Happy Holidays from the Brazil Institute! The Brazil Portal will take a short break for the Holidays and will return in the New Year.
Juan Forero – The Washington Post, 12/26/2012
Glassy-eyed, rail-thin and filthy, hundreds of addicts emerged from doorways and alleys as dusk came to the once-grand Luz district in the heart of this city.
After quick transactions with crack dealers, they scrambled for a little privacy to light up their pipes and inhale tiny, highly addictive rocks that go for about $5 each. The image was reminiscent of Washington or New York in the 1980s, when crack cocaine engulfed whole neighborhoods and sparked a dizzying cycle of violence.
But this time, the crack epidemic is happening in Brazil, alarming officials and tarnishing the country’s carefully cultivated image ahead of two major sporting events to be staged here: soccer’s 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Ruth Costas – BBC Brasil, 12/25/2012
A year ago, Brazil´s overtaking of the UK to become the world’s sixth largest economy was celebrated with enthusiasm by the Brazilian authorities.
At the time, in a boisterous mood, the Brazilian economy minister, Guido Mantega, predicted that France and even Germany could be soon left behind by Brazil’s “large steps”.
Today, however, forecasts suggest that the partying may have been premature. Or, at least, that the battle for this sixth place will be much harder than Brazilians expected.
Ney Hayashi, Patricia Lara – Bloomberg, 12/26/2012
Brazil’s real rallied the most in the world as the central bank intervened to stem the currency’s drop and contain inflation in Latin America’s biggest economy.
The real advanced to a six-week high as the central bank sold $1.8 billion of currency swaps at two auctions and agreed to lend as much as $2 billion in foreign-exchange credit lines. Swap rates fell as speculation eased that policy makers will boost the target lending rate, known as the Selic, to cap consumer prices.
The real jumped 1.2 percent to 2.0557 per U.S. dollar at 4:22 p.m. in Sao Paulo, the strongest on a closing basis since Nov. 12. The gain was the biggest among all of the world’s currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The real pared its drop in 2012 to 9 percent after falling on Nov. 30 to a three-year low of 2.1360. Swap rates on the contract due in January 2014 fell three basis points, or 0.03 percentage point, to 7.14 percent.
Larry Rohter – The New York Times, 12/23/2012
Francisco Buarque de Hollanda, known professionally as Chico Buarque, has had a curiously bifurcated artistic career. In his homeland, Brazil, he is considered the greatest songwriter of the past 50 years, a kind of Cole Porter crossed with Bob Dylan whose elegant compositions, written alone or with partners like Antônio Carlos Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes and Caetano Veloso, have become standards in the Great Brazilian Songbook.
But to the extent that Mr. Buarque is known at all in the English-speaking world his primary identity is that of a novelist with a cult following among more celebrated writers. “Spilt Milk” is his fourth novel, and it comes with the ringing endorsement not only of his friend José Saramago, the Portuguese Nobel laureate who died in 2010 (a year after the book was published in Brazil) but also of fashionable younger American writers impressed by Mr. Buarque’s verbal dexterity, like Jonathan Franzen and Nicole Krauss.
Mr. Buarque’s writing style is strikingly different in the two realms, but his reputation is well earned in both. As a songwriter he tends toward lilting compositions that draw on bossa nova and samba, while as a novelist he is a master at generating discomfort, and in “Spilt Milk” he confronts the themes that make Brazil squirm, from the stain of slavery to the inferiority complex the country has historically felt when it compares itself to Europe.
Raymond Colit, Arnaldo Galvao – Bloomberg, 12/20/2012
Joaquim Barbosa once pored over law tomes while working nights as a typesetter to pay for college. Now he is rewriting them — and the history books as well — as the first black chief justice of Brazil’s Supreme Court and the presiding judge in a landmark corruption case.
Barbosa, 58, rocketed to celebrity for his role in a trial that convicted close aides of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who appointed him to the top court in 2003. In a country where few politicians are ever tried for corruption and virtually none go to jail, Barbosa led the way in arguing that Lula’s aides stole public money, used it to bribe lawmakers and should be punished with lengthy prison terms.
The son of a brick-layer and a cleaning lady, Barbosa overcame racial prejudices to galvanize sentiment for cleaner politics. While non-whites make up more than half of Brazil’s population, they hold only 8 percent of seats in Congress and earn half as much as whites, according to the statistics agency.
Blake Schmidt – Bloomberg, 12/21/2012
Brazil’s swap rates rose for a fourth day after the unemployment rate dropped to a record low for the month of November, fueling speculation that the central bank will raise borrowing costs to control inflation.
Swap rates due in January 2015 climbed six basis points, or 0.06 percentage point, to 7.88 percent at 10:25 a.m. in Sao Paulo, extending its weekly increase to 25 basis points, the biggest since the five days ended May 25. The currency depreciated 0.2 percent to 2.0725 per U.S. dollar after advancing yesterday to 2.0693, the strongest since Nov. 14.
Unemployment fell to 4.9 percent last month from 5.3 percent in October, the national statistics agency reported today. The reading was lower than forecast by all except two of 33 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, whose median estimate was for the jobless rate to decrease to 5.1 percent.
Leonardo Goy – Reuters, 12/22/2012
Brazil opened two of its international airports to private investors and launched a plan to expand domestic air travel on Thursday as it rushes to accommodate surging air traffic in time for the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.
The plan to modernize Rio de Janeiro’s Galeao airport, the country’s second-largest, and Belo Horizonte’s Confins airport should attract 11.4 billion reais in bids from private companies, the civil aviation authority said.
Rio de Janeiro, whose creaking Galeao airport struggles to serve rising numbers of tourists and business visitors, is one of 12 Brazilian cities fielding World Cup matches in 2014 and will host the Summer Olympics two years later. Its capacity will be more than doubled from 15 million passengers a year at present to 44 million before the World Cup under the new plan.
The Economist, 12/22/2012
SO RARELY has political corruption led to punishment in Brazil that there is an expression for the way scandals peter out. They “end in pizza”, with roughly the same convivial implication as settling differences over a drink. But a particularly brazen scandal has just drawn to a surprisingly disagreeable close for some prominent wrongdoers. The supreme-court trial of the mensalão (big monthly stipend), a scheme for buying votes in Brazil’s Congress that came to light in 2005, ended on December 17th. Of the 38 defendants, 25 were found guilty of charges including corruption, money-laundering and misuse of public funds. Many received stiff sentences and large fines.
The supreme court must still write its report on the trial, and hear appeals—though it is unlikely to change its mind. So in 2013 Brazilians should be treated to an unprecedented sight: well-connected politicos behind bars. José Dirceu, who served as chief of staff to the former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was sentenced to almost 11 years; Delúbio Soares, former treasurer of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT), got almost nine. Under the penal code, at least part of such long sentences must be served in jail. The justices also decided that the three federal deputies found guilty will automatically lose their seats if and when those verdicts are confirmed.
Lula was not charged, and has always insisted he knew nothing of the scheme. But Marcos Valério, a former advertising man sentenced to 40 years, claims to have evidence that Lula knew what was going on, and that some of the dirty money paid his personal expenses. These allegations may be merely a desperate attempt by a condemned man to bargain down his jail term. The attorney-general characterised Mr Valério as a “player”, and said his claims should be treated with caution. But if he has significant new evidence the mensalão may yet rumble on.
Franis A. Kornegay – SABC, 12/15/2012
Franics Korenegay was a Public Policy Scholar for the Africa Program at the Wilson Center from June-September 2012
Last year, South Africa hosted the 5th summit of the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Trilateral Dialogue Forum. In 2013 it is India’s turn. This will mark the 10th anniversary of the Brasilia Declaration that led to the trilateral build up toward the summits of heads-of-state of the three countries that have occurred over the last several years. Meanwhile, all three countries have become members of BRICS, the symbolic vanguard among emerging powers leading the non-Western ‘Rest’ through a transition of relative rise amid Western relative decline.
BRICS has garnered considerably more attention than IBSA and is taken much more seriously as a revisionist actor given the great power status of Russia and China compared to the ‘middle power’ profiles of India, Brazil and South Africa. Russia may be something of a ‘has been’ as the former superpower competitor of the US when it was the Soviet Union. But it remains at least a regionalized great power nonetheless. China on the other hand has effectively emerged.
Given perceptions of Sino-Russia as strategic competitors of ‘lone superpower’ America, BRICS carries a weight that middle power IBSA will never carry. And, it has been gaining momentum to a point where former Indian envoy Rajiv Bhatia, director-general of the Indian Council on World Affairs was moved recently to question what he interprets as IBSA’s relevance.