Tag Archives: police

Evite este lugar a todo o custo! Avoid this place at all costs!

Português está abaixo:

I’ve been to Camburi and Camburizinho, small villages in the north coast of São Paulo, many times. I’ve stayed in hotels, pousadas, and a campsite. On a visit last year I noticed the Ventos do Camburi pousada when I was looking for breakfast. It looked nice so I joined their Facebook fan page and email mailing list to receive more information.

They recently sent out an offer by email and I replied asking to book a weekend away – a Friday and Saturday night. They responded with the price and I agreed, paid my deposit and then travelled over from São Paulo on Friday evening.

When I arrived the reception manager was friendly and even showed me a couple of different rooms saying that I could choose between them. My husband and I chose our room, then went out for dinner, and had a nice evening.

Things were not perfect in the (very small) room despite the pleasant reception. The room smelled of mould and woodworm or lice were eating the door – all night we could hear something inside the door eating the wood and when I first heard it I thought we had rats in the room!

In the morning we went to breakfast and a man was talking loudly about how he ‘must speak to the people in room 23’… I said to him that we were from room 23. He was the hotel manager Carlos – he said that we have been placed in the wrong room and we were even in the wrong pousada! When I asked him what he meant, he said that Ventos owns two places – one in Camburi and one in Camburizinho.

We had checked into the Ventos that we had first seen, the one on Facebook, and the one we asked to book when we emailed and asked for the prices. However, Carlos said that we were booked into their inferior pousada down the road. He said we could only stay in our room if we paid to upgrade – we should leave immediately and go to the other pousada.

I asked Carlos how this could happen. We had asked for information, made a booking based on that information, and been welcomed and shown to our room by his staff.

Carlos turned out to be a very nasty character. He insisted that we had to pay extra to stay in the pousada – even though we had paid for our weekend in full on arrival.

After a long argument and Carlos refusing to change his mind or give any blame for the situation to his own team we decided to just leave the pousada. We asked for our money back for the Saturday night – it was still early on Saturday morning when we were having this argument.

Carlos refused saying that we had paid for the weekend and the money was not refundable as “a courier picks up the money every night”. This escalated into a further argument about him robbing us and we called the police and explained to them how the pousada was not going to refund us and had sold us a room in a completely different pousada.

The police were helpful, but said that was a civil matter and we would need to register a civil case – which we have now done.

One advantage of bringing the police into the matter was that Carlos’s boss and owner of the pousada, Ricardo, promised he would process a refund for us – however he said that it could not be on Saturday as he had to ‘go fishing with friends’ and was therefore too busy to help us. When I asked what he was going to do to fix the situation, he said that he was going to “pray, light a candle and hope for the best.”

We left the hotel feeling cheated – not only had the hotel owner sold us a completely different hotel to the one we believed we had booked (the one on their website and Facebook), but when we asked for our cash back, he refused.

At the time of this comment we are filing a civil action against the hotel for fraud and the incorrect description of the accommodation. We have still not received the R$250 Carlos promised to refund to our account.

Avoid this place at all costs – there are many nice places to stay in Camburi, but this is possibly the worst. It has made me never want to return to the town again.

Já estive em Camburi e Camburizinho, vilarejos no litoral norte paulista, muitas vezes. Já me hospedei em hotéis, pousadas e campings. Em uma visita no ano passado, descobri a pousada Ventos do Camburi enquanto procurava por um local diferente para tomar meu café da manhã. Me pareceu ser um lugar interessante, então “curti” a página da pousada no Facebook e adicionei meu email à lista de discussão de e-mail deles para receber mais informações.

Eles recentemente me enviaram uma promoção via e-mail e eu respondi pedindo para reservar uma suíte para o final de semana. Eles responderam informando o preço e eu concordei, paguei o depósito para que a reserva fosse confirmada e, em seguida, viajei de São Paulo até Camburizinho na noite de sexta-feira.

Quando cheguei na pousada, o recepcionista foi simpático e até me mostrou dois quartos diferentes, dizendo que eu poderia escolher o que mais me agradasse. Meu marido e eu escolhemos nosso quarto e em seguida, saímos para jantar e tivemos uma ótima noite.

As coisas não eram tão boas assim no (pequeno) quarto, apesar da recepção ser bem bonita e moderna. O quarto cheirava a mofo e cupins estavam comendo a porta – durante a noite toda, ouvimos algo dentro do porta comendo a madeira e, quando ouvimos esse ruído pela primeira vez pensamos que haviam ratos na sala!

No dia seguinte, na sala de café da manhã um homem estava falando em voz alta sobre como ele deve falar com “os caras do quarto 23″… Eu disse a ele que estávamos no quarto 23. Esse homem, que se chama Carlos e é gerente do hotel, disse que fomos colocados no quarto errado e estávamos no hotel errado! Quando eu perguntei o que ele quis dizer, ele disse que a Ventos do Camburi possui duas pousadas, uma em Camburi e uma em Camburizinho.

Tínhamos reservado um quarto na Ventos do Camburi, a pousada que tínhamos visto pela primeira vez, a do Facebook, a que tínhamos em mente quando perguntamos os preços, pagamos o depósito e fizemos a reserva. No entanto, Carlos disse que tinhamos reservado um quarto numa pousada inferior ali perto. Ele disse que só poderiamos ficar no nosso quarto, se pagássemos mais por isso – deveríamos sair imediatamente e ir para o outro hotel.

Perguntei ao Carlos como isso era possível. Tínhamos pedido informações, feito uma reserva com base nessas informações, fomos bem acolhidos e sua equipe nos mostrou opções de quartos.

Carlos acabou mostrando ser uma pessoa muito desagradável. Ele insistiu que tínhamos de pagar mais para ficar no hotel – apesar do fato que já haviamos pago adiantado pela nossa estadia no momento que chegamos.

Após uma longa discussão e após o Carlos ter se recusado a mudar de idéia ou dar qualquer explicação sobre os erros de sua própria equipe, decidimos deixar o hotel. Pedimos nosso dinheiro de volta para uma das duas diárias que pagamos- ainda era de manhã no sábado quando esta discussão teve início.

Carlos recusou, dizendo que tinhamos pago as diárias para o final de semana e que nosso dinheiro não poderia ser devolvido, pois o mesmo “não estava mais na pousada, um motoboy levla o dinheiro embora toda noite”. Este se transformou em uma briga pior ainda – desta vez por estarmos sendo roubados. Chamamos a polícia e explicamos como a pousada não nos reembolsaria e como eles nos venderam alhos e recebemos bugalhos.

Os policiais foram prestativos, mas nos disseram que esta era uma questão civil e não penal, e que precisaríamos registrar um boletim de ocorrência – o que estamos fazendo agora.

Uma vantagem de envolver a polícia nisso foi o Carlos ter entrado em contato com o proprietário da pousada, Ricardo, que prometeu que iria nos reembolsar – no entanto, ele disse que não poderia ser no sábado, pois ele iria “ir pescar com os amigos” e estava, portanto, muito ocupado para nos ajudar. Quando perguntei o que ele ia fazer para remediar a situação, ele disse que iria “orar, acender uma vela e esperar o melhor.”

Saímos do hotel nos sentindo ludibriados – o proprietário do hotel nos vendeu um hotel completamente diferente do que acreditávamos que tínhamos reservado (aquele mencionado em seu site e no Facebook) e quando pedimos nosso dinheiro de volta, a administração se recusou a fazê-lo.

Iniciaremos um processo civil contra o hotel por fraude e descrição incorreta de seus serviços. Ainda não recebemos os R$ 250,00 que o Carlos prometeu depositar em nossa conta.

Evite este lugar a todo o custo – existem muitos bons lugares para se hospedar em Camburi, mas este é, possivelmente, o pior. Esta experiência me fez nunca mais querer retornar a esse lugar novamente.

Thieves

Photo by Andrew Becraft licensed under Creative Commons

Clooney is the only true hero of celebrity today

George Clooney seems to have it all. He is 50 years old and yet women of all ages still cite him as their dream movie star – and plenty of men would like to be him, with enough charm and sophistication to rise above any situation.

Yet here is a movie star who doesn’t play by the normal Hollywood rules. He has an opinion, he has intelligence, and he is ready to use his celebrity as a vehicle that can create social change.

There has been a lot of coverage of his arrest today in Washington DC. Clooney and his father were thrown in jail in Washington DC for protesting outside the Sudanese embassy. The BBC says that Clooney is a keen protester when it comes to the issue of South Sudan, but this fails to do him justice at all.

George Clooney is a pioneer in the use of satellite technology for monitoring hostile government militias. It might sound incredible, but here is a Hollywood actor who personally set up a project to use satellites to monitor what was going on in Sudan and to then use social media to report live information as it could be observed.

Clooney has no need to be doing any of this. He could be living a nice life in Beverly Hills making new movies each year that boost his bank balance, yet he uses his personal wealth and fame to make people aware of injustice on another continent.

How many other actors in his position can you name that are really doing something as worthy with their fame – more than just appearing on a charity telethon?

George Clooney 66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)

Downfall on a Croydon tram

You know that an online meme has truly gone viral when someone does a Downfall mashup, and so it is that the recent Emma West ‘racist woman on a tram’ video can now be seen in a new version with Hitler – the source video got past 12m views in a few days before the person who uploaded it decided to delete the video. You can still see it all over YouTube though as other people uploaded copies.

It is an embarrassment to watch. West is clearly drunk, or using something you can’t buy at Boots, and making it all worse, she is carrying a young infant who seems oblivious to the foul language and threat of violence. She has now been remanded in custody to January 3rd by magistrates in Croydon – with the order to keep her behind bars apparently for her own safety.

When you take into account her accusation that someone on the tram comes from Nicaragua, though they are quite obviously not from Central America, it descends into idiocy. Just with the added foul language for good measure.

Most reactions to the video have expressed outrage. The UK is a modern, forward-thinking, liberal society that despises this casual racism. At least, this is the intelligent, educated, liberal reaction.

England is also a country where, just a few days ago, police questioned the captain of the national football team over alleged racial abuse of fellow professional footballers on the pitch.

Emma West doesn’t allow her targets to be limited by race; she appears to despise anyone who isn’t English – particularly the Polish – apparently demonstrating that cultural racism very clearly still exists in the UK.

British people know this anyway. The hard working, mostly Christian, white-skinned Poles have faced a negative reaction from the British as their numbers have increased since EU expansion in 2004. Anyone with a slightly longer memory, or appreciation of British history, would know that there were 16 Polish fighter squadrons within the RAF during World War 2, with squadron 303 at Northolt being the highest-scoring fighter squadron in the RAF. But do the ignorant worry about history?

The Irish faced a similar reaction many decades ago as they came to the UK looking for work. Landlords considered dogs and blacks to be just about as welcome as the Christian, white, Irish workers.

Racism isn’t always about the colour of your skin or the God you worship.

Within the British Isles we have often mocked each other in jokes. The drunken Irish, the stingy Scots and so on, but when a video like this achieves such notoriety in such a short period of time it would appear that something else is going on that exceeds mild stereotypes. That John Terry himself can squirm behind excuses such as ‘the context in which certain remarks were made’ shows how little the establishment really cares about true racial harmony in Britain today. Is ‘tolerance’ still the rather pathetic objective here?

The truth is that without migration the UK would never be able to boast the music of Morrissey or the Beatles. The chicken tikka masala might never have become the favourite dish of the nation – offering solace to all those who can’t manage a vindaloo. And Damien Hirst might never have started chopping up cows in the name of art.

The value migration brings is acknowledged by most, and the most recent explicitly anti-migrant political movement, the British National Party, was roundly defeated in the 2010 general election.

But the white working class fears migrants because of the perception that they steal jobs – it’s that simple. They like Irish beer and Indian (usually it’s actually Bangladeshi) food, but they don’t want foreigners coming and taking their jobs.

And jobs are where the political debate is at right now. Unemployment is soaring. The economies of Europe are collapsing and the OECD predicts that the UK will soon enter a new recession with more than 3m unemployed – that’s at least 400,000 more people without a job than right now.

If the government doesn’t grasp that this lack of employment opportunity is going to be a tinderbox that tests multicultural Britain to the limit then I suggest that ministers get on a tram and start talking to people – admittedly difficult when they are not even talking to each other because of Europe. But, don’t forget to carry a swear box.

Hitler In Hell

Feeling safe in Brazil

One thing that people from the UK often ask me is whether it is safe to live in Brazil. The image most foreigners have of living here is of the favelas… in particular the international success of the film City of God didn’t help very much.

At face value, the crime statistics are much higher than Britain and the police in São Paulo alone shoot someone dead everyday, but on a day-today basis I don’t feel any unease living here.

When I first arrived, I was endlessly surprised by the amount of security people use to feel safe. Windows have steel bars, shops and banks have armed guards, every police officer is armed, car showrooms offer bullet-proofing as an option…

It all becomes normal through osmosis, but I still question the need for all this security. It would be nice to see a house with a garden, rather than a steel cage “protecting” the residents.

As this Reuters article states, there is an obsession with security in Brazil, but there are also some encouraging signs. The murder rate in New Orleans is five times that of São Paulo and bank robberies across the entire country dropped from over 3,000 a decade ago to 343 last year.

The Reuters article points out some anecdotal evidence, such as people freely using devices such as iPhones on a bus, something unthinkable just a few years ago. In many ways the freedom to use expensive devices such as a smartphone, laptop computer or iPod in public now feels just as it would in any other major city.

Would you walk around an unfamiliar street in New York or London late at night with your senses dulled by music from an iPod and gazing into the GPS-powered map on your iPhone? It’s pretty much the same here these days.

I was with my wife in a local bar the other day and she was telling the bar owner about our plans to move to the coast. Not just for the beach, but also because a smaller town would be safer than the city. He said he can only remember hearing of one robbery in the entire neighbourhood this year so how do we define ‘safer’ than that?

Maybe he just wanted to keep us as good customers. We are the only customers at his bar that run a slate with credit, paying him advance rather than him chasing us to settle the bill, but he sounded genuine.

As with city life anywhere, you can be a victim of crime through sheer bad luck, but most of the time you make your own luck through choices about how much wealth, gadgets, and jewellry  you display.

São Paulo may well have more crime then London, but I’m not scared to ride the bus or walk down the street. I still get unnerved by all the armed guards at banks though. If I am ever nearby when a bank robbery kicks off then I’ll be more scared of the guards than the criminals…

Hob nob robber strikes again

Steel bars and shutters

I had visited Brazil a few times before I moved here to live, so I was aware that they take security pretty seriously. Supermarkets and banks have armed guards, apartment blocks are surrounded by impenetrable steel cages, and all the police are armed – even the humblest traffic cop.

But when I moved into my house, a few things struck me as unusual. Every window has steel bars – like a jail – and both the front and back doors are protected by big steel bars too.

When I moved in, it was unnerving and unusual. My front door in Muswell Hill opened onto the street, my front door in Ealing was not facing the street, but there was nothing to stop anyone walking up to the door. The open spaces at the front of houses, gardens for example, just don’t really exist here. If a house or apartment black has a garden then it is behind bars so only the residents can possibly access it.

Walking down a main street late at night is also strange. Every shop, bar or restaurant will have steel shutters. I know there are some shops in London that pull shutters down at night, but not every single shop. It’s quite normal to walk past shops late at night where only a pane of glass stands between you and their stock.

This sense of security makes me think of when I have visited Luxembourg. The head of state lives in a palace in the city centre that any member of the public can approach. You can walk up and have a look through the window. They don’t feel any need to erect barriers.

Quite a contrast to the average apartment-dweller in Brazil who only feels safe living inside a cage.

But, with the riots in London and across the UK over the past week, will this fear of the unknown and underclass pervade society so bars go up and steel shutters become essential?

I hope not, but I’m expecting the worst.

Palaisde Luxembourg

Reclaim Ealing

When the Arab spring took place, earlier this year, it was because millions of ordinary people had finally grown tired of dictators plundering their national resource and ruling over their lives. It was an ideological uprising to create fairer societies across the Middle East and North Africa.

When the Greek people took to the streets this year, it was over a sense of outrage at the mismanagement of their national economy – the government forcing austerity measures on working people that resulted in enormous job losses and pay cuts for public workers.

When the Metropolitan police shot Mark Duggan dead last week without him being in a position to attack them with a firearm (all the facts are still to come out in the inquiry, but it appears he posed no threat), they made a grave error. It led to protests from the family and then the local community – ending up in the localised rioting in Tottenham.

There has not been any rioting in London for a long time. Sure, there were a lot of student protests recently – one resulting in a jail term for the son of a rock star – and some anti-war protests like the big march in 2003, but nothing like this. The nearest I can remember to this was the 1990 poll tax rioting and even that was concentrated around a single area rather than spreading across the whole of London, like we have seen this week.

It seems just something burst in the collective consciousness of the criminal underclass this week. Seeing the riots in Tottenham galvanised a sense of injustice – especially against the police – and soon riots were taking place all over the capital, though they were particularly nasty in Hackney, Croydon, and Ealing.

Being a resident of Ealing until recently, all I could do was sit here in São Paulo watching the BBC news live updates and following the discussion on Twitter. Watching Ealing go up in flames without being there to actively do something was a very strange – and emotional – experience.

Of course, there is not much I could personally have done if I was there – what does anyone do if thugs are rampaging down the street setting cars on fire? But, I could see people I know from the local community – including many councillors and the council leader – getting messages online, warning of trouble, calling the fire brigade… actively helping their neighbours.

The tragic thing about this violence is that it has no objective, it’s just the violent outrage of frustration. If these kids really wanted to change the way companies like McDonald’s operate then getting the staff into a union or campaigning for fair wages and conditions would lead to a better outcome for everyone – rather than just bashing in the window of every branch they see.

And by looting, any sense of outrage or protest has been destroyed. London has been taken over by thugs who don’t even have a political message. Some are claiming it’s because of youth club cuts and youth unemployment. Nonsense – it’s just the criminal destruction of property by those who don’t even understand what they want or why.

At least the class warriors of the left, who used to cause trouble for business owners, had some form of objective – even if it was as simply stated as ‘smashing capitalism’ (even though the smashers were often educated property-owners).

The threat of Irish nationalist terrorism that only ceased recently, and also caused chaos in Ealing in the past decade, was also more understandable. There was a political debate to be had, even if it was always impossible to debate issues when one side used bombs.

But these riots are meaningless. They have no objective or planned outcome. And perhaps this is the most dangerous thing of all for a government that is now implementing possibly the largest ever cut-back in public sector jobs. If the disaffected youth think they have it bad right now, then just wait for another year… our trading partners in Europe are struggling and hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs are about to vanish.

I am visiting Ealing soon – later this month. And I had arranged a large local community event that will be on September 1st. I hope many more local residents come along to it now than were going to before these terrible riots – there will be many of those local councillors who were doing such a great job at the event, and at least one of the local MPs.

The tweetup may in some ways just be about having a pint and listening to some great live music, but since I started arranging these nights in early 2009, I met many local people and found new friends in my local community.

Ealing needs the local community right now and if social media is going to take some of the blame for helping rioters to focus on new targets then it should also be used to bring the community closer together.

Click here to register for the Ealing Tweetup…

Red Lion Ealing

The Met get their men, at last…

To say that justice was not done back in 1993 when black teenager Stephen Lawrence was murdered in London is an understatement. It is to the credit of the Metropolitan police – written off as institutionally racist during the investigation into this case – that they have now charged two suspects with the murder.

It’s eighteen years since the crime and Stephen Lawrence was just 18 when he died. The suspects in the 1996 trial were obviously guilty as far as the general public were concerned – their criminal families were even caught trying to nobble the jury – but the judge could not sentence them without reasonable doubt.

In short, the scientific evidence at that time was just not good enough for a safe conviction even if every copper in London knew in their bones that they had caught the right guys. So it’s pleasing to hear that the boffins have improved their analysis of the evidence and found compelling new evidence that should be heard in court – leading to the arrest of these two suspects, one of whom has already stood trial for the murder back in the 90s.

Because the double jeopardy rules have changed – it used to be impossible to be tried again for a crime you were previously acquitted of – they are now going to have to stand trial at the Old Bailey for the murder of Lawrence, with the CPS presenting fresh new evidence even after all this time. These sweeping changes to the criminal justice system in the UK were made largely because of the Stephen Lawrence case.

This reopened case is important, not least because it may finally achieve justice for the Lawrence family, but also because the reputation of the police service in London was dragged through the mud after this case collapsed. The police were accused of being racist Neanderthals, not much better than the murderers, and certainly not bothered about the loss of a black kid from a rough neighbourhood.

It took a long time for anyone to acknowledge that Stephen Lawrence was a talented kid with a good school record and no criminal record and he was working hard to become an architect. The Royal Institute of British Architects now holds an annual prize in his name and memory.

Justice won’t bring back a murdered individual, but in this case it can remove the bitterness the family – and nation – feels that these thugs got away with it for so long. It also goes some way towards rehabilitating the reputation of the Metropolitan police, who have never quite got beyond the ‘Gene Hunt’ school of policing in the opinion of most middle-class Londoners.

I wont forget this case myself because I was at the 1998 inquiry in person as the London representative of Amnesty International. As the five accused men left the inquiry, a sea of hundreds of – mostly black – Londoners closed in and pelted them. Being close to the front of the crowd, half the missiles were raining down on me and the people nearby!

At one point, I looked up and a steel ladder was flying overhead… Some of the accused men actually traded punches with the crowd, with the police desperately trying to prevent a full-scale riot in Elephant and Castle.

Let’s hope that this time, the Met get their men. It’s been a long time coming.

The Old Bailey