Ken humano brasileiro (@celsosantebanes) on

Brazilian-born Celso Santebañes, who earned the nickname of Human Ken Doll, has died after a five-month struggle with leukemia, according to Yahoo! Brasil.

Santebañes reportedly spent tens of thousands of dollars on surgery to alter his appearance, transforming himself into a real-life version of iconic doll Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken.

The 21-year-old died from bacterial pneumonia, brought on by his battle with the rare blood cancer. He died on Thursday at the Federal University of Uberlândia Clinical Hospital in Brazil, where he was undergoing his latest round of chemotherapy, according to the Latin Times.

Santebañes first discovered he had cancer after visiting the hospital to treat infections caused by hydrogen fillers that were previously injected into his legs, according to The Mirror.

The Brazilian began the surgical transition into the Mattel doll after winning a modeling contest at age 16. He had four operations on his nose, chin and jaw, in addition to getting silicone implants in his chest, reported The Mirror.

Santebañes, who changed his last name from Borges Pereira, reportedly charged up to $16,000 for VIP appearances, according to the news outlet.

The media personality called himself a “doll enthusiast” and even launched his own line of Celso dolls in Los Angeles before falling ill in January.

Santebañes initially shared the tragic news of his diagnosis on Instagram, posting an image from his hospital bed of an IV line.

“I’ve cried .. I see my world collapsed, I do not want anyone to pity me, just pray for me and respect me,” he wrote, loosely translated from Portuguese, in January.

According to the Latin Times, Santebañes became less concerned with his appearance in recent months; instead, he channeled his energy into his health.

“Today I start a new cycle of my life,” he said earlier this year. “I am starting chemotherapy and I admit I’m a little concerned about some side effects, like hair loss, nausea, my body’s rejection [of chemotherapy], among other things, but I am no longer concerned with the issue of aesthetics. For me that doesn’t matter. What matter is my health now, and I will fight for it.”

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME anthropology

Is It Ethical to Leave Uncontacted Tribes Alone?

Easy to get lost—hard to be found: the dense canopy of the Amazon rainforest
Brazil Photos; LightRocket via Getty Images Easy to get lost—hard to be found: the dense canopy of the Amazon rainforest

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Contact means dangers for both sides‚ but lack of contact does too

It’s not entirely fair to say that a single hug killed 4,500 people, but it’s not entirely wrong either. The hug happened in August of 1910, when an effort by a Brazilian military engineer to lure members of the isolated Nambikwara tribe out of the Amazon bush at last produced results. The engineer had spent the previous 14 months stocking a so-called attraction front—a small outpost that included a fruit and vegetable garden and tools that the Nambikwara were welcome to take.

Finally, the chief of the tribe and six companions showed themselves. The man from the outside world embraced the man from the forest world, and somewhere in that moment, pathogens were surely passed. Three generations later, the tribe that had initially numbered about 5,000 was down to just 550 people—many of them killed by influenza, whooping cough and even the simple cold, diseases they had never encountered and against which they had no immunity.

The death of the Nambikwara has long been a cautionary tale about how best to address the matter of indigenous and isolated tribes, but it’s a tale from which anthropologists, national governments and the medical community have not always taken the same lessons. That’s a problem.

Even as forestland is shaved away by loggers and developers, and as cities and settlements encroach on the wild, an estimated 8,000 indigenous people in multiple small bands make their homes in the Peruvian Amazon. Similarly isolated groups live in the Brazilian Amazon, the mountains of New Guinea and on the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean.

All of those tribes have long raised the same questions: Is it ethical to mess with civilizations that have gotten on fine without help for thousands of years? Is it ethical not to intervene when 21st century medicine could treat diseases and injuries that are an unavoidable part of living in the wild? Is there more cultural condescension in offering modernity to primitive peoples or in withholding it because, well, they’re so primitive?

Part of what’s given the matter greater urgency, as laid out in a striking pair of stories in the journal Science by contributing correspondents Andrew Lawler and Heather Pringle, is the recent, curious behavior of the tribes-people themselves. Increasingly, they’ve been emerging from the Amazon and either raiding settled villages or—for reasons that aren’t clear—simply vandalizing them. Last October, when villagers living along the banks of Peru’s Curanja River left their homes to vote in regional elections, they returned to find food, pots, pans, utensils, hammocks and more stolen. The villagers were tolerant—even understanding.

“Some of them are only a couple generations removed from the forest themselves,” says Lawler, who journeyed extensively down the Curanja for his research. “They consider the tribes their first cousins and call their behavior ‘harvesting,’ not stealing.”

But other behavior is harder for them to abide. In 2013, armed members of the Mashco Piro tribe raided another village, this time mostly to smash windows, kill dogs and chickens and destroy clothes. Other tribespeople have been reported attempting to lure village people into the forest with them. “Perhaps they’re trying to increase their numbers,” says Lawler. “They need a certain number of people to be viable.”

Fear is driving some of them out as well—though in these cases they present themselves openly and seek help. Drug runners throughout Peru and Brazil think nothing of killing tribal people who get in their way, and the smaller the forest footprint gets, the more the two groups bump into each other. But leaving the forest can be as deadly as staying there.

Indigenous contact with Europeans began in 1492 and has, over the centuries, taken a massive toll, with up to 100 million deaths resulting from imported diseases. That lesson had to be learned again in the 1980s and 1990s, when official government policy was to lure the tribes out, to, as Lawler puts it, “get them to settle down and become good, contemporary people.” But infections and deaths again resulted.

The broadly accepted solution—a sensible one—is to make some modern goods available at attraction fronts, but only very limited ones. Pots, pans and tools can be both harmless and helpful. Flashlights, on the other hand, which can be awfully convenient in the wild, also contain toxins in their batteries and are broadly disruptive for cultures that have long since developed ways to deal with day-night cycles.

Goods that go from body to body should be entirely off-limits. Lawler spoke to Peruvian villager Marcel Pinedo Cecilio, 69, who was born in the forest but later emerged. Cecilio recalls his first contact with an outsider—thought to have been an ethnographer and photographer—who left the villagers with a gift of a fishbone necklace. Shortly thereafter, much of the tribe came down with a sore throat and fever and 200 of them died. In the 1980s, up to 400 Peruvian villagers died from passing contact with crews of Shell oil company workers.

Routine care of illnesses and treatment of injuries could be a boon, though for safety’s sake they would best be delivered by select groups of well-vaccinated field workers staffing small care stations. The workers could also offer vaccines against the most common illnesses that strike the tribes—typically respiratory diseases—to protect them against chance encounters in the future. Tribes are also unusually susceptible to eye infections.

But the sensible solutions are not easy to implement. This year, funding for FUNAI, the Brazilian federal agency that is responsible for indigenous peoples, was only 2.77 reais ($1.15 million), which was just 15% of what the agency requested, according to Pringle. Last year, FUNAI reported that it need 30 frontier outposts to do its work, but it was able to support just 15.

Official obtuseness is another part of the problem. In 2007, then-Peruvian President Alan García denied that uncontacted tribes-people exist at all, claiming that they are a fabrication of environmentalists bent on halting oil and gas exploration, reports Lawler. The head of the state-owned oil company echoed García, declaring it “absurd to say there are uncontacted people.” His argument: no one has seen them—which is pretty much what “uncontacted” is supposed to mean.

Nobody pretends there are easy ethical, medical or cultural answers to the problems, but nobody pretends things can go on the way they have either. When a population has crashed from many millions to several thousand, it’s clear which way the trend lines are pointing. The disappearance of uncontacted tribes may mean that policymakers can at last stop worrying about them—but it will also mean that the rest of humanity will have to begin mourning them.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME beauty

This Is the Country Where People Are The Happiest With the Way They Look

beauty happiness woman mexico
Getty Images

Mexicans, you're beautiful and you know it

Of all the peoples of the world, Mexicans are the happiest with their appearance.

Some 74% of Mexicans say they are “completely satisfied” or “fairly satisfied”with their appearance, according to a massive study by market research group GfK, which asked more than 27,000 people, aged 15 or over, in 22 countries around the world what they thought of themselves.

Turkey (71%) came in second, with Ukraine and Brazil in joint third place (both 65%). Also scoring highly are Spain (64%) and Germany and Argentina (both 62%), and the U.S. (60%).

But GfK’s wide-reaching survey also found out that many nationalities aren’t happy with their looks at all. The Japanese are the most unhappy, with 38% of Japanese people saying they are “not at all satisfied” or “not too satisfied,” followed by around 20% of British, Russians and South Koreans.

Perhaps breaking a few stereotypes, GfK found that teenagers are only marginally more self-critical than adults, with 16% of 15-19 year-olds being “not too satisfied” with their looks, compared to 13% for 20-59 year olds. Similarly, women were found to be only marginally more critical about themselves than men.

TIME indonesia

Indonesian Media Says 8 Foreign Drug Smugglers Executed

PHILIPPINES-INDONESIA-CRIME-DRUGS-EXECUTION
Ted Aljibe—AFP/Getty Images Activists hold candles and placards with portraits of Mary Jane Veloso in front of the Indonesian embassy in Manila, Philippines on April 28, 2015.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo rejected clemency appeals

Eight drug convicts, all foreigners, were reportedly executed by firing squad in Indonesia on Wednesday, after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo rejected pleas from foreign governments and thousands of his own citizens to halt the executions.

The inmates, four Nigerians, two Australians, one Brazilian and one Indonesian, were killed on the Nusakambangan prison island early Wednesday, the Jakarta Post reports. But another condemned prisoner, Filipina domestic helper Mary Jane Veloso, was spared at least temporarily after new evidence came to light confirming her claim she was tricked into smuggling drugs.

The executed inmates included Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Australians who were part of the Bali Nine drug-smuggling group. Their former lawyer, Mohammad Irfan, has alleged to the Sydney Morning Herald that judges asked for more than $77,000 in bribes to give the pair a lighter sentence, and he also accuses Jakarta of political interference — once again putting a spotlight on Indonesia’s judicial system, which is largely seen as corrupt.

A Frenchman, Serge Atlaoui, was earlier given a temporary reprieve pending a legal appeal, which was granted after French President François Hollande warned: “If he is executed, there will be consequences with France and Europe.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Nobel Peace Prize laureate (and former East Timorese President) José Ramos-Horta, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, British tycoon and adventurer Richard Branson and iconic hard-rock guitarist Tony Iommi were among the chorus of foreign leaders, fellow celebrities, local and overseas activists and ordinary people asking that the convicts’ lives be spared.

Families of the condemned came to Nusakambangan to spend the last hours with their loved ones, as police and military stepped up security there and in Cilacap. Chan, who was ordained as minister in the decade he spent at a Bali prison, asked to go to church with his family during his last days, said his brother Michael. As his last wish, Sukumaran, who began painting while incarcerated in Bali, has asked “to paint as long and as much as possible,” his brother Chinthu said. One of his latest self-portraits shown to journalists depicts a harrowing image of the artist shot through the heart.

Read next: Inside Indonesia’s Islamic Boarding School for Transgender People

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