In Rio, Cocaine with the Olympic Seal of Excellence

Cocaine with the Olympic logo Rio Olympic Games scheduled to be opened in just a few days time is facing all sorts of last minute challenges, mainly because of lack of proper planning and shortcomings.

All of this, however, has not impeded the so called “marvelous” city, known for its sculptural girls, beautiful beaches and easy going mood as well as crime, drugs and favelas, to adapt inventiveness to the festivity spirit.

In effect the Rio police in anti crime raids has come across cocaine and crack transparent envelopes, neatly presented, and with a tag adorned with the Olympics logo and a warning “Use it away from children”.

According to the police report the envelopes were seized in the Lapa neighborhood, a tourist area full of restaurants, bars and night spots.

“We seized 93 cocaine and 28 crack envelopes, with the colored Olympic rings and several .40 caliber bullets,” said the official police report.

Cocaine with the Olympic logo

The neat envelopes had a warning “Use it away from the children” and “Keep it way from children” and what seemed like a registered brand “5 Bocas” (Five mouths).

Some of the envelopes had the word ‘Cocaine’ printed in the Coca Cola font.

Glanders Scare

Brazil’s summer Olympics has added another challenge to the long list of complaints and disease-scares, such as Zika, but this time the culprits are not mosquitoes but an alleged outbreak of glanders disease, a deadly equine respiratory condition.

And this has surfaced when the world’s top riders and their mounts prepare to compete in Rio de Janeiro events.

Highly contagious and incurable, glanders has prompted Brazilian agricultural officials to destroy hundreds of horses across the country over the past couple of years in an effort to stop the epidemic. That has infuriated some Brazilian breeders who say the threat is overblown.

Among those euthanized were two horses that had been housed at western Rio’s Deodoro Military Complex, where the Olympic equestrian events will be held.

The disease has been eradicated around much of the world, and some feared exposing horses to glanders at the Olympics could exacerbate the outbreak and potentially extend it to other countries.

Organizers say the Olympic facilities are now safe and they have followed strict international protocols to create a disease-free zone. Competing horses arriving at Rio’s international airport will effectively enter a protective biosphere, screened extensively for diseases and parasites beforehand, whisked to the Olympic venue upon arrival and quarantined there for the duration.

The measures “totally ensure all of the necessary sanitary precautions, allowing for the participation and return of the animals to their country of origin,” said Guilherme Marques, the director of animal health at the Ministry of Agriculture.

No equestrian competitors have publicly pulled out of this year’s Olympics over glanders fears, a sign that riders are satisfied with Brazil’s efforts. Isabell Werth, a five-time Olympic dressage gold medalist from Germany, said she has “no worries” about coming to Rio.

“The horses will be staying in a bubble system with no contact with other animals apart from those competing with them,” she said, while Will Connell, director of sport for the US Equestrian Federation, pointed out American riders are “very aware of the seriousness” of the threat, but they, too, are confident that Brazil has taken all necessary precautions.

Even so, just the specter of competing in a country where a life-threatening horse disease is active can put teams on edge, said Peter Timoney, former head of the Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky. “There is a lot of concern among teams of equestrian riders about sending horses, highly valuable horses, to countries where glanders exists,” he said.

Caused by the burkholderia mallei bacteria, glanders can cause ulcers and lesions in the horse’s lungs, skin and respiratory tract. While donkeys and mules tend to die quickly, horses can carry the disease for years before succumbing to it. A zoonotic disease, it can also affect humans.

The disease has been largely eradicated in Europe and North America, thanks to strict sanitation. Until recently, glanders was thought to have been under control in Brazil, restricted to certain parts of the country’s rural northeast.

But in 2013, an outbreak began in the country’s most populous state, São Paulo, according to the World Organization for Animal Health. In 2015, glanders was traced to the Deodoro Military Complex in Rio. Two horses were euthanized, among the 623 horses put down between 2013 and 2015, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Lax sanitary controls between state borders allowed glanders to spread across Brazil, which has the third-largest equine population in the world.

National Force

National Security Force agents are to take one more responsibility during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games: frisking at sporting venues and the Olympic Village.

The announcement was made by Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes. He also reported that the company Artel Recursos Humanos, originally hired for the job, canceled the contract after claiming it lacked the funding to recruit personnel. Over 3,000 private agents were required.

For terminating the agreement with the government, the company will be fined “not just for this act of incompetence, but also for the irresponsibility of registering 3 thousand people and subsequently calling a mere 500, claiming they were facing financial difficulties,” the minister said.

Frisking and the monitoring of X-ray equipment will now be the duties of the military police officers, some of whom retired, who had been registered before and were called three weeks ago.

The quality of the services is now expected to be higher, the minister said.

“The Olympic Games will not face any drawbacks, as the replacement will be an improvement, with military agents to be incorporated into the National Force, in charge of the entirety of the security scheme of the Olympic venues, in a joint effort,” he added.

Mercopress/ABr

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It seems the future never arrives in Brazil What Lies Ahead in Brazil? Brazil Has No Exemplary Past or Present. But What Lies Ahead for the Country? Europeans, US, developed country, developing country. Bolsonaro, future B. Michael Rubin For years, experts have debated what separates a developing country from a developed one. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of a country is one simple way to measure its economic development. Another way to measure a country's progress is the extent of public education, e.g. how many citizens complete high school. A country's health may be measured by the effectiveness of its healthcare system, for example, life expectancy and infant mortality. With these measurement tools, it's easier to gauge the difference between a country like Brazil and one like the U.S. What's not easy to gauge is how these two countries developed so differently when they were both "discovered" at the same time. In 1492 and 1500 respectively, the U.S. and Brazil fell under the spell of white Europeans for the first time. While the British and Portuguese had the same modus operandi, namely, to exploit their discoveries for whatever they had to offer, not to mention extinguishing the native Americans already living there if they got in the way, the end result turned out significantly different in the U.S. than in Brazil. There are several theories on how/why the U.S. developed at a faster pace than Brazil. The theories originate via contrasting perspectives – from psychology to economics to geography. One of the most popular theories suggests the divergence between the two countries is linked to politics, i.e. the U.S. established a democratic government in 1776, while Brazil's democracy it could be said began only in earnest in the 1980s. This theory states that the Portuguese monarchy, as well as the 19th and 20th century oligarchies that followed it, had no motivation to invest in industrial development or education of the masses. Rather, Brazil was prized for its cheap and plentiful labor to mine the rich soil of its vast land. There is another theory based on collective psychology that says the first U.S. colonizers from England were workaholic Puritans, who avoided dancing and music in place of work and religious devotion. They labored six days a week then spent all of Sunday in church. Meanwhile, the white settlers in Brazil were unambitious criminals who had been freed from prison in Portugal in exchange for settling in Brazil. The Marxist interpretation of why Brazil lags behind the U.S. was best summarized by Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan writer, in 1970. Galeano said five hundred years ago the U.S. had the good fortune of bad fortune. What he meant was the natural riches of Brazil – gold, silver, and diamonds – made it ripe for exploitation by western Europe. Whereas in the U.S., lacking such riches, the thirteen colonies were economically insignificant to the British. Instead, U.S. industrialization had official encouragement from England, resulting in early diversification of its exports and rapid development of manufacturing. II Leaving this debate to the historians, let us turn our focus to the future. According to global projections by several economic strategists, what lies ahead for Brazil, the U.S., and the rest of the world is startling. Projections forecast that based on GDP growth, in 2050 the world's largest economy will be China, not the U.S. In third place will be India, and in fourth – Brazil. With the ascendency of three-fourths of the BRIC countries over the next decades, it will be important to reevaluate the terms developed and developing. In thirty years, it may no longer be necessary to accept the label characterized by Nelson Rodrigues's famous phrase "complexo de vira-lata," for Brazil's national inferiority complex. For Brazilians, this future scenario presents glistening hope. A country with stronger economic power would mean the government has greater wealth to expend on infrastructure, crime control, education, healthcare, etc. What many Brazilians are not cognizant of are the pitfalls of economic prosperity. While Brazilians today may be envious of their wealthier northern neighbors, there are some aspects of a developed country's profile that are not worth envying. For example, the U.S. today far exceeds Brazil in the number of suicides, prescription drug overdoses, and mass shootings. GDP growth and economic projections depend on multiple variables, chief among them the global economic situation and worldwide political stability. A war in the Middle East, for example, can affect oil production and have global ramifications. Political stability within a country is also essential to its economic health. Elected presidents play a crucial role in a country's progress, especially as presidents may differ radically in their worldview. The political paths of the U.S. and Brazil are parallel today. In both countries, we've seen a left-wing regime (Obama/PT) followed by a far-right populist one (Trump/Bolsonaro), surprising many outside observers, and in the U.S. contradicting every political pollster, all of whom predicted a Trump loss to Hillary Clinton in 2016. In Brazil, although Bolsonaro was elected by a clear majority, his triumph has created a powerful emotional polarization in the country similar to what is happening in the U.S. Families, friends, and colleagues have split in a love/hate relationship toward the current presidents in the U.S. and Brazil, leaving broken friendships and family ties. Both presidents face enormous challenges to keep their campaign promises. In Brazil, a sluggish economy just recovering from a recession shows no signs of robust GDP growth for at least the next two years. High unemployment continues to devastate the consumer confidence index in Brazil, and Bolsonaro is suffering under his campaign boasts that his Economy Minister, Paulo Guedes, has all the answers to fix Brazil's slump. Additionally, there is no end to the destruction caused by corruption in Brazil. Some experts believe corruption to be the main reason why Brazil has one of the world's largest wealth inequality gaps. Political corruption robs government coffers of desperately needed funds for education and infrastructure, in addition to creating an atmosphere that encourages everyday citizens to underreport income and engage in the shadow economy, thereby sidestepping tax collectors and regulators. "Why should I be honest about reporting my income when nobody else is? The politicians are only going to steal the tax money anyway," one Brazilian doctor told me. While Bolsonaro has promised a housecleaning of corrupt officials, this is a cry Brazilians have heard from every previous administration. In only the first half-year of his presidency, he has made several missteps, such as nominating one of his sons to be the new ambassador to the U.S., despite the congressman's lack of diplomatic credentials. A June poll found that 51 percent of Brazilians now lack confidence in Bolsonaro's leadership. Just this week, Brazil issued regulations that open a fast-track to deport foreigners who are dangerous or have violated the constitution. The rules published on July 26 by Justice Minister Sérgio Moro define a dangerous person as anyone associated with terrorism or organized crime, in addition to football fans with a violent history. Journalists noted that this new regulation had coincidental timing for an American journalist who has come under fire from Moro for publishing private communications of Moro's. Nevertheless, despite overselling his leadership skills, Bolsonaro has made some economic progress. With the help of congressional leader Rodrigo Maia, a bill is moving forward in congress for the restructuring of Brazil's generous pension system. Most Brazilians recognize the long-term value of such a change, which can save the government billions of dollars over the next decade. At merely the possibility of pension reform, outside investors have responded positively, and the São Paulo stock exchange has performed brilliantly, reaching an all-time high earlier this month. In efforts to boost the economy, Bolsonaro and Paulo Guedes have taken the short-term approach advocated by the Chicago school of economics championed by Milton Friedman, who claimed the key to boosting a slugging economy was to cut government spending. Unfortunately many economists, such as Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, disagree with this approach. They believe the most effective way to revive a slow economy is exactly the opposite, to spend more money not less. They say the government should be investing money in education and infrastructure projects, which can help put people back to work. Bolsonaro/Guedes have also talked about reducing business bureaucracy and revising the absurdly complex Brazilian tax system, which inhibits foreign and domestic business investment. It remains to be seen whether Bolsonaro has the political acumen to tackle this Godzilla-sized issue. Should Bolsonaro find a way to reform the tax system, the pension system, and curb the most egregious villains of political bribery and kickbacks – a tall order – his efforts could indeed show strong economic results in time for the next election in 2022. Meanwhile, some prominent leaders have already lost faith in Bolsonaro's efforts. The veteran of political/economic affairs, Joaquim Levy, has parted company with the president after being appointed head of the government's powerful development bank, BNDES. Levy and Bolsonaro butted heads over an appointment Levy made of a former employee of Lula's. When neither man refused to back down, Levy resigned his position at BNDES. Many observers believe Bolsonaro's biggest misstep has been his short-term approach to fixing the economy by loosening the laws protecting the Amazon rainforest. He and Guedes believe that by opening up more of the Amazon to logging, mining, and farming, we will see immediate economic stimulation. On July 28, the lead article of The New York Times detailed the vastly increased deforestation in the Amazon taking place under Bolsonaro's leadership. Environmental experts argue that the economic benefits of increased logging and mining in the Amazon are microscopic compared to the long-term damage to the environment. After pressure from European leaders at the recent G-20 meeting to do more to protect the world's largest rainforest, Bolsonaro echoed a patriotic response demanding that no one has the right to an opinion about the Amazon except Brazilians. In retaliation to worldwide criticism, Bolsonaro threatened to follow Trump's example and pull out of the Paris climate accord; however, Bolsonaro was persuaded by cooler heads to retract his threat. To prove who was in control of Brazil's Amazon region, he appointed a federal police officer with strong ties to agribusiness as head of FUNAI, the country's indigenous agency. In a further insult to the world's environmental leaders, not to mention common sense, Paulo Guedes held a news conference on July 25 in Manaus, the largest city in the rainforest, where he declared that since the Amazon forest is known for being the "lungs" of the world, Brazil should charge other countries for all the oxygen the forest produces. Bolsonaro/Guedes also have promised to finish paving BR-319, a controversial highway that cuts through the Amazon forest, linking Manaus to the state of Rondônia and the rest of the country. Inaugurated in 1976, BR-319 was abandoned by federal governments in the 1980s and again in the 1990s as far too costly and risky. Environmentalists believe the highway's completion will seal a death knoll on many indigenous populations by vastly facilitating the growth of the logging and mining industries. Several dozen heavily armed miners dressed in military fatigues invaded a Wajãpi village recently in the state of Amapá near the border of French Guiana and fatally stabbed one of the community's leaders. While Brazil's environmental protection policies are desperately lacking these days, not all the news here was bad. On the opening day of the 2019 Pan America Games in Lima, Peru, Brazilian Luisa Baptista, swam, biked, and ran her way to the gold medal in the women's triathlon. The silver medal went to Vittoria Lopes, another Brazilian. B. Michael Rubin is an American writer living in Brazil.

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