YouTube has blocked a video critical of a mayoral candidate in Campo Grande, Brazil. Braziilan law limits personal criticism of candidates during an election. The company blocked the video after a Brazilian judge ordered the arrest of the top executive in Brazil of Google, YouTube’s parent company.
Next time you complain about being stuck in traffic, spare a thought for the drivers in Brazil’s biggest city, which has some of the worst congestion problems in the world.
Friday evenings are a commuter’s worst nightmare in Sao Paulo.
That’s when all the tailbacks in and out of the city extend for a total of 180km (112 miles), on average, according to local traffic engineers, and as long as 295km (183 miles) on a really bad day.
Red brake lights stretch as far back as the eye can see, blinking repeatedly as drivers endure an exasperating stop-and-go journey, which can continue for hours.
“It’s like a sea. A sea of cars,” says Fabiana Crespo, as she slowly navigates the congested streets with her 10-month-old baby Rodrigo.
“For a long time I lived with my family in the south of Sao Paulo and worked on the other side of town.
“So when I got married, I decided to move to the north of the city to be close to the office, because commuting can make your life hell,” she says.
“But after my first son was born I decided to go back to running the family business which is in my old neighbourhood. So I am back to the ordeal crossing the whole city to go to work.”
For Crespo it’s a journey that can take more than two hours of her day – each way.
Traffic jams cause problems all over the world, and not just for drivers, but in Sao Paulo they have become more than a nuisance.
Heavy traffic is an integral part of life and culture in this vast city of more than 11m people.
“We have become slaves of traffic and we have to plan our lives around it,” says Crespo.
Batman is running for office in the Brazilian city of Uberlândia. Not one but two James Bonds are seeking city council seats, in Ponta Grossa and Birigui. Elsewhere in Brazil, voters are being urged to cast ballots for candidates with names like Daniel the Cuckold and Elvis Didn’t Die.
Brazil has nurtured one of the world’s most vibrant democracies since its military dictatorship ended in 1985. As campaigning for municipal elections in October intensifies, this vitality is evident on the ballots, which reflect Brazil’s remarkably loose restrictions on what candidates can call themselves.
Ballots are filled with superhero names (five Batmans are running this year), mangled versions of American television characters (like the Macgaiver running in Espírito Santo State, inspired by the “MacGyver“ secret-agent series), and an array of raunchy nicknames.
“It’s a marketing strategy, a political program, because if I said Geraldo Custódio, no one was going to recognize me,” said Geraldo Custódio, 38, a teacher of driver’s education who is running for city council with the name Geraldo Wolverine in Piracicaba, an industrial city in São Paulo State.
Mr. Custódio said he had gotten the nickname of Wolverine, after the Marvel comics character, when he tried out for the reality television show “Big Brother Brazil.” He did not make it on the show, but the sideburns he adopted, along with his big build, made the nickname stick. He now campaigns with long metal talons. One of his ads says, “Vote for the guy who has claws!”
Creatively named candidates with talons might raise eyebrows elsewhere, but this is Brazil, a proudly relaxed country when it comes to the names of its politicians.
Bus driver Luiz Bezerra used to have just one thought on mind as he climbed the crumbling steps to Cantagalo every evening. It was this one thought that drove him on far more than the oppressive humidity or the sweat beading on his forehead: “How will my wife, our two daughters and I survive the night?” Cantagalo, a slum clinging to a slope above the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, could only be considered picturesque if viewed from the safe distance of a tourist helicopter. It is poetic only in its name, which means “the crowing of the rooster.”
On every street corner of this favela, a Brazilian term for “slum,” men stood around dealing drugs and settling their differences with automatic weapons. Gangsters raped young women, mugged the elderly, controlled the neighborhood and stifled any form of public order with their violent excesses.
These days, though, Bezerra has different concerns, ones that can be summed up neatly in two key phrases: “garbage collection” and “zip codes.” Now his life revolves around small daydreams instead of nightmares.
“I’m sure all this isn’t very exciting for you,” says this man with graying hair. He’s sitting in his workroom, where a dollhouse-sized model apartment with a miniature couch and built-in kitchen speaks to his ascent to the middle class. “It’s not that exciting for me either, actually. But, believe me, for the first time in a long time, we ordinary people are taking part in Brazil’s boom and, for the first time, we’re experiencing hope.”
Huge crowds thronged through the city’s main avenues, accompanied by floats blasting out gospel music.
The evangelical groups who organised the march described it as the “largest Christian event in the world”.
Police estimated that the number of people taking part was at least a million, and organisers said the figure was much higher.
The “March for Jesus” has been been held annually since 1993, organised in part as a response to Sao Paulo’s similarly massive Gay Pride event.
Three Brazilians have been charged with murdering three women and eating their flesh as part of a cannibalistic cult in which they sought to purify their souls and control population growth, according to police.