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Brazil Journey Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 08:45 GMT 09:45 UK
Your questions answered
Paulo and Brazilian Journey
As Brazil gears up for presidential elections beginning on 6 October, BBC Brasil's Paulo Cabral has completed a journey through remote mountains, arid countryside and deep jungle, reporting on what politics mean in some of the country's unreported corners.

Here he answers your questions about his trip.

Iannis de Salvador e Lima, Brazil writes:
I believe that what you are saying is the truth. However, it is a country with almost two million people and you're reporting on an insignificant number of citizens. Just like in other countries, like the USA, there are some people in Brazil who don't want to be noticed and don't want to take part in politics. The Aracruz Indians are part of these people.

It is unfair of them to complain about the Brazilian Government. The Indian chief you mention said that the Indians don't want to take part in our society. They just want the benefits.

Why does the situation of the Indians concern you so much? You could be talking about other people who live in Brazil - those who live in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba or other big cities.

Paulo replies:
Hello Iannis
The Brazilian Indians are in Brazil, most of them speak Portuguese and they submit to Brazilian laws. For this and several other reasons, they are part of this society, independently of their own opinion or that of white society.

They want to be integrated into - but not necessarily assimilated into - the rest of the Brazilian society. And beyond that they are part of human society and I think their problems and sufferings are as important as those that affect people in major Brazilian cities, poor people in Nigeria or Wall Street stockbrokers.

Joshua, UK, writes:
It is very sad that the political groups in Brazil ignore the Indians. It is shocking to hear that there is no candidate standing in the presidential elections who is prepared to look after the Indians... It is true that the Landless Workers need support because their cause is an important one, but let us not forget though that the Indians also had their land taken from them...

Who is to say that the Indian communities (who, let us not forget, have lived in harmony with the rain forest for thousands of years) would not have a far greater knowledge of the flora and fauna in the rainforest than any of the European scientists who carry out their UN-funded research in Brazil? Instead of destroying these communities, why doesn't the world want to listen to these people?

Paulo replies:
Hello Joshua. I sincerely hope that Brazil's new president - whoever it is - will take good care of all Brazilians, Indians included. They do have an astonishing knowledge of the jungle and of nature that could be very useful to the rest of the world.

Filipi , Brazil, writes:
Why doesn't this journey go through the south of Brazil? I think it would be good for people who don't live in Brazil to know the differences between the regions, and know that Brazil is not only little cities inside the Amazon jungle where there bad roads and no electric lights.

Paulo replies:
Hello Filipi. This journey is not going to the south of Brazil because it aims mainly to show Brazil's countryside. Certainly there is much to see and to know in major centres, but these areas are already much better covered by the media and information services.

Tim, USA, writes:
Please stop by Bom Jesus do Norte. I'd like to hear from Josué and his brothers.

Paulo replies:
Hello Tim. For those who don't know, Josué is the little boy from the Oscar-nominated Brazilian movie Central Station - so I don't think I would be able to meet him or his brothers. But I have written some stories about the Sertão - the area were Bom Jesus do Norte lies - which you can read to see how his brothers, sisters, cousins, fathers, mothers are doing...

Tony Abeakwu, Nigeria, writes:
Brazil, just like Nigeria, should be the richest country in the world due to its resource endowment, but somehow it has not been able to do this. I hope and pray that a day will come when the government will use the nation's resources for the good and betterment of its people.

Paulo replies:
Me too.

Rômulo Lima, Brazil, writes:
Hi Paulo, I'd like to suggest a town in Pará for you to stop by. Paragominas is an interesting place to see how people are seeking new economic opportunities after the devastation of the jungle. I'd like to know about the future of the Trans-Amazon Highway towns. Do you think the government should invest to bring development to this area? Or do you think these investments might bring more deforestation?

And Gio, USA, writes:
I know that the people of the Amazonian towns are good people deserving of opportunities and basic improvements, BUT, you must understand how incredibly valuable to human-kind the Amazon forest is to the entire world, left intact!!! The Amazon may be the most precious piece of land on the earth!!! When it is gone it will be gone forever! The roads should NEVER be paved!!! I live in California, and I can see the destruction that has taken place in the last 100 years. 97% of the REDWOOD FORESTS THAT ONCE COVERED THE STATE ARE GONE forever. The once proud symbol of our state, the grizzly bear, is gone forever! California has 15 of the top 20 WORST CITIES for air pollution in the United States. Don't let this happen to the Amazon basin!!! Please, please, please stop the "progress". It is NO progress at all.

Paulo replies:
I certainly agree that we must take care that the Amazon jungle environment is not destroyed as the Californian one has been. However, we must remember that it is not an untouched area: there are people living there deserving opportunities and improvements. And I don't think it would be fair simply to deny those people such improvements.

At this point, these people are destroying that area because exploiting their natural resources in an uncontrolled way is the only means they have to live. What should be done, in my opinion, is to coordinate this development and not simply to stop it. It is quite hard to look at those people and simply tell them that they cannot have electricity or a school for their children.

And there are examples of how, with education, these communities can find activities to benefit them and the world without destroying nature:

  • There are many plants with applications in cosmetics that could be collected without damaging nature.
  • There is a major possibility of honey production.
  • Well-orientated research - listening to the Indians - could find thousands of medicinal plants that could be used all over the world.

    Raymond, Brazil, writes:
    I'm an Englishman living in Brasília. I import agricultural disinfectants from England. I am obviously very worried about the effects of the upcoming elections on exchange rates between the two countries. As the election campaigns started the exchange rate jumped, without anyone really knowing what was happening here. I am dreading the actual election because foreign investors are going to be scared whatever way the election goes, but I think they will run like mad if Lula gets in, which will really hit Brazil's economy quite badly.

    Paulo replies:
    Hello Raymond. As you write, no one really knows what is happening. Brazil has a big economy and despite the serious social and financial problems, its productive structure has showed a good resistance to crisis. Hopefully investors won't run like mad from a place with enormous potential - whichever candidate wins the election.

    David Faber, Italy, writes:
    How much did you or your correspondent Paulo Cabral pay the lorry driver for the lift? Or was it free?

    Paulo replies:
    Hello David. It was free. In this case, I previously arranged the ride with the truck drivers, but it is usually not very difficult. However it can sometimes be dangerous to get lifts with truck drivers in Brazil.

    Imran, USA, writes:
    Wow, what a job! It is amazing that the truck drivers drive for 48 hours non-stop. Are there many people using bicycles in the rural areas?

    Paulo replies:
    Hi Imran. The bicycle is very much used in some rural areas of the country. However, the specific load in the truck I was travelling in was going to the main urban centres in the south and south-east.

    Lucas Serpa Silva, England, writes:
    I think that Paulo is writing about the Brazilians' poverty because reporting the south in general would not call attention enough to publish his reports - so he is writing about the poverty to keep his job. He is giving a bad image of his own country in front of all other countries. Why don't you show the good parts of Brazil?

    And Cristina, Switzerland, writes:
    I believe that it's quite easy to write about a country showing only the stereotype. For me the tricky thing is to show how unequal Brazil is.

    It's unfair to Brazilian people, and also to other readers, to write only about poverty and misery, because there's much more than this. It's clear that Brazilian people tend to see the country in a much better way than foreigners, it's in our nature to be optimists! I don't want to close my eyes to all the bad things that we have in Brazil, I just want people to start showing our country how it really is.

    Dessislava, Campinas, Brazil, writes:
    Hi, Paulo. I am a foreigner living in Brazil. You justify reporting just on the countryside by saying that traditional media covers the big events and cities. In fact that is not true! I lived in UK for more than six years and have never heard of any news about Brazil. Try to get to BBC News on the internet to see that Latin America and North America are covered together with disproportion ratio of 1:10 if not worse. Maybe covering a bit more of south Brazil to show the two faces of the country might have a better shocking effect. It is not the poverty in the north that is shocking, it is the contrast with the south that is more disturbing because it shows that things could have been different.

    Paulo replies
    Hello. It's true that even the southern and urban Brazil is not well covered abroad, but it still has better access to media than the countryside. The places I went through usually don't receive enough attention even from Brazilian media. I don't think my reports showed only negative things about Brazil and Brazilians. I praise the actions of the disabled people in Belém (report nine) and the street sellers in Salvador (report three) trying to take part in these elections. And it seems to me also very positive that the quilombolas in Conceição das Crioulas (report four) are working for their rights.

    But Brazil has an awful lot of problems, and as a reporter I think it is my duty to show them. I hope that these reports will be taken not as stereotypes of a poor South American country, but as problems of country that is very rich - in physical and human resources - but extremely unfair, and full of marvellous people that deserve a better chance from their country and from the world.

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