Gwynne Dyer: The truth about Bolivia’s and Brazil’s economic miracles

October 15, 2014

Gwynne Dyer – The Georgia Straight, 10/14/2014

TO NOBODY’S GREAT surprise, Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, has won a third five-year term by a landslide majority. It’s no surprise because Bolivia’s gross domestic product (GDP) has tripled since he took office in 2006. The number of people living in poverty has fallen by a quarter, even the poorest now have the right to a pension, and illiteracy has fallen to zero. Of course he won.

What has happened in Bolivia seems as miraculous as what happened in Brazil, where another left-wing president, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, took office in 2003. The economy started growing at five percent a year, unemployment fell steeply, and some 40 million Brazilians, almost a quarter of the population, were lifted out of poverty. Lula’s former chief of staff and successor as president, Dilma Rousseff, is also likely to win another term in office.

Is there some secret they share? Many other South American economies have been growing fast too, but without the dramatic change in the distribution of income that has happened in Brazil and Bolivia. Even the late Hugo Chavez’s “Bolivarian revolution” in Venezuela, for all its anti-imperialist rhetoric and despite the country’s great oil wealth, has not delivered a comparable transformation in the lives of the poor.

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Brazil Must Choose Between Change and Continuity

October 15, 2014

Maria Fernanda Castillo – PanAm Post, 10/14/2014

So far, the Brazilian presidential elections have truly been a roller coaster ride. Over the past few months, three candidates appeared to have the distinct possibility of winning. Despite the momentum that carried Marina Silva through the initial stages of the election, a strong campaign from the Workers’ Party (PT) derailed her in the first round.

Silva’s defeat left current President Dilma Rousseff to face off against Aécio Neves for the presidency, despite the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) candidate having spent the majority of the campaign in third place.

Although Rousseff has left Marina Silva behind, it would be a mistake to say that the president has secured reelection, and now a classic battle between the PT and the PSDB is shaping up to be one of the hardest fought runoffs in recent years.

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Brazil: The ‘El Dorado’ for international migrants

October 14, 2014

Wyre Davis – BBC, 10/14/2014

The jungle state of Acre is a long way from anywhere. Tucked into the north-western corner of Brazil, it is closer to the big towns of eastern Bolivia and southern Peru than it is to the industrial heartland of southern Brazil. Yet it is through here that many migrants looking for a better life or escaping persecution in their own countries choose to enter Brazil.

On the edge of town, where the paved road runs out and where the jungle meets the last few buildings, several times a day small convoys of mini-vans come down the track and people get out.

Like new arrivals anywhere, they look slightly bewildered, trying to get an immediate bearing on their surroundings. But they have little need to worry.

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Scandal in Brazil: who cares?

October 14, 2014

Jonathan Wheatley – Financial Times, 10/14/2014

Do Brazilian voters care whether their politicians are corrupt? More particularly, do they care about political scandal at Petrobras, the state-controlled but publicly traded oil group that is both national champion and national treasure, a cherished symbol of Brazilian potential and prowess? If you believe the latest opinion polls they either do care, in spades, or they don’t, not one bit.


Stories of kick-backs to political parties from companies winning contracts from Petrobras have been swirling around for months. The suspicion – hotly denied by those allegedly involved, at least until recently – was that that directors at Petrobras, appointed as standard practice by politicians, were returning the favour with generous cash payments, mostly to their patrons in the ruling leftwing Workers Party, or PT.

Many expected the accusations to do serious damage to the re-election campaign of the PT’s Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president and former chair of the Petrobras board. In the event, in the run-up to the election on October 5, the scandal appeared to make little difference and Rousseff got the most votes, although not enough to avoid a run-off on October 26 against Aécio Neves of the centre-right PSDB.

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The secret behind the turn of Aécio Neves [PORTUGUESE]

October 9, 2014

Juan Arias – El País, 10/06/2014

Not only was Aécio Neves the surprise ending of this first round of the Brazilian presidential elections, but also his victory, which was greater than predicted by all the polls and that he personally earned. It was almost a psychological phenomenon: his flexibility to react to announced defeat that had already been accepted by his party.

Neves grew instead of belittling the groundbreaking Marina Silva, who crushed his hopes to the point where he was advised to quit the campaign. He rolled up his sleeves and announced that the winner would be able to compete in a runoff against President Dilma Rousseff, who was all that her party, the PT (Workers’ Party), did not want.

His position as third in the race, as a candidate in whom no one believed could overcome the force of the ecologist Silva, led him to react in debates in ways that resulted in him winning.

Read more [in Portuguese]…

Wall Street, Washington, and Brazil

October 8, 2014

Julia E. Sweig – The World Post, 10/8/2014

Wall Street made its preferences known well before the first round: the markets wanted change. Anything but Dilma, and if that meant Marina Silva, then by god she would be molded into the right market-friendly container! Washington had a slightly more sanguine view of the Marina surge, but most close Brazil-watchers likewise seized on Marina as the Obama-esque “change agent” who, embodying the demands of the 2013 protests, might propel Brazil to the next phase of political reform.

Moreover, Marina’s sudden openness to agribusiness and trade deals, her gripping personal narrative, and her environmentalism suggested an opening for the Obama administration to re-kindle the near dormant embers of the bilateral relationship.

Surprise! Time to re-calibrate expectations and ask some questions. With Aécio Neves pulling in a respectable 34 percent of the vote, in an outlier scenario that he can draw enough for Marina’s votes to prevail over Dilma, what would a PSDB government signal to Wall Street and Washington?

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What an Election Year Looks Like in Brazil

October 8, 2014

Jake Flanagin – The New York Times, 10/08/2014

“President Dilma Rousseff emerged on Sunday as the front-runner in one of the most tightly contested presidential elections since democracy was re-established in Brazil in the 1980s,” reportsSimon Romero for The New York Times. However, “she failed to win a majority of the vote, opening the way for a runoff with Aécio Neves, the pro-business scion of a powerful political family.”

What’s so special about this election? Well, whoever wins will be running what was, until recently, “Latin America’s colossus,”according to David Biller of Bloomberg View. “Brazil’s economic growth has slowed to its weakest three-year pace in a decade, advancing just 2.1 percent on average from 2011 through 2013,” he explains. “In the first half of 2014, it entered technical recession. The currency has fallen 33 percent since President Dilma Rousseff rose to power in 2011. Business confidence in July reached the lowest level in more than a decade. Sovereign debt was downgraded on March 24 for the first time in that period.”

This heightens the stakes for Ms. Rousseff, whose opponent, Mr. Neves, has built a campaign platform on pro-business, pro-economic growth policies. Ms. Rousseff’s Workers Party, critics say, has stalled the country’s once meteoric rise through a combination of “tax burden, the bureaucracy and steep tariffs.” Reducing these would “boost investment,” Mr. Biller reports, while “more flexible labor laws would improve productivity” — all hallmark’s of Mr. Neves’s campaign.

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