Archive | July, 2010

Brazil and Uruguay step closer to integration

31 Jul

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Uruguay’s Jose Mujica on Friday (30th July) signed cooperation agreements on defence, science, technology, energy, river transportation and fishing with the hope of accelerating political and economic integration between these two neighbouring countries.

The underlying sentiment of the agreement was the call for South America to become a peaceful zone on the whole. This is echoed by this statement by Lula:

“Within the framework of Unasur (Union of South American Nations) we hope to deepen our mutual understanding in order to create a common vision of defense and security for the region, consolidating South America as a zone of peace and democracy.”

They failed to mention any crises that could be causing the lack of peace in the area, although the recent disputes between Colombia and Venezuela were surely on people’s minds. It is felt that the ease of relations between these two countries, especially in border towns such as Rivera and Santana, where people can come and go between the two countries effortlessly, will become a model for other countries in South America to follow.

More info:
Brazil, Uruguay see South America as Peace Zone (Latin American Herald Tribune)

Wallace Souza – the Brazilian TV presenter who ‘arranged’ murder for ratings

29 Jul

Okay, this is slightly off the beaten track but I just couldn’t believe this story when I first saw it. Wallace Souza, was the presenter of Canal Livre, the normal police chase-style program, which was aired in the Amazonas in Brazil. In 2009 he had to step down from the program over allegations that he had ‘arranged’ for a series of killings in order to improve ratings. The accusations came from the fact that his TV crew was also the first to any murders, often getting there as the police arrived. The final straw came when police saw footage of a drug dealier burning in the woods on the show, with the TV crew there long before the police turned up. He was soon arrested for hiring hitmen to kill five people.

Wallace Souza died on Tuesday (27th July) of liver failure so we will never get to know if he was willing to admit to the offences. We can be sure though that this only adds to the notion that Brazil is one corrupt country. Souza was an ex-police officer who left the force very hastily in 1987. There are no official records why he left but I’m guessing he wasn’t on his best behaviour. He later then turned up as a state deputy in Amazonas in 1998 where he continued until his arrest in 2009 despite a ridiculous amount of allegations for drug trafficking and his additional role as TV presenter. His son is also currently in prison facing charges of homicide, possession of firearms and drug trafficking. Many detectives and ex-police officers have already stepped forward to say that they were contacted by Souza to carry out ‘hits.’

There’s more about Wallace Souza at these sites:
‘Murders for ratings’ Brazil TV host dies in hospital
Murder suspect TV host dies in hospital

Arriving in Porto

28 Jul

Since I returned from Brazil I have constantly been looking for ways to live without having too many overheads, figuring the paltry amounts I get for web designs would not spread too far. One of the most appealing ways of achieving this has been the idea of house-sitting. I started out with the Mind My House website after seeing a huge selection of available houses in France, Spain, Portugal and grumpy, old England, but those old-aged pensioners are just too damn reliable apparently. Well, that is until they forget whether they fed the dog or when they last took their medication, or that they’ve left the house without the keys. Anyway, I was more than happy then to find that my good friend Couchsurfing came up trumps when a couple advertised they were looking for house sitters on one of the groups. I’m obviously far more reliable than all the other unreliable, cheap-skate, new age hippies on the site!

That is why I am now in Porto. I couldn’t tell you how hot it is but every time I stretch to reach another key on this keyboard I break out into a sweat, have to drink a glass of water, towel myself down and then take a shower (I started this post yesterday!) Rain would be more than welcome. Not least because the hills are quite literally on fire. Eucalyptus trees are unfortunately prone to exploding when they get a bit hot, it’s all that oil they’ve got in them, and that means that the forest fires are smothering the horizon in grey at the moment. When the sun dropped last night and the wind changed direction we all went to sleep with the smell of sickly sweet burnt wood in our nostrils.

The particulars of this house sitting assignment are to look after an alsatian and a little rat/cat/dog (I think it’s the last of these), Neil and Lula respectively, as well as the myriad of plants, herbs and vegetation dotted around the house and garden. I’m already used to picking fresh berries for breakfast and herbs and salad for my lunch and dinner.

I’m off to explore the city, which on the map seems very small indeed. As with much of Portugal it’s very historical with a real lack of modern franchises (McDonald’s, Starbucks, Subway, etc.,) so they’re obviously trying to preserve it. On the agenda is to try the local port, seeing this is the only place where the real stuff comes from.

Sounds and Colours – a magazine about South American music and culture

24 Jul

Sounds and Colours, as mentioned in a previous post, is a website I have been working on for the last couple of months. It seems like now is the time to get the word out on this thing! The site features interviews, mixtapes, news and reviews of all aspects of South American music and culture. At the moment the focus is Brazil, with a strong bias towards everything musical. In August we will be looking at Argentina.

The basic idea is to create a site about South America in a way that’s not been done for. The majority of sites that are about South American music in particular tend to categorise it as ‘world music’ or ‘latin american music’. These tags are just too broad to ever really embrace all the amazing styles of music from this region. The same also applies to culture with Brazil largely described as ‘carnival’ country, Argentina as the home of ‘tango’ and Peru as the place to visit ‘macchu picchu.’ There is just so much more going on and we are hoping to get the word out as much as possible! Keep on eye on this blog as well obviously as the Sounds and Colours site for the latest on this new project.

Sounds and Colours

It is alive, but maybe just a little comatose

24 Jul

I have to apologise for the lack of updates here, it’s not because I’ve forgotten about this blog, it’s just that life has taken over a little slightly. Since returning from South American I have spent a week in Barcelona, a month in London and the rest of the time in Uttoxeter, a small market town in the center of England. I’ve tried to continue the travelling way of life, making sure I don’t tie myself down again, sleeping on friend’s couches, not worrying about money and generally being very laissez-faire about everything. Only problem is that the money flow has suffered. It took a couple of months before people realised I was back in England and started offering me work. By which point I had decided to go to London for a month. Various celebrations were happening there that involved Brazil and South America in general, and I had begun work on a website, called Sounds and Colours (which I will talk about in more detail on the next post), which is ostensibly a magazine about South American music and culture.

Going to London was the perfect opportunity to turn this website into a viable entity, or even, dare I say it, a profitable one, although this is a long way off. Now, the magazine has a marketing manager (my friend Rick), a media pack (already hideously out-of-date), a few hundred twitter followers, over 100 visitors a day and has generally got itself out into the ether in a way that didn’t seem possible when I came up with the idea in my bedroom a couple of months ago. The site now has itself a head of steam, and I’ve slowly come to terms with how to market and how to add content without wasting my days. Which is why I am now thinking about this blog again.

Over the next few weeks I will be staying in Porto. I managed to find someone who needed a dog sitter, so off I will go. I hope to post some interesting tidbits about Porto, as well as a few about London and Barcelona that are still unfortunately laying dormant in my notebook. I will also be posting far more articles about music and culture, interesting stuff that there isn’t room for on Sounds and Colours but which is obviously of the highest culture.

God, I hope I didn’t sound all formal and straight-ahead there – it was certainly very cathartic writing all that though.