Brazil’s presidential election is heading for its second-round run-off on Sunday looking like the closest in a generation. As each side struggles for a breakthrough, the rhetoric is getting shrill.

Last week, it was the turn of Aécio Neves, the candidate of the pro-business opposition PSDB party, to exceed the limits of good taste. Angry over the negative campaign being run against him by his rival, the incumbent president Dilma Rousseff, he compared her rhetoric to the work of Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s minister of propaganda. Continue reading »

What went wrong? With the close of the first round of voting in Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday, the two candidates going into the second round, incumbent president Dilma Rousseff of the Worker’s party (PT) and Aécio Neves of the more market-friendly PSDB must now explain their poor performances in their home territories.

Dilma Rousseff, who started her political life in Porto Alegre, the capital of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, saw Neves win there with 39.5 per cent of the vote to her 37.6 per cent. Meanwhile Neves, who was governor of the mining state of Minas Gerais from 2003 to 2010, lost there to Dilma, by 43.8 per cent to 39.8 per cent of the vote. Continue reading »

After the excruciating manner with which the seleção, Brazil’s national team, was ejected from the World Cup this week, the mood in the country has changed.

As the final looms on Sunday, Brazilians are beginning to reflect on the lessons from the event, with plenty of food for thought. One of the less savoury messages is what the event has told us about the distorted image of Brazil abroad in terms of women and sex. Continue reading »

In the months leading up to the World Cup, Brazilians became accustomed to muttering “imagina na Copa” or “imagine this happening during the World Cup” in response to every type of annoyance, irritation or problem facing the country, such as bad transportation, crime etc. The idea expressed their horror at how foreigners visiting the country for the World Cup would cope when confronted with the same issues.

In a country which generally loves foreign visitors but in many of whose cities “gringos” – as they are called – are normally not a particularly common sight, this apprehension grew out of proportion. “Imagine”, for example, how the gringos would react when reading a menu and coming across the phrase “against the Brazilian beef”, a literal translation of the Portuguese name of a certain cut of steak, contra filé brasileiro. Continue reading »

Ten days after the start of the World Cup, there is no doubt about where Brazilians’ loyalties lie. On days when the seleção – the national team – is playing, São Paulo comes alive with people wearing yellow and green jerseys and the streets are filled with the deafening blasts of gas-powered horns typically used by football supporters.

After Brazilians staged massive protests last year during the Confederations Cup, the dress rehearsal for the World Cup, the country had put on hold any excitement over the main event. Demonstrations this year against government spending on the World Cup, allegedly at the expense of social services, turned ever more violent and many began to question whether Brazil was still the country of soccer. Continue reading »

Brazilians’ love-hate affair over hosting the World Cup on home soil is becoming clearer as the event approaches. This week, in sharp contrast to recent protests against the Cup, there were disturbances from those anxious to enjoy the tournament.

At midnight on Wednesday, Fifa put up for sale a final batch of 180,000 tickets for all matches, including the opening and the final. Seven hours later, all of Brazil’s games in the first round and all games in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo throughout the tournament had been sold out – entirely on the internet. Continue reading »

When in 2007, Fifa president Sepp Blatter awarded Brazil the right to host the 2014 World Cup, Brazilians celebrated like they had won the final already.

So why is that – with only 14 days to go before the kick-off at São Paulo’s Itaquerão stadium – people do not seem more animated? Brazilians seem to be moving slower than in the past with their normally effusive efforts to decorate everything in yellow and green, the colours of Brazil’s Seleção, the national teamContinue reading »

Brazil’s rocky relationship with Fifa, football’s world governing body, has reached a new low. In some of his most incendiary comments yet, Fifa president Sepp Blatter (pictured) has suggested that if Brazilians really want to change their country, they should work harder.

His comments came as protesters took to the streets again in Brazil’s major cities, looting and setting fires in anger at what many see as an unacceptable contrast between the new stadiums built for the World Cut, which begins next month, and the poor quality of Brazil’s public services. Continue reading »

NETMundial, the global talking shop held this week in São Paulo on the future of the internet, finished its second and final day on Thursday with not much more to show for itself than a pledge to keep talking.

During the opening ceremony on Wednesday, former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden provided the main focus with his allegations that his country engaged in widespread espionage using the internet, even looking in on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s private communications. Continue reading »

You cannot stay one day in Brazil without hearing someone complain about high taxes and poor public services. According to this narrative, the prices of everything from cars to beauty products are inflated by opaque taxes even as the nation struggles with sub-standard hospitals, inadequate public transport and other services.

Now a study from a consulting company, Brazilian Institute of Planning and Taxation (IBPT), seems to bear out the common perception about Brazil’s tax burden. It ranked Brazil last in a list of the 30 countries judged by taxation versus quality of services. Continue reading »

President Dilma Rousseff is not known for her fondness of foreign policy. But last year, the US gave her the inspiration she needed to embark on an international crusade when it was revealed that Washington was spying on her phone calls. Furious at this affront, the Brazilian leader called on the United Nations annual general assembly to push for better governance of the internet.

Next week, her ambition of creating an international civil code governing the use of the web will come a step closer to fruition as the world meets in São Paulo to discuss the issue at NETmundial – the “Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance”. Continue reading »

Few things appeal to Brazilians more than the combination of a cold beer and a barbecue while watching a soccer game. If the match happens to be part of a World Cup, especially one being hosted in Brazil, then that’s just another excuse to drink more beer.

The recipe for a good festa in Brazil this year seemed almost infallible – that is, until this week, when the government intervened with some terrible news: it plans to increase taxes on beer and some juices, as well as sports and energy drinks. Continue reading »

Back in January, at what I had hoped was the height of São Paulo’s unusually intense summer heatwave this year, I went out to buy an electric fan. My first four stores had sold out. The fifth was down to its last item. Later, reading the newspapers, it became apparent that this was happening across South America’s largest metropolis.

The heat is one thing. More worrying is that this year it has not been accompanied by the usual late afternoon thunder storms. The result is a water shortage so severe that São Paulo’s main reservoir, the Cantareira System, is full to just 15 per cent of its capacity, its lowest level since records beganContinue reading »

“But you are Brazilian!” – after I rejected a sexual advance.

That’s what it says on the card above, one of several used in a campaign to report discrimination suffered by Brazilian students at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. Continue reading »

In recent weeks, social media in Brazil has been abuzz with talk of the rise of a new breed of vigilantes or justiceiros in society.

With the World Cup later this year, and the summer Olympics in Rio in 2016, overseas visitors will naturally be concerned with their safety. However, the sort of treatment being meted out by citizens rather than officials may do more harm than good for Brazil’s image. Continue reading »