April 11, 2013
Joe Leahy – The Washington Post/Financial Times, 04/10/2013
The YouTube video of Marcos Feliciano, a Brazilian evangelical pastor and federal congressman, would be funny were it not so tragic.
In it, the preacher derides a member of his congregation for giving him a credit card without the PIN number during collection time.
“This is the last time I’ll say it, Samuel de Souza gave his card but not the password. That doesn’t count,” he scowls, as other brethren hand in checks for 500 to 1,000 real ($250 to $500) and even a motorbike.
March 28, 2013
Brad Haynes – Reuters, 03/27/2013
After decades as second-class citizens under Brazil’s constitution, maids and caretakers have finally won an equal seat at the table.
A constitutional amendment that Congress passed late Tuesday will remove a clause treating domestic servants as a distinct category of worker – a striking reminder of how an economic boom over the past decade has chipped away at Brazil’s vast inequalities.
“We are finally burying the slave quarters,” Senator Antonio Carlos Valadares told his colleagues from the floor of the chamber before they unanimously approved the amendment.
February 21, 2013
Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 02/20/2013
Cold War politics appeared to take over Brazil’s Congress on Wednesday during a visit by Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, with leftists heckling her as a pawn of U.S. imperialism and others praising her for standing up to Cuba’s communist government.
Sanchez, Cuba’s best-known dissident, has been followed by boisterous sympathizers of the Cuban government since she arrived in Brazil on Monday on her first trip abroad since receiving a passport to leave the Caribbean island.
After the screening of a documentary about Cuba that she was due to attend in northeastern Brazil was disrupted by demonstrators, Brazilian opposition politicians invited Sanchez to the capital Brasilia for a showing of the documentary in Congress.
February 14, 2013
The Economist, 02/14/2013
“BRAZILIANS! You’ve just been taken for fools!” So wrote the organisers of an online petition calling for the impeachment of Renan Calheiros, who was elected president of Brazil’s Senate on February 1st. And on February 11th, though Carnival was in full swing, the petition notched up more than 1.36m signatures, 1% of the electorate. That gives its backers the right to present their demand to Congress, though they will have to wait until after February 19th to do so: whereas other Brazilians get three days off for Carnival, lawmakers enjoy two full weeks.
Mr Calheiros, a wheeler-dealer of the sort who excels in Brazil’s fragmented coalition politics, was president of the Senate from 2005 to 2007. But he resigned after allegations that a lobbyist had paid maintenance on his behalf to a lover with whom he had had a child, and that he then faked receipts for the sale of cattle to try to prove that he could have afforded to pay her himself. He denies all wrongdoing and has since stayed active in politics, but only behind the scenes. His allies in the Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB), Brazil’s largest, evidently judged it was time for him to return to centre-stage.
December 7, 2011
John Lyons – Wall Street Journal, 12/06/2011
An overview of the dense canopy and deforestation in the Amazon rain forest outside the city of Manaus, Brazil. Getty
The country’s Senate passed a controversial forestry bill sought by the powerful growers and ranchers of the country’s vast interior—and opposed by activists who say it would quicken illegal deforestation in the Amazon forest and other wilds.
The new forest code would reduce the amount of forest preserves farmers are required to keep when deforesting land, and pardon some past illegal deforestation among other measures. The bill must be reconciled with another version if it passed in the lower house of Congress in May, and then signed by the president to become law.
The bill is the single biggest piece of legislation to hit the Brazilian Congress during the first year of President Dilma Rousseff’s four-year term, and brings into relief concerns about the environmental costs of Brazil’s strategy to employ its vast natural resources to drive economic growth.
August 22, 2011
The Economist – From the print edition, 08/20/2011
As another minister goes, Brazil’s president may find that the price of trying to clean up politics involves forgoing reforms the country needs
SHE arrived in the presidential palace with a reputation as a no-nonsense manager, but one who had never previously held elected office. Almost eight months into her term as Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff has found herself sucked into the political swamp that is Brasília. She has reacted firmly to corruption scandals, and is striving to trim budget pork and to fill senior government jobs on merit rather than through political connections. Her reward has been signs of mutiny in her coalition. With the world economy deteriorating, whether Ms Rousseff can impose her authority on her allies matters a lot for Brazil’s prospects.
In June the president dawdled before dispensing with Antonio Palocci, her chief of staff, after allegations of past influence-peddling had made his position untenable. Since then she has been quick to nip any scandal in the bud. When Veja, a weekly magazine, published evidence of systematic overbilling on contracts at the transport ministry, the president fired dozens of officials, including the minister. Next Veja reported on similar overpayments and kickbacks at the agriculture ministry. The number two at the ministry was sacked; on August 17th the minister, Wagner Rossi, a sidekick of the vice-president, Michel Temer, resigned. This month police arrested more than 30 officials in the tourism ministry, including the deputy minister, on suspicion of stealing public money intended for training hotel staff ahead of the 2014 football World Cup. In the midst of all this the president sacked the defence minister after he insulted some of her closest aides in an interview.
In all this Ms Rousseff is slowly putting her own stamp on a government that she inherited from her predecessor and political mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. But the multiple scandals are straining her ramshackle coalition. This consists of over a dozen parties, ranging from communist to right-wing populist, that between them give her the nominal support of around three-quarters of Congress. The main interest of some of the coalition’s smaller members is not ideology but the extraction of jobs and money—for personal gain or party financing—from government. They are annoyed that Ms Rousseff has tried to rewrite the rules of the game.
June 15, 2011
Jean-Pierre Langellier – Guardian Weekly, 06/14/2011
Choices ... electoral leaflets outside a polling station in Brasilia in 2010. Photograph: Eraldo Peres/AP
As every editor knows, a writer should never inflict too many numbers on the reader. Rankings, dates, figures, indexes and percentages can be off-putting – if not a downright bore. With this in mind, here is a little collection, gleaned recently from the Brazilian press, which may help to decipher a few local realities.
Let’s start with 30,000. That’s the number of bills pending in Brazil‘s congress, the legislative body in the capital Brasilia, composed of 513 deputies and 81 senators. Among these dormant bills are 975 constitutional amendments awaiting ratification. The oldest has been pending for 16 years. There are also 2,180 draft laws that have been vetoed by successive presidents. Technically, their fate should have been decided within 30 days of the veto.
And that’s without the 50 international treaties, one of which, ratified last month, was dated 1994. Were the Brazilian congress to examine just these bills, it would take a century at the current pace. The federal delegates have mostly abandoned their prerogative of controlling the president’s accounts. No fewer than 12 budgets are still awaiting debate, the oldest of which dates back to 1990.