Brazil and its backyard

October 24, 2014

The Economist (print edition),  10/25/2014

Like voters in most democracies, Brazilians pay little heed to foreign policy when choosing leaders. Yet the presidential election on October 26th matters not just to Brazil but to the region. Over the past two decades Latin America’s giant has overcome its introversion and wielded growing influence in its backyard. And on foreign policy, as on economics, there is a clear gap between President Dilma Rousseff of the centre-left Workers’ Party (PT), who wants a second term, and her rival, Aécio Neves, of the centre-right Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB).

Brazil’s greater assertiveness began under Fernando Henrique Cardoso of the PSDB in the 1990s and continued under the PT’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the president in 2003-10. Both gave importance to the Mercosur trade block (founded by Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), to South America and to ties with Africa and Asia. Both had reservations about a 34-country Free-Trade Area of the Americas, a plan that Lula helped to kill.

But there were differences, too, partly because of Brazil’s changing circumstances. Lula put far more stress on “south-south” ties and on the BRICs grouping (linking Brazil to Russia, India, China and later South Africa). In Latin America he emphasised “political co-operation”. Relations with the United States were cordial but distant, especially after Lula tried brokering a nuclear deal with Iran which the White House opposed.

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Neves Win in Brazil Would End Alliances Built by Lula

October 23, 2014

Charlie Devereux and Anatoly Kurmanaev – Bloomberg, 10/22/2014

The election of Aecio Neves as Brazil’s president would end a 12-year alliance uniting leaders from Venezuela to Boliviaon regional development and state intervention in the economy.

Neves, who came from behind to make the second-round vote on Oct. 26 against President Dilma Rousseff, has pledged to restore investor confidence in the economy, end “ideological” political alliances and negotiate new trade deals with or without the Mercosur trade bloc Brazil founded with Argentina in 1991. Polls show the two statistically tied.

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, once a union leader who lost national elections three times before taking office in 2003, brokered deals and soothed tensions with leaders including Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Argentina’s Nestor Kirchner and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. Together, they promoted regional bodies such as Mercosur and the Union of South American Nations, while Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia created the Pacific Alliance, a trade bloc designed to boost ties with Asia.

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5 Reasons Why Aecio Neves Should Be Elected The Next President Of Brazil

October 23, 2014

Anderson Antunes – Forbes, 10/22/2014

Twelve years ago Brazilians chose Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the first member of the working class to be elected president of Brazil, as the person whom they believed could promote the changes that the country needed in order to become a fairer and better place to live. Lula, who is known by his first name, didn’t disappoint. During his government (2003-2010), Brazil’s economy expanded considerably, although not as much as the world economic growth during the same period, and  it was mostly thanks to China’s appetite for Brazil’s commodities.

Millions of Brazilians were lifted out of poverty, and a new middle class emerged, eager to spend money. During Lula’s eight year term, the number of Brazilians with banking accounts went from 70 million to 115 million, increasing from 40% to 59% the percent of the Brazilian population who maintained a relationship with the country’s financial system. The total number of mortgages went from 37,000 in 2003 to 530,000 last year, while today the equivalent of 60% of the country’s GDP is circulating in the economy in the form of loans. Even the number of Brazilian billionaires increased, from only five in 2003 to 65 this year.

However, during Lula’s last years, inflation became a dangerous distraction and industrial production didn’t grow as much as it should have. Add to that the fact that Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, failed dramatically to keep up his good work, blaming a nonexistent world crisis for her poor performance as the commander-in-chief. Investors who once lined up to put money into Brazil’s economy are now looking to other markets. That should change if Rousseff loses her bid for re-election.

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Gwynne Dyer: The truth about Bolivia’s and Brazil’s economic miracles

October 15, 2014

Gwynne Dyer – The Georgia Straight, 10/14/2014

TO NOBODY’S GREAT surprise, Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, has won a third five-year term by a landslide majority. It’s no surprise because Bolivia’s gross domestic product (GDP) has tripled since he took office in 2006. The number of people living in poverty has fallen by a quarter, even the poorest now have the right to a pension, and illiteracy has fallen to zero. Of course he won.

What has happened in Bolivia seems as miraculous as what happened in Brazil, where another left-wing president, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, took office in 2003. The economy started growing at five percent a year, unemployment fell steeply, and some 40 million Brazilians, almost a quarter of the population, were lifted out of poverty. Lula’s former chief of staff and successor as president, Dilma Rousseff, is also likely to win another term in office.

Is there some secret they share? Many other South American economies have been growing fast too, but without the dramatic change in the distribution of income that has happened in Brazil and Bolivia. Even the late Hugo Chavez’s “Bolivarian revolution” in Venezuela, for all its anti-imperialist rhetoric and despite the country’s great oil wealth, has not delivered a comparable transformation in the lives of the poor.

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Brazil Gets a Choice

October 6, 2014

The Wall Street Journal, 10/5/2014

The big news in Brazil’s presidential election Sunday is the rally by centrist candidate Acéio Neves to finish second. He’ll now square off against incumbent President Dilma Rousseff in an Oct. 26 runoff that will give Brazilians a choice between the failing status quo and a return to policies that had begun to lift the country out of decades of underperformance.

Only a month ago opinion polls had counted out Mr. Neves as environmentalist Marina Silva came from nowhere after the death in an airplane crash of the Socialist candidate. But Ms. Silva faded as her inexperience became a voter concern and she finished third at 21%, while Mr. Neves took 34% and Ms. Rousseff 41%, well below the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

The result is a significant comedown for Ms. Rousseff, whose left-wing Workers’ Party has ruled Brazil for 12 years and who had the support of popular predecessor Lula da Silva. Four years ago Ms. Rousseff rode the global commodity boom and the Federal Reserve-spurred capital rush into emerging markets, but in the last four years Brazil has experienced the hangover. Growth has stagnated, the economy is now in recession, and inflation is running at 6.3%.

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An environmentalist’s calculated push toward Brazil’s presidency

October 1, 2014

Paulo Prada – Reuters, 10/1/2014

In March 2003, three months into her tenure as Brazil’s environment minister, Marina Silva gathered a half-dozen aides at the modernist ministry building in Brasilia, the capital.

She told them the new government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was about to embark on a pharaonic infrastructure project for Brazil’s arid Northeast.

The project, a still-ongoing effort to reroute water from one of Brazil’s biggest rivers, had previously been opposed by environmentalists, including Silva herself. Rather than explain how she would thwart the plan, however, the former activist said she would work to make it as sustainable as possible.

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