Saturday, 31 January 2009

World Social Forum - The course of an event

For those who did not know that this year Belém was the seat of the World Social Forum (WSF) the participants of the forum could easily be taken for tourists on holiday in the capital of Pará. The campus of the Universidade Federal Rural da Amazônia (Ufra = Federal Agriculture University of the Amazon) - one of the main centres for this event - seemed more like a vacation colony. At least until the debates started. On the campus it was quite normal to see people walking around in swimming trunks, without shirt and carrying articles, which are typical part of a Brazilian summer, such as sunglasses, hats, sunscreen, bottles with mineral water and other paraphernalia reconciling with the intense heat.

In the youth camp, where about 12 thousand youngsters were camped - the crowds grew with the arrival of the participants - but none succeeded to sleep in the tents for a long time. Already in the early hours of the morning, the sun and the heat made sure that those who were planning to sleep longer fled their tent. “At night, as it gets still and quiet and with a touch of wind and no noise. But in the morning it is unbearable,” said Oliveira Sebastião, an economist from Mato Grosso.

The access road to the World Social Forum on the campus of the UFRA was transformed into a camelódromo (a collection of stalls). The products on offer were as varied as the variety of races walking the tarmac road to the encampment. It was said that the caiapó indian Bep, divided his attention between the discussions in the Indian Tent and his stall outside. At noon there was a long row of people, interested getting painted a certain part of their body with indian designs. Each painting took BRL 5 (€ 1.70).

Caiapó Bep was in Belém since Sunday with 60 caiapó indians from the Aldeia Kokocuedan, situated on the banks of the Rio Branco in Ourilândia do Norte. The village is located 100 kilometres from the city centre. The first difference Bep noticed was the weather. “Very hot. Even poor.”

Is the weather hot and all bad for the caiapós of Kokocuendan, the food served in their hostel, installed in the public school Mário Barbosa is even worse. “Many bad things, such as meat. Indians don’t eat this. Our meal is rich,” he said, reciting the ingredients of a good meal in the village: “many sweet potatoes, macaxeira, banana and fish.” Many indian children and adults had problems with the ‘urban’ menu resulting in diarrhoea.

Despite bad weather and bad food, life at the WSF was softened for Bep and his tribe by the gaining of some money. He and three other indians reserved time for body painting. Some asked just a simple painting, but the caiapós invoiced like ‘gringos’. The paint is made with the juice of the genipapo, roasted and grated, mixed with water and charcoal. The painting stays for 7 to 15 days.

At both sides of the entrance stalls with handicrafts, art crafts, typical regional meals, snacks and other types of objects were erected. A colourful fair.

On the campuses of the universities, you could see it all - or almost all. In the tents, ....... read the full story and see more images of the event.


Friday, 30 January 2009

Latin America celebrated the collapse of neo-liberalism

Latin American Presidents with a left-wing signature participating in the World Social Forum 2009 in Belém, celebrated the collapse of neo-liberalism.

Characterized as the block of the real left-wing Latin American social movements, Presidents Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Fernando Lugo (Paraguay) celebrated the collapse of neo-liberalism in ‘Davos’, a reference to the meeting running at the same time as the Social Forum, and collecting the crème de la crème of capitalism in the Swiss Alps. The assembled Latin American presidents gave a clear message to the participants of the World Social Forum (WSF), that was held in Belém from January 27 to Feb. 1: "We need to unite Latin America to cope with the economic crisis", they claimed, while they also called on the ‘left’ world to support their governments.

The Presidents took part in a debate organized by the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST = Movement of landless farmers) and the umbrella organization of small farmers, Via Campesina. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil was not invited to this meeting.

In the debate with the MST, Rafael Correa set the tone at an early stage, when he said that "neo-liberalism is a perverse system that now crumbles." The Ecuadorian president also said that the Social Forum is part of the solution the world needs and proposed enthusiastically: "The WSF is part of the solution to the crisis. Hopefully, the alternative emerges now from this Forum in Latin America.”

Hugo Chavez argued that the Forum has to leave the trenches of the fight and launch the attack. "The WSF must change its strategy because we are in the phase of attacks and no longer in the period of trench warfare."

During the debate, called "Prospects for the Integration of Latin America”, the Presidents launched numerous attacks on the "North American imperialism.” Chavez proposed an international trial of the former U.S. president George W. Bush for his alleged crimes against humanity. In the same debate, the freedom fighter Che Guevara was honoured. His daughter was present during the session.

With the new American president Chavez was cautious: "We are still waiting for the performance of the new American government, which faces itself a very serious problem within its borders: the economic crisis." But he stated that he was not blinded by the promised changes: "The empire is still intact and the president [Obama] has said that Chavez is an obstacle."

Fernando Lugo, Paraguay’s last year elected President, new in this ‘left’ presidential bloc, welcomed the participation of farmers and indigenous movements as agents of change in the WSF: "Thanks to the social movements in Latin America, we experience a time of change."

Evo Morales expressed his solidarity with the landless and indigenous people and admitted that he can make mistakes, but promised never to abandon “the struggle against North American imperialism."

The Brazilian Minister of Agrarian Development, Guilherme Cassel, said that the MST made a serious “political mistake” by refusing, Lula to taking part in the debate with the Latin American presidents. And concluded with the words: "He, who takes part in a WSF debate is open to dialogue and criticism."
It is clear that the MST is very dissatisfied with the agrarian reforms (or lack there of) during the reign of the Lula administration. And it is also clear that what Cassel said is a farce, because Lula has never been able to handle criticism in a positive way.

Lula will participate in some activities during the last days of the WSF, but none of the MST and Via Campesina, the international organization to which the MST is connected.


Thursday, 29 January 2009

The World Social Forum - Preparation and Opening

The event was outlaid so ambitiously that it had to go completely wrong. The organizers had clearly forgotten that they had to do with the Federal State of Pará with its public administrators and political leaders, who are still unable to look up the word 'organization' in the dictionary, let alone find the word.
During the six-day forum (from Jan 27 to Feb. 1), 2400 activities were scheduled, which means that some 200 activities were held simultaneously about topics such as the environment, global warming, poverty, child- and slave labour, exclusion of poor countries, and of course, the destruction of the Amazônia region and alternatives to the capitalist system, which threw the world in an economic and financial crisis (I am sure, that Davos is anxious to have a look at the proposals). But the farmer, he ploughed on, so if everything raised by somebody should be found important, then it might come to something ... ever.

The World Social Forum (WSF) is regarded as the largest marketplace on the planet of ideas, with discussions for everyone.
But a month before the international event, the city was still looking for solutions to its problems. Lack of security, traffic chaos and deficiencies in public transport are some of the most serious problems of Belém. And for years it is no different. On top of all this the complaints of the population of the capital of Pará itself.

During the forum, the hotels and pousadas in town were fully booked - even the motels, normally operating as centres for lovers and other sex activities, had their faces adapted to accommodate participants of the event. Another 15 thousand houses were rented, the rent up to BRL 2 thousand (€ 660) for the 5 days of the forum. The hotels did not stay behind and reached the, for Belém, exorbitant price of BRL 900 (€ 300) per day, including breakfast, lunch and dinner.

To house the event and guarantee the safety of the participants the state government invested BRL 143 million (€ 48.5 million), with a third for the purchase of police cars. Ten field hospitals were built on the campus of the Universidade Federal do Pará (UFPA = Federal University of Pará) and the Universidade Federal Rural da Amazônia (UFRA = Federal Agriculture University of the Amazon), where also an encampment for 30 thousand young visitors was raised. An additional 270 hospital beds were reserved in the public and private hospitals for emergency situations.

During the days of the event about 600 thousand male condoms from the Program for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and AIDS were distributed. (nb, 1 condom per day per participant)

Until Sunday, February 1 (the last day), the organization of the Forum hopes to greet 120 thousand people from 150 countries, including ......... continue reading and see more images

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Tell me: What actually is the World Social Forum?

On Tuesday, January 27, 2009 the 9th edition of the World Social Forum opened in Belém, the capital of Pará, with an estimated 60 thousand people from around the country and 30 thousand foreigners participating. For the city of Belém an unprecedented large-scale event that would rule the entire city for 6 days.

However, a survey conducted by the media-group ORM Portal showed that the event is unknown by the Paraense (resident of the federal state of Pará).

Derived from the Latin word 'foro', forums were in ancient Rome places of public meetings where Roman citizens could speak out about urban problems. But only the patricians, who owned great estates and consequently political rights, were regarded as citizens. Participation was thus limited by social conditions. Centuries later, when the freedom of expression was established in the constitution, the absence of knowledge and information marks the opinion of those who live in the vicinity of the world’s main discussion forum on contemporary problems: the World Social Forum 2009.

But what is it? An event, a protest, a demonstration? A survey last week organized at the site of Portal ORM ( showed that 50.4% of the 345 people who voted did not know what the World Social Forum is or what it serves. A worrying result particularly since it concerned a news site, which is usually visited by people looking for information and generally are well informed. Of the people who said they knew the event, slightly more than half said that they would participate in the activities.

The results in the street are similar to the virtual vote. People who live in the bordering area where the forum is held, the two federal universities, noticed changes and additional traffic, but are unfamiliar with the themes, goals and personalities, who were present this week in Belém. Some people saw the results of the preparations for the event in practice and observed the large and conspicuous presence of police and security forces. "I know that many people are coming, but do not know why. I think they will talk about street violence. What I do know is that things have improved here, never ever there was so many police in Terra Firme" says Maria Sales, who lives in the vicinity of the Federal Agriculture University of the Amazônia (UFRA).

If one of the main objectives of the Forum is, promoting the debate between young people, then the propaganda has not worked effectively for the youth in Pará, in particular those from the interior.
But there are also people who know nothing and ........... continue reading


Justify Full

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The World Social Forum 2009

Tuesday, January 27, an estimated 60 thousand people from around the country and 30 thousand foreigners started their participation in the 9th edition of the World Social Forum, held in Belém, the capital of Pará.

While the entire capitalistic controlled western world looked to Davos, on the other side of the world, the World Social Forum was held totally ignored by the world press. Well, what should the third world do with a Social Forum, in this time of international financial crisis. As if we don’t have other problems on our minds, then whining Indians, racial inequality, poverty, cutting some trees, etc. The Western world can’t give a damn about it at this moment. And although Lula, presumably, preferred to be in Davos pushing up Brazil in front of all the great leaders of this planet, he was forced to be in Belém, where this social event took place. You can’t let them, your ‘red rascal’ colleagues, President Evo Morales of Bolivia, Hugo Chaves of Venezuela, Fernando Lugo of Paraguai and Rafael Correa of Ecuador, come to Belém and find the event so important yourself that you travel to Davos.

Beyond some local and Latin American political leaders, a handful of national and international intellectuals, especially American university professors, droves of activists and a massive turnout of hopeful youth participated.


Saturday, 24 January 2009

In 2008 Fines for Environmental Crimes Exceeded 1 billion Euro

In 2008 more than BRL 3 billion (€ 1 billion) in fines was imposed in the Amazônia for environmental crimes. But the question is, who is crazy enough to pay the fine? For sure not the Brazilian environment criminal.

A report stipulating the by Ibama (the Brazilian Environment Authority) imposed environmental fines shows that between January 1 and December 8, 2008 22,697 reports of environmental offences were made with a total of BRL 3.25 billion (€ 1.05 billion) in fines. The figure is 38% higher than in 2007, when it was BRL 2.37 billion (€ 0.772 billion).

The bulk of the amount came out of actions against deforestation in the Amazônia. Fines for illegal logging, storage and transport of illegal timber in this region reached BRL 1.76 billion (€ 0.57 billion), accounting for 54% of the total.

Pará is the federal state, which picked together the highest amount of fines with € 196 million. Followed by Mato Grosso (€ 195 million), Amazonas (€ 148 million), Minas Gerais (€ 140 million) and Rondônia (€ 75 million).

Writing criminal reports is one, but collecting the fines is a different chapter. A study by the Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia (Imazon = Institute of Man and Environment in the Amazon region) points out that a very small portion of that money actually gets into the public purse.

According to Imazon, the value of fines collected between 2001 and 2004 was only 2.5% of the total amount of fines imposed in this period. If the same pattern is repeated for 2008, the federal treasury will only collect BRL 81 million (€ 26 million).

But there is probably some progress, whatever that is supposed to mean in the Brazilian legal confusion. According to the researcher Paulo Barreto, one of the authors of the study, there were four legal bodies where could be appealed, now there are only two. Paulo, faithful believer as he is, thinks that this might speed up the process, but he warns that one of the main constraints of collecting fines is the lack of lawyers with Ibama. "What has to be done to improve the collection of fines, is focussing on the most important cases. All the studies show that 80% of the value of the fines should be raised by 20% of the processes.”

For Ibama it is not just the amount of fines in their fight against environmental crime. "Together with the fine, we have the seizure of the area, the confiscation of the illegal product, the removal of livestock, the seizure of trucks, machines and the deterrent effect of an inspection." says Roberto Borges, national coordinator for environmental operations of Ibama.

According to Borges, in addition to the fines Ibama also tried to permanently seize the property of the criminals. "It started with seized timber, but we have to expand to tractors and trucks, used for the environmental crime. We have to de-capitalize the environmental criminal." he says.

Source: O Liberal
(cartoon J.Bosco)

Friday, 23 January 2009

Forgotten Prisoners

In a country where state prisons bulge, inmates just remain behind bars, although they served their ‘time’.

Inspections carried out by the Conselho Nacional de Justiça (CNJ = National Council of Justice) in four of the 27 federal states of Brazil discovered that more than a thousand prisoners, even after they had served their criminal sentence, were still behind bars. Around 1.218 other convicts had no access to the facilities to which they were entitled - as a pardon, a semi-open regime or external work. Without a lawyer or a public defender assigned to their case, these prisoners eventually just are forgotten. This situation of neglect was found in the federal states of Rio de Janeiro, Maranhão, Pará and Piauí.

So far, 4.731 criminal processes have been analysed. After visits to the state prisons by the CNJ, 2.218 prisoners received some form of benefits which they were entitled to, but never received. The situation was most precarious in Teresina, the capital of Piauí. In eight prisons in this city, 1.087 cases were analyzed with the result that 464 prisoners were assigned additional facilities, while 345 were released immediately.

In the cities in the federal state of Pará the processes of 1.641 prisoners were analyzed. 435 prisoners (you can’t even say: convicts) were released.

But heck, why make a fuss about it? Prisons are overcrowded, so what? A detainee cost "only" BRL 1,200 (less than € 400) average a month. Who cares? Certainly not the public administration or the local politicians.

The state of Pará has nine thousand prisoners, of whom 70% (6,300) are between 18 and 29 years and herewith it is the champion again. Pará is one of the states where the prisoners are the youngest.
More than 6 thousand young people, who might be part of the economically active population of the state, but now, dominate the unproductive army under harsh living conditions in prison and police cells in the capital and the interior.

CNJ-judge, Gilson Dipp said that inspections were executed in state prisons, where local authorities have greater difficulties in terms of supervision. "The results are abhorrent. It is terrible. The people who remain behind bars are the people that lack any defence. The persons involved are poor, without the support of a public defender."

Far from being an exception is the position of a detainee accused of a crime, and is imprisoned illegally. Pará, in this respect is champion again of the most inhumane penal system. Data show that with the label 'pre-trial detention’ detainees are held in police stations for a period of five years without ever being tried.

The Brazilian Code of Criminal Procedure provides that within a period of 5 to 90 days, a detainee should be heard by a judge for the first time. The period may be extended, but from then on the detention is illegal and inhumane.
From data released by Susipe (Prison Administration), it appears that of the detainees in custody, 73 are there already for five years, 153 four years, 416 prisoners three years, 1.125 two years, 956 prisoners for a period of six months to one year, 706 prisoners with less than six months and "only" 702 prisoners are still within the established legal term. And that is pre-trial detention without any trial.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

In 2008, the Lula’s Government executed only 22.5% of the budget - Health care got only 7% of its allocation

The speech of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva relating the public investments to solve the economic crisis is in flagrant contradiction with the facts. Last year, the government has issued only 22.5% of the budgeted investments. At a total investment budget approved by Congress of BRL 47.6 billion (€ 15.5 billion), only BRL 10.7 billion (€ 3.5 billion) has actually been spent.

The investment budget includes all public works for infrastructure, housing and sanitation facilities for which the federal government is responsible, including the activities of the Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento (PAC = Program for the Acceleration of Growth).

The low level of investment extends even to the social sector. According to the Ministry of Health, only 7% of the investments were implemented. Of a total of BRL 3.9 billion (€ 1.3 billion) in the budget only BRL 276 million (€ 90 million) is spent. The program for hospital and outpatient care of the SUS (National Health Service) for example, for which a financing of BRL 1.7 billion (€ 0.55 billion) was approved, got paid BRL 163 million (€ 53 million = 9.5%). And a credit-line of BRL 324 million (€ 105 million) as a federal share in the construction of sanitation facilities in rural areas, transferred only BRL 3.9 million (€ 1.27 million = 1.3%).

The Ministry of Education realised actually 27.5% of the planned investment. From a budget of BRL 3.7 billion (€ 1.2 billion) BRL 1.03 billion (€ 0.33 billion) was spent.

In important parts of the infrastructure sector, such as the Ministries of Transport, Public Works and Municipalities, which are responsible for roads, housing and sanitation in the country, the executed investments made up only 18.4% and 14.7% respectively.Justify Full

The Ministry of Urban Development, which is responsible for social housing had a budget of BRL 442 million (€ 143 million) in 2008, only to spend BRL 50.9 million (€ 16.5 million = 11.5%).

The Ministry of Social Development had available for investments BRL 196.5 million (€ 64 million), but used only BRL 101.4 million (€ 33 million), representing 51.6%. This amount represents about 1% of the total expenditure in this sector, which covers also the Program for Family Support (Bolsa Família), which consumes more than BRL 10 billion (€ 3.25 billion) per year.

For investments in tourism, traditional for all countries worldwide an important source of new jobs, the Lula government spent only 3.5% of the 2008 budget. Of the BRL 2.5 billion (€ 0.81 billion) budgeted, BRL 87 million (€ 28 million) was effectively spent.

In contrast to this tendency (or shall we say: intention, which obviously prevails in government circles) not to invest, the Ministry of Defence used 80.5% of the investment budget. Of BRL 4.1 billion (€ 1.33 billion), BRL 3.3 billion (€ 1.07 billion) has been spent.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs even exceeded the original budget allocated for investment. Foreign Affairs actually invested BRL 40.4 million (€ 13.1 million), while the original budget allowed BRL 38.5 million (€ 12.5 million).

Result: The international financial crisis, the beautiful and sometimes lyrical words used by Lula in his speeches to obfuscate the economic crisis, coupled with the apparent intention of the federal government not to invest in this country, have led to a sharp decrease in the number of jobs in the last two months of last year, in the month of December alone, a loss of 600,000 jobs. This estimate comes from the Minister of Labour, Carlos Lupi, who does not exclude a further reduction of jobs in the first quarter of this year.

Figures are based on data of the Sistema Integrado Informações Financeiras (Siafi) - Integrated System of Financial Information.

cartoon: J. Bosco/O Liberal

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Brazil: The Country of the Future

With Lula 'highly commended' in the world, my last series of posts may have created the impression that I'm negative about Brazil and everything the government Lula does or fails to do. That certainly is not my intention. I am well disposed towards Brazil, where I live, and so it is with a bleeding heart when I see the (often unnecessary) injustice that goes around. What Lula is concerned, I can say that I am indeed very disappointed in what he has implemented during his six years of governing the country.

Almost everything that is achieved is not due to the Lula government, but despite the Lula government. It is the result of an independent continuation of the Plano Real, proposed by the then President Itamar Franco and implemented by his successor and former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC), and his social politics thereafter. Lula has not fulfilled his socialistic election promises. The economic policy is a continuation of the FHC policy. Social programmes, such as the Bolsa Familia, are based on the policy put in motion by FHC. The growing prosperity of the Brazilian is not due to Lula, but due to the explosive expansion of the private initiative, the discovery of large oil reserves and the (silently admitted) illegal logging of the Amazônia, allowing both livestock and soy and sugar cane production to explosively spread.

Health, Education, Public Safety, Infrastructure, Public Transport are treated like neglected children. Police and Justice fail by all means and the Judiciary is shamelessly 'powerless'. Corruption remains polluting the country unpunished. The with great pomp announced Aceleração do Programa de Crescimento (PAC = Program to Accelerate Growth) is still mainly on the drawing board. The North and Northeast of the country remain backward areas and it looks unlikely that any additional investments will be gained. Senate and Congress are still dominated by a large number of criminals, ah yes, elected by the people. But it can’t be otherwise, as long as the people are accustomed to nothing else than corrupt politicians.

Years ago, the ABN/AMRO bank described Brazil as "the country of the future, and so it will always remain." And it is still so, despite all the progress. The big turning point came during the administration of FHC and Lula has not used his socialistic streak to expand this during his administration. Without a great own vision, he has continued indolently, what was transferred to him by the previous government.
And that disappoints me. I had expected more. The Brazilian people, after so many years of suffering earned to expect more. Take a look at Lula's election promises:

In his inaugural speech in 2002, the word "mudança" (reform, change) took centre stage. "Reform is the key word. This is the main message the Brazilians sent with the elections in October. Because of this, the Brazilian people have elected me as President of the Republic."

And he claimed that all the attention will be given to social action, literally saying: "We should not lose sight that the ultimate goal should be human well-being." After 6 years of government we have unfortunately to observe that safety in the street (robbery and assaults) has reached rock bottom, that education, housing, health care apparently are activities without the necessary glamour, that Brazil can not meet its economic prospects for growth due to a lack of public investments in infra-structure in all corners of the country.

I wish to remain optimistic, and sincerely do not hope that Lula continues to just let Brazil run its course which consequently requires a fierce price to be paid afterwards.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Lula, the great world leader

This is a translation of a post written by my fellow blogger: Wanderley Filho

One of Lula's ambitions is to be recognized as a major world leader, a leader with a recognition which equals Nelson Mandela, for example. This wish seems to be promoted constantly by his assistants. In the midst of this illusion of greatness, some nonsense takes form as ridiculous proposals and end up as a mockery of Brazil.

Lula has already proposed the “World Zero Hunger" program, which should be financed by taxes levied on international arms trade; he said also that he would re-establish the geopolitics (he loves that word) of this planet with bio-diesel; that the countries of the G-20, led by Brazil, will dethrone the countries of the G-8 at the moment of creating of a new global economy and that the victories of the leftist parties in Latin America, starting with his own, had paved the way for the election of Barack Obama in the USA. At the height of arrogance towards its destiny as a world leader, Lula revealed that even God, in transit in Brazil, had decided to remain there to help him.

With the same modesty, Lula pretends, which many diplomatic delegation of the world already had done, to resolve the discord, which is the base of the current conflict in the Gaza Strip between Islamic terrorists and Israel. The extract below was published on the website of Folha Online:

"I sent Celso Amorim [Minister of Foreign Affairs] to the Middle East in order to tell them that Brazil is interested in active participation, so that finally a path to peace can be established in that area, in that geographic area of the world. (...) The existence of two states is quite possible, that there will be diplomatic relations, that there can be development, that there is improvement and I think that the Palestinian people deserve this opportunity."

Wow! Things are so simple that no one realized how easy it is to solve that first seemed insoluble. Brazil is not even able to maintain order in its favela regions of Rio de Janeiro, dominated by drug traffickers who forced the legal government out of the region. Every year, there are 50 thousand Brazilians murdered, a number much larger than that of the war in Iraq, for example. But Lula knows how peace in the Middle East can be achieved. This borders on the ridiculous. Or rather, it's ridiculous.

[With a paraphrase of one of Lula's famous sayings:]
Never before on this planet a "world leader" was as insignificant.

Source: Lula, o grande lider mundial

Saturday, 10 January 2009

1.2 billion Condoms for Brazil's Birth Control Policy

The Brazilian Ministry of Public Health has decided to invest in 2009 heavily in actions for the promotion of family planning. Among the major actions is the purchase of 1.2 billion condoms, a record in the world, and the distribution of most of the existing stock of 458 thousand 'morning-after'-pills. New purchases of conventional injectable contraceptives and contraceptive pills, of which 50 million strips were distributed last year, are expected.

Within the policy of the Ministry of Public Health it is thought that an increased use of contraceptives is synonymous with economic development. According to the most recent Pesquisa Nacional de Demografia e Saúde (National Research on Demography and Health), released in July, the percentage of women using contraceptive pills (22.1%) surpasses for the first time the demand for sterilization (21.8%).
For the director of the Strategic Actions of the Ministry, Adison França, this result is encouraging: "Ten years ago, by far the most common method was sterilization of the woman. It shows that the Brazilian society develops."

Also in connection with the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, the purchase of the condoms represents three times the 406 million items, which were distributed last year. If the new to be purchased condoms should be distributed equally among all Brazilians between 15 and 70 years, everyone will receive 22 condoms this year.
Besides increasing the purchases, the government inaugurated in 2008 the first condom factory in Xapuri, in the federal state of Acre. The first delivery of one million units took place 18 days ago.

The increase of federal investment in the family planning policy meets (of course) strong opposition from the Catholic Church. The free distribution of condoms and contraceptive pills, along with the defence of the de-criminalization of abortion, brought the tension between the clergy and the Minister of Public Health, Jose Gomes Temporão, to a climax. Following the condemnation by Pope Benedict XVI, the purchase of pills and condoms is the target of harsh criticism from the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops.

NGO’s and religious organisations, however, defy the official church policy and take an active part in the distribution. In November, an investigation by the newspaper O Globo showed that the official preaching against the use of contraception is ignored by priests, nuns and lay people engaged in pastoral activities and NGOs, and without fanfare, organize the distribution of condoms and educational books.

Despite the divergent views of the base of the Church, the bishops remain stubbornly committed to maintaining the exclusive use of natural methods of family planning, such as sexual abstinence and elevate the tone of criticism to a great height.

Another issue with which the Church collides with the Government is the controversy over the de-criminalization of abortion. Tabled by Minister Temporão in the beginning of his nomination in 2007, the battle cry is now carried by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, when he clearly stated 15 days ago that abortion is a public health problem and deserves a wide debate.

photo’s: O Globo

Friday, 9 January 2009

Pure nature - The fragrance of the Amazon dancing in the wind

The capillarity of the wooden sticks transmits the fragrance of the perfume from the Amazon region to the ambiance of the room.

15% of the world’s total of all known vegetal species (plants, trees) and 10% of all mammals are concentrated and trying to survive in the Amazon region.
This source of fresh air to the world, home to (besides man and animal) many super-fruits, medicinal plants and other useful species, will be destroyed soon. Between 2006 and 2007 11.224 km2 has been deforested - 20% less than in the period 2005-2006. Compare 2004 when one of the highest indices (27.379 km2)) in history had been registered. Hopeful? No! In the last 5 months of 2007 the devastating activities for prime wood, soy and cattle has been accelerated. Between Aug and Dec 2007 3.235 km2 has been cut down and satellite pictures show it could be twice as much.

It is no wonder that many individuals, research centre and companies are feverishly looking to the Amazon forest as a tremendous source for sustainable exploitation, which might stop the illegal activities that cause the destruction. Responsibility and sustainability are the keywords.

With the recent trends in healthy food, energy and fortification drinks, interest in Amazonian “superfruits” is growing. It’s little wonder that .......continue reading

Saturday, 3 January 2009

The Largest Penguin Rescue on Record - A Success for Animal Welfare - But a Terrible Omen

Some 2,500 Magellan penguins from the Argentina's Patagonia region, probably confused by the warm ocean currents stranded - dead and alive - on Brazil's northern coast in October last year. Approximately half of the penguins found on Brazilian beaches were dead, and the others were starving and in very bad shape,

Magellan penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) live in relatively warmer climates than other penguin species, and breed and nest in burrows from October to February, in southern Chile and Argentina, in a temperate and dry climate.
Magellans, one of 17 species of penguins living in the southern hemisphere, including Antarctica, are among the largest, weighing just over four kilograms, with striking colouring: a white chest and a white band around a black back and black head.

They travel out to sea during the winter, from March to September, to follow anchovies, their favourite food, in order to fatten up. However this year apparently the anchovies went deeper into the ocean in search for cold water and the penguins couldn't reach their food and consequently stranded because they were starving, according to Valeria Ruoppolo, an emergency veterinarian with the International Federation for Animal Welfare (IFAW), in São Paulo.

This year, about 2,500 disoriented juvenile penguins travelled more than 2,500 kilometres beyond the normal point, coming ashore in Salvador, in the Brazilian state of Bahia, to the amazement of beachgoers. The penguins were rescued by IFAW and the Centre for Marine Animal Recovery, with help from other organisations and Brazilian environmental authorities.

After months of care and feeding, the 372 surviving penguins were banded and loaded onto a C-130 Hercules military plane and transported to Cassino Beach, in Pelotas, in southern Brazil.

After a night’s rest, they were released into the South Atlantic Ocean, along with a few rescued adult penguins, with the hope that the adults would guide the younger ones safely home to Punta Tombo in Patagonia.

The Magellan penguin population is fragile, as their numbers have plummeted by about 20 percent, with about one million breeding pairs today, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. The penguins are at risk due to the effects of climate change, tourism, oil leaks from tankers and shrimp nets. Particularly the ocean environment of the southern tip of Patagonia is changing, as the salinity of the water is decreasing, due to glaciers melting.

Punta Tombo is a tiny peninsula near the city of Rawson on the coast of the southern Argentine province of Chubut,. Its widest point is less than one kilometre, and it is teaming and crowded with penguins - and tourists - during breeding season. Punta Tombo, is home to the largest colony of Magellan penguins.
In 1982, the Punta Tombo colony was saved from Japanese commercial interests, intending to slaughter the birds and use their pelts to make golf gloves. The area was turned into a penguin preserve and research centre.

This an extract of an article published by IPS-Inter Press Service

Photo's by: tabernash, benune, TrekNature


Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New Year

One of the most spectacular events of the year is the “Réveillon” fireworks at the Copacabana beach of Rio de Janeiro, with which Brazil enters the New Year.

This year again Rio de Janeiro gave prove why during this time of the year so many tourists prefer to spend their holiday season here.

Justify FullDuring 20 minutes the public stood there agape with wonder by the beauty of the fireworks. A beautiful experience which, to the contrary of previous years, was not frustrated by growing smoke clouds.

Even Saint Peter was in a good mood as the heavy rains stopped by 23.00 hours.

According to the police some 2 million people enjoyed the spectacle.

The big surprise this year were the 'bombas filhotes', which multiply in the air.

Twenty-four tons of fireworks were fired from 8 pontoons.

The company New Fireworks realised the fireworks against a cost of R$ 1,6 million (ca. USD 600.000).

Early on the tourists as well as the cariocas (inhabitants of Rio) went to the Copacabana beach to enjoy a last dive in the ocean and secure a good place from which they could watch the fireworks. The pontoons, from which the fireworks should be launched, anchored during the afternoon in front of the beach.

Click here for a full photo reportage