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I'm brazilian, I visited the museum in 2013, a year before the world cup. It was very memorable to me because it's essentially the only museum in Brazil that was an European style natural history museum (especially since there are so few museums in Brazil).

I walked there, it's about half a mile from the MaracanĂ£ Stadium, as you can see on the picture here [1] (in portuguese). As I passed by the stadium, I distinctly remember large banners bragging that over 700 million reais were being spent to renew the stadium. That was about $300m at the time, a truly outlandish ammount in brazilian reality.

I then visited the museum, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and took note of the fact that an entire wing was closed "for indeterminate time". I asked the staff and the reason was, obviously, budget cuts. I took another few years, just after the government secured reelection in 2015, that the government let the gravity of the fiscal situation surface, by which point there was no coming back from a 5-10 year long economic and political crisis that is still unfolding.

With regards to the museum, it should be noted that it was operating on a reduced annual budget, receiving only 60% of the 550,000 reais (less than $150k) allocated funds from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro [2]. If these numbers sound like a pittance, it's because they are. I will not be surprised if this fire was started by something as simple as an electrical malfunction of an old circuit that should have been replaced decades ago.

It really saddens me to see this news, that museum was something very unique for Brazil, but I'm not surprised. Brazil has been running on life support for two years now and I think the situation will continue worsening for a few more years. I was thinking the country would stave off becoming a second Venezuela, but the government and politicians seem set on running everything to the ground. I'm not holding my breath for our presidential elections, which are happening next month. I am sure that nothing other than sad words and perhaps some political opportunism will come out of this incident, and that no serious efforts will be done to learn from this situation and prevent similar ones from happening in the future. Unlike the US where there is serious inquiry and learning when bad things happen, the brazilian modus operandi in any such situation is to say "oh what a tragedy", turn a blind eye to root causes, and go on as usual. I am very glad I got out of Brazil to pursue graduate studies in the US, and I truly hope never to have to go back.

[1] https://g1.globo.com/rj/rio-de-janeiro/noticia/2018/09/02/mu...

[2] https://g1.globo.com/rj/rio-de-janeiro/noticia/2018/09/02/mu...




Everybody knows what the root cause is: corruption. Everything in this country can be explained by that. Even people with integrity will eventually be corrupted because it's the only way to get things done. What can citizens do about that? I don't know.

I'm glad you got to visit the museum before it was destroyed.


I remember a similar case (citation needed, don't have a link available) where a museum was destroyed by fire and the director hurried to announce that everything was destroyed.

Years later it turned out that some originals were put up for auction since they were alive and well in some private collections. Many times the original is not displayed for the public anyway and a very good copy is used instead. So someone in the museum got money for selling the originals while the copy was still on display, then got money from the insurance, with the fire covering up everything perfectly (either by accident, or for the insurance money, or to cover up the fact that the originals went missing).

Of course this would just confirm the corruption or poor maintenance arguments.


No, it's worse than corruption. It's a total and utter lack of interest in properly funding culture and science.


Corruption thrives on the population's general disinterest in politics and education. To say Brazilians are disinterested in these subjects is an understatement.


>Even people with integrity will eventually be corrupted because it's the only way to get things done.

Could you expand on this, or maybe give an example?


Even if you become a politician, you cannot do what you set out to do without support from others. They will ask you to your face what kind of profit they'll be making off of your changes or reforms. Why should they support you? What's in it for them? If they don't like the answer, you might as well give up because it's not happening. There is no such thing as "this idea is objectively good, let's put it in practice".

I don't know when it started but it's part of the government's culture now. It's common knowledge too: people talk about institutionalized corruption openly, citing investigations, comments by officials and even judges. It's a systemic problem and I have no idea what people are supposed to do in order to fix something like that. It's very demotivating and demoralizing.

This is actually a huge reason why lots of people want the military dictatorship back. The logic is (1) the military cares about Brazil and believes in the country's potential, and (2) they will do whatever they believe is necessary to make the country great, regardless of any individual's interests. Our history with dictatorships doesn't quite validate that logic, obviously.


I think they mean that following ordinary procedures requires bribes. As in if you wanted to live the life you currently do, some bribes would be required somewhere.


I don't know the politics of it all but I will say this. I am really sorry for Brazil's loss. Museums like this are the core of cultural memory and identity and should be cherished. I hope something can be salvaged from this.

I'm really sorry for all Brazillians.


This isn't a loss for Brazil alone, it's a loss for the world. So much history lost :( really sad. It was on my list of places to visit before I die.


> I was thinking the country would stave off becoming a second Venezuela

That's an exaggeration. Brazil is nowhere near becoming a second Venezuela. The current crisis would have to keep on for at least another 20 years before that, which is extremely unlikely.

Regular life in Brazil continues as usual (unorganized), despite the crisis and it's been getting a bit better lately (not enough to fix the last 4-6 years of economical depression). It's still far away from being Venezuela.


Yes, Brazil's economy is bad right now, but it's nowhere near Venezuela's.

Interestingly, Brazil has had experience with hyperinflation between 1980-1994 when the currency was the cruzeiro. The story of how Brazil got out of inflation by introducing a "fake currency" called the URV (Unidade Valor de Real) is the stuff of economic legend [1], but it worked and today there's is the Brazilian "real".

Venezuela's situation is much different -- dictatorship, oil dependency and handouts.

Brazil, bad as it is, has a democracy (broken and corrupt notwithstanding), more industries than just oil (Petrobras not withstanding), and has had investments in higher education and technology (Embraer). Sao Paulo as a city is economically far more advanced than Caracas (and indeed, Rio de Janeiro). Brazil is also a lot bigger than Venezuela, with many big multinational companies like Vale, Embraer, etc. The Brazilian 3G Capital also owns Burger King and Kraft Heinz.

There is hope in Brazil. Much more than in Venezuela.

[1] How Fake Money saved Brazil https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2010/10/04/130329523/how-...


> Fake Money

Lol, all money is "fake" nowadays - the amount of physical currency in circulation is basically irrelevant.

Whether they printed banknotes right away or not, they effectively changed currency, which is a typical way to exit hyperinflation. Brazil "just" managed to execute the transition very well on a psychological level. Venezuela is trying it now, using crypto as their anchoring.

I honestly can't remember a country ever exiting hyperinflation by any other mean, they all end up ditching the original currency in one way or the other.


Israel cured its 400%+ hyperinflation in the mid-80s without ditching their currency, by imposing strict price controls. It took about 2 years to bring it down under 20%.


They ditched it twice: from lira to shekel and then from shekel to new shekel.


The change from pound to shekel was motivated by wanting a Hebrew name. This change was decided long before hyperinflation started, and didn't have much economic effect.

The change from shekel to new shekel was a 1000x redenomination, done after inflation was under control, reflecting the way people already talked about prices (in thousands).

This is different from the sense of 'ditch' in the previous conversation, which meant that the old currency became suddenly worthless.




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