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Brazil Journey Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Jungle town's election hopes
Aracruz: An 87 year-old Tupiniquim Indian leader says he can't write and won't vote Canudos: Paulo meets island-dwelling Marciano, who follows a 19th Century messianic leader Salvador: Traditional street vendors want a president who will give them a monopoly on bean fritters Pernambuco: A community descended from escaped slaves fights for access to its own land Eldorado dos Carajas: Where land reform has brought soaring crime Serra Pelada: Small-scale gold diggers win a 10-year mining rights battle Brasil Novo: A remote jungle town longs for electricity and a surfaced road Santarem: Canvassing votes by river boat at the heart of the Amazon jungle Belém: The city where a councillor with one arm is spearheading the fight for disability rights Belém-Brasilia highway: Two days with a trucker on Brazil's damaged and bandit-ridden roads Brasilia: The scavengers who live off the capital's waste Sao Paulo: The city 'island' dwellers who will have to travel for four hours to vote

Report seven: Brasil Novo

As Brazil gears up for presidential elections in October, BBC Brasil's Paulo Cabral travels through remote mountains, arid countryside and deep jungle to find out what 21st Century politics mean in the Brazil that normally goes unreported.

Follow the Transamazon Highway 46 kilometres (27 miles) west from the town of Altamira in the Brazilian state of Pará and you are greeted by a road sign which reads "Welcome to Brasil Novo [New Brazil]".

A precarious bridge near Brasil Novo
"The roads need asphalt desperately," said one resident
This small town of 15,000 inhabitants has sprung up in the nine years since it was founded in 1993.

The city lies next to one of the many unsurfaced stretches of the transamazon route, a 3,000 km road from Belem on Brazil's northern coast right through the heart of the Amazon rainforest to Bolivia.

In the dry summer the dusty road covers the town in a film of brown dust, visible from afar.

In the rainy season the road becomes impassable.

"The roads here are in desperate need of asphalt. Just look at all this dust," says Maria Fátima at the butcher's shop where she works.

Like many Brazilians, the citizens of Brasil Novo have a long list of problems they would like to see solved quickly.

Houses in Brasil Novo
Only 35% of the town's homes have running water
"We need electricity here. And everything is just so expensive," pensioner Ananias Santos complains.

Brasil Novo is close to the hydroelectric plant of Tucuruí, one of the big suppliers to the Brazilian energy network.

But the power lines supplying electricity to nearby Altamira were only built in 1998.

Many remote districts are still dependent on generators or small home-made turbines that exploit the region's plentiful water resources.

Scarce jobs

According to the Brazilian Geographical Institute for Statistics, of the approximately 3,600 homes in the town, a mere 35% have running water.

Presidential election
First round: 6 October
Run-off: 27 October
Key candidates
Jose Serra - ruling centrist coalition
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - Workers' Party
Ciro Gomes - centre-left Labour Front coalition
Anthony Garotinho - Socialist Party candidate
Another basic problem typical to this agricultural region - which depends on coffee, cocoa and pepper plantations for much of its income - is the seasonal variations in the job market.

During the harvest and sowing seasons jobs are plentiful. But employment is scarce at other times.

"People here need to be given more opportunities," says João Paulo who moved to Brasil Novo one year ago and is from state Bahia in the north-east of Brazil.

"There are not enough jobs for us."

Shopkeeper Jai Alves expresses a feeling that common to many Brazilians:

"Things must improve. Brasil Novo deserves it. The people of Brasil Novo deserve a lot," he said.

Key stories





See also:

20 Aug 02 | Americas
19 Jul 02 | Americas
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