The stories behind this rapidly changing continent. Dimbleby embarks on a 6000-mile journey through Brazil, the continent's largest country and home to 190 million people.
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I'm on the last stage of my journey through South America.
I've come to Brazil,
the biggest and richest country on this continent.
1,400 miles further south, I've entered an entirely new world.
It's a stunning view.
Brazil is vast.
It's home to almost 200 million people.
It's got the Amazon and it's a nation of phenomenal natural wealth.
And I'm here with Zach, who is a gold prospector,
although he calls himself a fisherman.
Brazil is booming, and that creates profound tensions
between economic growth and saving the planet.
It seems to me that the world wants it both ways.
It wants to save the Amazon rainforest
and eat more and more beef.
You can't do both.
And there are other tensions.
The world's largest Catholic community is being challenged by a young upstart.
Instead of a high altar in the middle, there's a cage,
and they're here to watch martial arts.
As I make my way across this extraordinary country,
I also explore the great gulf between rich and poor
in a nation striving to define its global role
in the brave new world of the 21st century.
My journey starts in the Amazon, at the city of Manaus.
1,000 miles upriver from the Atlantic Ocean.
This is an oasis of industry in the middle of the rainforest.
From electronics to car making, Manaus is flourishing.
A success story that started well over a century ago.
This opera house was built on the proceeds
of the world demand for rubber at the end of the 19th century.
It was gaudy and opulent.
Then the demand collapsed and the city became poor again
and that's the story of Brazil.
Global demand for commodities, a boom, followed by crash.
But this time the government claims it's for real,
that Brazil's economic growth will propel it
into becoming an economic superpower.
Over the last 20 years, the city has doubled in size.
Two million people now live in this testimony
to Brazil's surging economic ambition.
Last year, the economy grew at over 7% despite the global recession.
No wonder that next year the country is poised to overtake Britain
to become the sixth largest economy in the world.
It's early in the morning and I'm going on a bus with the workers
who are building what is probably the most important bridge
being built in Brazil, with huge implications.
I'm going with Luciana, who's one of the architects on the project.
The bridge at Manaus has cost around 400 million.
It's 3.5 kilometres in length.
They are building here the first bridge ever to cross the Amazon
or its network of giant tributaries.
First, every morning, a prayer for safety.
Over the next three years, Brazil plans
to spend around a trillion dollars and create millions of jobs
to upgrade the country's rickety infrastructure.
The Manaus Bridge, which is almost finished,
opens a new route into the rainforest.
A measure of just how much this country has in the way of commodities,
every single part of this bridge is constructed with materials that come from within Brazil.
The iron, concrete, nothing from abroad.
We are doing exactly the joint.
-The joint, right here?
And to finish it, to put the iron part,
the iron work, and then the concrete.
'Luciana is 28.
'She landed this plum job far from her home
'soon after getting her university degree.'
Give me a picture of how you think it will be
on that side in five years' time, ten years' time.
Well, a lot of buildings...
And commerce. A lot of commerce here.
And everything close to the bridge.
So it will be like a sister city starts to grow there?
It will start to grow.
Does any part of you say,
"It's very beautiful but that's the jungle
"and the jungle is very precious.
"Do we want to have more buildings in the jungle?"
Development is necessary.
We need to do this to grow.
The city is full.
So we need to grow to the other side.
And we need to do this, but taking care of the nature.
It is a very big project and with huge implications.
It's going to probably mean incredible development,
not only a big city there, where the forest now is,
but a road with all possibilities for developing off that road,
and that's the really big challenge for Brazil.
Brazil is aware of the challenge, incidentally.
It's how to reconcile development and growth,
which this country needs on the one hand,
with the vital importance of the Amazon on the other.
Maintaining that very, very delicate balance
between building societies and effectively saving planets.
'I'm on my way out of the city.
'With me, Amusa Fanchez, who's a student in Manaus.
'But her home is 15 kilometres upriver
'where she lives on her family's reservation as a member of one of many Indian tribes
'for whom the Amazon basin is an historic homeland.'
Part of the time you're in the city as a student,
cosmopolitan, 21st century.
Part of the time you are in your village.
When you see the bridge coming across into the forest,
what do you think about that?
It's quite magical navigating through the waterways
that lace their way through the Amazon rainforest
and to know that there are millions, 25 million people living there.
But the value of the Amazon is far greater than that.
It's almost impossible to exaggerate.
I'm on my way now to see one example of precisely why that's the case.
'Rainforests are home to half the plant and animal life on the planet.
'They are vital to humanity, to the chain of life on Earth.
'And this biodiversity also conceals a treasure trove of medicines.'
'Amusa's father is the village headman.
'A shaman, a healer with a profound knowledge of the forest.'
-This is my father.
-How nice to meet you.
-This is my brother, Mirapul.
'Armundo Vas learnt to identify
'the healing properties of plants as a child.
'A wisdom passed down the generations.'
Oh! It's a wonderful smell!
It's clear, clean, like a cleansing smell.
It's wonderful. Clears the sinuses.
Does everyone in the village use this when they get the cold,
when they get fever?
It always bemuses me that when you see something like this,
so many people are ready to say, "Oh, that must be fake,
"it's a shamanism," or something like that. I happen to believe him.
It works, and actually, a lot of other people believe it as well.
Why would you do it if it didn't work?!
SPEAKS HIS OWN LANGUAGE
A bit like milk of magnesia.
What does it do?
The Amazon contains many thousands of plants with healing properties,
a natural resource which the international drug companies
have long exploited, to produce medicines to heal the rest of us.
Pharmaceutical products derived from the rainforest
are worth some 75 billion a year, and the demand is insatiable.
Brazil expects to be compensated for the Amazon's invaluable resource.
To this end, bio-piracy is a crime,
for which last year, the courts imposed fines of almost 60 million.
This village is on the edge of a rainforest bonanza.
Brazil's eternal dilemma - how to protect
and to exploit at the same time.
I'm some 500-600 miles from Manaus, and still in the Amazon.
Not surprising when you realise it's two million square miles,
ten times the size of France.
And I'm with a SWAT team from the environmental agency IBAMA,
and we're on the trail of illegal loggers.
Luciano, what do you know about this group of illegal loggers
that you are going to arrest?
Luciano is at the forefront of the Brazilian government's campaign
to protect the Amazon rainforest in the province of Mato Grosso.
We've stopped here, because there are tracks on the side of the road
which suggest that trucks may have been coming in and out.
The team in front are in contact with the helicopter,
who's looking down to see
whether they can in fact see anyone working or see any equipment there.
Last year, an area even larger than Greater London
was ravaged by logging or destroyed by bulldozers.
To combat this, IBAMA has a team in this state alone of 500 officers.
But it's barely enough.
You do get a bit of a feeling that this is like looking
for the proverbial needle in a haystack, huge areas of jungle,
helicopters to alert you that may not be able to see on the ground.
You come in on the expectation, the likelihood that maybe,
maybe there is, maybe there isn't, you don't know.
The Amazon absorbs a quarter of the world's carbon emissions,
and Luciano and his team therefore
have a crucial role in combating global warming.
This is very recent, this opening up of this track,
and there would be no other reason for it, than illegal logging.
And then, maybe what they're looking for.
The team halt a truck heading away from the target area.
What are they searching this old truck for?
The three suspects are not exactly forthcoming in their efforts
to help the police.
The team eventually finds a shack where the men have been sleeping,
but as yet, still no evidence they've been felling trees illegally.
So far, it's another frustrating day for IBAMA.
Getting to the bottom of this is time-consuming,
way out into the middle of the forest.
Maybe, maybe not, one small group, hundreds,
maybe thousands of other groups in the Amazon doing the same thing.
Finally, a dividend for patience.
Luciano and his men find the evidence they need,
proof that a protected area of forest is being felled illegally.
The three suspects will be prosecuted. But they're small fry.
Only too often, the big boys that hire them
to do this dirty work avoid detection altogether.
There's enough trees coming down legally.
You look at these and you just magnify this up,
for the Mato Grosso itself, for Brazil,
for the whole Amazon region, you get a sense of how much wood
is being taken out of here because there's a world demand.
Every tree that is taken out, unless it is replanted with another,
is a loss,
a straightforward loss.
From the interior, I went on to what is now the edge
of the Amazon rainforest, a cattle town called Alta Floresta.
Brazil is helping to feed the world. It's very big business.
Here, that means ranching.
Cows and cowboys.
This community is formed by pioneers, grandfathers,
fathers, children who started to come here in the late '70s,
they were urged on by the government to do so,
who promised them that they could
form a new Jerusalem out of what they described as the green hell
of the Amazon rainforest.
30 years ago, the government urged these pioneers to turn
the forest into fields.
Now under huge international pressure to save the Amazon,
Brazil faces a quandary,
how to exploit a growing global market for food,
without destroying even more of the forest.
Imagine what it would have been like if the pioneers in Britain
and America, at the height of the economic growth of those countries,
had been told by foreign governments,
"You shouldn't really be doing that, you're damaging the planet."
They'd have been told, quite simply, to bugger off.
Alta Floresta, the pioneer town, is an entrepreneurial triumph,
carved out of the Amazon by cutting down trees.
It's hard to believe that only 30 years ago,
this was entirely virgin forest.
Now, Alta Floresta is a thriving community of 50,000 people.
And it's growing, and it wants to grow further.
I'm on one of the thousands of ranches in this part
of the Amazon with the owner of the farm, the ranch,
called Luis, and his nephew, Miguel.
We're going out to round up some cattle.
What was this land like when you first came here, Luis?
Luis and his family were originally urged to bulldoze
15,000 hectares around Alta Floresta.
80% of the forest that's cleared in the Amazon is for cattle,
a 7 billion industry.
When people say, "Oh, they're destroying the Amazon rainforest
"and they keep wanting more and more land
"and the rainforest is precious", what's your reaction to that?
There are almost 200 million head of cattle in Brazil,
the largest purveyor of beef to the world, and our appetite is growing.
Seems to me that the world wants it both ways, it wants to save
the Amazon rainforest and it wants to eat more and more beef.
You can't do both. You either eat less beef or you do something
to find a way of eating food that doesn't involve taking more
and more land from the forest.
It's a dilemma that Brazil is very well aware of,
that has yet to be solved.
Two hours from the ranch by road,
and I went to meet another pioneer in the Amazon.
If Brazil has riches above the ground,
it has untold wealth under the ground.
In fact, the country is the most important mineral producer
in the whole continent.
It's one of the world's great producers of gold.
And I'm here with Zack, who is a gold prospector,
although he calls himself a fisherman.
Zack and his crew are divers,
searching the river bed for tiny deposits of gold locked in the sand.
It's quite a long way out... and down,
so he goes down to something like eight metres below the surface...
..with his vacuum cleaner, which is at the bottom already.
Picks up the vacuum cleaner...
..and starts to hoover up the bottom of the river.
You can see the bubbles out there.
A couple of centuries ago, the gold rush in Brazil
was every bit as wild as it became in North America.
With the price rising rapidly over the last decade,
that spirit is very much alive today.
Prospecting for gold!
It's just a mat to me, and for me,
but for them, there is serious big money in here.
How much gold do you think you're going to get from here today?
Roughly 30 grams, they estimate. Approximately 1,500.
All in this...sand.
Well, you can't see any of it yet,
you just can see it yellowing a little bit.
Until a couple of years ago,
gold fishers like Zack and his team operated outside the law.
Now, they're inside the fold, so long as they don't use mercury on their boats to purify the gold
and they restore the river bed before they move on.
What was it like when you were illegal,
how were you seen by other people living in the community?
How much do you get yourself now?
So that's quite a good income now?
In 2010, the price of gold soared, and with it,
the profits from this river, 20 million a year at the latest count.
This is how it has been done for centuries.
And the guys doing this actually therefore belong
to a really, really old tradition.
These guys are now able to do what their forebears did, quite legally.
And good luck to them.
Brazil is also at the cutting edge of modern technologies.
This plane taking me from Alta Floresta to my next destination
is made by Embraer, the world's third-largest manufacturer.
The company has got a rapidly growing market abroad, and at home.
Brazil is 35 times bigger than Britain.
Trying to get anywhere by road in this part of Brazil,
is virtually impossible.
Either the roads aren't there, or they're so bad, as to be
virtually unusable, so the only way to get about is by plane.
And because of the economic growth that Brazil is enjoying,
the number of airlines is dramatically increasing.
And the number of routes.
This airline alone has 84 destinations.
1,000 miles from Alta Floresta is Sao Luis, a very modern
and extremely busy commercial port.
Last year, 230 million tonnes of iron
left Sao Luis for destinations around the globe,
notably to fuel another booming economy, China.
Brazil's profits from this vital resource are worth
tens of billions of dollars and growing all the time.
These vast machines are controlled remotely by people
way away on computers. Stored here, is a million,
a million tonnes of iron ore.
And in a couple of years' time, because of their expansion,
they'll be able to store two million tonnes for export.
Jose Filio is operations manager,
overseeing a doubling of output over the next three years.
-16,000 tonnes of iron ore?
It's a phenomenal amount.
Biggest iron ore extractor in the world, biggest exporter.
What does that make you feel?
It's an amazing sight.
It looks like brown slurry,
but of course it's hard iron coming in at such a rate,
filling up this ship.
10, 20, 30, 100,000 tonnes of iron ore going all over the world.
You can't help but be slightly overawed by the extraordinary power of it.
This country has always been a trading nation.
Among its first major exports was sugar,
but that required an import, in the form of labour.
People. Africans. Slaves.
For many, most Brazilians, their country's role in the slave trade
belongs to the past, half buried, forgotten, not to be resurrected.
But for a minority, a very important minority,
it doesn't belong to the past at all.
It's very much part of the living present.
A ferry ride across the bay from Sao Luis takes you right into that present.
I'm heading for a community descended from the slaves.
Nearly 4m of them who were brought here from Africa
from the 16th until the last half of the 19th century.
I'm on my way by taxi to a settlement called Mamuna,
which because of where it is and what it is, is the source of real political tension,
and it pinpoints a fundamental dilemma for the government of Brazil.
Mamuna is a quilombo,
a settlement founded by runaway slaves two centuries ago.
Some 3,000 of these villages still survive.
It's harvest time, and half Mamuna is out gathering the crops.
This is manioc. Cassava as it's called in some parts of the world.
It's the staple diet here, as in many other parts of the country.
Doesn't take long, does it, to get together quite a lot?
Actually, it's not too difficult.
And then you go...?
Militina Serejo is the head of the village.
Her passion is to sustain the link between her people and their African forebears.
You originate from the slave community that was brought here.
Is that sense of being descendants of those people very important?
But they have a problem.
Their land is not only precious to them,
but valuable real estate as well, and the government wants it.
This land, this life, is obviously very, very important to you.
Do you have to fight to protect it?
On the edge of the quilombo, there's a satellite launch site.
Brazil wants to expand it. Mamuna is in the way.
This issue perfectly illustrates the dilemmas facing Brazil.
On the one hand, it wants to be a leading space power in the 21st-century.
On the other, the constitution and, so far, the law protects the rights of the people who live here.
There is a tremendous and fierce political struggle going on.
The way in which it's resolved will surely define
the kind of nation Brazil is going to become.
In 2008, the courts sided with Mamuna, but the battle is far from over.
Meanwhile, the quilombo clings on to its ancient African traditions.
It smells just like a farmhouse cheese being prepared.
Why do you have to do all of this? It looks very complicated.
So if I ate this now, I would be poisoned?
The manioc root contains cyanide, so after milling,
the meal is stuffed into the snake-like tapiti
which is then stretched tight until all the toxins have been forced out.
Such a wonderful process.
People talk about timeless, timeless ways of doing things. This really is timeless.
It goes back so far that no-one can remember when it first began,
but...if you go to Africa,
you can see very much the same process under way.
The real evidence that this came with the slaves centuries ago
and is now part of the tradition of the free blacks of Brazil.
In Mamuna, they are both celebrating the harvest
and asserting their right to be here.
The black population of Brazil numbers more than 14 million,
and as most of them are only too well aware,
in today's Brazil, as in the past, they still tend to be at or near the bottom of the economic pile.
Brazil prides itself on being colour-blind.
Everyone is equal under the law.
But there's a long way to go before that translates into genuine equality of respect and opportunity.
The last leg of my South American journey,
and perhaps the most charismatic city in the whole continent, let alone Brazil.
1,400 miles further south, and again there's an entirely new world.
It's a stunning view.
More people visit Rio than any other city in the southern hemisphere.
3.5 million a year at the latest count, and it's easy to see why.
Rio invites advertising overdrive.
The city of sun, sea, sand and sex, and it's got plenty of all that.
If you live here, you think it's the best city in all the world.
And as if to prove the point, you've been awarded the final of the World Cup in 2014
and two years later, the Olympic games.
Rio is growing even faster than the rest of the country.
A boost, were it needed, to the city's boundless self-confidence.
And it has a theme song, one of the best-known melodies in all the world.
# Tall and tan and young and lovely
# The girl from Ipanema goes walking... #
A song about a girl who came past a cafe every morning,
and a composer who sat watching her, never speaking.
# When she walks, she's like a samba
# That swings so cool and sways so gentle that when she passes... #
Helo Pinheiro was that girl, and Rio is eternally grateful to her.
-Very nice to see you.
-How are you?
-Very well. You too?
How did it happen? How were you the girl from Ipanema?
I inspired this song in 1962,
but three years after the song blew up,
and everybody wants to know who's the girl from Ipanema.
To begin with, her identity was a mystery.
Girls came forward from all over the city, claiming to be THE girl,
until the songwriter finally revealed the name of the genuine article.
Why is everyone having their pictures taken, coming up and talking to the girl from Ipanema?
She's a cultural icon and it's the moment when the world discovered Brazil.
Brazil got on the map and it was emblematised by the music,
by a new way of being, the bossa nova revolutionised,
and all of a sudden you have one person that can become the image, and she was that person.
Helo has become a symbol of Rio's style and panache,
and half the country seems to be in love with her.
The Girl From Ipanema plays back an image of Rio that's seduced half the world.
Youth and beauty, sensuality and romance, a paradise on Earth.
But there's another Rio which fears that this paradise on Earth is going to Hell in a handcart.
The Catholic cathedral in Rio, symbol of the great authority once held by the Church in Brazil,
but it no longer holds sway.
Brazil still boasts the largest Catholic communion in the world,
but the inflexibility of its moral edicts, its outward forms and dated style are out of fashion.
As elsewhere in the world, the faithful are deserting in droves.
And there's another equally alarming challenge.
An upstart alternative for which Father Eduardo da Costa can barely disguise his disdain.
Desertion and subversion, either way a haemorrhage of ecclesiastical authority,
which has left the Catholic hierarchy floundering.
I left town to find out more about the ways in which the new order is challenging the old.
The Reborn In Christ Church is an evangelical pretender to the Catholic crown,
and it already claims more than a million members.
There's a congregation in here of some 1,500 people,
many of whom have never been into a church before,
but, instead of a high altar in the middle, there's a cage.
And they're here to watch martial arts.
HE SPEAKS BRAZILIAN PORTUGUESE
To start proceedings, the word of the Lord.
Pastor Degao is 28, a former drug addict who found Jesus as a teenager.
He's now a business consultant with his own fashion label.
Fight nights for the faith are his speciality.
The fighters are celebrities, recruited to deliver converts to an evangelical movement
whose moral attitudes are otherwise every bit as traditional as the Catholic Church.
It is quite bizarre.
Gentle Jesus meek and mild, it is not.
It's really hardcore.
This is extreme, and the Catholic Church seems to have no answer to it,
which is remarkable when you think of how powerfully embedded
the Church was in the whole life of this nation until very recently.
In a country, you hope, where everyone will be an evangelical Christian?
Bizarre it may be, but there's no doubt at all
this born-again movement is now a force to be reckoned with.
Though it leaves me bewildered, not bewitched.
Brazil is phenomenally placed to seize the 21st century.
The country is blessed with great wealth. It's open and stable.
It has no enemies and many friends, and it has the Olympics.
But, and there's a very big but,
which you can find in the very heart of the city.
Probably the greatest challenge facing Brazil is the huge gulf between the rich and the poor.
Poverty, extreme poverty,
the President has said, "shames the nation and must be eliminated".
For Rio, that means doing something about these favelas,
which surround the city, and look down accusingly on the wealth below.
After decades of neglect, the government has acted,
and with decisive impact.
The favelas, the slums, had been taken over by drug barons
whose gangs ruled their fiefdoms, in which some 2 million people live, with pitiless brutality.
This favela, the Alemao complex, was one of the worst.
Then, just over a year ago, the military invaded, guns blazing.
Their purpose, pacification.
I'm going to see a young guy who actually saw what happened
from within a favela when the army and police moved in,
and he tweeted what he was seeing,
and became a household name throughout Brazil as a result.
Rene Silva is 17 years old and he lives in Alemao.
He's a journalist. His tweets reported a street-by-street battle
far too dangerous for conventional media to reach.
How did you find out what was going on?
So far, the military has evicted the gangs from some 17 of Rio's favelas, but that's only a start.
The peace is fragile, the future uncertain.
The gangs may be at bay but they certainly aren't broken.
Yet there are signs of hope.
Business is picking up and there's a new bank to prove it.
Is it making a big difference that you've got the bank here?
Is the community happier now?
Those traditions provided absolute order in return for unswerving obedience.
The downside was fear. The upside, an absence of anarchy.
Until very recently, Carlos was an enforcer for one of the most fearsome gangs in Rio.
He knows exactly how their racket works.
But the people have to be absolutely obedient to the boss,
otherwise the risk is that they get a gun in their head? Is that correct?
Last year, realising that for once the authorities were in earnest, Carlos switched sides.
Today, Carlos has a key role in a young project to lure erstwhile criminals away from the gangs
by finding them proper jobs.
The programme is proving remarkably successful, but there's still a long way to go.
Many favelas have yet to be liberated.
The government wants to clean out the favelas in time for the World Cup.
It might seem like window-dressing, but there's a plan of action.
Not only to break the gangs, but to remove the stain of poverty and violence from the face of Rio.
Walking through these narrow alleys, it's very easy to imagine
that just over a year ago they were controlled by gunmen.
It would've been impossible for me to come in here without the permission of the big boss.
Now, in more and more favelas, the gangs have been replaced by the police.
Robson da Silva commands a new unit set up to re-establish order in pacified communities
with goodwill, not brutality.
But first, he had to confront his own rogue officers on the payroll of gangland bosses.
Was it true there was a lot of corruption then in the police force?
Is it better with the drug gangs out or does it not make much difference?
Commander Robson has no doubt the pacification programme will make an impact,
but only if it's sustained with a real and radical sense of purpose.
If Brazil is serious about this, it'll send a powerful message to the entire continent
that great wealth and social justice are allies, not adversaries,
and that, for this superpower in the making,
this is at the very heart of the matter.
A prospect which would be an inspiration for the peoples of all South America.
There's an old quip, which is still doing the rounds,
that Brazil is the country of the future and always will be,
but for me that rather misses the point.
It's an old-world view, and this is the new world.
Of course, Brazil has huge challenges and dilemmas
and no-one knows when, if, and how these will be overcome.
But this nation has all the energy, all the enthusiasm,
all the drive and all the talent to take its own way.
As they say themselves, the Brazilian way.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Dimbleby embarks on a 6000-mile journey through Brazil, the continent's largest country and home to 190 million people. Nowhere is evidence of the economic boom in South America more apparent, but Jonathan finds the road to riches is paved with dilemmas for both Brazil and the wider world. In the Amazon, architects and cattle ranchers are grappling with environmental tension. On the coast, descendants of runaway slaves are fighting the expansion of a satellite launch facility to protect their land. And in Rio, Jonathan joins the commander of a new police force as they seek to pacify the slums ruled by the law of the drug lords.