Anatel to Track Knock-Off Mobile Phones

Anatel, Brazil’s independent governing agency for telecommunications, is going to begin tracking the use of unauthorized mobile devices. Last year when this news was first reported, it sounded as though Anatel would be working with carriers to shut off any models that are not included in an official registry of permitted devices, maintained by the agency. Now the word is that Anatel will only be tracking the use of unauthorized devices, with the possibility of shutting them down at a later time.

The problem that Anatel is attempting to solve is the sale and use of knock-off phones. These devices are often available at less than half the cost of their authentic counterparts. Readily available in shops, these phones can present technical problems such as overheating or interfering with other essential radio signals. Since this hunt is being financially sponsored by the major Brazilian mobile carriers, it can at least be suspected that they are trying to reduce competition from cheap devices.

A problem with this effort is that it could easily ensnare people who have bought legitimate devices overseas and brought them back to Brazil. I have both a Blackberry Curve and an HTC MyTouch (Android), and neither seem to appear on Anatel’s registry of authorized devices. I say “seem to appear” because the registry is woefully complicated and thus a challenge to use effectively. This situation can pose a problem not only for Brazilians and permanent residents in Brazil, but also for tourists. Imagine if thousands of people in the country for the World Cup and/or Olympics found their phones restricted, despite (or perhaps even because of) buying and using a local sim card.

The following video, in Portuguese, reviews this issue in depth. Anatel is, in my opinion, being too vague about what action it plans to take and risks causing undue headaches for everyone. Also:
My Mobile Experience in Brazil This Year
Activating a Mobile Number in Brazil With a Passport

Poverty, Power and the Police in Salvador

In the past couple of weeks there was a police strike in Salvador, Brazil. This is one of the host cities for the upcoming World Cup. The police went on strike despite constitutional prohibitions against them doing so. It was a full strike, without even minimal patrols available. The city reportedly descended into chaos, with at least 150 murdered during the strike along with mass looting and countless robberies and rapes. As you will see in the report below from Jihan Hafiz, grasping for power and disregard for the powerless poor are all part of the mix of factors that went into making this happen. I admire the courage of those who spoke on camera, including those with their identities obscured. It’s risky either way.

It’s worth mentioning that I don’t see this as a point of concern for tourists coming to attend the World Cup. There is always a great deal of crime in Brazil, and tourists should be especially careful, but I doubt the police would be so irresponsible as to go on strike during this event.

A description of the video, taken from the YouTube page, is included below.

Over 150 people have been killed through Brazil’s northeast state Bahia as police go on strike demanding higher pay. The city of Salvador goes into lock down immediately. In 48 hours, murder and violent crime near tripled in the city. Suddenly, the land of happiness, as it’s often referred to, morphed into a city in terror. Dozens of families too scared to say their families members were killed during the strike. Bodies pile up at the police morgue as hospital workers stall on autopsies and families wait days for the bodies.

Although the national media sensationalized the strike as a typical story of violence in Brazil, another narrative would suggest the police went on strike for political reasons. Right wing politicians and corrupt officials looking to unseat the leftist Workers Party use the strike to illustrate their control of the police.TRNN follows a local journalist covering the police, and corruption in Salvador. Salvador is Brazil’s third largest city. It is due to host the World Cup games in 40 days.

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It Isn’t All Bad News Zakaria isn’t completely off in his evaluation of Brazil’s situation, in my opinion. Brazil did benefit greatly from the Chinese-driven commodity boom and is now suffering from its decline. Major investment should have taken place in building up the nations infrastructure, from roads to schools to hospitals. There are many failed projects as well as serious concerns about the country’s readiness to host the 2014 World Cup. The government desperately needs to undergo a massive reform that would reduce its size and therefore its revenue consumption. Corruption on all levels of society is a perennial problem that also has yet to be addressed. Yet, it isn’t all bad news.

Those truly familiar with Brazil know that there has been progress on many fronts. Given that it’s only been a democratic republic since the late 1980s, the reforms that have taken place are acceptable, albeit incomplete. In just the 17 years I’ve been familiar with the country I’ve seen incomes rise, international travel to other countries for tourism increase, consumer technology become more readily available and even streamlining in bureaucracy. 
There are startups struggling to make their way, politicians going to jail for corruption and international businesses working to establish themselves in this market. I see new homes, new shopping malls and new cars. I see progress. It isn’t all bad news.

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Should the UUA Have a ‘Come to Humanism’ Moment?

When does a call to Humanism sound like an invitation to Jesus?

On September 28 & 29, 1997 I was in Cincinnati, Ohio. I went there with a United Methodist pastor to participate in the second annual conference of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church. I was not then nor have ever been a member of the United Methodist Church, although my maternal grandfather was a lifelong member of that denomination. What took me to that conference was a desire to help out this pastor friend who wanted to make the trip but didn’t feel safe driving that far alone, and also out of simple curiosity. I was a ministry student, and this sort of thing was right up my alley at the time. As it turns out, I witnessed a little piece of history. On the 28th a surprise motion from one of those in attendance called for a formal organization with central office and staff to be brought into existence.  This was supported and then carried forward.

Prior to this and afterward I had experience with renewal movements within mainline denominations. During my brief time with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) I joined Disciple Heritage Fellowship. I left when racism reared its ugly head on a discussion forum for this group and the moderator, a leader with the organization, moved to silence objections. I also had occasion in 2004 to visit the headquarters of Biblical Witness Fellowship, where I was warmly received on a cold December evening during a Christmas event.

What I’m getting at here is that I know my way around renewal movements. What is interesting to me is the tone of an article from last July by American Humanist Association President Roy Speckhardt. In “Welcoming Unitarian Universalists Home to Humanism” Speckhardt describes the decline of Humanism in UUA congregations in recent decades, in favor of a “radical tolerance.” The way he talks about the decline of adherence to “reason” sounds like the way evangelicals in mainline Christian denominations talk about theological slippage in their fellowships.

But what has been happening over the past 10-20 years to the UUA is a failure to maintain reason as a guiding principle. Instead, the often laudable effort to be “all-inclusive” has become so dominant that in some congregations Unitarian Universalist identity has become so vague as to be insubstantial. This is due somewhat to late 20th century postmodernism that Unitarian Universalists (and many others) found so attractive. But the Everyone-Creates-Their-Own-Truth idea that is the core of postmodernism has failed, and by hanging on to it many UUA leaders and congregations are failing too.

Although I’m an outsider to the UUA, I’ve observed this trend in their communications and branding efforts. In the late 1990’s I was intrigued to learn that “Earth-Based Spirituality” in the forms of Wicca, Druidry and other rituals were finding a home in some UUA congregations. I’m not sure if this has continued. The only two congregations I ever visited, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia and the Unitarian Church in Summit, both seemed pretty “tame” and generally Humanist. I don’t remember any “god-talk” at either. What I hear from the organization as a whole, however, is that they are a home for virtually any spiritual path.

Speckhardt really drives his point home with the following paragraph:

Unitarian Universalism needs to come home to humanism, and I think there is a better-than-average possibility that a large number of UUs agree with me. But they’ve not been asked. This anti-humanist sentiment is coming from UUA leaders, not the laity. And not being an organization that has a nationalistic view of itself, many individuals and local congregations may be largely unaware of the problem or think it’s a minor or isolated issue.

This, to me, sounds an awful lot like what the Christian renewal groups in mainline denominations say, except that they put “Jesus” where Mr. Speckhardt says “humanism.”

There are clearly at least two sides to this issue. On the one hand, it seems arrogant to insist that everyone in the denomination needs to fall in line with a single lifestance, especially if that is not part of the group’s ongoing culture. If the tide is going to turn in favor of Humanism once more within the UUA, this is going to have to come about through consensus. On the other hand, it seems clear to me that no brand, whether commercial or otherwise, can advance or even survive with a vague or unclear reputation and message. Religious groups in particular do better when they have a strong, consistent theme that is clearly communicated and understood. This being the case, the UUA needs to pick something.

I’d like to close by saying that I have a lot of respect for Roy Speckhardt and don’t really disagree with his views as expressed in the article cited above. I think they need to be mulled over and perhaps tempered. Mr. Speckhardt initially won my respect with an article entitled “An End to Arrogant Atheism,” and I’ve continued to appreciate the irenic (for a Humanist!) style he brings to his role. We could use more Humanist leaders like him in the world.

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A Surprising Turn of Events for a Homeless Man in Brazil

We have a lot of homeless people in Brazil. Some cities seem to have it worse than others. The reasons people are homeless are many and diverse. Some have mental problems, others suffer from drug and/or alcohol addictions, and still others lacked access to education and/or stable homes as children. Many of the homeless in Brazil are children. There are people representing government agencies as well as non-profits who are working to alleviate this social problem, of course. Sometimes something special can happen when an ordinary person takes time from her day to get to know someone. Such was the case for a young woman named Shalla Monteiro when she approached Raimundo Arruda Sobrinho, a homeless man in São Paulo.

For the rest of the story, you’ll have to watch the video. It’s in a mix of English and Portuguese, with subtitles as appropriate.
// The Conditioned from Facebook Stories on Vimeo.

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Go Mobile or Go Home

in 2012 I returned to Brazil after nearly 9 years away. Predictably, some things had changed while others hadn’t changed at all. When I lived here before it already seemed like everyone and their dog had a cell phone. That was the pre-smartphone era. During that return visit a couple of years ago I wasn’t surprised to see a smartphone in everyone’s hand, but I was impressed by how many people were toting around tablets (mostly Android-based) as well. Households that have never owned a traditional PC have gone directly to mobile for email and social networks. Riding the city bus I see people of all ages pulling out their smartphones to update Facebook, send messages via WhatsApp or play games.

If you want to reach the Brazilian market, you need a mobile strategy. Build a website, but make it responsive. Begin your planning with mobile first, since that’s likely the way most people will be viewing the site anyway. As for gaming, skip Facebook apps and flash. You’ll need to develop mobile apps, preferably for Android since it currently has a larger percentage of market share than the iPhone in Brazil.

Some people either don’t understand Brazil’s online situation, or don’t want to recognize it. A recent press release from Business Wire seems to suggest that PC gaming is the wave of the future:

“F2P PC games are an ideal middle ground where motivated developers and publishers stand to gain from their efforts in Brazil,” says Jason Coston, Research Manager at Interpret. “The free-to-play business model aligns uniquely with the needs and resources of Brazilian gamers. Our data show that, in Brazil at least, the F2P PC market continues to offer great opportunities.”

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that many homes in Brazil do not have and may never possess a PC or laptop. Even if they do, the preferred way to access the Internet for entertainment is via mobile, whether smartphone or tablet. These are the devices people carry with them and use to pass the time waiting in lines or riding the bus. If you want to engage the Brazilian market online, you need to do it via mobile.

If you’re looking to launch a site, develop an app for this market or otherwise get online in Brazil, we should talk. I’ll be happy to provide pointers, and if you need a project manager I’m available for that as well. I also am networked with several outstanding freelance developers and digital agencies, so I can coordinate in-country development for you if needed. Just contact me and let’s get started.

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Lost in Translation

Must be one heckuva sandwich!

Take a look at the photo I’ve included here. It’s from an ad in front of Burger King at a mall in Uberlândia, Brazil. If you don’t know Portuguese, you’re going to think that double cheeseburger is either really good or really gross. Yes, “double cheddar” is English. What about “SEX”? “Sex” in this case is short for “Sexta-Feira,” which means “Friday.” In other words, the sandwich being promoted Fridays is the one pictured, called the “double cheddar.”

Things get lost in translation here in Brazil.

During my first visit to Brazil in 1997 I was told about an American who went to an ice cream shop and tried to order a cone with two scoops of coconut ice cream He asked for “duas bolas de cocó.” Hilarity ensued. What he meant to say was “duas bolas de côco.” Do you see the difference? Because of the placement of an accent mark and how that effects the sound, he asked for two scoops of poop.

Do you really want to try to risk doing business in Brazil without capable language support? This country is most definitely not Spanish-speaking. Portuguese is the language of government, business and daily live in general. Only tourists can be excused for muddling along with Spanish, and that grudgingly. Brazil’s 198.7 million residents speak Portuguese and only occasionally can be found to know enough Spanish or English to get along in either of those languages.

If you need to translate documents for legal purposes, you need a “tradutor juramentado” (sworn translator). There are the only ones who can translate documents to be accepted by Brazilian government agencies and courts. Contact me and I can help you find a reliable sworn translator.

If, on the other hand, what you need is a translation of a website and/or marketing material, I can help with that. Contact me to discuss what you need and how I can help.

Portuguese may be only the 6th most spoken language in the world, but if you want to enter the Brazilian market you have no option other than to speak it.

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So You Want a Brazilian Domain Name For Your Company

In Brazil almost nothing is as straightforward as it should be. Suppose you have a personal savings account with no activity that you want to close. Depending on your bank, it could take all day and still not be complete by closing time. Are you a foreigner who’s just moved to Brazil and you want/need to get a local driver license? Assuming you already have a license in your home country, at the very least a pricey legal translation, a trip to your Brazilian state’s capital, as well as medical exams and psychological tests are going to be involved. With that information in mind, are you still interested in getting a domain name in Brazil for your company?

Under current Brazilian law, domains ending in “.br” are controlled by FAPESP (São Paulo State Foundation for Academic Research) and are to be provided only to legal residents and companies either with operations already in the country or which plan to begin operating in Brazil within a year. If you are an individual, you simply have to have a CPF number (personal tax ID) as well as the money to register. If your business is up and running in the country, you’ll need your CNPJ (business tax ID). If neither of the previous describes your situation, it gets a little more complicated.

In order to register that domain name, you’ll need someone located in Brazil to serve as your attorney-of-fact (aka “agent”). Documents required are a power-of-attorney authorizing that person to act on your company’s behalf with regard to domain registration in Brazil, a statement of your company’s activities and a declaration that your company will initiate formal activities in Brazil (at least through obtaining the CNPJ) within 12 months. These all have to include specific elements and be notarized, authenticated by a consulate and legally translated in order to be valid in Brazil.

Daunting? Perhaps so, but I can help.

If you just need a copy of the detailed steps and English-language models for the documents, let me know through the contact form on this blog and I’ll be happy to send those your way at no cost. If you need someone on the ground in Brazil to serve as your company’s agent, I’m also happy to help with that. Contact me so I can provide an estimate for documentation and registration as well as my fee for providing this service. Please note I reserve the right to choose which projects to accept and carry forward, and prices vary depending on the specific situation.

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Brazil Is Not For Beginners

From time to time I receive messages from people through the contact form on this blog who, enchanted with Brazil, are looking to move here. Businesses large and small are eyeing this enormous emerging market as well. That’s all very nice, but I have the same word of warning for both starry-eyed individuals and profit-seeking companies:

“Brazil is not for beginners.”Tom Jobim, Brazilian Musician
Several years ago I set up a few Google Alerts around keywords involving Brazil. For the first couple of years I only received a trickle of mostly irrelevant links via email. As Brazil’s economy heated up and the World Cup and 2016 Olympics have drawn nearer the trickle has become a flood. I received a few long emails per day now from Google Alerts, listing out numerous articles about various aspects of life and business in Brazil. Freelance journalists now located in Brazil are contributing to this increasing torrent of news.
The world is talking about Brazil. Some are criticizing the delays involved in the major infrastructure projects for the World Cup and Olympics, citing the nation’s history of failed projects (there were some truly significant projects in the past that should be remembered, such as the building of Brasília to be the nation’s capital). While many are turning bearish on the economy, others continue glowingly bullish. As for me, I prefer to avoid the extremes of pessimism and optimism and simply admit that Brazil is a challenging place to live and work, but one that can be incredibly rewarding as well.
I continue to be more than happy to answer questions from those considering a personal move to Brazil. Simply reach out to me through the contact form and I’ll assist as best I can. 
I am also pleased to provide assistance to businesses looking to enter the Brazilian market. As a PMP certified project manager with extensive experience in the tech industry (see my About page) I know my way around web development. I speak fluent Portuguese and have a fundamental grasp of how to navigate Brazil’s red tape. Contact me and let’s see how I can help. If I don’t have the particular solution you need, I can at the very least point you in the right direction to move ahead.

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Escape from Brazil

Question: How difficult is Brazil? 
Answer: If it were a test, the answer key would only get 70%.

Back in 1997 I made my first trip to Brazil. I spent two months in Campinas and Riberão Preto, cities in the state of São Paulo, learning Portuguese and becoming acquainted with the culture. It was an amazing, life-altering experience. After that, all I wanted to do was move to Brazil after graduating from the university. What youthful naiveté.

In 2001 this dream finally became a reality. I married a beautiful Brazilian woman and settled down to teaching English and starting a family. It didn’t take long for the dream to go bad. I wouldn’t call it a nightmare, but it was no picnic.

When I moved to Brazil that time I arrived on a tourist visa. I had all my documents ready to submit to the Federal Police to switch status from tourist to resident. There was just one problem. Brazilian bureaucracy isn’t that simple. It took nearly three years for my paperwork to be processed. During that time I was unable to obtain most of the documents I needed to carry out the simplest actions. I couldn’t sign rental agreements or have a bank account in my name. We had to do all of that in my wife’s name.

Then there’s the money situation. Had I not been receiving some support from American churches to do mission work, we would not have lasted 3 years in Brazil. Before I moved to this country my wife’s family told me I could make a decent salary teaching English. Not so. For over a year I hardly worked 20 hours a week, and I was paid by the hour. Now, in 2014, the pay has only increased by R$2.00 an hour. In other words, almost no difference at all.

This time around we tried building up savings. My wife moved to Brazil ahead of me with the kids and we sacrificed a year so I could fund our transition. I’m now a digital project manager who has worked with and Scholastic. I’m certified PMP and ITIL-f. Yet, none of this seems to matter. I find myself teaching English and handling (a very interesting) project for an Australian tech company, but so far no Brazilian company has called me in for an interview.

I know that I’d have much better chances for full-time employment in my field in São Paulo, Rio or Belo Horizonte, but I’d really rather not live in any of those places. Uberlândia’s a pretty decent city. Not too big, too crowded or too crime-ridden. The weather is beautiful, the food is good and the people are generally easy to get along with.

The urge to “escape” from Brazil comes up every so often. Faced with perplexing red tape, sky-high taxes and poor job prospects, New York starts looking pretty good. Yet, I stay. For now.

The same can’t be said for many.

Recently, Mikkel Jensen, a reporter from Denmark who came to Brazil to cover the World Cup, decided to pack it in and head home. He recounts his reasons why in the Facebook post I’ve included below. It’s in Portuguese, but the gist of it seems to be that Brazil’s corrupt officials are using foreign journalists to promote the country while at the same time steamrolling over citizens. The injustice seemed to be too much for him, and Mikkel thought it best to leave rather than be used.

I don’t blame Mikkel, but I also don’t agree with him.

There’s much good to be found in Brazil, and if a clear-eyed reporter sees fraud and injustice, then the best thing he or she can do is report on it. Without people standing up and telling the truth, nothing will ever change. The powerless street kids he talks about need people who will hear them and share their stories. If money is being stolen from government coffers, it needs to be known. If NGOs are shutting down under pressure, let’s find out why.

Again, I don’t blame Mikkel for leaving. I might follow him out the exit if my situation doesn’t improve within the year. This just increases my respect for those who come, stay and make a go of it. Click here for a list of freelance reporters who aren’t giving up on Brazil.

See Also:
Early Reflections on My Move to Brazil
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Uberlândia: Digital City?