On a sticky December morning, Justine Arena explains to a student that appropriate small talk for an international conference call must not include “How is Mr. Obama?”
“No politics,” says the 36-year-old English teacher/entrepreneur in her client’s plush office in a wealthy neighborhood.
Her student is no sullen teen, but the Latin America director for a multinational automaker.
Still, it’s clear who’s in charge here.
“What about ‘how is your mother?’” asks the student.
“Nothing personal either,” Arena says somewhat sternly. “Stick to the weather.”
She is one of a growing group of former Brazilian immigrants who have come home, drawn by economic growth and a job market the US and Europe can no longer offer. The 2010 census showed that from 2005 to 2010, 174,000 Brazilians returned to their home country, nearly twice as many as between 1995 and 2000.
From municipal elections to the mensalão, from dams to deforestation, for the slowing economy and the booming middle class, 2012 was big for Brazil. The year began with devastating building collapses in Rio de Janeiro, and ended with a farewell to world-renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer.
In between, Brazil saw Rio+20, gay marriage in São Paulo, a battle over oil royalties and one enormous corruption trial. Murders were up in São Paulo, deforestation was down in the Amazon, and President Dilma Rousseff was declared the world’s third most powerful woman.
Here are five of the year’s biggest political stories:
A prison in the state of Minas Gerais will be the country’s first public-private partnership (PPP) jail when inaugurated in January. The Ribeirão das Neves penitentiary, along with another PPP prison in Pernambuco under construction, have rekindled the debate about private sector involvement in Brazil’s beleaguered prison system.
Putting Christmas dinner on the table could be considerably pricier than last year, research shows. The prices of typical holiday food like chicken, pork and bacalhau, or salt cod, typically eaten by Brazilians on Christmas Eve, have risen by 18.60 percent according to a Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV) study.
At least fourteen São Paulo police officers have been detained since Saturday on suspicion of killing or attempting to kill civilians. The arrests are likely to raise questions over police brutality in the wake of a wave of murders in São Paulo that some experts have partially attributed to extrajudicial killings.
The numbers are almost too much to take in: 4,100 murdered this year. This figure does not refer to a war-torn country, but to São Paulo state: the biggest driver of Brazil’s economy.
As a report came out last week showing that Brazil had seen as many violent deaths—500,000—over the past 10 years as Somalia’s 20-year civil war, the death toll in São Paulo city continued to rise.
For a decade, violence in São Paulo had been steadily declining. But recent months have seen a bloody wave sweeping South America’s biggest city—driven by what experts says is a war between police and thePrimeiro Comando da Capital (First Command of the Capital—PCC), a criminal gang based out of São Paulo’s prisons.
Brazilian working mothers earned, on average, eleven percent less than women without children in 2009, according to new research. The ‘motherhood penalty,’ as sociologists call it, has increased considerably in recent years: in 1992 working mothers earned four percent less than their childless peers.
Federal Police said Friday they had arrested six people in Brasília and São Paulo for alleged involvement in a corruption ring, in yet another case to veer uncomfortably close to former President Lula. In total, eighteen people – including Lula’s former assistant – are under investigation for influence peddling, bribery, conspiracy and forgery in connection with the scheme, which allegedly saw government approvals given to businesses in return for bribes.