Mac Margolis

Stories by Mac Margolis

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    Lea T.'s Runway Revolution

    Brazil’s hottest new model is tall, dark, and glamorous. She’s also a he. Meet high fashion’s newest gender-bending muse.
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    Welcome to Rio's Shantytown Counterinsurgency

    José Mariano Beltrame did what everybody in Rio de Janeiro thought impossible—pacify two of the city’s most drug-infested, crime-ridden favelas. Welcome to the shantytown counterinsurgency.
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    Marta: Brazil's Pint-Size Football Star

    When Marta Vieira da Silva was 10, a skinny tomboy in Dois Riachos, her hometown in the Brazilian dust bowl in the northeastern state of Alagoas, her team coach gave her a new pair of football boots. They were three sizes too big. “I can take them back,” he offered. “No! They’re perfect,” she shot back. It was her first pair of cleats, and she wasn’t about to let them go.
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    The Brazilian Director Who Beat Out 'Avatar'

    On Dec. 30, in the fading hours of his presidency, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva penned a few last-minute directives for Brazil. Chief among them: increase protection from Hollywood for the country’s rising film industry. He needn’t have bothered; last year was a banner year for Brazilian cinema, with three national titles finishing in the top 10 money makers. One, Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within, was a runaway blockbuster. The sequel to a cops-and-criminals film by José Padilha, it has bagged 11.2 million viewers and more than $60 million, trumping imported 3-D sensations like Avatar, Shrek Forever After, and Alice in Wonderland to become the year’s top box-office draw.
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    Paulo Coehlo Banned in Iran

    Over the years, Iran’s theocracy has fearlessly thumbed its nose at Israel, the United States, and the United Nations. But now Tehran has taken its row with the West a disturbing degree further. This week the Iranian government reportedly banned all works by Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian mystic and author of international bestsellers such as "The Alchemist," "Diary of a Magus," and "Veronika Decides to Die."
  • Venezuela's Hugo Chávez: Nice Weather for Autocrats

    Leave it to Hugo Chávez to turn natural calamity into political opportunity. As torrential rains left 130,000 Venezuelans homeless, the president leveraged the elements to his advantage. He won the legislature’s blessing to rule the country by decree for the next 18 months “on humanitarian grounds.” But his plans go way beyond aiding storm victims. Bundled into the package are measures that would allow confiscations of private property, higher taxes, state takeovers of banks and private companies, and cuts to foreign funding of nongovernmental organizations.
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    Welfare for the Developing World's Poor

    In the depths of the global financial crisis in 2008–09, China stunned the world with its massive $596 billion stimulus spending program, which helped Asia avoid the worst of the downturn. Another of Beijing’s initiatives drew much less attention but will prove even farther-reaching: a first-ever comprehensive pension plan aimed at alleviating crushing poverty in the Chinese countryside, home to two thirds of its 1.4 billion population, who live on an average wage of about $2 a day. The program distributes government-subsidized pensions to 55 million rural Chinese, 16 million of whom are already drawing benefits of up to $45 a month. Though enrollment is voluntary and requires each participant to kick in between $15 and $75 a year, the government picks up the lion’s share of the costs. By the end of 2010, nearly a quarter of China’s rural areas will have been covered. Now Beijing is working to extend the program to urban centers as well.
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    Chávez Uses Natural Disaster to Grab More Power

    As torrential rains swept Venezuela in early December, leaving some 35 dead and 130,000 homeless, the president wasted no time in leveraging the elements to his advantage. On “humanitarian grounds,” the man Venezuelans know as El Comandante asked—and on Dec. 17 won—Congress’s blessings to rule by decree for the next 18 months.
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    Uruguay Challenges Goliath Philip Morris

    A long-burning row between the government in Montevideo and cigarette maker Philip Morris is slowly turning into the mother of asymmetric battles.
  • India’s Microfinance Blues

    Small borrowing has big problems. Last month’s $221 million rescue loan to a group of troubled Indian microfinance companies—with some $2 billion on the line, nearly eight of 10 borrowers were in default—has stirred a crisis of faith in development circles. Critics complain that private banks, lured by the sizzling market in making small loans to the poor, betrayed the neediest by creating a mutant, developing-world subprime monster with 20 to 30 percent interest rates. Now there are fears it could spread.
  • Violence Rocks Rio as Brazilian Police Pacify Favelas

    Keeping the peace in Rio de Janeiro has never been a job description for the faint-hearted. But the mayhem that swept the streets of South America’s fairest city this week has been extreme even by outsize Brazilian standards.
  • Brazil's Pension Problem

    Brazilian President-elect Dilma Rousseff is starting off bold. Her initial agenda includes eradicating absolute poverty, trimming the budget, and safeguarding freedom of the press. Even the political opposition nodded in agreement.
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    In Brazil, ‘President’ Is Forever

    Brazil being Brazil, a land where the next campaign begins the nanosecond the last one ends, speculation is already rife following the election of Dilma Rousseff. Complicating the picture is the fact that in Brazil there is no such thing as an ex-president.
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    Death of Kirchner Jolts Political and Economic Spheres in Argentina

    With the sudden death of Néstor Kirchner, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner not only lost her lifelong companion but also a political accomplice. His death is a blow of seismic proportions to South America’s largest nation, and the tragedy has cast a cloud over Fernández’s struggling government and, even more, next year’s presidential elections.
  • Brazil Campaigns Away

    The contest to succeed Brazil’s mega-popular President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has taken a turn toward the irrational. Lula’s former chief of staff Dilma Rousseff, and her challenger, former São Paulo governor José Serra, have made the Oct. 31 runoff a campaign against privatization.
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    Chilean President Grabs Limelight in Miners' Rescue

    Whatever else you can say about Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, aversion to risk-taking is not one of his faults. That fact was made more than clear during the dramatic rescue of the 33 miners, every moment of which Piñera oversaw like a field marshal on the front.
  • 'Kill Me if You Are Brave!'

    Tall and defiant and cornered by disgruntled cops, Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa stood at the window of a police hospital, clutched a microphone, and yanked his tie loose. "If you want to kill the president, here I am!" In a country that’s no stranger to coups, this was no political theater.
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    Is Brazil's Next President a Dangerous Amateur?

    The woman set to succeed Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is a former guerrilla who has never held elective office. She can hardly hope to evince the political skills Lula spent a lifetime developing.
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    How Hugo Chávez Wins by Losing in Venezuela

    Hugo Chávez has brought his country lasting recession, constant power outages, rising crime, and rampant inflation. So how does he continue to be successful?
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    Brazil's One-Party Democracy

    This time eight years ago, Brazilian democracy took a stress test—and passed with distinction. The onetime radical union leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took charge of Latin America’s largest nation and impressed the world with his moderate politics and prudent economics. That was then.
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    Latin American Democracies Lash Out at the Press

    Even though Latin America is more democratic than ever, governments across the region have lashed out this summer at unfriendly reporters by imposing restrictive (and sometimes unconstitutional) bans on the free press.
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    Brazil Needs Billions to Dig Deep for Oil

    Brazil has a sunken-treasure problem. The discovery three years ago of a huge offshore stash of oil unleashed a gusher of nationalist euphoria. At somewhere between 9 billion and 15 billion barrels, it was the largest find in the Western Hemisphere in more than a quarter century.
  • A Clamor for Continuity in Brazil

    With just three months left before they elect a new president, Brazilians are holding their breath. Back in 2002, when a onetime union man with a history of slamming the bourgeoisie was poised to take office, the very idea nearly undid a convalescing Brazilian economy. To save his candidacy, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wrote an open “Letter to the Brazilian People” eschewing his confrontational past and vowing to abide by the free market. The resulting economic revival has awed the world.
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    Colombia Becomes a Latin American Star

    In a time of emerging-market juggernauts, Colombia gets little notice. Its $244 billion economy is only the fifth-largest in Latin America, a trifle next to Brazil, the $2 trillion regional powerhouse. Yet against all odds Colombia has become the country to watch in the hemisphere. In the past eight years the nation of 45 million has gone from a crime- and drug-addled candidate for failed state to a prospering dynamo.
  • Colombia Unleashes the Civets

    The landslide victory of Juan Manuel Santos as Colombia’s president opens a new chapter in the story of a nation that has come to rely less on personalities than on institutions grounded in the rule of law.
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    Colombia Picks President for More of the Same

    For a moment, it looked like Colombians wanted a new kind of politics. But in the end, they decided things were going so well under outgoing President Álvaro Uribe that they'd do better to pick his annointed successor than to take a gamble on change.
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    The World Cup's Bad Influence

    Some concessions to 'futebol' in Brazil are to be expected. But the quadrennial fever over the beautiful game may be heading over the top, compelling this nation of aficionados to shutter shops, empty schools, slow down industry, and snarl traffic as millions scramble for home or to the nearest pub in time to cheer on the national side.
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    Despite Gulf Leak, World Still Wants Deepwater Oil

    With crude still hemorrhaging into the Gulf of Mexico, deepwater drilling might seem taboo just now. In fact, extreme oil will likely be the new normal. Despite the gulf tragedy, the quest for oil and gas in the most difficult places on the planet is just getting underway.
  • Chavez Twists Twitter Into Tool of Repression

    When Iran’s opposition protesters used Twitter and other forms of social media last year to let the world know about their regime’s brutal post-election crackdown, activists praised Twitter as the tool of revolution and freedom. But now Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has figured out how to twist this tool into one of repression. Though as recently as this past January Chávez was decrying Twitter as a weapon of terrorists, he’s since turned into an avid Twitterer himself (his account, the country’s most popular, boasted more than half a million followers at press time), as well as a devoted Facebook user and blogger.