RAPIDINHAS

    RAPIDINHAS

    As a rule, parties in Brazil—like the individual candidates
    themselves—do not put together programs, and those that do
    are not known for sticking to them. Mud-slinging is
    commonplace. What is a reluctant voter supposed to do?
    By Brazzil Magazine

    The phenomenon is not new, but the conservative Rio daily O Globo has
    rekindled the arguments surrounding porno movie theaters in Rio de Janeiro. In a full-page
    article entitled "Porno Theaters Are Sanctuary for Clandestine Sex", the Carioca
    (from Rio) paper writes that X-Rated movie theaters have become the stage for anonymous
    and promiscuous sexual encounters.

    "Rare are the filmgoers who go to these theaters to watch a movie," says O
    Globo. "The majority of goers never even look at the screen. Last Monday, around
    6 P.M., while the films Anomalias Sexuais (Sexual Anomalies) and Apertadinhas
    (The Quite Tight Girls) were shown at the Rex theater, approximately 300 men were
    circulating around the theater floor. Sexual activity happened in the wings of the theater
    and in the womens’ bathroom, which became an immense dark bedroom during the show."

    According to the Brazilian Penal Code, this kind of public sexual activity is
    considered a crime. Article 233 of the Penal Code states that the practice of obscene acts
    in a public place is punishable by a fine and prison time that varies from three months to
    one year, depending on the judge’s discretion.

    Single women and couples are rare at these places. Group sex, though, is quite common
    and management seems to encourage such sexual trysts by removing seats from the auditorium
    in order to facilitate contact among the public. It is believed that the immense majority
    of the public is made up of young and old gays and bisexuals from all walks of life:
    students, public servants, bank tellers, office workers, and also lawyers and executives
    dressed in jeans, Bermuda shorts or suits.

    Commenting on this behavior, sexologist Célia J. Morais says: "Men still have a
    need for a parallel life and for expressing their impulses in a marginal way. In the movie
    theaters no one sees or knows each other. They are men who often are married and live a
    life that’s not compatible with that of a married man and who run the risk of transmitting
    diseases to their wives. Time and again they become addicted to these ephemeral
    pleasures."

    Among the movie theaters that cater to this segment of the public in search of
    cheap—the ticket for the movie is less than $2.50—and high-risk sex there are
    the Rex and Orly in downtown Rio, the Scala at Botafogo beach and the Astor in the
    Madureira neighborhood. At these places the catch of the day for the morning cleaning crew
    is a collection of wallets, cellular phones, underwear, whole suits, dozens of condoms and
    carrots.

    Crime
    Daring Snatchers

    "This may not be an ideal number but we would like to have only 40,000 stolen
    vehicles this year. It may not be the best, but it is a considerable reduction for a state
    that used to have 51,000 stolen cars a year." This is Rio State’s secretary of Public
    Security Josias Quintal’s admission to a poor state of affairs in the wake of a report
    that Rio has the worst record of all southeastern states for recovering stolen cars.

    According to the CNVR (Cadastro Nacional de Veículos Roubados—National Registry
    of Stolen Vehicles), a private company from São Paulo specializing in recovering stolen
    cars, Rio’s police find only 37 percent of the cars stolen in the state. Quintal rejects
    the numbers saying that his police are finding 47 percent of the vehicles, even though he
    agrees that there is still room for improvement.

    With 2.2 million vehicles, Rio is second only to São Paulo, which comes in first with
    almost 9 million vehicles. São Paulo is recovering 46 percent of its stolen cars,
    exceeding the state of Minas Gerais—the third largest fleet, with 2 million
    autos—with a 39 percent recovery rate. Espírito Santo, by comparison, is recovering
    77 percent of the vehicles stolen in that state, according to CNVR.

    Rio’s numbers don’t look good even when the whole country is considered. Nationally the
    state ranks as the sixth worst place in the nation for recovering a stolen car. The tiny
    state of Tocantins is first on the list with a mere 16 percent recovery rate,
    followed by Rondônia (24 percent), Acre (29 percent), Alagoas (35 percent) and Roraima
    (36 percent). But while all these states combined had 766 vehicles stolen in 1999, Rio
    alone had 48,000.

    For Quintal, insurance companies should take part of the blame for the high incidence
    of stolen cars. He criticizes insurance companies for the practice of offering policemen a
    reward equivalent to 18 percent of the car’s value for each recovered vehicle. A popular
    car like the Volkswagen Gol 1000, for example, is worth around $1600 when found.

    Press reports have already detailed links between the police and these recovery
    companies. According to a special investigative report by Rio’s daily O Globo, the
    stolen car recovery industry is thriving in Rio with over 50 companies making around $6.6
    million a year. It works like this: the vehicle is stolen and hidden until the owner gets
    paid by the insurance company. As a chief of police told Rio’s daily O Dia:
    "There’s a policeman who finds four cars every month. This is very strange."

    It’s believed that a criminal alliance between policemen and agents from Detran
    (Departamento de Trânsito—Traffic Department) is the main cause for an explosion in
    car thefts in Rio. According to recent reports, they are responsible for more than half of
    the 48,000 stolen cars in the state. Apparently, except for going out and stealing the
    cars themselves, the public servants do it all including "cloning" license
    plates. Cloning is the practice by which cars receive the license plate number of another
    vehicle. There are stories of car owners who find another vehicle with the same plate as
    they have.

    Torture
    They Can’t Forget

    "The captain said: `We are going to take care of those people.’ He drew his pistol
    and passed it to the lieutenant, the lieutenant to the corporal. The corporal looked at
    me. I had never shot anyone in my life. `You have to do this….’ Then, I was forced to
    hold the people who were there and kill them."

    That’s the way an Army soldier described his initiation as a killer for the state. He
    had to kill innocent people only because they had by chance witnessed a murder committed
    by another soldier. Like him, everyone is given anonymity in Working in Violence:
    Brazilian Torturers and Murderers Reconstruct Atrocity, a 2000-page volume scheduled
    to be finished in October. The book, written by Schenectady’s Union College sociologist
    Martha Huggins, is the result of interviews with 27 police agents, all identified as
    murderers and torturers.

    Huggins concluded that among informants, murderers and torturers, the latter are the
    most despised among the policemen themselves. This has created the idea among them that
    each person is never a torturer but his colleagues are. The sociologist has been studying
    the Brazilian police system for 25 years. The book will deal specifically with policemen
    involved in torture and murder during the military regime, which lasted from 1964 to 1985.

    Huggins opted for the less known torturers, not the big names or those who gave the
    orders, but those who were involved directly "with the dirty work" of killing or
    torturing. One of these men described some of his methods of torture: "Nail
    extracting, tooth pulling, eye perforation, genital perforation, electrical shocks on the
    scrotal area and eardrum perforation. Another method was to place an individual’s head
    inside a plastic bag while his feet and hands were tied. I would leave him inside the bag
    for awhile and when I saw he was almost dead I would remove the bag. If we looked we could
    find almost two thousand types of torture."

    Rio’s daily Jornal do Brasil, which recently dedicated a full page to the
    subject, reported that the state’s repressive machine worked like a well-run business.
    They had a weekly routine with scheduled meetings and predefined tasks. Mondays, for
    example, were used to deal with internal problems and concerns, it was the "dirty
    laundry" time, as they used to call it. On Wednesdays, the agents received sealed
    envelopes in which their secret missions were detailed.

    As an agent told Huggins: "They would call us and would show us the missions,
    present slides, the guy who was going to be eliminated, the places he frequented, people
    who lived with him, some members of his family, all his habits and favorite sports."

    The American sociologist fitted the torturers into four categories according to the way
    they justified their actions. The first are those who believed they were doing the right
    thing for what Huggins calls a "personal cause." In these cases, the torturer
    places the blame of the torture on the tortured himself, who in some way would provoke the
    agent to retaliate with just ire and punishment.

    In a second category are those classified under the label "diffusion of
    responsibility." The policeman would only be a reflex of a whole society that is too
    violent. Thirdly, there are those who believed that everything was permissible, including
    torture and killing, because they were fighting an "internal war." Finally, a
    fourth group invoked "professionalism" to justify their actions.

    Huggins told O Jornal do Brasil that one day she would like to forget about the
    more macabre stories she heard. She also found out that torturing does not pay. Some
    torturers have become alcoholics and most wish to forget the past. The majority of the
    agents she met is also facing poverty. From the 27 agents she interviewed only three were
    promoted to a managerial position.

    When the author has a chance to talk with Brazilian police agents she always tells
    them: "Be careful. You are doing dirty work for the government and afterwards instead
    of getting richer you will get sick."

    Marketing
    The Name Game

    Talk about soft drinks and for the majority of Brazilians this term will evoke images
    of Coca-Cola. What about other products? To discover the answer to this question, Abras
    (Associação Brasileira de Supermercados—Brazilian Association of Supermarkets)
    ordered a study from the AC Nielsen research company regarding the brands and products
    preferred by Brazilians. The report, called "Sale Leaders," is an extensive
    portrait of the nation’s tastes and preferences, listing the five best-selling brands for
    140 product categories. For all the globalization and Americanization of Brazil it’s a
    surprise to see there are many different brands filling the Brazilian supermarket shelves.

    Minalba, for example, is the leading brand in the mineral water category. The bottled
    water sector grew 20.4 percent in the last 12 months, selling 459.3 million liters of the
    product and earning $101 million. In the house cleaning products’ category, which made
    almost $700 million, Pinho Sol is the champion of household disinfectants.

    Elefante is the tomato paste that most people buy, but Pomarola is the favorite brand
    when Brazilians shop for spaghetti sauce. For canned vegetables Jurema is the favorite. As
    for coffee, Pilão is the leader in its category, with Bauducco being the brand most
    people prefer when buying cookies and cakes. Then there’s Danone, a word that in Brazil is
    synonymous with yogurt. While the yogurt market experienced a 3 percent reduction in the
    last 12 months, coffee grew 9.6 percent, selling 232 thousand tons and earning $817
    million, during the same period.

    Skol is the name most Brazilians think first when buying a beer, a market that sold 1.2
    billion liters despite having a 9.6 percent reduction in sales volume.

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