Obligatory voting, socialism and corruption: Brazilians tell us what they think about Rouseff’s re-election

October 30, 2014

The Guardian, 10/29/2014

A woman, being re-elected in a traditionally sexist Latin country as ours, first of all means that we can learn to be a little less prejudiced. Secondly, but no less important, it means that Brazil has decided to be more inclusive. The last 12 years have seen huge advancements for the country: we have left UN’s hunger map and have brought nearly 50 million people into the middle classes. This is the real impact of a leftist government – underprivileged people can now plan to go to university (public universities in Brazil are 100% free and the Labour government has built almost 200 of them). There are more schools and hospitals spread around the country than ever before.

Today, around 56 million people claim benefits and some 12 millions have given them up in the past years because they felt they no longer needed this government support. This means that many people in low paid jobs were able to go back to school, better themselves, make plans for the future – which of course makes all the difference! People who used to live from hand to mouth can now plan to buy a house through government programmes, can get a decent education and move up in life.

We cannot deny that there’s been corruption, there’s been embezzlement and white collar crimes. But to believe that the right-wing candidate was going to be the one to end it is childish and naive! He himself is involved in many corruption scandals and it’s hard to see why he’d do anything about it! Corruption is part of the political game and only a reform in the system would make it possible to end it – and this has never been in the right-wing agenda, but Dilma has already said she plans to have a referendum to know what people want on that matter.

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Brazil’s Exhausting Election

October 30, 2014

Vanessa Barbara – The New York Times, 10/30/2014

It was a typical election in Brazil. Jesus and Osama bin Laden were running for Congress, as well as Barack Obama, Bob Marley, Santa Claus and Battman (with two Ts). The self-styled “Hamburger Face” unfortunately wasn’t elected, nor was a candidate just called Congresswoman. (When the results were released, it turned out she didn’t get a single vote — not even her own.) But a famous clown named Tiririca won a second term in the House, after starring in a kitschy TV campaign. Next year, 35 percent of our members of Congress will be millionaires.

In São Paulo, which is proving to be more conservative than most of Brazil, the number of legislators in the so-called Bullet Caucus will increase by 30 percent. They are usually former military police officers, with a right-wing posture and a belligerent discourse; they stand for lowering the age at which teenagers can be tried as adults (currently 18); for increasing police repression; and against gun control. Their mottos are: “the only good thief is a dead thief” and “human rights are for right humans.”

The second-most-voted-for congressman in my state was an evangelical Christian ex-cop who recently produced his own comic book. In 32 pages, he describes “two brand-new police cases.” In one, an angel supposedly helped him during a chase so he could catch two fugitives. (In real life, however, three suspects were killed by the police.) After the elections, he urged independence for the wealthiest states from the poorest ones that “preferred charity over work.”

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Can Brazil’s Socialist Iron Lady Defy The Markets?

October 29, 2014

John Cassidy – The New Yorker, 10/28/2014

I know, I know, there’s a lot going on: Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie are busy making jackasses of themselves; the midterms are next week; Rex Ryan’s Jets are imploding. I wouldn’t blame you if you overlooked the news that Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s socialist “Iron Lady,” was reëlected as the President of the world’s fifth most populous country. From what I saw, the broadcast networks barely covered it. Monday’s Times relegated the story to an inside page.

No surprise there, you might say. It’s nearly five thousand miles from New York to São Paulo, and Americans got their fill of Brazil during the World Cup. Who cares that Rousseff came from behind in the polls to defeat her opponent, Aécio Neves? Does it really matter to people outside Brazil?

It does, for at least two reasons. First, Rousseff’s victory has significant implications for the world’s financial markets. And, second, it extends Brazil’s decade-long effort to reduce poverty and inequality, which, despite great skepticism among the country’s business community (and free-market economists), has gone some ways towards spreading the wealth in what has long been one of the world’s most inegalitarian countries.

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Brazilians close their eyes and hope for the best

October 29, 2014

Rogério Simões, CNN – 10/27/2014

Uncertainty normally comes with the new. This year’s Brazilian presidential elections, though, have been like no other. After Sunday’s polls gave President Dilma Rousseff, from the left-wing Worker’s Party (PT), another four-year term with a narrow margin of victory, Brazilians embarked on a guessing exercise about what her next government will look like.

On the surface it doesn’t seem a vote for change, but the President knows it should be. There were exuberant celebrations in the PT camp and frustration in the faces of supporters of the defeated centrist candidate, Aecio Neves, from PSDB. But no one could say for sure what the result means for the next four years.

Since massive street protests in June 2013 called for change in Brazilian politics and economy, that word has been around in almost every political statement — including Rousseff’s victory speech on Sunday night. As she addressed supporters in Brasilia, the President said she had not forgotten the message from the streets. “The most repeated word in these elections has been ‘change’. And I know that I have been re-elected to make the big changes the Brazilian society demands.”

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Reelected, Rousseff Promises She Will be “A Better President”

October 28, 2014

Paulo Sotero – Brazil Institute, 10/27/2014

A narrow victory after a divisive campaign leaves a weakened leader with few options to revive Brazil’s slowing economy

President Dilma Rousseff’s narrow reelection last Sunday gave her a political victory without a clear political mandate. A highly negative and bruising campaign marked by personal attacks and allegations of corruption exchanged between Rousseff and her challenger, senator Aécio Neves, left a divided and angered public wondering whether the government and the opposition, which includes the vast majority of the business community, will be able to reconcile their differences and work together to reignite a paralyzed economy and put Brazil back on a more promising path than it has been on in recent years.

Rousseff received 51.65% of the votes, or 54.5 million, against Neves’ 48.69%, or 51 million, in the narrowest victory by a candidate in the seven presidential elections Brazil has held since the 1980s. Her triumph became clear only after 80% of the votes were counted.

Speaking to supporters, she said she did not believe the elections had left the country divided and called for dialogue. “Sometimes in history, tighter election results produce stronger and faster changes than ample victories,” she said, expressing hope that this will be the case in Brazil. In her victory speech, Rousseff promised to be “a better president” in her second term and move aggressively to promote a political reform she first proposed but failed to advance after the massive street protests of June 2013. It is improbable, however, that the proposal will be welcomed in Congress, where Rousseff’s Workers’ Party has lost ground and will have to deal with stronger and more demanding partners in the PMDB.

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Paulo Sotero is the director of the Brazil Institute at the Wilson Center.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Rede Brasil Atual.


Brazilians to elect a new president in an atypically sour mood

October 24, 2014

Paulo Sotero – The Brazil Institute, 10/24/2014

With their country’s economy at a standstill, Brazilians go back to the polls this Sunday in an atypically sour mood to decide whether to extend the mandate of President Dilma Rousseff for four more years or replace her with Senator Aécio Neves, a popular former governor of Minas Gerais, Brazil’s second richest state after São Paulo. Opinion polls released this week showed Rousseff gaining on Neves for the first time, who pulled a stunning turnaround to end in second place in the October 5th first round of vote, way ahead of once favorite candidate, environmentalist Marina Silva. Failures in first round opinion polls were made. However, the unusual volatility of the race even made analysts that seemed convinced of Rousseff’s reelection hedge their bets by avoiding making definitive predictions. One pollster who worked for campaigns of gubernatorial candidates of the president’s coalition told former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at a rally held in the Southern capital of Porto Alegre on Wednesday that his analyses indicated Aécio Neves could win the race.

Three weeks of second round campaigning that ended Friday, October 24th, with a nationally televised debate between the two contenders did little to lighten the poisonous political atmosphere created in the race’s initial 40-days of highly negative electoral tactics used by all major candidates, but especially by Rousseff’s camp. Read the rest of this entry »


In Brazil Election, a Stark Choice on Economic Direction

October 24, 2014

James B. Stewart – The New York Times, 10/24/2014

Sunday’s presidential election in Brazil may be too close to call, but investors have already voted with their reais and dollars — and it’s Aécio Neves in a landslide.

Rarely, if ever, has such a pro-growth, market-friendly candidate emerged as a serious presidential contender in a developing country, let alone one as large and influential as Brazil, which has the world’s seventh-largest economy as measured by gross domestic product. With every twist in the polls, the Brazilian stock market surges (if Mr. Neves is ahead) or plunges (if not) while largely ignoring fundamentals like commodity prices, the faltering Brazilian economy or global crises.

Perhaps nothing has more endeared Mr. Neves to investors than his announcement on Oct. 5, right after qualifying for this weekend’s presidential runoff, that he would name Arminio Fraga his finance minister. Mr. Fraga is an unabashed champion of market capitalism and pro-growth government policies. He has a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton and drew international praise as the head of Brazil’s central bank from 1999 to 2002, steering the Brazilian economy through a difficult period that coincided with the implosion of the dot-com bubble and a recession in the United States. He was a managing director at George Soros’s fund in New York, and after leaving Brazil’s central bank, he helped start the hedge fund Gávea Investimentos. A unit of JPMorgan Chase acquired a controlling stake in 2010.

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