Brazil and Africa: the southern link

July 22, 2014

Claudia Valenzuela – Public Finance International, 7/22/2014

Growth, opportunity and potential have ricocheted across Brazil and the African continent in recent years. While other more mature markets are only just beginning to click into gear after the financial crisis, the economies of Brazil and Africa have enjoyed better times as a result of rising popularity with foreign investors, and burgeoning domestic markets driven by an expanding middle class and abundant natural reserves.

Africa, in particular, is picking up the pace. It’s perceived attractiveness relative to other regions has improved dramatically over the past few years, according to EY’s recent Africa attractiveness survey, moving from the third-from-last position in 2011 to become the second most attractive investment destination in the world. Its total share of global FDI projects has also reached the highest level in a decade, with investors increasingly looking across the continent and to new sectors.

An African horizon

While separated by the vast expanse of the southern Atlantic Ocean, the fact that, millions of years ago, Africa and Brazil were joined in a single landmass, and continue to share similarities in soil and climate, serves as a far more apt geographic metaphor. The increasingly close relationship between the two began during the Presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who himself traveled to Africa 12 times in the 1990s, visiting 21 countries in the process. This pattern has continued under his successor, Dilma Rousseff, who, for example, visited Angola, Mozambique and South Africa during her first year in office.

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The New Development Bank: The start of a new economic consensus?

July 21, 2014

Erica Kliment – Brazil Institute, 7/21/2014

2014 BRICS Summit in Brazil

The leaders at the 2014 BRICS Summit in Brazil

Is the rest of the world ready for a new order upheld by developing nations? In 2010, when former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva invited then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to the Itamaraty Palace in Brazil, the meeting was highly criticized by the Obama administration. Lula, who had seemed to enjoy international acclaim when dealing with regional politics, was then chastised when he had reached too far out of the western hemisphere. His response was that he was merely attempting to better situate Brazil on the global stage, yet could the criticism have come from the fact that larger power players did not believe Brazil was ready to graduate from the role of regional babysitter?

Four years later, with an unexpectedly successful World Cup under Brazil’s belt and planning on another fruitful mega-event in just two years, the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the developed world seems slightly more willing to accept developing nations’ role in the international sphere. Individually, these nations’ global clout is diminishing with slowing economic growth rates, yet collectively, they have the potential to create a new platform upon which they and future developing nations can flourish. Towards the close of the most recent BRICS Summit, five of those countries reached an agreement that, depending on its success, could bring developing nations one step closer to the position they desire – the forefront of international affairs.

During the 2014 BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa jointly created the New Development Bank, a multinational fund of $150 billion in capital to provide stability and finance infrastructure for the five developing nations involved in the negotiations as well as future emerging markets. It will be headquartered in Shanghai with its first president from India, on a five-year rotating schedule, and with Brazil taking chairmanship of the board. Read the rest of this entry »


In defeat, a teaching moment for Brazil

July 15, 2014

Johanna Mendelson Forman – The Hill, 7/15/2014

Two routs of Brazil in one week, first with the German soccer team and then with the Dutch, can only be viewed as a metaphor for the limits of soft power. The final blow this past Saturday was the Netherlands team trouncing Brazil in a poorly defended game, and a palpable sense of retreat as Brazilians watched their home team crash and burn.

Brazil’s culture cherishes its long romance with futbol. And well it should. It is a nation that produced Pele, Ronaldinho and Neymar. Its Labor government bet the ranch on being host to the World Cup, a jewel in the crown of an emerging power. Unfortunately, the fairy-tale ending of living happily ever was overshadowed by large public protests in 2013 in a nation that wanted more for its children than gleaming soccer palaces and airports. Brazil’s desperate need for more schools, better educational opportunities and increased resources for health have become the grievance of a rising middle class that emerged as a result of policies that made poverty alleviation a central tenant of the Labor platform. First, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and then with President Dilma Rousseff, the country moved 33 million citizens out of poverty, and brought 47 million into the middle class with expectations that exceeded the government’s capacity to respond. And that’s where the trouble started.

Projecting power through persuasion with a global brand like soccer is fine and important. But rising to the level of serious leadership will require more than a World Cup victory or playing host to the 2016 Olympics. With this sporting event over, it is time for Brazil to rethink its mission in a complex international system that welcomes nations with peaceful inclinations, but equally values leadership. And this is where the problem lies for Brazil. For example, in 2008 it created a distinct South American forum, UNASUR, the Union of South American States, with the goal of distancing itself from the politics of the Organization of American States (OAS), which has been dominated by the United States. While UNASUR has voiced its intent to become an institution that can provide a genuine multilateral forum to resolve regional problems, to date its record is slim in spite of rhetoric to the contrary.

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Brazil’s ‘Quilombo’ Movement May Be The World’s Largest Slavery Reparations Program

July 11, 2014

Roque Planas – Huffington Post, 7/10/2014

When Luiz Pinto was growing up, his parents wouldn’t let the family talk about slavery. The issue raised ugly memories.

Pinto’s grandmother was born into slavery. She threw herself into a river before Pinto was born, taking her own life after the son of a wealthy, white landowner raped her. The subjects of slavery and racism became taboo in the Pinto household, a sprawling set of orange brick homes perched on a hilltop where Rio de Janeiro’s famed statue of Christ the Redeemer is visible in the distance through the trees.

“I only knew her from photographs,” says Pinto, a 72-year-old samba musician.

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Brazil’s leading anti-corruption Justice announces he is stepping down

July 2, 2014

MercoPress, 6/30/2014

“He came to say goodbye, given that he will retire next month,” Renan Calheiros told reporters after a private meeting with the jurist. “It was a surprise and we’re very sorry, since he’s one of the best models the country has,” the senator added.

The chief justice met earlier Thursday with President Dilma Rousseff to inform her of his decision.

Barbosa, 59, was the first black jurist to head Brazil’s Supreme Court, elected by his 10 fellow justices in October 2012.

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Brazil Has Lost the World Cup

June 25, 2014

Felipe Machado – Fair Observer, 6/24/2014

Brazil has failed to improve its public services and invest appropriately in infrastructure.

I confess that I didn’t want to write this, but the circumstances and some personal angst force me to do so. Seeing all the buzz surrounding the FIFA World Cup as Brazil head into the last 16, I couldn’t help but remember the finals in South Africa in 2010, an event I had the pleasure to cover.

I went to several games, traveled around the country and saw much of the new infrastructure. Despite many problems, I came to realize that South Africa understood the importance of hosting a mega sports event and took the opportunity in several areas with enough professionalism. Was there corruption? Of course. But South Africa, famous in recent history for being the birthplace of apartheid and the country of Nelson Mandela, became the first African nation to hold the World Cup. And that slightly improved their position amid international public opinion.

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The goal of projecting the country overseas is still a distant one

June 23, 2014

Carlos Eduardo Lins da Silva – Folha de S. Paulo, 5/31/2014

carlos_eduardo_lins_da_silva-230x310

Ten years ago on August 18th, with then President Lula in the audience, the Brazilian national soccer team with Ronaldo and Ronaldinho Gaúcho, beat Haiti in Port au Prince 6-0 in what was called the “Match of Peace.”

The event symbolized the Brazilian presence as the head of the UN mission in Haiti since 2004.

President Lula’s decision to accept this mission had to do with his ambition to project the country in the international stage as a first class actor even in areas that do not align with the country’s innate geopolitical interests.

Among the objectives on this agenda was gaining a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Lula’s willingness to take the lead with MINUSTAH was very well received by the U.S. Administration under George W. Bush.

Haiti, an extremely unstable and poor country, has been an issue of concern for Washington due to its geographical location, ever since its independence in 1804. Read the rest of this entry »


Brazil-Africa: Trans-Atlantic ties

June 20, 2014

The Africa Report, 6/20/2014

Brasília Teimosa, an oceanfront settlement in the north-eastern city of Recife, is gentrifying. Rents are rising, and homes are taking on new floors and replacing their weather-beaten facades with gleaming ceramic tiles studded with aluminium doors and windows. Hotel porter Romualdo Andrade, 45, points out a series of steel street lights being installed to replace the concrete ones. They are more resistant to the salt-strewn breeze from the shark-infested ocean, he explains. “The only thing that resists the salt breeze is ugly girls,” Andrade says, laughing.

He traces the turning point to about a decade ago, when President Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva spearheaded a four-part regeneration project that involved pulling down the least habitable of the settlement’s structures – while paying the occupants a monthly allowance to enable them to rent proper housing – and building a sea wall, roads and parks.

About five decades ago, Brasília Teimosa was a proper slum full of houses on stilts that rose out of the swamp. The Teimosa in its name means stubborn, Andrade says – a testament to the resistance its earliest inhabitants put up in the face of government attempts to demolish the slum and pave way for the reassignment of the prized land to developers of luxury apartments and hotels.

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Brazil in comparison to the other major powers – A view from India

June 20, 2014

Ambassador Rengaraj Viswanathan

Brazil has been acknowledged as a “future power” given its inherent strength and potential. The critics, of course, joke that it has managed to remain and will always continue to be only as a “future” power. Expectations raised during economic booms had diminished during cyclical busts and disruption of democracy by dictatorships. The Brazilians had finally thought that they had “arrived” during the euphoric years of the Presidency of Lula in the period 2003-11. But they have been brought down to earth, yet again, since then. It is against this background that the question of “Brazil’s place in the world” is being raised and the Ditchley Foundation of UK organized a conference on the subject in April this year. In this context, it is important to note that Brazil has undergone a paradigm shift and a New Brazil has emerged in the last two decades. This New Brazil has many distinct advantages and stronger fundamentals in comparison to the existing global powers as well as the other emerging and reemerging powers. It is just a matter of time for this New Brazil to be given its due place among the world powers.

Golden years of Lula

Brazil’s global profile reached unprecedented new heights during the Presidency of Lula who pursued proactive and visionary foreign policies. During Lula’s term, the economy had high growth and at the same time poverty and inequality were reduced with successful Inclusive Development policies. The country had discovered enormous pre-salt oil reserves and was already a global pioneer in the use of sugar cane ethanol as fuel. In 2010, Petrobras raised  an unprecedented amount of 70 billion dollars through issue of shares. President Lula was ecstatic when he said ¨It wasn’t in Frankfurt, it wasn’t in New York, it was in our Sao Paulo exchange that we carried out the biggest capitalization in the history of capitalism,”.  Petrobras overtook Walmart and Microsoft to become the fourth largest company in the world in terms of market value.

Brazil had initiated the formation of regional groups such as UNASUR and CELAC as part of its regional leadership role besides strengthening Mercosur.  It took over command of the delicate Chapter Seven UN Peacekeeping mission in Haiti in 2004 and spent over a billion dollars in humanitarian assistance and other expenditure. It co-founded IBSA alliance with India and South Africa in which the three aspiring democratic powers from the three continents agreed to work on common agenda. Brazil had joined India, Germany and Japan in the campaign for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Brazil has also been an active member of BRICS, the non-western alliance. President Lula had even dared to take an initiative to mediate in the Iranian crisis along with his Turkish counterpart, although it was squashed ruthlessly by US. Brazil was an active player, mover and shaker in global trade and economic fora. There was a new confidence and optimism with which Brazil sought its place among the global powers. Read the rest of this entry »


Brazil vs. Mexico: A Development Rivalry That Keeps Going Back And Forth

June 18, 2014

David Agren – Fox News Latino, 6/17/2014

Brazil and Mexico meet in a World Cup match on Tuesday, pitting a perpetual soccer power against an oft-anguished underachiever. But the match comes as Brazil underwhelmed in its opening match and Mexico sees an opportunity for an upset – and a chance to outperform its previously poor expectations.

The same could be said for the off-the-field rivalry between the two countries – the two largest economies in Latin America. It’s something noted by former Brazilian president, Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva, who recently commented on the notion that Mexico’s economic outlook burns brighter that of Brazil’s, “Those that believe Brazil will recede are wrong.”

Lula ramped up the rivalry further by telling a forum organized by the Spanish newspaper El País in Porto Alegre earlier this month, “I went to find out [the Mexican economic fundamentals], and everything is worse than in Brazil.”

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