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In the Newsroom

September 18, 2008
Truckin’ through Brazil

Bryan Myers reported with Megan Thompson from Brazil on an upcoming story on roads and infrastructure.

Trucks along BR 493 near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Ask Americans what come to mind when they hear the words “road trip,” and they are likely to mention things like “adventure” and “freedom.”

Mention these words to a Brazilian, and you’re more likely to hear things like “ordeal” and “frustration.”  Simply put, driving long distances in Brazil can be a trying experience.

Along with several reporters from the Worldfocus team, I spent several days traveling Brazil’s highways, talking with motorists and truckers.

Although Brazil is almost the size of the United States, it doesn’t have nearly as many major highways. Apart from areas around São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, most roads labeled as “highways” are actually two-lane roads. Many of them are in poor shape.  Adding to Brazil’s highway headaches are the large number of 18-wheelers on the road—in Brazil, most goods are shipped by truck.

But if Brazil’s president has his way, that’s all about to change. Last year, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced the most ambitious plan to overhaul the nation’s infrastructure in Brazilian history. Lula’s plan calls for spending over $250 billion on infrastructure projects by the year 2010 — $17 billion of that will go toward fixing roads.

Lula’s plan couldn’t come at a more crucial time. Along with China and India, Brazil is one of the world’s hottest economies. Much of its newfound wealth is the result of exporting commodities like iron ore, coffee and soybeans. In turn, a newly prosperous middle class is hungry for imports of consumer goods. Timely shipments are essential to keeping the wheels of commerce turning.

– Bryan Myers

Read Bryan’s second blog post from the field: Brazil plans to improve highways.

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