Tuesday 7 March 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 7/3/2023

The Monocle Minute

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Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

On the right track

The idea of a high-speed rail link between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro has often been mooted – and just as often abandoned. Having seen successive failed attempts (most notoriously ahead of the 2014 Fifa World Cup), I, like so many Brazilians, had lost hope. But TAV Brasil, a private company formed to build and operate the line, has now received authorisation to start planning the R$50bn (€9bn) route. This time, the news feels different: a departure, if you will.

Unlike previous attempts, Brazil’s government won’t be directly involved in the project. It will be entirely private and there are suggestions that international developers might also be brought in. According to a statement made by Bernardo Figueiredo, TAV’s director, the journey time on the 378km route will be about 90 minutes, with trains travelling at speeds of up to 350km/h. If that ends up being true, it will be a welcome development for the millions of people who commute between Brazil’s economic and tourist centres every week. The Rio-São Paulo flight route is already one of the world’s busiest.

Most Brazilian trains in operation are used for freight or shorter passenger routes; the network is almost nonexistent on an intercity level. Though I remain sceptical about the project’s financing, I am very supportive of the idea of linking Brazil’s two most-populous cities – surely a prerequisite for the country to be competitive in the 21st century. I also believe that the recently elected president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, should prioritise improving the rail network as a way to reduce carbon emissions without harming economic growth. And I rather like the idea of hopping on a quick train from downtown São Paulo to enjoy a sunny weekend on Ipanema beach.

Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a producer and senior correspondent of Monocle 24. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Shutterstock

Society / South Korea

Conciliation prize

Ever since a 2018 ruling by South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered that two Japanese companies should either pay compensation to families of Second World War-era forced labourers or have their assets stripped, diplomatic relations between the two countries have been on ice. Japan was infuriated, insisting that outstanding claims had already been dealt with when ties were normalised in 1965. Since assuming office last May, South Korea’s president, Yoon Suk-yeol, has made mending relations with Japan a priority. Yesterday his foreign minister, Park Jin (pictured), announced a conciliatory plan: compensation funds would be raised from private-sector donations and paid through a South Korean foundation. Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, hailed the proposal as a positive step, while his foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, said that Tokyo stood by the position of previous governments, including then-prime minister Keizo Obuchi’s 1998 declaration of “deep remorse and heartfelt apology”. Whether the move is enough to placate both sides remains to be seen but the region urgently needs these two democracies to patch things up.

Image: Getty Images

Geopolitics / Sweden, Hungary & Turkey

Entangled states

A delegation of Hungarian lawmakers will visit Sweden today to discuss the country’s request to join Nato. Last week, Hungary’s parliament debated the applications of Sweden and Finland after prime minister Viktor Orbán accused Stockholm and Helsinki of spreading lies about his country. In Ankara, meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured, on left, with Orbán) has objected to Sweden joining on the grounds that he believes that it is harbouring militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey considers a terrorist organisation.

Ankara has signalled that it could vote for Finland’s accession but not Sweden’s, further muddying the waters. “In the short term, it doesn’t mean so much if Finland were to be ratified prior to Sweden,” Tobias Billström, Sweden’s foreign minister, tells Monocle 24’s The Foreign Desk. “But if [Sweden must wait for] a long period after Finland has been let in as a Nato member, that would cause problems not only to Swedish and Finnish defence co-operation but also to Nato planning.”

For more on Finland and Sweden’s stalled Nato accession, listen to the latest episode of ‘The Foreign Desk’.

Image: Shutterstock

Aviation / Venezuela

Route to Damascus

Venezuelan flag-carrier Conviasa has announced its intention to open a route between Simón Bolívar International Airport on the outskirts of Caracas and Damascus International Airport. The airline is known for its controversial routes, seemingly picked for geopolitical rather than commercial reasons. Conviasa currently operates seven international routes with destinations including Moscow, Mexico City and Lima.

The airline previously operated a Caracas-Damascus-Tehran flight that took in two of Venezuela’s global allies, Syria and Iran, before it was halted as a result of low uptake in 2012. The announcement of this new Syrian route comes as Syria seeks to revitalise its broken tourist industry. Several companies are now offering package tours of the country but critics say that the government is using these to whitewash its image after more than a decade of brutal civil war.

Image: Fast Studios

Media / USA

Open goal

Women’s sport receives only 4 per cent of US national media coverage, despite Deloitte estimating that the industry will soon reach a value of $1bn (€924m). “We found a gap in the marketplace around women’s sports programming overall and certainly around news and information,” says Stuart McLean, CEO of Los Angeles-based Fast Studios. The company launched its Women’s Sports Network last November with 1,000 hours of original programming and has already signed up 16 professional women’s sports leagues and federations.

In February, Fast Studios aired its first live broadcasts of women’s basketball games alongside storytelling shows such as The World According to Sage, a globe-trotting programme hosted by pro surfer Sage Erickson, and nightly in-studio show Game On (pictured). With the Fifa Women’s World Cup kicking off in Australia and New Zealand in July, pundits will be busy and the network has the potential to score big.

A longer version of this article appears in Monocle’s March issue. Pick up your copy of the magazine today or subscribe for more great journalism delivered to your door every month.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Foreign Desk

Ron DeSantis vs Disney World

Over the past year, Florida’s governor has been removing rights and imposing government oversight on the theme parks. Andrew Mueller explains why.

Monocle Films / Paris

Swimming in the Seine

As Paris embarks on a project to clean up the Seine ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games, we look at the process of readying the city’s river for its water-seeking dwellers, explore how it could affect the city and meet the guerilla urban swimmers who welcome the move.


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