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Bem-vindo From São Paulo: Introducing the Brasil Post

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SÃO PAULO -- Olá from Brazil. I'm here for the launch of the Brasil Post, in partnership with the Abril Group, one of Latin America's legendary media companies. For more than half a century, Abril has been telling the story of Brazil, in the pages of iconic magazines like Veja, Claudia and Exame, and in its growing portfolio of online publications. We're delighted to welcome the Brasil Post -- The Huffington Post's first South American edition, putting us on our fifth continent -- and Abril's fabulous team to the HuffPost family.

Brazilians are social by nature, both online and off, making Brazil the perfect place for The Huffington Post to expand our platform, which is all about conversation and engagement. With more than 100 million Internet users and more than 50 million smartphones, Brazil is as hyper-connected as any country in the world. It is now the third largest market in the world for Facebook and the fifth largest for Twitter. In a country as large and diverse as Brazil, the Brasil Post will welcome all voices -- politicians, business leaders and academics alongside students, activists and artists -- and will be a hub where all Brazilians can come to share their passions or simply cross-post from their own blogs and add a new distribution channel to what they're already writing.

My first meeting with the Abril team was a little more than two years ago, in September 2011, when Roberto Civita, who at the time was Chairman and CEO of Abril Group, invited me and Nicholas Sabloff, our executive international editor, to lunch at their offices. Also at the lunch were Fábio Barbosa, who was on the verge of becoming Abril Media's CEO, and Manoel Lemos, the company's chief digital officer. It was one of those moments when everything comes together: we were completely taken with our hosts' hospitality, humor and passion for using all the tools at their disposal to tell the story of Brazil and its people.

A few months later, Roberto, Fábio and Manoel visited us in New York and convinced me more than ever that Abril was the perfect partner for HuffPost in Brazil. Our launch today is tinged with sadness because last May Roberto died unexpectedly from an abdominal aneurysm. Just a few months before, our CEO Jimmy Maymann and I had lunch with him in New York, and we were all full of excitement that everything had been worked out and looking forward to celebrating the launch together in São Paulo. As a young man, Roberto had told his father Victor, Abril's founder, that he wanted to start a weekly magazine in the tradition of TIME -- where Roberto had worked as an intern -- and he went on to shape Brazilian media for more than half a century, publishing both a roster of original magazines and Brazilian editions of Cosmopolitan, InStyle, Men's Health, Women's Health and Playboy, and launching MTV Brasil and the immensely popular women's website MdeMulher. It means a lot to me that Roberto's widow Maria and his sons Giancarlo and Victor will be at the launch. This day is dedicated to him.

So today Abril and HuffPost finally tie the knot, and the lengthy courtship (by today's standards) makes the consummation of this romance all the more exciting. I'm very grateful to Fábio, who was with us from day one and has been so supportive of the partnership. I have learned a lot from Fábio and Manoel on this journey that began over lunch in 2011. Together with Ricardo Anderáos, our editorial director, and Otávio Dias, our editor-in-chief, they bring a deep knowledge of Brazil and its people.

Brazil in 2014 is a country at once facing big challenges and brimming with opportunity. In dramatic contrast to what's happening in America, about 40 million people in Brazil have moved from poverty into the middle class in the last decade, fueling a palpable sense that things are getting better. As Otávio put it, "In less than 25 years, Brazil stabilized the economy, strongly reduced inequality and created millions of jobs, giving rise to a new middle class. This is not an achievement of a specific government or president but a result of democracy and a more mature society."

However, many challenges remain, from high unemployment and inequality to corruption, the quality of education and Brazil's infrastructure.

Last week in Davos, together with a small group of journalists from the International Media Council, I met with Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's first female president, after her address at a special session. Seizing on one of the big themes of this year's World Economic Forum, she told us there's a great need for investors to look beyond the short term and focus on Brazil's long-term economic trends and developments. She spoke of Brazil's abundant natural resources, which present big opportunities for sustainable development and improving Brazilians' quality of life: "We will transform a finite resource, petroleum, into a lasting one: an educated population." And in the shortcomings of the country's infrastructure -- roads, train lines, ports and sanitation systems that need upgrading -- she sees a win-win opportunity for Brazilians and foreign investors in the form of public-private partnerships. When I asked her about the country's high youth unemployment (hovering around 20 percent), she focused on the need to improve educational opportunities, and the progress Brazil has made over the last 10 years, lifting 42 million people into the middle class and growing per capita income by 78 percent. In response to a question that assumed she was going to win the October election, she laughed, "No one can predict what happens in a judge's mind, a woman's womb, or a ballot box." And then she quickly corrected herself: "Well, now thanks to modern science, you can tell the sex of a baby, but you still can't tell the other two!"

All these issues will be central to the conversations leading up to the general elections in October to elect the president, congress, state governors and legislatures. And the World Cup, which Brazil will host in June, will not only celebrate the country's proud sporting tradition -- and bring the World Cup to South America for the first time since Argentina hosted in 1978 -- but shine a light on Brazil's split-screen reality, its challenges and its promise.

And the Brasil Post will be covering it all. Through a mix of original reporting and opening up our blogging platform to voices both new and well-known, we will not only tell the stories of the news and events shaping Brazil but also capture the spirit of its people. As we launch new editions internationally -- Brazil is now our 10th country -- we have discovered just how eager our readers around the world are to learn about the lives and traditions of people in countries other than their own. So we'll be putting the spotlight not just on Brazil's political and business life but also on all the ways Brazilians unplug and recharge -- including their active nightlife and tradition of botecos, bars where people gather for drinks, fingerfoods, conversation and music. And of course we'll be covering Brazilians' passion for futebol, and the beach culture of Brazil's many coastal communities.

Beyond publishing, Abril includes the Victor Civita Foundation, which since 1985 has helped to improve basic education throughout the country. Putting the spotlight on what is working in Brazil, including private sector, nonprofit and philanthropic initiatives, will be central to our coverage. Our partnership positions the Brasil Post to combine the best of the old and the best of the new in order to tell the stories that matter most in Brazil -- and just as important, to help Brazilians tell their stories themselves.

And now, a little more about our team. Our editorial director Ricardo Anderáos has been the social media director at the Abril Group and worked as a reporter and editor for several Brazilian outlets, including Estadao.com, where he was editor-in-chief, and MTV Brasil, where he was head of digital. He and I have bonded not just over our agreement on our editorial priorities but over his Third Metric lifestyle. Together with his wife and three children, he lives on the island of Ilhabela and commutes to the office in São Paulo. On the island, he meditates in the Nyingma Tibetan tradition and nurtures his passion for the environment by tending to a nursery of native trees from Brazil's most endangered rainforest, Mata Atlântica.

Brasil Post's editor-in-chief, Otávio Dias, has worked at some of Brazil's most influential newspapers and websites. In 12 years at Folha de S. Paulo, he served as London correspondent and as an assigning editor on the paper's international desk, and at O Estado de S. Paulo he was tech editor and editor of the paper's website. He loves to sing and to practice yoga.

We kick off with blogs from Congressman Marcelo Freixo on the problems of the Brazilian prison system; renowned journalist Gilberto Dimenstein on how to practice journalism in the new media era; popular transgender writer Laerte with a comic strip on how it feels to grow up; the feminist and entrepreneur Bianca Santana on her experience wearing a turban in her daily life; and journalist Renata Rangel on how her decision to move from the city to the countryside was influenced by Third Metric values.

So bem-vindo to the Brasil Post! As always, use the comments section to let us know what you think.