Round-up

I´m reading an interesting book at the moment – Fordlandia, by Greg Grandin. Irritating style, but the content is good. It basically tells the story of Henry Ford´s attempt to establish a “rubber city” half way up the River Tapajos in the Amazon along the lines of his other townships in the U.S., complete with schools, hospitals, clapboard housing etc etc. A noble concept, perhaps, but then to benefit from all this infrastructure and the relatively high wages he was offering, workers would have to forswear alcohol, tobacco, gambling, sex and enjoyment generally – a concept diametrically opposed to the prevailing Amazonian work ethic (work ‘til you’ve just enough to get by, then go enjoy yourself). No wonder he failed, the silly ass.

Very hot and sticky here at present, and we’re still clearing up the debris from the earlier storm, which also triggered CRF (chronic renal failure) in Ozzie – at least that was the diagnosis, and he´s now on hundreds of tablets for 30 days to see if it´s a permanent or transient problem. He seems better at the moment, and there’s no point worrying about it until his return visit to the Vet. As an aside, I note that our American vistors don’t understand me when I use the term Vet.  (“…two countries separated by a common language”)

The elections here failed to produce a majority candidate for President, so we have run-off elections on 31st October. Marina Silva, the ex-rubber tapper and one of the few Brazilian politicians who appears – at least on paper – to be reasonably principled, achieved an excellent 19% of the popular vote and stands to significantly influence – if not decide – the eventual choice for President. Dilma (the Lula candidate), didn’t achieve her hoped-for majority in spite of Lula’s support, while Serra, the only other likely candidate, came a poor second. Serra seems to me the better choice of the two, but I hear that he is opposed to extending Manaus’ Free Trade Zone, which provides the vast majority of jobs here – and this, if true, is worrying. Anyway it`s nice to think that Silva might use the next 5 years to build on her moderate experience and emerge as a strong candidate in the following elections. And in the meantime, provided the successful candidate doesn`t rock the boat too much, Brazil`s economic growth seems assured – although there are major issues (and a partial explanation for the strong showing for Marina Silva) which I see as firstly a dangerous and growing social & economic inequality, secondly an all-pervasive and staggering level of corruption which people have to deal with at all levels in daily life, and thirdly a legal framework which is, by common consent, simply useless – actually worse than useless. But perhaps I should reverse the order there, for unless the ludicrous legal system is systematically overhauled, there`s little hope that the other issues can realistically be addressed (yes – it`s that bad).

Well that`s all for the moment, but I must just mention that although I promised not to bang on about the river levels unless there was a genuine story in it, they continue to plummet – so expect a blog on this by the end of October!

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