Natal Brazil

Information about the city of Natal, in Brazil.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dollar breaks the R$2 barrier

Today, for the first time since February of 2001, the dollar fell below the R$ 2 barrier: markets closed with the course of US$1 = R$ 1.9890.

In 2002 and 2003, the dollar reached almost US$ 4, because President Lula used to defend ideas like non-payment of debts, punishment to wild capitalists, etc. However, after taking office, Lula continued (and in many cases deepened) the orthodox measures implanted by ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. This continuity of Economy policies, along with the excellent conditions of the international financial market, caused the dollar to fall since 2004.

This is bad news for foreign tourists, and for businesses which depend on tourism.
Many Brazilian tourists are preferring a trip to Miami or Buenos Aires rather than the Northeast, because prices in dollar are falling.
On the other hand, tourists who bring dollars to spend in Brazil are seeing their money buying less and less.
The euro has not been loosing much to the Real, so prices in euros are not going up. However, with the increase of Brazilians travelling abroad (and they must return, eventually), airline companies have less seats to sell to foreigns; this decreases availability and increases prices of tickets.

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Ponta Negra bridge is re-opened

The Ponta Negra bridge, which links Avenida Roberto Freire to BR-101, was re-opened, now with an extra lane; there used to be two lanes from BR-101 to Avenida Roberto Freire and only one the opposite way; now there are two lanes each way.

This bridge is the one near Nordestão and Hiper, in one end, and Carrefour and Natal Shopping, in the other end.
Because of the high flow of vehicles from Ponta Negra to the BR-101, this bridge was one of the main transit bottlenecks in Natal. At rush hours, traffic jams were inevitable.

This is a feature which makes Natal stand out from other major Brazilian cities: not only transit flows smootherly, but also the authorities plan in advance to prevent problems from growing too big. In recent years, important works were done to improve transit in the city, such as the Complex 4th Centenary (near Machadão stadium), the loops and bridges in the cross ways to Fortaleza and Recife and the Redinha bridge.

Despite the big recent growth in the number of vehicles, Natal still has one of the best transit systems in Brazil.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Brazil - Norway operation arrests criminals in Natal

A joint operation between the Federal Police of Brazil and Okokrim, the National Police of Norway, resulted in the prison of nine people in Natal and fifteen people in Norway.

Since March of 2006 (see archive here), there were suspicions that groups of Norwegian criminals were using Natal to launder illegal money.
The investigations by the Polices showed that the group called B-Gang was laudering money in Brazil. This is an important criminal organization in Norway, commanded by Pakistanis, charged of extortions, kidnappings and drug traffic.

The money obtained by the gang was sent to Brazil and used to build and buy luxury real estate. The gang was the owner of three real estate groups in Natal: Blue Marlim, Natal Invest and Grupo Capricórnio. Some Brazilian lawyers who helped the gang in Brazil were also arrested.

The Police were helped much by the work of two journals: Brazilian Tribuna do Norte and Norwegyan Dagens Naeringsliv.
The article in Tribuna, wich names of some of the people arrested, is here.
The article in Naeringsliv, in Norwegian, is here.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Pope in Brazil

The Pope Benedict XVI (in Portuguese, he is called Bento 16) arrived today in Brazil, and will stay here until the 14th. Brazil is THE biggest Catholic country in the world.
There are political discussions about the importance of this visit; for example, there is a draft of law in Congress about legalization of abortion in Brazil (today, abortion is legal only in very specific circumstances), and the Pope would have talked about "excomunhão" (expelling from Catholicism) of Deputies and Senators who vote for the law.

The purpose of this post, however, is to remind Catholics visiting Natal that a Pope visited the city in the past.
Pope John Paul II came to Brazil in 1991 (it was his second visit to Brazil), and the first city he visited was Natal. On October 12th, day of the Patron Saint of Brazil, Our Lady Aparecida, John Paul II celebrated a mass at the Cathedral of Natal (see his speach).

John Paul stayed one night in Natal. Instead of the hotels by the beach, the Pope chose to stay at the Centro de Treinamento, a Training Center used by the Catholic Church for meetings and events.
The Training Center is located at the end of Ponta Negra village, about one hundred meters behind the Ponta Negra church.
The Center has, besides meeting halls, some rooms used for accommodation of the people who attend the events.

Last year, I visited the center (I mean: I asked the lady who was guarding the gate to allow me a short entrance), and I was told that, during certain months of the year (from January to March), the rooms are open for other guests.
Catholics may find spiritually significant to visit the center. In the garden, there is a tree (a pau-brazil) which was planted by the Pope.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Two news: low quality education and high income concentration

Two news which are likely related.

On April 26th, the Federal Government published the results of Ideb (Index of development of Basic Education), which assess the quality of all schools (public and private) of the basic education in Brazil, which, at the time of the survey, was composed of eight years on elementary cycle (currently, it's nine) and three years of intermediary cycle.
From 1st to 4th grade, the State of Rio Grande do Norte had the worst results of all 27 States, tied with the States of Piauí and Bahia; the average grade of these States was 2.6, whereas the national average (which itself reflects the low level of Education in Brazil) was 3.9.
From 5th to 8th grade, the State was in 24th position, better than Pernambuco, Alagoas and Paraíba; the State average was 2.6, the national average was 3.3.
In the intermediary cycle, the average was also 2.6, against a national average of 3.0; the State was in 25th position.
When only the capitals are considered, Natal finished 26th in the elementary cycle and 21st in the intermediary cycle.
The city of Acari had the best score in the State, with an average of 4.7.
Newspaper Tribuna do Norte published more details about this survey on Education in Rio Grande do Norte.

On May 1st, another survey showed the other side of the coin: Rio Grande do Norte has the third worst index of income concentration in the country; only the State of Piauí and the Federal District (comprised of a rich nucleus, Brasilia, and a very poor periphery) are worse than RN.
The Gini Index, an attempt to turn income concentration into a number, is 0.578 (the higher, the worse); the average for Brazil, known for its high income concentration, is 0.552.
The 430,000 people in the poorer classes have an average income of R$ 160 per month; the 110,000 people in the richer classes have an average income of R$ 3.014 per month, nearly 19 times as much.
This same survey showed that 21.5% of the population of RN are officially illiterate, and other 32.3 are functionally illiterate (can only read and write little more than their own names).
More detailed article is here.

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