Petrobras puts Brazil President Dilma in hot seat

March 24, 2014

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 3/23/2014

Petrobras’ PBR +0.78% problems are becoming Dilma’s problems.

Brazil’s oil and gas major, Petrobras, can do no right. And now President Dilma Rousseff is being blamed for the problems. Of course, she is being blamed by politicians who don’t want to see her re-elected in October.  They probably won’t succeed at dethroning her, but one thing is certain: the deterioration of the shining star of Brazil’s state owned enterprises happened on her watch. This election season, Dilma isn’t the only one in the cross hairs.  Petrobras is now her problem, too.

Not long ago, as in 2007, Petrobras was heralded as the Latin America Aramco, finding oil deep under the ocean floor far off the coast of Rio and São Paulo states.  Goldman Sachs once put a $60 price target on the stock in early summer 2008. Today, Petrobras shares trade under $12, and its market cap is smaller than Colombia’s EcoPetrol EC +0.99%.

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Brazil police trial airs judiciary’s flaws

December 18, 2013

John Lyons – Wall Street Journal, 12/18/2013

A murder trial here that brought attention to Brazilian police brutality is now shining light on something else: A court system that can take years to produce verdicts, sometimes leaving both defendants and accusers feeling bereft of justice.

On Monday, a judge declared a mistrial in the prosecution of four São Paulo state policemen who are charged with the shooting a suspect in their custody, Paulo Nascimento, as he pleaded for his life in November 2012.

Soon after the trial began, a three-way shouting match broke out between the defense attorney, the lead prosecutor and the judge over a procedural question. It descended into a crossfire of accusations of judicial favoritism and an unqualified expert witness. A new trial won’t start before late 2014, officials said.

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Brazil official resigns amid scandal

December 2, 2013

Press TV, 12/01/2013

Marcel Fiche’s resignation was announced by the office of Finance minister Guido Mantega on Saturday.

The decision to step down follows reports that Fiche and his technical advisor allegedly received about USD 25,700 from a communications company in exchange for a contract with the finance ministry.

“I have asked Minister Guido Mantega that I not return to cabinet at the end of my vacations,” Fiche stated in a statement on Friday.

Fiche also said the allegations against him were “lies,” adding that he wanted to contribute to a smooth and rapid investigation.

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Jailed at last

November 22, 2013

The Economist, 11/23/2013

AS CHIEF of staff to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2003-05, José Dirceu was the second most powerful man in Brazil. Then claims surfaced that he and other leaders of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT) were orchestrating a scheme to bribe allies in return for congressional support. Few Brazilians believed that Mr Dirceu, who resigned, would be charged, let alone convicted or jailed in a country where impunity for politicians has long been the norm. But on November 15th the supreme-court president, Joaquim Barbosa, issued warrants for the arrest of Mr Dirceu and 11 others among the 25 found guilty last year of, variously, bribery, money-laundering, misuse of public funds and conspiracy, in a case known to Brazilians as the mensalão (big monthly stipend).

Sharing Mr Dirceu’s Brasília prison cell are José Genoino and Delúbio Soares, formerly the PT’s president and treasurer respectively. Henrique Pizzolato, a former director of the state-controlled Banco do Brasil, guilty of laundering some of the money, quietly fled to Italy, where he also has citizenship, some weeks ago. Authorities there have hinted that his extradition would be more likely if Brazil rethought its 2010 decision to shelter Cesare Battisti, an Italian bomber facing a life sentence.

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Brazil “mensalao” corruption trial to be reopened

September 19, 2013

BBC News, 09/18/2013

Brazil’s Supreme Court has narrowly ruled in favour of reopening the country’s biggest corruption trial.

The court agreed that 12 of 25 people convicted in a scheme using public funds to pay parties for political support could have appeals heard.

The decision is set to anger many who expected the sentences to be upheld, correspondents say.

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Brazil’s protests have subsided – for now

September 13, 2013

Claire Rigby – The New Statesman, 09/12/2013

At the end of August, as Brazil’s population reportedly passed the 200-million mark, the hashtag #OGiganteAcordou (“the giant has awoken”), used during June’s wave of protests, flickered briefly to life again online. The tag, a reference to the national anthem, in which Brazil is imagined as a colossus reclined on a tropical shore, was the strapline of a striking 2011 Johnnie Walker TV ad, in which Rio’s dark coastal mountains stirred into life and rose up to form a giant.

Over two months on from the protests, the suggestion that Brazil’s historically placid population was finally stirring into action now seems hopelessly optimistic: less an insurrectionary “Brazilian spring” than an ephemeral June bug. Small, sporadic protests smoulder on, including a spate of actions by a newly emerged anarchist black bloc, but the majority of June’s protesters have now dispersed.

Despite historic inequality, Brazilians have tended towards non-confrontation. It’s one of the things that makes Brazil such a thoroughly pleasant country to live in; but it also means that in the years since the end of the 1964-85 dictatorship, although smaller, under-reported protests over issues such as police violence, indigenous rights and housing have been a fact of life in the country’s marginalised periphery, the social peace has mostly remained undisturbed.

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Protests fill city streets across Brazil

September 9, 2013

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 09/07/2013

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in dozens of cities across Brazil on Saturday and were dispersed violently by the police while mounting some of the most vigorous expressions of anger with governing institutions since an outburst of antigovernment demonstrations shook the political establishment in June.

Still, fewer people turned out in major cities on Saturday than in the earlier wave of mass protests. That broad flare-up of public ire has given way to an array of more fragmented movements, some of which have been struggling in the face of crackdowns by Brazilian security forces.

“This whole government only knows how to rob us,” said Naiana Vinuto, 25, a management student among the protesters in Rio de Janeiro, expressing anger about political corruption in different parts of Brazil’s vast public bureaucracy.

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Brazilian protests fail to disrupt parades, soccer match

September 9, 2013

Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 09/07/2013

Police used teargas to contain street protests on Saturday in several Brazilian cities, stopping demonstrators from disrupting Independence Day military parades and an international soccer game between Brazil and Australia.

The protests against corruption were much smaller than the massive demonstrations that shook Brazil in June, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets in a sudden outburst of anger against the country’s political class for mismanaging government money and failing to provide adequate public services.

In downtown Rio de Janeiro, some 500 protesters invaded stands in the parade area, sending frightened families with children rushing for safety. Police used teargas and stun guns to disperse the demonstrators, who did not interrupt the parade.

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A blunt chief justice unafraid to upset Brazil’s status quo

August 29, 2013

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 08/23/2013

Brazil’s highest court has long viewed itself as a bastion of manners and formality. Justices call one another “Your Excellency,” dress in billowing robes and wrap each utterance in grandiloquence, as if little had changed from the era when marquises and dukes held sway from their vast plantations.

But when the chief justice, Joaquim Barbosa, strides into the court, the other 10 excellencies brace themselves for whatever may come next.

In one televised feud, Mr. Barbosa questioned another justice about whether he would even be on the court had he not been appointed by his cousin, a former president impeached in 1992. With another justice, Mr. Barbosa rebuked him over what the chief justice considered his condescending tone, telling him he was not his “capanga,” a term describing a hired thug.

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Brazil delays high-speed train bids for at least a year

August 13, 2013

Leonardo Goy – Reuters, 08/12/2013

Brazil’s government put off bidding for a high-speed train project for at least one year because there was only one confirmed consortium competing for the 38 billion reais ($16.7 billion) deal, Transport Minister César Borges announced on Monday.

Lack of competition led the government to postpone the tender for the bullet train linking Brazil’s two largest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, after Spanish and German groups guaranteed that they will bid if given more time, Borges said at a news conference.

After massive protests against corruption and misuse of public money paralyzed Brazilian cities in June, the government preferred not to open itself to further criticism by awarding the bullet train contract to the one bidder, analysts said.

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