The bets that failed

March 21, 2014

The Economist, 3/22/2014

SINCE it is the only big power in South America, Brazil inevitably catches the eye of outsiders looking for a country to take the lead in resolving the region’s conflicts—such as the one raging in the streets of Venezuela. Yet leader is not a role that Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president, is keen to play. She has reasons for her reluctance—and they explain why Brazilian foreign policy has run into trouble.

Ms Rousseff has behaved as a loyal ally to the elected, but autocratic, government of Nicolás Maduro, which faces opposition protests almost daily. Brazil worked hard to thwart any role in Venezuela for the Organisation of American States, which includes the United States. Instead, the foreign ministers of the South American Union (UNASUR) have agreed to promote talks in Venezuela. It is an initiative without teeth: the ministers expressed their solidarity with Mr Maduro, disqualifying themselves as honest brokers in the opposition’s eyes.

Brazil’s wrong-headed calculation is that the protests will fizzle out. Mr Maduro took a UNASUR statement on March 12th as a green light to launch another crackdown. Faced with a deteriorating economy and mounting unpopularity, Mr Maduro’s rule is likely to remain repressive. Given that Brazil’s ruling Workers’ Party (PT) claims to stand for democracy and human rights, he is a strange ally.

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Brazil’s economy faces trouble after World Cup, election

March 12, 2014

Brian Winter & Silvio Cascione – Reuters, 3/12/2014

With the World Cup in June and July and a presidential election in October, many Brazilians aren’t thinking beyond 2014. But next year is likely to be memorable for all the wrong reasons in Latin America’s biggest economy.

President Dilma Rousseff, or whoever wins the election, will have to make deep budget cuts, raise taxes and take other painful steps to address Brazil’s growing financial imbalances.

The fallout will likely be more damaging than many investors anticipate, resulting in a fourth straight year of disappointing growth – a big fall back to earth for a country that last decade was one of the world’s most dynamic emerging markets.

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Brazil’s Rousseff will change course if re-elected: former central bank director

February 20, 2014

Walter Brandimarte – Reuters, 2/18/2014

A former director at Brazil’s central bank said he expects President Dilma Rousseff to make key changes in macroeconomic policy, including cuts in government spending, if she gets re-elected for a second term later this year.

Paulo Vieira da Cunha, who was on the bank’s board from 2006 to 2008, said he also expects that after the election Rousseff will replace Finance Minister Guido Mantega, who has been heavily criticized by investors for overly optimistic economic forecasts and what they see as accounting gimmicks in the country’s budget.

Vieira da Cunha called for a return to the pragmatic style of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was elected as a left-winger but was widely regarded as a pro-growth and pro-business president.

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Hague in Brazil for a three-day visit to reaffirm close links and Strategic Dialogue

February 18, 2014

Merco Press, 2/18/2014

From Manaus Hague flies to the capital Brasilia for the third Strategic Dialogue with his Brazilian counterpart, to discuss international security issues, human rights, cyber and internet governance, commercial opportunities, international development and progress on the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement.

The Foreign Secretary will also open an event at Rio Branco Institute on the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative1 (*); which is one of his top priorities.

His final stop will be in Sao Paulo, where he will meet with Brazilian Chevening and Science Without Borders alumni, at a reception dedicated to celebrate the links between the UK and Brazil in education.

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Brazil water project, long delayed, gets elections year boost

February 10, 2014

Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 2/10/2014

In 2006, then President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, a native of Brazil’s historically drought-plagued northeast, pushed through an idea that long-suffering residents of the region had been hearing about for more than a century.

At last, he promised, Brazil would channel water to the sun-baked region from the São Francisco, the country’s second-longest river. By 2010, he said, water would be pumped over hills and into a 477 kilometer-long network of canals, aqueducts and reservoirs to quench thirsty cities and farms in four states.

Eight years later, and near the end of a first term for Lula’s hand-picked successor as president, Dilma Rousseff, the project is only half built. Delayed by bureaucracy and contract problems, the cost of the government’s single biggest infrastructure venture has almost doubled to 8.2 billion reais ($3.4 billion).

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The defense acquisition trilemma: the case of Brazil

February 10, 2014

Dr. Patrice Franko – Institute for National Strategic Studies, Janaury 2014

Brazil is a puzzling new player in the global system. Emerging as a complex international actor, it has come to be seen as a significant economic competitor and dynamic force in world politics.1 But transformational changes in the economic and political realms have not been accompanied by advances in military power. While Brazil has entered the world stage as an agile soft power exercising influence in setting global agendas and earning a seat at the economic table of policymakers, its military capacity lags. The national security strategy announced under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2008 intended to redress this power gap. President Dilma Rousseff ’s 2011White Paper—so detailed that it is called a White Book—provides the conceptual roadmap to achieve a new military balance. But military modernization is still a work in progress.

Brazil has developed a framework to deepen its strategic reach. The country remains committed to defending the territorial sovereignty of its 26 states and nearly 17,000 kilometers of borders with 10 neighbors. 2 We observe a multidimensional view of security in Brazil rooted in economic, political, and environmental dimensions. In addition to these more traditional security concerns, Brazil is particularly attentive to the returns from investments in technology and the social sector for national security.3 The country aspires to deepen its institutional framework in national security and enhance its global profile across political, economic, and military domains.

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The richest politicians in Brazil

February 4, 2014

Anderson Antunes – Forbes, 2/3/2014

As in the rest of the world, Brazilians who become politicians are invariably wealthy, or become wealthy, before they serve in public office. But many build their fortunes through questionable means, and, not surprisingly, as a result Brazilians have developed a sentiment of distrust towards politicians.

Half a year after demonstrators climbed onto the roof of Brazil’s Congress in Brasilia, the country’s capital, demanding a clean-up of political deadwood and an end to corruption, the relationship between the Brazilian people and its leaders remains strained. The protests initially began as a public uproar against a hike in bus fares in several major Brazilian cities, and were briefly called a “revolution” by more enthusiastic observers.  Ultimately they were demonstrations against politicians.

Brazilian politicians are among the highest paid and least productive in the world, not to mention some of the most corrupt as well. Political scandals have become so usual in Brazil that many people are satisfied to vote for politicians who notoriously and unashamedly steal from public funds. “Steals but does [something],” goes the saying here in Brazil.

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