Posts Tagged ‘Amazon’

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Brazil in the news

February 28, 2010

Every Sunday you will find here the latest news about Brazil published by the international media.

The EconomistThe Money Trail – “Corruption in Brazil: Many corruption scandals stem from the high cost of politics, and unrealistically tight campaign-finance rules”

Financial TimesBrazil to reverse easing as inflation fears rise (you need a free registration to read this)

The New York TimesStronger Fidel Castro Meets With Brazil President

Washington Post US presses Brazil on Iran sanctions

The TimesThe gun-toting boys from Brazil who rule Rio’s ‘Corner of Fear’

BloombergGol Says Brazil Demand to Grow Up to 18% as Economy Expands

Banco do Brasil Plans Capital Boost, May Sell Shares

Brazil May Create Company to Boost Fertilizer Output

Brazil to Build an Additional Million Homes for Poor

Brazil’s January Unemployment Rate Rises to 7.2%

Brazil’s Real Heads for Biggest Advance in World This Month

Brazil February Inflation Rose to Fastest Since 2003

ReutersANALYSIS-Brazil economy well-placed for election year swings

JPMorgan may buy stake in Brazil’s Gavea: report

Brasil Foods export sales plummet in 2009

Brazil’s CSN sees 2010 steel sales up by a third

Brazil cenbank: ready to act to keep stability

Petrobras makes two oil finds in Campos Basin

Clinton seen pushing Iran on Latin America trip

Green Futures magazineRainforest revival: has Brazil turned the tide on deforestation?

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More investment in infrastructure

February 22, 2010

Madeira river, in the Amazon, where Jirau dam is under construction

A study released today by BNDES, the main federal bank responsible for financing infrastructure projects, reveals that Brazil will increase its investments in power dams, highways, railways, ports, telecommunications and sanitation. According to daily paper Folha de S. Paulo, around R$ 274 billion (151 billion dollars or 111 euros) should be invested between 2010 and 2013, 37.3% more than the volume spent between 2005 and 2008. BNDES didn’t publicize the investments made last year, during the global financial crisis.
These resources will finance such projects as the rocket train that should connect Rio and São Paulo at a cost of R$ 34.6 billion (19.1 billion dollars or 14 billion euros) in the next ten  years. It should also finance the hydro power dams of Santo Antonio and Jirau (6.4 gigawatts combined capacity), that are already under construction in Rondônia state, in the Amazon region, close to Bolívia, and the controversial Belo Monte power dam, in the state of Pará, also in the Amazon. With an estimated capacity of 11.3 gigawatts, Belo Monte is meant to be the second biggest hydro power plant in the country, after Itaipu, in the Southern state of Paraná. This project has been dragging for over 30 years due to the many environmental and social issues it raises, and the fierce opposition of environmentalists, indigenous leaders and singer/composer Sting. Its costs are estimated in R$ 16 billion (8.8 billion dollars or 6.5 billion euros) – but here, again there is controversy. Many Brazilian entrepreneurs have already indicated that this forecast is too conservative at it will probably cost twice as much.

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10 Brazilian drinks as cool as caipirinha

January 26, 2010

Cachaças that are worth a meal

Caipirinha – a mix of sugar cane spirit (cachaça), crushed lime, white sugar and ice – is a big hit among foreigners that visit Brazil. It is pretty much everywhere in the country and many Brazilian families own the special wooden mortar used to prepare the beverage. Caipirinha and its variations, such as caipiroska (with vodka) or saquerinha (with sake), are just a tiny sample of popular Brazilian drinks.

Follow me in the discovery of other national specialties. Most of them carry cachaça (also known as pinga, aguardente de cana, caninha or “a brava“/”the nasty one”):

  1. Batidas – This mix of cachaça, fruit, ice and lots of sugar is a favorite in the kiosks that line the Brazilian coast. You name the fruit – maracujá (passion fruit), coco (coconut), morango (strawberry). In fact, caipirinha is just one more type of batida.
  2. Meia de seda (probably named after pantyhose because it is a girlie drink) – Those with a really sweet tooth can try this mix of 1/3 of gin, 1/3 cacao liqueur (made with the fruit, not cocoa), 1 spoon of sugar and cinnamon (some recipes abolish the gin or substitute it by rum). Sort of old-fashioned, a souvenir of the golden fifties.
  3. Aluá – There are several recipes for this drink popular in the Northeast states (Bahia, Ceará and Pernambuco, among others), that may or not be alcoholic. You mix one pinapple´s peel, two litters of water, brown sugar, cloves and grated ginger. The skin of the pineapple should be kept in water for a whole night to get fermented. The longer it remains in water, the more alcoholic the beverage. This water is strained and mixed to the other ingredients.
  4. Cachaça puraCachaça, the Brazilian equivalent of rum, is made of the fermented sugarcane juice. There are probably a few thousand of brands, some extremely refined, some too bad to be mentioned. A recent contest promoted by cachaça experts chose the best artisan brands produced in the state of Minas Gerais (which  basically means in Brazil). The winners were Diva (from Divinópolis, a white cachaça), Pirapora (from the city of same name, an aged cachaça) and Áurea Custódio (from Ribeirão das Neves, a premium cachaça). Also Playboy magazine published a cachaça ranking (here ordered from first to fifth place): Anísio Santiago/Havana (from the city of Salinas), Vale Verde (Betim), Claudionor (Januária), Germana (Nova União) and Magnífica (Vassouras). They are all from Minas Gerais, apart from the last one, from the state of Rio. And here you find a large list of Brazilian cachaças, including their origins and alcoholic degrees.
  5. Think Green – This complex cocktail, by Rogério “Rabbit” Barroso, considered one of the best Brazilian bartenders, was one of the finalists of  the latest edition of the World Cocktail Competition. It includes Bacardi, Marie Brizard Lemon Grass, Midori, champagne and pineapple juice.
  6. Porradinha – A classic among college students. Grown-ups tend to be ashamed of drinking this in public. You should fill half a metal cup with cachaça. Add a small amount of Sprite or some similar soda. Cover the cup with your hand, lift it and hit the table (that movement could be described as porradinha). The volume of the drink will grow quickly, so drink it in only one sip.
  7. Submarino – Typical of the Southern states, mixes a dose of Steinhäger (a beverage made of juniper) and a cup of draft beer. Originally, German immigrants would drink both spirits separately, but simultaneously. In Brazil, we turn the cup with Steinhäger face down inside a larger cup. Then pour beer inside. The Steinäger “escapes” into the beer.

If you don’t drink alcohol, there are a few Brazilian drinks that have merits of their own:

  1. GuaranáThe national soft drink is made of guaraná, an Amazonian fruit that is an energy booster – it has twice the caffeine of coffee beans. Guaraná, the soda, has very small amounts of guaraná, the fruit, though, unlike guaraná powder, sold in vitamin shops.

    Guaraná

  2. Juices – In the Amazon, try the ones made of cupuaçu, bacuri or açaí. In the Northeast, the options are limitless. Mango, cashew (the fruit, not the nut on top of it), siriguela, jaca (jackfruit), cajá. All of these are available in major cities all around the country (made of frozen pulp, in most cases).
  3. GarapaFor those with a sweet tooth, the sugar cane juice is available in street markets practically everywhere in the country. Sometimes lime or pineapple are added to the beverage.

Now that you have all you need to be an accomplished Brazilian barman (or woman), check my post on great Brazilian dishes.  After all, you don’t want to drink on an empty stomach.

Enjoy! Saúde!

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Biopirates attack!

January 20, 2010

by Sylvia Estrella, guest writer*

Brazilwood exports, as seen by André Thevet, 1575

Only 12 countries are considered mega-biodiverse, that is, they have 70% of all the species of vertebrates, insects and plants known by Science. Brazil is the leader of this ranking. It is estimated that it has around 150,000 described species, or 13% of all the plants and animals known in the planet. But 90% of this potential is still to be identified.

The Amazon is home of most of these biological resources, with more than 2,500 species of trees. It is also the region with most freshwater fish species –  between 1.4 million and 2.4 million, according to the ecologist Thomas Lewinsohn, from Unicamp (Campinas University).

But the abundance of life in the Amazon and in Brazil as a whole is also an Achilles heel. The great majority of these species are unknown to local scientists. Thus, they are vulnerable to the being patented in the international market by  foreign labs, corporations and research institutes that can patent their genetics in the international market.

Another famous biopiracy episode, extremely harmful for Brazilian economy, was the smuggling of seeds of rubber tree in 1876 by the British Henry Wickham. They were taken to Malaysia and, years later, that country became the main latex exporter in the world.

More recently, in the 70s, Squibb Laboratories patented the drug Captopril, for hypertension, after a Brazilian research developed with the poison of jararaca snake (Bothrops jararaca), from the Atlantic rainforest. Then, in the late 90s, the name cupuaçu (a fruit from the Amazon related to cocoa tree) was registered by a japanese corporation. Later, this register was canceled, thanks to the efforts of several non-profits from the Amazon region.

Jararaca

The  only way of refraining this is by investing in the research and description of new species, as well as in biotechnology. It is essential to develop a Brazilian pharmaceutical industry able to generate drugs and active principles patents, inspired by the traditional knowledge of natives and other rainforest people. That is the only way to avoid the losses related to biopiracy in the country. In 2003, during a Congressional investigation about this subject, it was estimated that the country loses, every year, more than US$ 5.6 billion because of the illegal animal, genes and traditional knowledge traffic.

*Sylvia Estrella is a Brazilian journalist and translator specialized in the Environment and also Aviation.

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Brazil will pay high price for climate change

November 26, 2009

Storm over São Paulo/Fabiano (LycoSp)/Flickr

Brazil will lose between US$ 417 billion (in an optimist scenario) and US$ 2 trillion of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year by 2050 thanks to global warming. This means, in the worst scenario, the GDP might be reduced in 2.3% by the middle of the century. This is one of the scary conclusions of a report just released by several Brazilian universities and the main specialists in climate and agriculture of the country. They worked for two years in a document that evaluates the possible impacts of the raising temperatures and climate instability. “It is like wasting a whole year of growth during the next 40 years”, says the study.

Among their main conclusions:

  • The temperature may rise 8°C (46.4°F) by 2100 in the Amazon region and it may undergo a radical transformation, becoming more like a savanna. The south, the southeast and the east parts of the basin might lose 40% of their forests.
  • The Northeast of the country (including the states of Bahia and Pernambuco) are also very vulnerable. Agriculture and cattle farming will have important losses because of the lack of rains in a region that is already very arid.
  • The hydro power dams – main responsible for the generation of electricity in the country – will be less reliable.
  • Agriculture shouldn’t have major problems in the southern states (including São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul).
  • Soy, corn and coffee production will have to reduce their cultivated areas (34%, 15% and 18%, respectively), while sugar cane plantations will not decline.
  • When the level of the oceans elevates and the weather gets more violent, the losses along the Brazilian coast should range from US$ 79 billion to US$ 120 billion.

The study stresses that the poorest regions of the country should be the most affected.It also lists a series of measures that could minimize those risks. Among them, incentives to alternative energies and carbon markets; investments in genetically improved plants, adapted to the growing droughts, and in improved irrigation techniques; and coastal management.

Besides the dark conclusions, the study is surprising because of the quality of the organizations involved. From Universidade de São Paulo and Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp) to the World Bank and a few non-profits, such as the brilliant Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (Inpa).  It is the final proof that climate change and the environmental matters really are attracting the attention they deserve.

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10 unforgettable Brazilian dishes you never heard of

November 14, 2009
Brazilian food - tacacá

Selling tacacá in Belém

You most certainly heard of, or even tasted, churrasco (barbecue) and feijoada (a complex meal that includes a stew of black beans with pork and several side dishes, including rice, collard greans, pealed orange, cassava flour, red pepper sauce and our national distilled beverage, cachaça).

Now, can you tell me what a buchada de bode is? Or pato no tucupi?

Here I list 10 classics, not necessarily easy to digest, but amazing windows to Brazilian culture. The links lead to recipes, whenever possible in English:

  1. Cuscuz – Despite having the same origin as the Moroccan couscous, it looks and tastes way different. In São Paulo, where I come from, it is made with corn flour, olives, tomatoes, eggs, peas, sardines and has the look of a decorated cake.
  2. Barreado – Typical of the coast of the southern state of Paraná, it probably originates from the Portuguese Azores islands. This meat stew served with rice is  prepared in a very peculiar way. It is cooked in a clay pot for around 20 hours – the time needed for the meat fibers to be dissolved in a thick sauce. The pot is layered with banana leaves and its outside is covered with hardened manioc flour paste, in order to avoid the heat to escape. Read the rest of this entry ?