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 »


Brazil and its backyard

October 24, 2014

The Economist (print edition),  10/25/2014

Like voters in most democracies, Brazilians pay little heed to foreign policy when choosing leaders. Yet the presidential election on October 26th matters not just to Brazil but to the region. Over the past two decades Latin America’s giant has overcome its introversion and wielded growing influence in its backyard. And on foreign policy, as on economics, there is a clear gap between President Dilma Rousseff of the centre-left Workers’ Party (PT), who wants a second term, and her rival, Aécio Neves, of the centre-right Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB).

Brazil’s greater assertiveness began under Fernando Henrique Cardoso of the PSDB in the 1990s and continued under the PT’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the president in 2003-10. Both gave importance to the Mercosur trade block (founded by Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), to South America and to ties with Africa and Asia. Both had reservations about a 34-country Free-Trade Area of the Americas, a plan that Lula helped to kill.

But there were differences, too, partly because of Brazil’s changing circumstances. Lula put far more stress on “south-south” ties and on the BRICs grouping (linking Brazil to Russia, India, China and later South Africa). In Latin America he emphasised “political co-operation”. Relations with the United States were cordial but distant, especially after Lula tried brokering a nuclear deal with Iran which the White House opposed.

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Neck & neck Brazil presidential race casts doubts on Mercosur, BRICS

October 21, 2014

Mauricio Saverese – RT, 10/21/2014

About a year ago everyone expected an easy ride for President Dilma Rousseff in her reelection campaign. Now, in the final week of Brazil’s election season, she is technically tied with opposition’s Aécio Neves.

About 20 percent of voters, who reject both candidates or seem too tired of politics to show up on October 26, are hearing desperate claims from the incumbent and her antagonist. It is likely Brazilians only know what will happen after the last vote is counted. That uncertainty makes the country’s future a big mystery. And that includes a big chunk of South America’s powerhouse foreign policy.

Neither Rousseff nor Neves want to give away much of what they intend to do if victorious. But the president’s closest allies have given hints. Rousseff’s foreign advisor Marco Aurélio Garcia says “South America is a big asset” and insists Mercosur – the region’s free trade zone – must be strong to keep Brazil’s position as a Latin American spokesman. Neves’ aide Rubens Barbosa, a former ambassador to Washington, says Brazil does better by imploding Mercosur (which includes Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), so there is a deal with the European Union and diplomacy that is friendlier to the US.

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Brazil looks to buy Chinook helicopters from Boeing as tensions with U.S. thaw

October 17, 2014

Andrew O’Reilly – Fox News Latino, 10/17/2014

In a sign that the icy relations between Brazil and the United States in the wake of the National Security Agency spying scandal are beginning to thaw, the South American nation has expressed an interest in buying a handful of military helicopters from Boeing, the Chicago-based company said.

The Brazilian Army is looking to purchase several CH-47 Chinook helicopters from Boeing in a deal that would add to an already growing list of potential weapons deals between the U.S. and Brazil. Boeing executives said that they were “pretty positive” about the deal and that the company views Brazil as an important partner for both commercial and defense projects.

“We have had some early discussions about the Chinook with the Brazilian Army,” Boeing spokesman Scott Day told Reuters, adding that the proposed deal was not a very big one. “We still view Brazil as a very important country for Boeing.”

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Brazil at a Crossroads: Why the US Should Take Note

October 17, 2014

Natalie Alhonte Braga – The World Post, 10/17/2014

It’s no wonder that Brazil is known for its novelas. The road to the presidential elections have been anything but dull, and current numbers show that this election is the closest in recent history. Early in the race, the tragic death of presidential hopeful Eduardo Campos catapulted his running mate Marina Silva to the top of the ticket.

The week leading into the first round election on October 5, Marina was polling neck and neck with incumbent President Dilma Rousseff. Political pundits in both Brazil and abroad expected a tight second round race between these two former Lula ministers, but instead, center-right former Senator and Governor Aécio Neves’s second place finish knocked Marina out of the race entirely.

On October 26, Brazilians will take to the polls again to decide who will lead their country for the next four years. We are now in the road to the run-off and it is anyone’s race. What is certain, however, is this election’s increasing importance to the international community.

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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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U.S. Reaches Deal With Brazil Ending Cotton Dispute

October 1, 2014

Alan Bjerga – Bloomberg News, 09/30/2014

The U.S. and Brazil reached a $300 million agreement to resolve a dispute over cotton subsidies that has bedeviled the two nations for more than a decade.

The accord signed today in Washington involves a one-time U.S. payment to the Brazil Cotton Institute in return for that nation dropping all claims against the U.S., the U.S. Trade Representative said in a statement. Brazil will also not pursue any new World Trade Organization cotton claims while a five-year farm bill Congress passed in February is in effect.

“Today’s agreement brings to a close a matter which put hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. exports at risk,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said in a statement with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The United States and Brazil look forward to building on this significant progress in our bilateral economic relationship.”

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