South America has been a special part of my life for four decades. I have lived many years in Brasil and Peru. I am married to an incredible lady from Argentina. I want to share South America with you.
If Brazil’s original intention in winning the Olympics for Rio de Janeiro was to drum up good publicity, then the strategy appears to be backfiring. Indeed, it is hard to imagine worse headlines than the spate of sardonic reports about the city running everywhere from mainstream foreign newspapers to blogs.
On the list is the army’s murder of a jaguar, Juma, after she escaped following a torch-bearing ceremony in the Amazon. There have been various armed robberies in Rio, including apparently of an Australian Paralympian, prompting the Australian team to appeal to authorities to bring forward the security operation planned for the actual event to cover pre-training. The appeal did not meet with success. Then there were the body parts that apparently washed up on a beach and, of course, the fetid water of Guanabara Bay, whose sewage content apparently has reportedly now been enriched by an oil slick.
To add insult to injury, this week there also emerged a study from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School claiming the Rio games were 51 per cent over-budget. Not only is the city receiving all of this bad publicity for its investment, it is paying over the odds for it.
For the ordinary Brazilian wrestling with wretched living conditions and the worst recession in a century, this has to be the governance equivalent of kicking an own goal – investing $4.6bn in something that only brings you grief. The city government, however, dismissed the findings of the report, saying it was running 35 per cent under the estimate contained in the original bid.
Speaking of own goals, the continent’s football giant, FC Barcelona star, Argentine Lionel Messi, has suffered a blow after he and his father were convicted by a Spanish court of tax fraud and sentenced to 21 months’ jail and fined €2.01m and €1.6m respectively. He and his father are expected to appeal the decision and may not serve jail time anyway as Spain routinely suspends sentences of under two years for first-time offenders.
On a more serious note, Brazilian security officials are wondering nervously where a former Guantanamo Bay inmate, Syrian Jihad Ahmed Mujstafa Dijab, has got to. The alleged former al-Qaeda passport forger was released by the US for resettlement in Uruguay but in recent weeks has gone walkabout and his whereabouts are unknown. There are concerns he might have crossed the border incognito into Brazil ahead of the Olympics but the country’s federal police say there is no evidence to support the theory.
Quote of the week:
“If subsequent [Brexit] developments are handled in an orderly, constructive fashion — that’s an important if — I think it [the impact] should be manageable.” - Mexico’s central bank governor Agustín Carstens in an interview with the FT’s Jude Webber.