One of the love hate relationships I have with Brazilian society is the lack of regulation or oversight or restriction imposed by the government. I should say the lack of enforcement of these things. Laws may exist and rules may have been drawn up, but seldom do you see any enforcement of same.
One example that reminds me of the vast gulf between the USA and Brazil in this regard is the simple fact that for the past several decades in Niteroi there has been a paved/mosaic waterfront promenade in Icaraí that goes all along the beach and rocky shoreline. This promenade is sometimes at the same level as the sandy beach and at times it is 5 meters above a rocky shoreline. At no place along this popular, crowded and open promenade is there a protective railing to prevent people from falling off the “cliff” (in places) and injuring themselves on the rocks below.
[I should say that just last year the city installed a railing, but as I say, it was not there for many, many years. My example holds.]
So that’s the “love” side of my experience. No government controlling your every move. But here is the “hate” side.
There is a successful and ever-expanding restaurant located directly across the street from our apartment. As it has grown in popularity it has needed to expand in any of a number of ways: more storage, more water capacity, more seating space, etc. This “construction” work has clearly been done in an informal way, sans any engineer or permits from the City. The owner just hires some workers and oversees their work doing what he wants done.
Here’s the problem. A restaurant employee must scramble up the rocks to the platform where the water tanks are located to facilitate their filling. There is a small walking trail now worn into the hillside, but it is not terribly safe. (Cue dark sound effects.)
A couple of weeks ago the employee who was assisting the water company in filling the tanks slipped on the hillside, hit his head on the rocks – and died.
So the “freedom” to build your restaurant without pesky city permits or construction designed by engineers is now paid for by a dead employee.
The personal liberty that is so palpable here in Brazil does not come without risk or consequences. I’m prepared to take some of those risks, but employers should not be able to put their workers at risk in the service of saving themselves a few bucks. Some government oversight and enforcement can be a good (and life-saving) thing.