Brazil’s Rousseff takes nuanced approach to foreign policy

April 29, 2013

Vincent Bevins – Los Angeles Times,  04/25/2013

Shortly before Venezuela’spresidential election, former Brazilian PresidentLuiz Inacio Lula da Silva recorded a video supporting Nicolas Maduro, saying he had “stood out brilliantly in the struggle” for a more democratic Latin America.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was endorsed by Lula in 2010, kept silent on the ultimately victorious candidacy of Maduro, the hand-chosen heir of the late leftist Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez.

The difference in demeanor between the two Brazilian presidents was not surprising to Rousseff watchers. Since assuming office at the start of 2011, she has taken a much more muted approach to foreign policy than Lula, avoiding the type of activism that often annoyed the United States.

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Brazil grapples with dysfunctional Congress

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.

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Analysis: Brazil’s Rousseff not a slam dunk for re-election

April 8, 2013

Brian Winter – Reuters, 04/04/2013

She’s one of the world’s most popular presidents with an approval rating that is the envy of her peers in richer countries struggling with debt crises and political deadlock – 79 percent and rising.

She presides over a country with record-low unemployment, a can-do optimism that invites comparisons to the post-war years in the United States, and a chance to showcase its progress when it hosts the soccer World Cup next year.

And yet, it’s entirely possible that Dilma Rousseff could fail to win re-election as president of Brazil in October 2014.

The 65-year-old leftist remains the clear favorite but the threat of rising inflation and unemployment, a trio of attractive opposition candidates, and the possibility of an embarrassing logistical debacle at the World Cup mean that Rousseff is less of a shoo-in than many observers think.

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Can Marina Silva revamp Brazilian Politics?

April 5, 2013

Anderson Antunes – Forbes, 04/05/2013

There is plenty of blame to be shared for Brazil’s troubled political scenario. But for Marco Feliciano, the country’s human rights boss, it’s all the devil’s fault. At least that’s what he said during a religious gathering this past weekend in a small town in southeast Brazil, when talking about his predecessors–”They were dominated by Satan,” he reportedly told the audience, later explaining that by ‘Satan’ he “just meant his opponents.”

Feliciano is, of course, the ‘racist’ evangelical-preacher-turned-political leader whose most famous remarks include his depreciation of the opposite sex (“If women achieve gender equality, the traditional family will collapse and society will become gay”), African descendants (“They were cursed by Noah. That’s a fact”) and gays (“Salvation is available to them in the form a gay ‘cure’). He is also under investigation for embezzlement and homophobia. In spite of his controversial resumé, Feliciano was recently-elected president of Brazil’s House of Representatives Human Rights and Minorities Commission, creating, as one would expect, a national uproar.

Although his ascendance to the job was fairly constitutional, since he was democratically elected as a representative with tens of thousands of votes, and therefore represents the people (or a part of the people, as the rule goes in a democracy) to preside over the commission, apparently none of the representatives who chose him as a human rights defender thought of researching his views on the aforementioned topics, consequently avoiding the stir. And, most importantly, nobody cared if he had the credentials for the office he now holds. Why not? Because it simply doesn’t matter.

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Brazil clown will leave big shoes to fill in Congress

March 29, 2013

Vincent Bevins – Los Angeles Times, 03/29/2013

Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva never expected to actually be elected to Brazil’s Congress. When he ran for a seat in 2010, he used his clown name, Tiririca, and wore a tiny orange hat and a blond wig in his campaign TV spots. Between singing and dancing, he made some very odd campaign promises.

“What does a federal deputy do? I don’t really know. But vote for me, and I’ll tell you!”

“I promise to help those in need,” he said, in a nod to political corruption. “Especially my own family.”

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Early kick-off: the 2014 presidential campaign gets under way

February 21, 2013

The Economist, 02/23/2013

A CAMPAIGN that officially lasts just three months should mean that Brazil’s next presidential election, due in October 2014, feels far away. In fact it seems almost imminent. On February 16th Marina Silva, who came third in 2010 as the Green Party’s candidate, launched a new party, the Sustainability Network, thus declaring her intent to run again. Three days later the president, Dilma Rousseff, announced increased welfare payments to 2.5m poor Brazilians in a speech widely interpreted as launching her bid for a second term. The main opposition, the Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), is considering primaries that its bigwigs have designed to bolster Aécio Neves, their preferred candidate. Eduardo Campos, the governor of Pernambuco state who heads a fast-growing centrist party, is mulling a run, too.

Ms Silva’s “Network”, as the new party’s supporters call it, will impose term limits on its representatives and turn away dodgy donations and members. It hopes to appeal to both greens and voters fed up with politics as usual. It is turning to social media to whip up the 500,000 signatures it needs by October if it is to field a presidential candidate. It is likely to succeed: Brazilians are among the world’s most prolific users of Facebook and Twitter.

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Brazil`s zombie politicians. Unstoppable?

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.

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Brazil Opens Roads To Privatization

August 10, 2012

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 8/10/2012

Privatization is back. It almost feels like the 1990s.

Well, sort of.

It’s not out right privatization, but the Brazilian government plans to announce billions in state asset sells to private investors through long term concession deals that would give the winning bidder the right to operate roads, rails and ports, many once built by the  government, for around 30 years.

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff is set to announce the concession projects next Wednesday in Brasilia, the nation’s capital.  The total amount is estimated to be around R$90 billion, or $45 billion over the next five years.

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Brazil senate moves to expel lawmaker linked to crime

May 9, 2012

Fox News Latino/EFE, 05/06/2012

The Brazilian Senate’s Ethics Committee decided Tuesday to begin the process of expelling Sen. Demostenes Torres, who is accused of being part of an organization that runs gambling rackets.

The decision was made unanimously by the 15 members of the committee, who are convinced that there are reliable indications of close links between Torres and businessman Carlos Augusto Ramos, known as “Carlinhos Cachoeira” and the purported head of the criminal outfit.

Court-authorized wiretaps of Cachoeira, who has been under arrest since February, revealed his close connection to Torres.

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Dilma’s new broom

August 31, 2011
Financial Times, 08/30/2011

Dilma Rousseff has had an uncomfortably busy three months. Following a slew of corruption allegations, Brazil’s president has lost her minister for transport, the number two at the agriculture ministry and her chief of staff. Ms Rousseff’s unyielding stance on corruption is a welcome departure from the relaxed attitude that has typified Brazilian politics for too long – and a further sign that she is stamping her own authority on the government she inherited from Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The cost of corruption is inherently hard to quantify, but it is significant. The São Paolo-based Federation of Industries puts it at between R$50bn and R$84bn per year. That is about 2 per cent of gross domestic product. With big infrastructure projects under way ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, there is scope for much more. It is no coincidence that the transport and tourism ministries have been at the heart of recent scandals. If Brazil is to fulfil its economic potential, corruption must be countered vigorously.

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