Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal touted economic ties with Brazil, keeps quiet on swimmers

A little over a year ago, the office of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal put out a news release trumpeting the state’s economic ties with Brazil.

Gov. and Mrs. Deal in Brazil. AJC file photo

Gov. and Mrs. Deal in Brazil. AJC file photo

For more than two decades, Georgia has sustained a partnership with Brazil that is vital to our economic development efforts,” said the release, timed to tout the governor’s economic development mission to Brazil and news that Stefanini, an service provider based in São Paulo, Brazil, would create 400 jobs by the end of 2016 through an expansion of its Atlanta office.

“Throughout this mission and as evidenced by today’s announcement, I’ve seen firsthand the results of our continued ties to this important South American nation,” Deal said in the statement. “I’m confident that Georgia’s highly skilled workforce and thriving technology cluster will create the ideal environment for Stefanini’s future growth in Atlanta.” 

More than 12,000 Georgians are employed by Brazilian-owned businesses, the release noted.

Georgia and Brazil are back in the headlines, as Rio authorities have detained University of Georgia swimmer Gunnar Bentz and another swimmer days after star swimmer Ryan Lochte said the group was robbed at gunpoint. This time Deal’s office is declining comment, as is the office of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

The politicians’ reticence isn’t surprising, given the evolving nature of what actually happened. Lochte’s story has shifted since his initial allegation that the swimmers were held up at gunpoint. Now a Brazilian police source says the swimmers actually got into a scuffle with a security guard in a gas station bathroom.

An Associated Press story about crime in Rio right before the Olympics portrayed dangerous, violent  streets: “Bullet-riddled bodies lie in pools of blood, and gun-toting teens in flip-flops navigate the maze of alleys working as guards, lookouts and distributors for drug lords operating just a few miles from where hundreds of thousands and tourists and athletes will be.” 

Twitter commentators were quick to mock Lochte after his teammates were detained at the airport. Now some are wondering why Rio authorities are so focused on untangling the swimmer situation instead of combating more serious crime.

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