The week's news from Brazil
GDP Growth - Brazil's GDP (PIB) emerged from a short recession in the third quarter, but its growth by only 0.4% was not as strong as was anticipated. Growth in the industrial sector was weighed down by a 6.7% quarter-on-quarter reduction in the agricultural sector, which is mainly the result of lower receipts in the aftermath of Brazil's record soybean harvest. Year-on-year shrinkage was strongest in the commerce and civil construction sectors, while growth was reported principally in the mining and extraction sector. For 2003 to-date, Brazil's GDP has shrunk by 0.3%.
Reforma de Previdencia - as I noted last week, Brazil's Senate approved the first reading of a proposed constitutional amendment to reform Brazil's civil servant pension scheme. This is seen as the last major hurdle in the process of reforming the unwieldy and overgenerous scheme, and should mark the end of a year of vocal protest and political dealing on the matter.
Unrest in Rio - a round-up of informal vendors on the streets of Rio turned violent and resulted in the destruction of a police vehicle and injuries to policemen and protesters. The fiscaliza├з├гo pickup was set alight under a street time-and-temperature post, resulting in a wonderful photograph of Rio at 130C which, regrettably, I haven't found on-line.
Dengue - Saturday was Brazil's national "D-Day" against dengue fever. Nationally Brazil's efforts to combat dengue have been pretty effective. In the past year, the number of cases has been reduced by 61.9%, from 768,000 to 292,000 cases. However, the results have not been as consistent as the government would like - against this national reduction in cases, some states have seen the number of cases increase by nearly 100%. The government's annual D-day campaign of action and education encourages people to find and eliminate areas where fresh water can lie stagnant, as well as how to recognise the symptoms of the illness early and where to go for treatment. A friend joked that Brazil's politicians are partly to blame for the high instance of dengue in Leblon, one of Rio's poshest neighbourhoods - they close up their penthouses and go to Brasilia for the legislative season, leaving the rain to gather on the rooftops and empty swimming pools. This sounds kind of funny, but I can see exactly this happening from my own windows.
Murder Mystery - A senior American executive of the Shell oil company, Zera Todd Staheli, was murdered in his home in Rio on Sunday. His wife was severely injured in the attack and is fighting for her life in hospital. The case is unusual as the couple lived in a condominio fechado with modern security provisions, and their four children heard nothing of the attack. The couple were beaten in their beds while their 3-year-old child slept in the same room. Nothing was stolen from the house, and video cameras in the condo showed nothing amiss. Police are speculating that it was either an inside job, with someone having intimate knowledge of their household, or that the murder was somehow related to Staheli's work, which was on bringing a gas pipeline from Bolivia to Brasil. The family has been in Brazil for only 3-1/2 months.
Brasil e azul! - Cruzeiro completed their conquest of the Brasileirao, winning the national championship for the first time and claiming the "triple crown" of state championship, Brazil Cup and national championship. Santos, last year's champion, ensured themselves the runner-up position this weekend. The race for the bottom got tighter still, with Gremio and Bahia winning and Ponte Preta losing to claim the lanterna position. All three sides have the same number of points, but Ponte Preta is in the cellar on goal difference and, given the remaining schedule, is an odds-on favourite for relegation.
Volei - Away from the football pitch, Brazil's national volleyball side won the sport's World Cup, the only major title the team had not yet won. They lost only 3 sets and no matches in their 11-game stand at the world championships in Japan. The win also guaranteed Brazil a spot in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.