Forgotten sambas and voices of WWII

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Over at BBC Brasil, there’s a lengthy article (in PT) on the forgotten voices and sambas of Brazilian soldiers in WWII, including a 20-minute documentary (in PT, with PT subtitles) called Os Sons Esquecidos dos Praçinhas (praça means soldier, as well as plaza). Most of the documentary, however, relates to reporting the war rather than war-related sambas, although there are some old-school styled sambas here and there.

The recordings, made by Francis Hallawell, an Anglo-gaucho war correspondent from BBC Brasil, were recovered by the network to celebrate 80 years of content production for Brazil.

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Documentary shows the formation of Rio

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The documentary São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, from 2015, shows the rich 450-year history of the city of Rio de Janeiro and its profound changes, using archival footage, 3D simulations and testimonials. You can find some more info on the film here (PT).

I was able to finally see it after trying to find it for two years. The documentary is well-done, and a good watch (even if you’re already familiar with the history, like me). Check out the trailer below.

Rio Utopico – Suggestive places

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Rio Utópico is an exhibition that aims to make a spontaneous photographic mapping of communities in Rio de Janeiro whose names suggest a utopian situation. The exhibition will consist of a large map of the city, enlarged on the floor of the room, with groups of photographs of each locality gathered on the walls.

To mount the exhibition, artist Rosângela Rennó worked with young residents of these communities, who were guided to photograph and research the place where they live. The collaboration of the youth is the jumping off point for the exhibition, which will involve an open call for any visitor from the communities of Rio de Janeiro to send images to the exhibition.

The artist will receive the images during the period in which the show is in progress. They will then be selected, printed and added to the exhibition walls from time to time. The exhibition will show how people represent their own places, how they mobilize around the production of images and how the landscape of Rio de Janeiro is much more diverse than we are accustomed to seeing.

I auto-translated the section below showing the event info.

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Law of urban responsibility

Nothing guarantees that the population will see the results of promises made in the Constitution, in the laws, or in the Master Plans, to be able to live in a good city. I insist: there is no mechanism within the public administration that protects society from the inefficiency, segregation and diseconomy produced by badly planned and badly managed cities.

The emphasis on management is not for nothing. Even an ill-conceived neighborhood could have its environmental qualities increased if good public spaces were created and, of course, if they were well maintained.

Well-designed streets, places to socialize, urban afforestation, cleanliness, planning and conservation are underrated formulas for success.

They do not alleviate infrastructure shortages, but when they are not implemented, they corrode everyday life. They create empathy for degradation. “That’s the way it is” or “It’s illegal, so what?”

I heard this from Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, a landscape architect, responsible for the rehabilitation of Central Park in New York. Betsy Rogers transformed a den of crime and violence in the 1980s into one of the world’s most vibrant urban parks by simply doing what she defined with three key actions: cleanliness, beauty, and conservation.

Note that “security” was not listed. By qualifying the urban experience, making it inclusive, and always taken care of, there is an increase in good use.

William H. White, another American urban planner, innovator in the field of human behavior in public space, said: “The so-called ‘undesirable people’ are not the problem. It’s the measures taken to fight them, that’s the problem… The best way to deal with the problem of undesirables is to take action and make it attractive to everyone else.”

We verified this hypothesis when the iron bars at Tiradentes Square were removed, in downtown Rio. The place became alive. Fear had motivated the placement of the bars. Franchised and well cared for, it actually came together. However, it was not the simple removal of the bars that produced this effect, but a set of urban management actions that kept it clean, orderly, beautiful and preserved over time.

I insist on the smallest scale. In an urbanism that moves. In a new pedestrian authority. A less pretentious or revolutionary urbanism. More inclusive and loving spaces. This is no small matter. But how?

Despite the advances of the 1988 Constitution, the City Statute, from 2001, and now the newest Metropolis Statute, from 2015, life in Brazilian cities has not improved. Every 13 years or so, we made laws to say “what”, but never to say “how”.

I propose a Law of Urban Responsibility.

The Fiscal Responsibility Law, made in 2000, said how the government should manage public finances. It’s not perfect, but it has ensured social control and transparency with clear goals, making the administrator responsible. There is a clear understanding of the benefits of this way of taking care of the public good.

For another important collective good – the city – Master Plans are made, which, if not attended to, do not imply responsibility for administrators. Such plans err in failing to set goals. This function has been assigned to Strategic Plans.

Rio has been using this methodology since the Cesar Maia administration, when, in 1993, the “Rio Sempre Rio” plan was made. That’s where the vision for and pursuit of the Olympics came from. Then, in 2004, they made “As Cidades da Cidade”, where the “city” of Arts, Samba, and Children come from.

During the 2008 elections, candidates Fernando Gabeira and Eduardo Paes signed on with the Rio Como Vamos initiative for adopting goals.

Having been elected, Paes initially made a 2020 plan and set targets for the end of his first term. In 2013, the State created job titles within the city, known as Goal Management Analysts. And a new plan, with a view towards 2030, and targets for 2016. This methodology was added to the practice of agreements for result and bonuses, giving the city a glimpse of speedier management.

Just when it elaborated a strategic plan with a greater temporal scope, the Plano Rio 500 –  looking towards 2065, and with a greater participation process, and again creating goals for the next four years – the TRE-RJ made Paes and the candidate for his succession, Pedro Paulo, ineligible.

The Marcelo Crivella administration is continuing the methodology and the Strategic Plan.

A collective culture of participatory elaboration of goals in Rio is being consolidated.

But how can results be ensured?

This management model is recommended by the National Front of Mayors and even by international entities, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Based on the 2010 Census, the IBGE launched the unprecedented study “Intra-urban Typology: Spaces of Socioeconomic Differentiation in Urban Concentrations in Brazil”, which shows how acute territorial inequality is. Only 24% of the population in Brazilian urban concentrations live in conditions considered good.

The Constitution and the City Statute failed. There is no use for Plans that do not define goals. There is no point in participating if goals are not achieved.

The Brazilian population needs an Urban Responsibility Law that punishes administrators that don’t strive to make a good city for everyone. – Source (PT)

The Cult of Malandragem

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It doesn’t really seem like Rio de Janeiro is profiting from the cult of malandragem (being a trickster).

There is a part of Rio de Janeiro’s population that has always created for itself – and for the rest of Brazil that pays attention to what is being said there – an image of the city as a national and global center of malandragem. It would be a great virtue. This “spirit”, in its way of seeing things, makes Rio a city that’s superior to others. It makes its citizens more intelligent, more able to deal with life and more adept than other Brazilians in achieving the best for themselves. Imagine that these people are all up there in the hills, or in the “communities” (favelas), as one must say today. Many indeed are, but they are not the ones who are most representative, for their voice does not go far. Those that really carry this flag forward are a portion of the, more or less, middle classes of the Zona Sul, with the decisive participation of artists, intellectuals who sign manifestos, opinion-makers, influencers, communicators and so on. Today, they are the guardians of philosophy who say that to qualify as a “malandro” is one of the greatest gifts a human being can give to himself. While his worst misfortune, a source of shame and complete proof of stupidity, is to be the exact opposite of this – the sucker, condemned to spend his life in humiliation, attainment and “disadvantaged.” Be everything in Rio; but do not, for God’s sake, be an “otário” (sucker, idiot).

The hit song in Rio de Janeiro at the end of 2017 is “Vai, Malandra” (image above). Football commentators, starting with the most popular ones, once again bet that the “natural malandragem” of the Brazilian footballer will be an important strategic advantage at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The city and state politicians are proudly described as “malandros”. In the arts and in what is called a “cultural milieu” the figure of the malandro, and the philosophy that is built around his merits, are among the main themes of interest. The word “malandro”, in short, is a compliment. The word “otário” is an insult. Nothing improves, of course, the general idea that associates the sucker with someone honest, a keeper of one’s word, taxpayer, a follower of the rules of the road, well-bred, etc – all this, more and more, is seen as a weakness, as well as stupidity, a lack of “jogo de cintura” (artful dodging) and other serious crimes. A decent citizen, in this climate, is a defective citizen.

The attitude of the cult of the “malandragem” does not seem to be having good results in the practical life of Rio de Janeiro. Until the other day, three former state governors were in jail at the same time for corruption – one of them, who was not lucky enough to put a Gilmar Mendes in his pocket on the way there, is still in the slammer. No other state in Brazil, at any time in history, has achieved anything like this. The year 2017 is ending with more than 130 policemen murdered in Rio, an average of one killed every three days. Public officials have forgotten what it is to receive a monthly salary on time. It was necessary to borrow money to pay for their mandated Christmas bonus. One of Rio’s and Brazil’s biggest points of pride, Maracanã Stadium, remains closed after spending billions of dollars worth of investments to impress at the Pan American Games, then the 2014 World Cup and finally the 2016 Olympics, one event after of the other. Flamengo, the biggest team in Rio, trains in a place called “Vulture’s Nest”. None of this really has the appearance of being a great big trick. – Source (PT)

 

Casa do Jongo shut its doors

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Cultural producers and students protest in favor of the Casa do Jongo

The official home of Jongo in Rio de Janeiro – headquarters of the traditional cultural group Jongo da Serrinha, in Madureira, in the north of the capital – has closed. Casa do Jongo suspended activities last week due to a lack of funds.

In order to demand public policies for the safeguarding of its intangible heritage – declared a landmark by Iphan in 2005 – and the upkeep for its scheduled activities, visitors, students and supporters protested today (January 9th), in Cinelandia, in downtown Rio.

Inaugurated in 2015, Casa do Jongo is the result of the dedication by Jongo masters since the 20th century so that the dance doesn’t disappear. The cultural group was founded to expand the jongo groups and professionalize activities, hence the need to have a space of their own.

With the support of the city government that, in 2013, bought and renovated the property where the institution was operating til today, Casa do Jongo opened its doors. This is the last nucleus for the dance in the city, the inheritance of Mestre Darcy and Vovó Maria and the birthplace of the samba school Império Serrano.

Until last year, the venue served 400 students of all ages, with classes in percussion, singing, sports, cultural practices, as well as serving as a meeting point for neighborhood artists. Three thousand people visited there in 2017.

Financing

With the suspension of the bill approved by the administration of the previous mayor, Eduardo Paes – the main way the institution’s activities were financed – the problems started. The amount raised by companies through the tax incentive law is insufficient to maintain the space’s activities, whose monthly costs are US$12,400 for infrastructure and to pay 23 employees.

The director of the house, Dionne Boy, says she tried for one year to get support for a direct contribution from the City’s Culture Secretary, in the form of investment granted to other cultural institutions, such as the Deborah Colker dance company and the Museum of Tomorrow, however the results weren’t positive. The director questions the criteria for receiving investment and also demands contributions for projects that work with intangible heritage.

“We do not think we have to be supported only by the city hall, but what are the criteria [for direct transfers]? That is not clear, “Dyonne questioned. “We are fighting all the time to have a policy for the city’s intangible heritage. Groups that are 50 years old, 60 years old, like Filhos de Gandhi, Jongo da Serrinha, Trem do Samba, they are projects that are the very identity of the city of Rio and are being undermined, making culture with their own funds, but which in the crisis are the ones that suffer the most”, she said.

According to Dyonne, these groups have more difficulty attracting sponsorship compared to institutions in the media such as museums and dance groups. “We are inside a favela, serving, especially children, we should have priority,” she said.

Regarding the direct transfer of funds to the Casa do Jongo, the City Secretary of Culture, Nilcemar Nogueira, said that it was not possible because of the decrease in tax collection in the city. He informed that, through the fiscal incentive law, Casa do Jongo raised so far, $37,400 so far, to be paid this year. On the pay-outs to the Deborah Colker dance company, the secretary argues that the group is a reference in the country and internationally and develops social projects – with free presentations. He also says that, in the last year, support from the Secretary to the group was reduced from $624,200 to $124,800.

Another alternative to get resources offered to Casa do Jongo, according to Nilcemar, were the three open tender notices made by the secretariat last year. One of them allocated $156,000 for initiatives with an emphasis on African culture, distributed in amounts between $3,000 and $15,600.

The Casa do Jongo did not compete for the open tenders, according to director Dionne Boy, because the maximum amounts were low. “We do not have projects at these [lower] amounts. We have projects for one year, not one month. And we know, moreover, that such low amounts ​​hurt cultural activity”, she said.

According to her, since last year, even with fiscal stimulus funds, the Jongo supporters were paying for some activities. “We were banking this with money from our own pocket, these 23 teachers don’t get a paycheck, they are partners who give classes elsewhere and do volunteer work in the Serrinha. We, the coordinators, are seven people, and are like State employees (with parceled wages). This is a scandal for the city.”

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Afro-Brazilian culture

In the evaluation of the director and other cultural producers in the city, who launched a public letter in defense of Casa do Jongo during the protest, the city hall has left behind manifestations and cultural groups linked to black culture. “There is a component of persecution of cultures from the African matrix, of popular culture, without a doubt”, criticized the cultural administrator.

Secretary Nilcemar Nogueira denies that projects related to Afro-Brazilian culture are being relegated by the administration of Mayor Marcelo Crivella. However, he acknowledged that initiatives related to Afro-Brazilian memory or intangible heritage have more difficulties to maintain themselves, including those related to samba.

“Today we don’t value anything that comes from African matrix. This is a discussion to be had with the entire society. Because if the entire society understood its importance, this wouldn’t be happening to the Casa do Jongo, nor with samba, nor with the Folia de Reis. We still think in an isolated way,” he said. – Source (PT)

An Auditory History of Samba

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Below are two collections I came across detailing the history of samba and other popular songs. Enjoy!

Como e Por quê nascem as Canções

“Well-known in sports and cultural journalism, John Max is the author, along with Charles Didier, of Noel Rosa – Uma biografia and has published books on Paulinho da Viola, movie soundtracks, and the great stars of Brazilian football and Maracanã. On the radio, he made the documentary Vinicius – Poesia, música e paixão in 32 chapters. He is one of the leading experts in the history and stories of Brazilian music, a subject that is addressed this program, highlighting how important popular songs emerged.”

The 32-part short-audio series from Rádio Batuta on samba and other popular Brazilian songs can be found here (PT).

FYI: The audios don’t seem to work on Safari, but they worked on Chrome.

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No Tempo do Samba

In this 24-part series from Rádio UFOP, out of the Federal University of Ouro Preto, the history of samba is retold. Each episode is about 10 minutes and they’re all in Portuguese. The project blog is here (PT).

FYI: The pace is slightly too fast and the background music can be bothersome when trying to focus on the host’s words.

How the French looted Rio

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September 21st, 1711. A French expedition led by corsair René Duguay-Trouin took Rio de Janeiro after nine days of siege to the city. The navigator imposed conditions to leave the city: receive the equivalent of 2 million French pounds. Negotiations lasted for weeks. The Portuguese rulers haggled. They did not have such a huge amount at hand.

Duguay-Trouin threatened to burn the entire village, then with 12,000 inhabitants. Finally, on October 28th, the Portuguese gave in, although they did not pay everything the kidnappers asked for. But, two weeks later, when they set out for France, the full amount – a product, for the most part, of the sacking of the city – was a fortune: 600 kilos of gold, 610,000 cruzados, a hundred boxes of sugar, 200 oxen, slaves, and dozens of other items. The expedition, partly financed with official French money, had yielded almost a 100% profit. Thus ending the first kidnapping of Rio.

Do not think Duguay-Trouin was a pirate. He was a corsair, which is different. That is to say: he looted like a pirate, but with all the support of a monarch. King Louis XIV granted him a charter, a document that gave him the task of stealing enemy ships. Europe was experiencing one of its periodic dynastic wars, true worldwide conflicts that involved combat in every sea where there was a European presence. Portugal was an ally of England, therefore an enemy of France. Brazil, a Portuguese colony, became, consequently, the object of greed of French corsairs.

Duguay-Trouin was a true expert at looting when he arrived at the gates of Rio in September, 1711. By 1709, he had already captured more than 300 merchant ships and twenty war ships. His fleet of seventeen boats sailed for Brazil in June, made a stopover in the Cape Verde archipelago, and proceeded as fast as possible – which at that time meant 10 or 15 knots. The ship Le Lys, commanded personally by Duguay-Trouin, had more than one hundred victims of scurvy.

Curiously, a British boat was able to make the crossing of the Atlantic more quickly and arrived in time to warn the Portuguese in Rio. When the fleet passed through Cabo Frio it was sighted and Rio received a new warning. The Portuguese should have been ready for the attack. But they were not. In a fierce campaign, Duguay-Trouin managed to enter Guanabara Bay and sequester the city. Entirely.

The key to take Rio was to avoid fire from Carioca fortresses, to disembark troops and to advance fast. In September 1710, a year before, French privateer Jean-François Duclerc had attempted this. His five ships were prevented from entering Guanabara Bay by the forts. Duclerc landed his small troops far away and made a strenuous march to Rio. Tired and without the support of naval artillery, the corsairs were beaten by the Cariocas and surrendered. But the attack revealed an impressive amount of ineptitude among the defenders. It was the population, not the regular troops, who acted.

Forts are made of stone and don’t catch fire if attacked with spherical iron bullets, fired from cannons with maximum reach of 2 kilos (2 km?). Wooden ships, with canvas sails and carrying gunpowder, are very flammable. And the defender can use a powerful weapon: the bullets can be heated in furnaces and fired still incandescent. The attacker’s biggest enemy is fire, so the fleet must avoid exchanging shots with the forts. Escaping the fire, sailing ships are extremely resistant to massive iron bullets. According to John Keegan, a specialist in military history at the time, naval battles were decided more by the death of the sailors, in concentrated carnage, than by the sinking of ships.

Preparations for taking on the French, however, were made without urgency. Rio’s fortresses were almost unguarded when the fleet quickly entered on September 12th. Soldiers and sailors were digging trenches. To add to it, thanks to a providential wind, Duguay-Trouin’s ships passed through without giving time for the fort’s canons to practice aiming at them.

The French took over the city after intense canon firing. They released prisoners from the Duclerc expedition (except the man himself, who had been murdered) and nearly a hundred Jews arrested by the Inquisition (two went to France, with the privateers). The governor, the bishop, the admiral, all the notable people fled earlier. The poorest people suffered the most. A thunderstorm made nightfall a nightmare. People were trampled, drowned in the mud, mothers lost their children, while the canons and thunder made it hard to hear the screams.

Duguay-Trouin, the corsair hijacker, said that the expedition yielded 92% profit to shareholders. Among other figures, the invaders took 602 pounds of gold to France. And that was little, because there was a certain misfortune there: most of the metals had not yet come from the mines to Rio de Janeiro, from where it would be sent to Portugal. According to historian Virgílio Noya Pinto – who studied the influence of Brazilian gold in the expansion of English capitalism – at that time, the average shipped to Portugal on the fleets leaving Brazil was 5 to 8 tons per year, or about ten times more than what the French took.

Even so, the total sale of the booty passed 20 million pounds. To give you an idea of ​​what that meant, the monthly salary of a French sailor ranged from 10 to 18 pounds, according to Jean Merrian, an eighteenth-century naval art historian. A Navy captain made 300 pounds a month.

In order to raise the necessary capital for the expedition, a commercial enterprise was created, whose shareholders were both via “private initiative” – ​​mainly traditional privateer shipowners from Saint-Malo, the city of Duguay-Trouin – and the government. France’s Royal Navy lent ships and men. One of Louis XIV’s sons, the Admiral of France, Count of Toulouse, was one of the shareholders. The booty was divided between capital and labor – each of the 6,000 men from the expedition – according to a system of “parts”. A captain received at least twelve parts; a lieutenant received six or nine parts; a soldier or gunner received one or a half; and a sailor would take one to two parts.

To know more:

In the Buccaneers’ Time

See how the corsair attack happened

The chronology:

9/12, 9:30AM. The French saw the islands at the entrance to Guanabara Bay. The morning was spent preparing for the attack.

9/12, 1PM. The fleet raises more sails and passed the border, with the ship Le Magnanime ahead, because its captain had already been to Rio before. Duguay-Trouin is on Le Lys, the fourth to enter.

9/12, 2:30PM. Everyone has already passed the border. Villegaignon fort exploded. The Portuguese beached their four ships.

9/12, 4PM. The fleet was anchored outside artillery range. The cost of entry was eighty dead, 220 wounded.

9/13. At sunrise, the Frenchman Le Goyon, with 500 men, took Ilha das Cobras. Duguay-Trouin visited the island and had it armed with cannons and mortars to bombard the city.

9/14. French troops land in the region of Saco do Alferes and Praia Formosa, without resistance.

9/15. Skirmishes and more cannons are offloaded to bombard the city.

9/16. The French set up a battery of ten cannons at Morro do Pina, today’s Morro da Saúde. The bombing and skirmishes continued until the 20th. The population begins to flee from Rio.

9/21. Duguay-Trouin ordered an attack. A French prisoner escaped and warnsed that Portuguese had already left the city. In the afternoon, the city had already been taken. The next day, the Portuguese commander of the Santa Cruz Fortress surrendered. From 9/23 to 10/9, there were skirmishes and negotiations. The city was ransacked. On October 28th, the governor, under threat of attack on his troops, decides to pay the ransom. The French leave Rio on 11/13 at 4PM.

Source (PT)

End of the UPP is nigh

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“We’re just waiting for the order to get out of here.” The Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) budget cut and the law that leaves them subordinate to police battalions were, for the police, two blows by the government declaring the end of the project. On Tuesday, the vote on next year’s Budgetary Law at Alerj, which cut R$500 million from the MP, removed the little bit of hope from MPs who still saw a chance. If in 2017 the maintenance budget of the UPPs was R$5.4 million, for the coming year the 38 units will only have R$10 thousand. The total, mockingly, is equivalent to R$833 per month or R$21 per month for each of the UPPs.

“We’ve been dealing with this instability for months. We don’t know when it’ll end, the only certainty is that it will end at some point”, says a UPP police officer.

Ostensive Policing in Favelas may be Comprimised

Changes in the structure of the project can lead to an increase in the sense of security outside the favelas. This is because the group employed in the poor communities will be added to the battalion’s operational framework – currently at a shortage. Within areas of conflict, however, ostensible policing will not be seen frequently, say CPP (Pacifying Police Coordination) sources.

According to the text of Law 7.799, which was already sanctioned by the governor and currently in the regulatory phase, “the battalion commanders, to which UPP subordination was assigned, will have to add all the existing contingent of UPPs servants to their operational framework, to remove, transfer, exchange and even substitute the existing command posts.” The document also says that the UPPs will continue to carry out their activities, but that their operational framework may be modified.

The transference of the troops to the battalions can also put at stake the MPs’ R$700 salary bonus.

“The state needs to save money, and the battalions need reinforcement. The name “UPP” will remain, the community stations will continue, but ostensible policing inside the favelas will end – said a CPP source, who also notes the sad failing of social projects. – Unfortunately, this ends all articulation of social projects, which is what makes UPP what it is.

With the restructuring of the UPPs, the CPP will become a “supervisory body”, with its captain having prerogatives only in order to guide and define areas of risk, with the PM general commander deliberating the implementation or deactivation of the sites within the State. The coordinating body, which currently functions as the UPP HQ, should no longer control, for example, the Intelligence sector and the special police unit, which acts in community conflicts.

“The CPP will become a kind of Area Police Command (CPA) and should lose about 90% of its staff.”

Between PMs, there is no more light at the end of the tunnel. Many have shown an interest in leaving the favelas, given the vulnerability of poor vehicles and weapons.

“Everything is lacking. Minimal work conditions and a lot of stress. Precarious vehicles and weapons. Everyone wants to leave the favelas. UPP is an operationally failed project”, reveals a soldier.

Devalued Population

Residents living in UPP areas also did not believe in the continuity of the project. For social activist Mariluce Mariá, from Complexo do Alemão, the UPP was nothing more than an “artificial dream”. For her, health and education should have been priorities from the start.

“The security that we always needed was investment in health and education. If the state had invested more in the human being and less in this war on drugs, we would all have had a positive return. Because the insecurity within the favelas also exists outside them, but within favelas it stands out due to the lack of specific public policies. On paper, the UPP project is wonderful, every citizen’s dream, mainly those who live in an area of ​​risk. They present us with an artificial dream, which cannot be realized. Dreams can only come true when there are people committed to make them happen and that’s not what we see.”

On Wednesday, Security Secretary Roberto Sá lamented the 2018 budget cut, but said the police, “giving 2017 as an example, will seek partnerships to assist in the costs, besides establishing priority actions to guarantee service to the population”. In a statement, the secretary said that the creation of the Public Security Fund, approved by Alerj, could ease the needs of the Civil and Military police. – Source (PT)

Services place their trust in Cariocas

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Data shows that honesty is still growing among cariocas

In gloomy times, plagued by corruption and serial political scandals, honesty, so discredited, endures in the day to day of the city. Contrary to even the non-believers, it’s possible to see evidence everywhere that having a good character is on the up and up. From services such as the VLT, which did away with the fare collector and depends on the awareness of the users, the newly established self-service registers in department stores, always with dilettante customers making the payment, Rio is still able to teach lessons of citizenship.

With the modern streetcar, the evasion rate – that is, of passengers who get on and off without paying, ignoring the rules of civility – doesn’t hit 10%, according to the concessionaire responsible for transportation, going against all expectations that vandalism and slyness would prevail. With the establishment of cash registers operated by customers, almost nobody leaves without paying, to the surprise of those who didn’t believe that it’s possible to adopt here a common system of the world’s great metropolises.

In 2015, when it was announced that VLT passengers would be responsible for paying fares upon entering the vehicle, the news was practically treated as a joke. But, after two years, the fact is that 90% of the passengers behave as they do what’s customary, religiously paying the R$3.80 fare. The percentage is even higher than what’s been registered in European cities, according to the consortium that operates the streetcar that already cuts across the center of Rio. The VLT’s honesty “inspectors”, who do random checks, attest that it’s rare to catch a bad payer in the act.

The most common thing, they argue, is to watch passengers, as they embark, go straight with their RioCards towards the fare validators. Inspector Bruno Teixeira Campo says that, by day, he sends at most one passenger to the police to be fined for evasion. He also says it’s normal for savvy users to alert others who use VLT sporadically on how to validate tickets on the machine. And those who fall into the fine mesh of inspection usually get embarrassed and make feeble excuses.

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“Those in a hurry claim that they forgot to validate the card, that they didn’t know they had to have a ticket when they boarded or that they saw the VLT at the stop and, in a hurry, they got on without reloading the RioCard. There are also those who talk on the cell phone and say they were distracted. But in general, as a Carioca, he is proud to see that almost everyone does the right thing,” Bruno observes.

VLT Director of Operations Paulo Ferreira says that, even on European systems, the evasion rate can surpass 40%. In the VLT contract, a 30% rate was forecast. But the rate never got so high. At the start of the operation, it was close to 15%. And, since then, it’s just been falling. This can be understood from the convergence of data from the validation machines and the passenger counts done by cameras installed at the vehicle doors.

“But it’s still not possible to remove the inspectors from the operation”, says Ferreira, without ruling out the possibility of an even more civilized future, with total mutual trust between the operator and passengers.

The anthropologist Alba Zaluar says that the phenomenon doesn’t surprise her, despite the whole reality of corruption that haunts Brazil. She calls attention to what she considers discrimination against Cariocas, said to be mischievous. She says that, despite this collective value judgment, very few people try to take advantage of everything.

“The population is very outraged. I see people proud to differentiate themselves from those who are robbing the country, to say that they work and live honestly, without deceiving anyone. Even because trust is the basis of all the movements of society – analyzes the scholar.

From September 5 to September 30 2016, the police counted 8,970 fines imposed on passengers for non-payment of the VLT fare. February had the highest number of infractions: 950 people. Last September, there was a sharp drop: 521 fines.

New Relations in Commerce

Another service that depends on the goodwill of customers is Bike Rio, which, since 2011, has trusted that rented bikes, after being ridden, will be returned by cyclists. And that is how it has been, nearly all the time. At Rio International Airport, terminal parking managers say that 90% of drivers respect exclusive vacancies for seniors, people with special needs and pregnant women.

In addition, throughout Brazil, public and private libraries are already implementing book-lending systems, in which interested parties lend and return publications on machines with barcode readers. In commerce, establishments began to provide self-service registers, in which customers themselves register their goods and make payment, without any inspection, as it has been for some time in stores in Europe. The system was adopted in some supermarkets in the Zona Sul and, since the beginning of the year, in five Lojas Americanas in Rio and São Paulo. “The solution is practical and allows the customer to carry out the entire purchase process alone. The implementation of this technology contributes to the operational performance of the stores, boosting sales, especially in times of high traffic. In a short time of operation, the self-checkout has been very receptive and represents a relevant portion of store transactions,” says Lojas Americanas.

At the end of last month, a GLOBO team tested one of these terminals at the Shopping RioSul location. People were still staring at the machines, half-disbelieving, and suspicious. I had to line up for the traditional cash registers, but there was no one using self-service. It was enough for the reporter to start paying for his purchases, for two other customers to notice the novelty and to encourage them to use it. Even smaller stores are venturing out. And it’s not just now. In Botafogo, it has been even longer, decades, that a restaurant has no one mediating payments made by customers. The owner of the establishment prefers not to disclose the address, claiming that he chose the method by having a captive clientele. He admits, however, that widespread publicity could jeopardize a model that, without marketing, is working.

“What we do goes against the madness we’ve seen in this country,” the businessman acknowledges.

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Nearby, at UniRio, in Urca, the students are trying out an initiative that has earned the nickname “the little wall of honesty“. In a garden at the Arts and Literature Center, students leave products for sale and go to class. The offer goes from snacks and cakes to sweets and fruit. But no one is watching what happens. If someone is interested in buying, they choose what they want and leave the money. There are reports of stealing, but most behave well. Those unusual cases forced the group to make adaptations, such as creating makeshift coffers where customers deposit notes and coins to prevent any thefts.

“I’ve seen people put paper in place of money. But it’s a minority. Most of it is honest, says Information Systems student Davi Coutinho.

Another university student and actor César Júnior is enthusiastic about the experience:

“The function of the university is also to provoke this reflection and stimulate awareness. Products have fair prices. And behind each of them, there is a job. The ‘little wall’ helps support many students, either to pay for the bus to come here or for class expenses.”

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Downtown, a formal business decided to change its relationship with customers. In the Curto Café, on Menezes Cortes, the prices of goods aren’t fixed, only suggested. And there isn’t a cash register controlling how much each person pays. It’s the customer who makes the payment and takes his change from a pot, on top of a counter. Asked if it’s successful, the entrepreneurs say the establishment has been operating for five years, and they serve 700 to 800 coffees a day. Some pay less than the indicated prices, others pay more. The average balances out the sales.

“I’m surprised at this place. I hope that this concept spreads,” said customer Sueli Afonso.

Source (PT)