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Dam(n) | Someone Call Saint Paul

"Reduce water usage"

“Reduce water usage”

Nassif writes:

Today, 27 August, is the anniversary of a low point in the annals of water and waste management in São Paulo.  For the first time since it began to function as a system of five integrated dams – Paraitinga, Ponte Nova, Biritiba-Mirim, Jundiaí e Taiaçupeba – the Upper Tietê River system  was  at 16,4% of full capacity, a benchmark achieved on December 6, 2003. Between then and now we have suffered the worst water shortage in the history of São Paulo. At the time, it seems, the Paraitinga and Biritiba-Mirim were public works in the process of finalization, and were to function as reserve capacity in the process of priming the system.

In the context of that crisis, these two dam were perceived as an important solution to avoiding having a significant portion of the population — nearly 5 million inhabitants — run once again the risk of full  exhaustion. At the time, Governor Geraldo Alckmin himself also prayed for rain, which increased far above average in the early months of 2004 and relieved this system and the Cantareira system as well. At the end of this year, the Upper Tietê fell back to some 25% of its capacity, sending a yellow signal to the PSDB administration. Once again, San Pedro was generous and provided a rainy season considered to be exceptional.


Saint Peter is the patron saint of rain and is said to favor one or the the other political party — if only because the blessed rainy season is also the season of human degradation and Schadenfreude in its coverage of impoverished flood survivors.

This time, however, the water shortage seems more serious – and this it not just because we have a single media outlet that has assigned the problem to the top headline, which will make it difficult to overcome. This, of course, because we are in late August now. The negative records we cited above each occurred in December — which meant that at time, when the rains were late in coming, aggravating the dramatic aspect of the problems. In our present case, the possibility of seeing this phenomenon repeat itself is considerable, based on the estimates of climatologists previously published in this space.

It will be difficult to keep faith with Saint Peter when the gizmo shown above — a thingamajig analogous to the boot the cops put on a car with too many tickets — achieves wide publicity.

Restricted-use water taps prevent the consumption of water by unauthorized persons in densely populated locations such as clubs, parks and schools, and aid in reminding users to turn the faucet all the way off. These tools control the consumption of water, but only when necessary.

It sounds like a measure planned and partially executed , leaving behind the impression that the state government does not really care what consumers think. And this in an election year.

Restricting use is done in one of two ways: : with the installation of padlocks that block the faucet from being turned, or else with a key similar to the “bow tie” key of an ordinary faucet.

The padlock goes  for  R$ 14.90 a R$ 26.90. In the case of the mobile key, prices range from R$ 50.90 aR$  118.90, Globo says.

A trickle of water from a faucet results in a wast of 442 liters a day, according to Sabsesp [the state-owned water and sewage company.] Left completely open, a garden hose consumers 40 liters a minute;

Source: Como economizar água | da Rede Globo.

Massive infrastructure problems and the fortunes of the center-right: It takes you pack to 2002, when Brazil was slammed by cascading electricity outages just as Prof. Cardoso was running (successfully) for president.


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 alt.press

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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