Adeus, Kassab

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

The conservatively inclined but civic-minded Estado de S. Paulo often does a fine job of cross-checking lists of political promises with lists of practical achievements.

Today’s paper runs a post mortem on the performance of outgoing mayor Gilberto Kassab.

Source: Portal ClippingMP.| Estado de S. Paulo
Translation: C. Brayton

A mere 123 of the 223 objectives listed at the outset of the Kassab administration — 55.1% of the total — were carried out, according to the list of objectives announced in 2009.

The mayor says the city government’s “efficacy rate” is 81%, but this figure includes projects not yet completed. Among the main projects promised but not completed on time was the construction of three hospitals, the creation of more day care vacancies, drainage projects, and 60 km of bus corridors.

As part of his “efficacy rate,” the mayor counts both finished and unfinished projects, but says we will leave the city in better shape and with more resources.


The final report of Agenda 2012, the official planning document announced by Kassab in 2009, shows that only 123 of its 223 commitments — 55.1% of the total — have been met as Kassab’s four years in office come to a close. Nevertheless, the mayor says that the city’s “index of efficacy” stands at 81%. This number includes projects that were initiated but not completed.

This was the first time a São Paulo mayor has published a planning document detailing the goals of the administration.  The publication of such a planning document was ordered by the city council in February 2008 in an amendment to the city’s Organic Law that gives incoming mayors three months to define objectives to be met during their term in office.

Bureaucratic and regulatory problems, as well as difficulties in obtaining environmental licenses account for at least part of Kassab’s performance. Among the principal works not completed on time were hospital construction, an increase in daycare capacity, drainage works and 66 km of bus corridors.

These performance were neverthless cited in order to raise the city’s “efficacy rate.” According to the mayor, this index takes into account the bureaucratic status of the city’s projects — contract complete, property rights established, bidding process executed — to measure how far the city has come to completing the road to its objective.

Yesterday,  Kassab said he is leaving “a better city, with more resources” to mayor-elect  Fernando Haddad (PT), who has until March to define his goals.

Actually, Haddad published a highly detailed plan of government during the election campaign.

My browser thanks the candidate for dialing down the Flash the next time around, by the way.

Whether Haddad will do any better at minimizing bureaucratic friction is the question.

Kassab finishes out his second term with very negative polling numbers: 42% rate his government as bad or the worst. Only 27% rate it as good or best. These figures are the worst for any mayor in history except Celso Pitta (1997-2000), with 74% negatives.

Kassab was Pitta’s secretary of urban planning.

It is odd that the Estado does not touch on the Nova Luz project — urban renewal in a  historic downtown neighborhood abutting present-day Cracolândia — Crack City Sambodia.

On a Personal Note

Our little neighborhood here in the Vila was the focus of some of the parks development that the Kassab government promoted.

Our local praça is now a popular spot, with kids playing, dogs sniffing the Internet of dogs and urban DIY greengrocers importing their household grown compost.

It was also the site of a fatal police shooting in which a local resident was shot eight times during a police stop and search. This happened 25 meters from our front door.



The park is not exactly a world-class urban green space, however. As an architect neighbor and another, an engineer, remark, the materials used for the pedestrian paths — sand and brick dust on either shoulder — will soon wash down into the abutting creek.

The playground equipment is dangerously far from up to specs.

If you ask me, the city’s most typical project is the urban reforestation project the city eventually got around to doing on our next door neighbor’s property: A moribund, fenced in sapling bearing the brand of the city environment secretary.

Remember “Ozymandia”?

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!



In short, long live the Potemkin village.

São Paulo: Metrosexual Frustration! Discovery Quashed!

The series of serious accidents in engineering projects throughout Brazil in recent years, with loss of life and enormous economic and financial damages to society, ought naturally to provoke, aside from painstaking and definitive investigations into each case, a thorough, courageous and transparent reflection on the part of professionals, business sectors, companies and public institutions with an interest in understanding what might be wrong with Brazilian engineering. –Álvaro Rodrigues dos Santos, Caros Amigos, March 2007

Blue Bus: If it ain’t on television, it never happened.

In 2007, the World Bank-funded future Pinheiros Station on the Yellow Line of the São Paulo subway system collapsed into a vast, smoking crater that sucked down seven lives and vomited up months and months of prior complaints from local residents about damage to residences in the path of the excavation.

The project used a variant on the New Austrian Tunneling Methodhere also — which has a troubling history of collapses — including the Túnel Tribunal de Justiça collapse in São Paulo in 1993 (Maluf administration).

Fail … remember … doomed … repeat.

(The Green Line extension, near us, used a traditional tunneling method and had registered 0 mishaps at the time of the Yellow Line’s massive systems fubar, which had already registered numerous prior mishaps.)

Why did it happen?

To this day, I still have not grokked the official answer.

Some contemporary newsflow to jog our memories: keyword “smoking hole.” And see also

(The first thing the current mayor did when he took office?

Appointed his brother head of New Projects at the Metrô!)

Now hear this:

O desabamento nas obras da estaçao do Metrô Pinheiros (zona oeste de Sao Paulo) em 2007 pode virar documentário no Discovery Channel.

The collapse of works  on the Pinheiros subway station (western district of S. Paulo) in 2007 may become a Discovery Chanel documentary.

A ressurreiçao do assunto, no entanto, esbarrou na direçao do Metrô. No mês passado, produtores do canal tentaram entrevistar dois geólogos do Instituto de Pesquisas Tecnológicas (IPT), responsáveis pelos laudos do acidente.

This attempt to dig the subject up again, however, has [[run up against a stone wall]] at the Metrô authority. Last month, Discovery Channel producers tried to interview two geologists from the Technological Research Institute (IPT) who had authored the official report on the accident.

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Post Hoc Ergo Non Propter Hoc: “Resistance Followed by Death Cases” Rise Sharply

How much has changed since the Globo reporter’s 1992 exposé on São Paulo’s Maluf-era “police who kill”? Not much.

At the time this happened, the two “marginals were” already dead and stowed in the trunk of the squad cars. They were already dead. Two plainclothes troopers got in the pickup to simulate the hot pursuit and subsequent firefight, but what nearly spoiled the thing was that a TV news team was nearby and started filming. But when the pickup stopped and the shooting started, the TV news people stopped filming. So this is what happened: The TV news report showed one thing, but it benefited the police, because it did not show what really happened there. — Estado de S. Paulo, “Police Violence: S. Paulo’s version of Elite da Tropa”, September 23, 2007.

PM matou 41% a mais no ano passado: “São Paulo state military police kill 41% more in 2009.” The Folha de S. Paulo ($) reports.

As I was saying, human rights watchers have often noted that as violence has diminished over the past ten years, from Baghdad or Medellín levels to something that begins to approach the level achieved by other prosperous world cities — 10.9 per 100,000 last year, as compared to 4 or 5 per 100k in NYC — police violence has not accompanied the trend.

Human Rights Watch talking point: U.S. police kill on suspect out of every 37,000 arrests.

São Paulo police kill one of 345. Rio police kill one out of 23.

This year, it got even worse.

Policiais militares mataram 524 pessoas em 2009 nos chamados casos de “resistência seguida de morte'; em 2008, foram 371

Military police killed 524 persons in 2009 in cases of so-called “resistance followed by death; in 2008, they killed 371

Número de PMs mortos em serviço caiu, mas os dos assassinados fora do horário de folga, em muitos casos no chamado “bico”, subiu

Number of PMs killed in the line of duty declined, but off-duty murders of police, often during “moonlighting” jobs, rose


You hear good things about this reporter.

When there is something worth reading in the Folha de S, Paulo, it is generally the reportagem local that produces it.

A Polícia Militar de São Paulo matou 524 pessoas no ano passado nos chamados casos de “resistência seguida de morte” -um aumento de 41% em relação a 2008.

The São Paulo military police (PM) killed 524 persons in 2009 in cases of so-called “resistance followed by death” — an increase of 41% over 2008.

Já o total de policiais militares mortos durante o horário de trabalho nesses casos teve redução de 16% -de 19 casos em 2008 para 16.

The number of PMs killed in the line of duty, meanwhile, fell 16%, from 19 cases in 2008 to 16 last year.

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Justice for Barbon?

Item: Acusados pela morte do jornalista Luiz Carlos Barbon vão a júri no dia 25 de março.

A rural São Paulo  freelance reporter is nominated for the Esso Prize for exposing a child prostitution ring in which several local elected officials are involved.

The officials are jailed. Some are reelected while still incarcerated.

In March 2007, Barbon is assassinated, death-squad style, in his home town of Porto Ferreira.

A jaw-droppingly tasteless side debate breaks out as FENAJ, the national journalists union — pelêgo — insists that because Barbon did not have a four-year B.A. in journalism, and was not registered with the Ministry of Labor as a journalist, this was therefore not a case of a journalist being murdered for doing his job.

Three years later, Barbon’s alleged killers are being brought to trial.

Of the five defendants, four are members of the state military police, including a captain and a sergeant.

The fifth is a local businessman who may have hired the PMs to carry out the execution.

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“State Fails to Stem Murder Epidemic!”: FSP

Cop on Sambodian Cop

The Battle of the Bandeirantes Palace: Military police "shock troops"are summoned to confront striking state judicial police outside the seat of government, August 2008. A small number of lethal rounds were reportedly expended.

HOMICÍDIOS CRESCEM EM SÃO PAULO APÓS DEZ ANOS : The homicide rate and other statewide crimes statistics for 2009 are out.

São Paulo state recorded the first rise in its homicide rate for a decade, says the Folha de S. Paulo.

The state had been hoping to finally achieve a homicide rate per 100,000 that would remove it from the “epidemic” category, as defined by the WHO.

The Folha de S. Paulo editorializes today that the head of the state judicial police (Polícia Civil) cannot credibly explain this “reversal” as a result of the financial crisis, as he allegedly tried to do:

As razões para a inversão na curva de homicídios e a disparada de roubos e latrocínios parecem bem mais domésticas. Uma pista: reportagem de André Caramante publicada no último dia 24 informou que cerca de um quarto dos delegados da polícia civil paulista é alvo de algum tipo de processo.

The reasons for the reversal in the murder-rate curve and the explosion of robberies and thefts are to be found much closer to home, it seems.  Here’s a clue: the 24 January report by André Caramante according to which nearly 25% of state judicial police delegados are the target of some type of misconduct inquiry.

First of all, the story referred to is bogus, a mass of gabbling factoids. See

Second of all, this editorial manages to misstate the central factoid presented by that essentially bogus report.

The report stated that some 800 senior police officials have been reassigned, either because of pending disciplinary matters or because they were considered “inadequate” to their current posting for some other reason.

As to the “explosion” in thefts and robberies, state governor José Serra has a perfectly reasonable explanation:

Serra atribuiu ainda o aumento de crimes menos graves, como furtos e roubos, à subnotificação de ocorrências em 2008, ano em que a Polícia Civil passou meses em greve. “Houve uma elevação artificial em 2009.”

He attributed the increase in less serious felonies such as thefts, burglaries and robberies, to the undernotification of crimes in 2008, a year in which the Polícia Civil spent months on strike. “There was an artificial spike in 2009.”

That seems plausible on the face of it, although Serra himself is criticized for his flat refusal to negotiate with police unions, leading to a violent confrontation between state military police and Polícia Civil outside the seat of government.

Also, Serra does not help his cause with a long, complex explanation of the term “hysteresis” to explain the correlation between financial crisis and a bump in crime.

the lagging of an effect behind its cause; especially the phenomenon in which the magnetic induction of a ferromagnetic material lags behind the changing magnetic field …

Though this explanation is plausible — “things get worse faster than they get better”: Serra is a highly reputable economist — you need to keep the vocabulary at a sixth grade level for the benefit of the local press.

But what is really inexplicable is here the exclusive focus on the Policia Civil.

The silence on the role of the state Military Police in police corruption and criminality is deafening.

As a recent Human Rights Watch study indicates, there remains the troubling fact that as the homicide rate declines in São Paulo and Rio, the number of killings by police officers has not declined along with it. See

And chiefly responsible for the pandemic of suspected summary executions — the euphemism is “resistance followed by death” — is the military police force, the PM, which is in charge of street policing.

U.S. police kill one suspect out of every 37,000 suspects arrested, notes HRW.

São Paulo military police kill one suspect for every 348 arrests.

Rio military police kill one suspect for every 23 arrests.

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Coals to Newcastle, Coffee Beans to Sambodia: A Note on Starbucks in Brazil

RR on Starbucks

The daily newsletter of corporate boardroom gossip and private equity scuttlebutt, edited by a former hero of the

I have long been interested in the fate of Starbucks and its bid to create a niche for itself in the Brazilian market.

On the face of it, it always seemed like a case of carrying coals to Newcastle: Right in the heart of Brazilian coffee-growing country, home of the near-Turkish cafezinho, you are going to sell people the pressings of stale imported beans, inflated with lots and lots of foam?

You are going to rely on the power of pure branding — as seen in the Austin Powers movies! — to overcome the fact that there is really nothing special about your product in this market?

Our household brand, Café Pilão, for example, is a potent and delicious local arabica. You can pick up a kilo for the price of a single skinny vegan mochacchino or whatever it is.

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Sabesp: The Elision of a Provision

NYSE:SBS Stock Price, Last Six Months

NYSE:SBS ADR price, last xix months. The ADR was down 2.3% in Monday morning trading.

Valor Online reports: Sabesp, the listed, state-run water sanitation utility — NSYE:SBS (ADR) — takes a R$1 billion writedown on its 2008 results, an adjustment to a provision for contingent liabilities related to a longstanding pension-related matter.

The crudity of the company’s investor relations strategy for the announcement was remarkable: It issued the news near the end of trading Friday, with the information-free headline “SABESP Announces Material Fact.” (I have always understood that the proper terminology is “Material Event.”)

Had it been good news, it would have been released first thing Monday morning with the headline “Sabesp [achieves some notable feat, described in some detail].”

Brazilian investor relations — with some notable exceptions, I should say (I have done some translating in this area) — are not characterized by their finesse.

Finesse is, for example, providing a lot of information — giving the impression that you are being forthcoming — without providing the information you cannot or do not want to provide. And without anyone really noticing. I know some New York financial industry flacks who are just superb at this, and you have to respect them for that. You always have to respect someone who takes real pride in their work. Seriously. I mean that.

Sabesp, empresa de saneamento controlada pelo governo de São Paulo, decidiu republicar seu balanço de 2008 com uma diferença negativa de quase R$ 1 bilhão no lucro que havia sido divulgado. O resultado caiu de R$ 1,008 bilhão para R$ 63,6 milhões. A origem da discrepância está relacionada a uma longa disputa sobre o pagamento de complementação de benefícios a aposentados e pensionistas.

Sabesp, the water and sanitation controlled by the state government of São Paulo, decided to republish its 2008 balance sheet with a negative writedown of nearly R$1 billion in the profits originally reported. The 2008 result fell from R$1,008 million to R$63.6 million. The discrepancy is related to a longstanding dispute over the payment of supplementary benefits to retirees and pensioners.

Por força de decisão judicial, a companhia é que paga esses benefícios desde 1986, mas entende que essa é uma obrigação do governo do Estado.

Owing to a judicial ruling, the company has paid these benefits since 1986, but maintains that these payments are an obligation of the state.

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More Sambodian Mud and Flood: Potemkin Cruise Crosses Mogi das Cruces; What the Vigia Told The News

End of the Line

Stop and hail a singing Venetian oarsman: The Régis Bittencourt near Embu yesterday. Source: Folha de S. Paulo.

It never rains in California,
But girl, let me warn ya
Man, it pours,
Man, it pours …

Neuza — my wife, nicknamed “The News” — returns from the morning dog parade with some keen on-the-scene reporting along with some fascinating gossip from the vigia — the 24-7-365 watchman hired by the residents of the Av. das Corujas to keep an eye on things.

The vigia lives in a little guard shack across the creek from the park, and apparently collects rent from carroceiros — families of homeless trash pickers, with their little horse- or man-drawn carts, who live from recycling — who camp there. Among other things.

First of all, part of the Prefeitura’s million-R$ improvement of our park — adding walking paths, drainage, and stairs up to the playing field, and planting trees and bamboo groves — as already been wiped out by yesterday’s rains. It does not seem built to last.

Neuza promises to document the estrago photographically when she has time. She is racing around today trying to avoid a R$500 fine on our vehicle inspection, after our Celta was found to be missing a R$10 hose that no one has in stock. (Around deadlines, authorized inspectors suddenly have no more appointments open.)

“I wonder what the city will do about this?” muses The News to the vigia, eyeing the wreckage.

The vigia laughs and says, “You really think the city runs anything around here? If the Comendador doesn’t give the thumbs up, nothing gets done around here.”

Apparently, the reason there is no local bus service at the triple intersection — a natural place for a bus stop, and which really needs a stoplight, by the way — is that the Comendador, some sort of local AAA-league mafioso, had the bus route re-routed to stop in front of his house.

Or so says the vigia, with a wink and a forefinger laid alongside the nose. (I refuse to pay $R3 a month for “security” to the mano on a moto with the bogus paperwork who whistles up and down the street all night, but The News pays him behind my back. She is afraid not to.)

Even more interesting is the video The News mentions over breakfast, and promises to forward via e-mail, posted to You Tube by one of the major nightly news broadcasts, she says.

The News says a prominent engineer — I believe he is the same expert cited in a recent report by Vio O Mundo — affirms to a wide audience that no dredging work has been done on the Tietê River for the past 3 to 4 years.

Journalist Luis Nassif concluded as much recently, in a post titled “The Tietê was not being dredged.”

By this account, which still needs fleshing out, city dredging contracts for the Tietê got tied up in litigation over the competitive bidding process — exactly when is not clear — and the state water and power agency, the DAEE, finally issued a no-bid work order just last week, citing the present emergency.

In the Vio o Mundo piece, Conceição Lemes had claimed that the state found no private-sector takers for competitive bidding on a public-private partnership for ongoing dredging of the Tietê, announced in 2006 — possibly resulting in a nearly three-year stoppage of dredging work.

Who will now win the emergency no-bid contract arguably caused thereby?

Meanwhile, in Grande São Paulo:

Alagamento na Régis, na altura de Embu, interditou a pista sentido São Paulo por cinco horas e provocou lentidão de 20 km

Flooding on the Régis Bittencourt highway, near Embu, shut down São Paulo traffic for five hours and caused 20km of stop-and-go traffic.

I could be mistaken, but I believe Embu is where the major highways entering São Paulo — all of them outsourced, mostly to private Spanish concerns, I think – flow into the Maluf-built traffic complex that includes the Túnel Tribuna de Justiça. I am still learning the geography of this crazy cruciform city.

And meanwhile, in Mogi das Cruces …

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Sambodia: The Silence of the Bingo Bongos

Bingo budget: bad behavior is often barely battled in the badlands of Brazil.

$R127 million a month — death of Maninho leaves 8,500 bicho shops without owners. –October 2004 headline in Rio’s Extra

Looking back over stuff I took copious notes on in the last two years with respect to the Sambodian urban experience, one of the most notable stories that never really got followed up on by the local press was the thorny issue of bingos, or illegal gambling parlors — usually with an off-duty (or sometimes not) military policemen serving as leão de chácara, or bouncer.

These are the Internet-age successors to the traditional jogo do bicho, or numbers rackets.

See, for example,

A taste of the scandal in the air then:

The PF broke up a criminal organization in São Paulo today that specialized in buying and selling judicial rulings that benefited gambling establishments and companies interested in obtaining tax credits.

Reportedly there was enough liquidity there to support a secondary and futures market, but judges tend to very quick to SLAPP injunctions on the press in criminal cases involving judges, prohibiting the mentioning of names in a deleterious context. Honor — among thieves — laws, got to love them.

Meanwhile, up Highway BR-101, past Paraty, in Rio:

The Peacemaker milita was headed by a senior police inspector who was promoted and decorated by an indicted former police chief whose campaign for the state assembly was allegedly funded by the gambling mobs involved in Operation Hurricane, in which senior judges are charged with selling verdicts that provided legal cover to gambling mafias. The inspector, a fugitive from justice, was later found with 30 bullets in him, sitting in his Toyota pickup truck outside his girlfriend’s apartment. Queima de arquivo ["shredding the documents"] was cited as a principal avenue of investigation. His paramilitary group ran bingo halls and GatoNet (an illegal cable TV network) and is under investigation for money-laundering.

Since then, almost nothing.

Until recently, when the Estado de S. Paulo — whose Metrópole section does some very good, civic-minded reporting at times — published the cocktail napkin shown above, seized from one of the bingo joints still in operation despite the occasional mediatic krusade by Kassab and his Keystone Kops.

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Panic in Paradise City: Bust-Up in Brazilian Bantustan

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Paradise City, Sambodia: Not exactly laid out on a Cartesian grid like Salt Lake City. Source: Google Maps

It was good of Governor Serra to provide an air force and heavy artillery. And to send the folks from Barro Branco [the cops] off to train in Israel, just in case rockets from Paraísopolis start overflying the condominiums of Morumbi.

PM amplia para 330 o número de policiais para coibir tumultos em Paraisópolis: 330 São Paulo military police invade the shantytown of Paraisópolis, about 10 km to the south of us, to put down rioting that began with the shooting death of a bandido local citizen wanted on suspicion of committing some crime or other.

The details of the shooting death that supposedly sparked the rioting are murky, as usual.

Homemade firework rockets are reportedly being fired at police helicopters, according to the boob tube. I will translate the latest news report from the Folha, followed by some independent comment on the Folha‘s coverage.

O número de policiais militares na favela de Paraisópolis (zona oeste de São Paulo) passou de 180 para 330 na tarde desta terça-feira, com o objetivo de coibir novos tumultos na comunidade. Ontem, um confronto terminou com quatro PMs feridos –três deles baleados.

The number of military police (PM) in the Paraisópolis (Western Zone of São Paulo) was reinforced from 180 to 330 this afternoon with the objective of preventing new rioting in the community. Yesterday, a confrontation left four PMs wounded, three of them with gunshot wounds.

Segundo a polícia, os 180 policiais que ocupavam a favela permaneceram no local ao término do turno de trabalho e se juntaram aos outros PMs que chegaram à comunidade. O secretário da Segurança, Ronaldo Marzagão, retornará ao local na tarde de hoje.

According to police, the 180 officers occupying the shantytown remained at the scene at the end of their shift and were joined by other officers. The state public security secretary, Marzagão, will return to the scene this afternoon.

A situação em Paraisópolis é de aparente tranquilidade e, por volta das 16h, o comércio funcionava normalmente. No começo da tarde, o estouro de rojões deixou em alerta os policiais militares. Não foram registrados tumultos e ninguém foi detido.

The situation in Paraisópolis is apparently quiet, and local business was open as of 4 this afternoon. In the early afternoon, the firing off of skyrockets put the PM on alert. No rioting was registered and no one was arrested.

Um telefonema anônimo com supostas ameaças fez uma escola fechar as portas. A unidade, patrocinada por uma seguradora e que atende cerca de 600 crianças, dispensou os alunos e interromper suas atividades no período da tarde. Outra escola da região também teria dispensado os alunos.

An anonymous phone call with alleged threats caused one school to close its doors. The school, sponsored by an insurance company and serving 600 children, sent students home and shut its doors during the afternoon session. Another school in the region reportedly also sent its students home.

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