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Brazillionaires

Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country

By Alex Cuadros
10-minute read
Audio available
Brazillionaires: Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country by Alex Cuadros

Brazillionaires (2016) exposes the true story behind Brazil’s tumultuous economy. By tracing the rise and fall of billionaires like Eike Batista, these blinks take you through the country’s history of inequality and corruption, and explain how the nation’s politics and business have become inseparable.

  • Readers interested in South American affairs
  • Economists
  • Students of political science

Alex Cuadros is a writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, the Nation and Mother Jones. He spent over five years living in São Paulo, Brazil, to research his first book, Brazillionaires.

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Brazillionaires

Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country

By Alex Cuadros
  • Read in 10 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 6 key ideas
Brazillionaires: Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country by Alex Cuadros
Synopsis

Brazillionaires (2016) exposes the true story behind Brazil’s tumultuous economy. By tracing the rise and fall of billionaires like Eike Batista, these blinks take you through the country’s history of inequality and corruption, and explain how the nation’s politics and business have become inseparable.

Key idea 1 of 6

For most of the population, life in Brazil is filled with struggle to acquire even the most basic services.

When you think of Brazil, your first thoughts might be of Rio’s famous Christ statue, Carnival, endless beaches and colorful samba dancers. But the reality isn’t so patently picturesque.

For most Brazilians, it can be a struggle just to get the most basic things in life.

Every city in Brazil has favelas, neighborhoods filled with makeshift shacks built by poor residents in bits of open space – under a bridge, in an old parking lot, wherever. You can even find them in the alleyways tucked between skyscrapers.

But the favelas are just one facet of the problems Brazilians face. Others include clogged roads, a poorly functioning public school system and hospitals that often cause more health problems than they cure.

Even though Brazil’s constitution guarantees free public healthcare, if there’s a health crisis and you don’t have private insurance, you’ll likely wait an entire day in the emergency room.

There is also an astounding amount of bureaucratic red tape and paperwork for basic needs such as opening a bank account or getting a phone connected.

And trying to cancel one of these services can be even worse. When the author tried to switch his internet provider, for example, he ran into such resistance that he had to file an official complaint with the government’s telecom agency.

Making things more difficult is the fact that all the paperwork needs to be stamped and notarized before it can be submitted to the government – a process that requires hours of waiting.

Therefore, getting even the most basic tasks accomplished in Brazil can send you into a Kafkaesque world of endless waiting, where filling out paperwork just leads to more paperwork!

The situation is so dire that every year it takes the average Brazilian company 2,600 man-hours to prepare its taxes.

For these reasons, there are despachantes, people whose job is to help others navigate all this red tape, a task which usually involves becoming friendly with the right bureaucrat.

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