Another round for Brazil.

Some people have commented that I complain a lot. Please note that I do but it’s all based on my observations, and in all honesty, my complaints may lead into getting answers and resolve some of the problems I note. On this occasion, on my most recent trip to Brazil, my friends argued that I simply complain too much about everything. This time I would like to counter their argument and complain even more, yet I would like to do this in favour of Brazil.

I went to Ilhabela. This is the place that inspired paradise, no doubt. I know, a lot of places like this exist on earth, but this is the one I visited and breathtaking, it is.

This island is only about one hundred kilometers from Sao Paulo, one of the biggest cities in the world. To get to it, you need to drive through very steep and complicated highways, the get to the port of Sao Sebastian and take a very smoky and polluting ferry across for 15 minutes to the island. Yes, why build a bridge or a tunnel that could accommodate tourism?Ah, I have an answer for that too, and it’s not mine, it’s theirs. that’s the way to keep this beauty for an elite. Average Brazilians will not pay the toll to cross. Strange no?, just charge for the bridge, tunnel or whatever. Make it easy and environmentally sound.

It is quite possibly the nicest place I’ve ever been to. Beautiful scenery, lush vegetation and beaches that any country would publish on their latest marketing paraphernalia.

Yet most of you, have never heard of Ilhabela. Most have only heard of Brazil for their Carnival or the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

In my opinion, Brazil could be one of the top economies in the world, and by some account they are number five. Yet Brazil tends to suffer the same disease Mexico has (please note that I did live in Mexico for 28 years, so this is not a traveling story). Brazil has the disease of trying to be a first world country with no desire to be one. It doesn’t seem to be in their culture as some of my friends would say. Any first world country would have already done something to try to bring tourism to its amazing beaches, its vibrant cities and charming mountains. And I’m not talking about creating a Disneyland in Brazil, simply making a tourist friendly place.

To start with, Brazil has no solid infrastructure. That is easy to see the moment you land in Guarulhos, Brazils most important airport in the outskirts of Sao Paulo is an amazing shame of inexplicable inefficiencies. It basically has one runway and no place to keep aircraft that come and go to all corners of the earth. Highways are crippled at best, yet a unbelievable number of cameras and radar guns keep a watchful eye to ticket any car that goes over the posted speed limit. Why not put all that money they collect on tickets (and believe me, the way people drive in Brazil, they must collect a fortune) into the same highways, and you must also know that most of this highways, are also toll roads, so a double whammy it is.

Signage is always in Portuguese, that is understandable, but then it’s minimal even for Brazilians, which causes quite a bit of trouble in places where gridlock is so normal that meetings have to be scheduled according to traffic.

Cell phone companies are bad at best, and as a constant roamer, you can see how your mobile phone switches between carriers constantly. The rates, out of control, eve for land lines. Bureaucracy is the flavor of the day. Try opening a business here. Your patience will be tested to extremes.

Prices for services, lodging and food are, what can I say, worth of any city in the US or Canada, or even more. I think I tend to spend usually more in Brazil than at home on any given meal, yet most of the population is poor at best.

About a year ago, someone mentioned at a business lunch than more people leave the lineup for the Eiffel tower than visit Brazil for pleasure. A statistic hard to imagine given the size and landscape of this marvelous country. Why not crate a Huatulco or Playa Del Carmen in Brazil? Were tourism can flourish and keep the scenery intact. Is it a challenge, indeed it is, of the highest caliber. And I’m sure that a lot of politics would go into it. But please, don’t take my word for it, just read this article published in O Globo, one of the nations most important news organizations.

Just last week, there was some talk that a deal was to be struck by President Dilma Rousseff and Foxconn, the manufacturers of the iPhone and iPad gadgets among others, to open a factory here. In the past, Intel has tried with no success. Samsung has a plant in Campinas, in the State of Sao Paulo, and Embraer, on of the world leaders in aviation is based in Sao Jose Dos Campos, but to bring a deal like this to Brazil will take a lot, given that Foxconn manufactures all the latest high tech toys in China. Brazil will face a tough question. Are they a vast cheap country, or do they want to be a first world country player? You can’t be both. With the current exchange rate and high cost of living, the is no way an assembly line for iPods could be created here, that require low wages. It’s a very tough balance President Rousseff faces, unless she is willing to keep Brazil in a status quo for it’s population, a highly divided society between rich and poor. Most will manufacture the toys the very rich minority will enjoy.

They may also try and improve the infrastructure Brazil is crying for, and I hope that the upcoming Soccer World Cup and Olympic games will help that, but those rumblings are matter for another story. I he tourism can bring a huge relief, just as it did for Costa Rica, but a lot of will and effort will have to go into that.

Don’t take me wrong I love Brazil, it’s land and it’s people. It’s time for Brazilians to step up to the plate… oh well, there’s no baseball here. But soccer, the beautiful game… let me tell you, Brazil didn’t invent it, but it’s called the beautiful game because Brazil knows how to play in.

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