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.
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%.
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.
September 30, 2014
Ricardo Sennes – Atlantic Council, 09/30/2014
Brazilians go to the polls on October 5 in the first round of voting for presidential, congressional, and state elections. If no presidential candidate secures 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held on October 26. The upcoming elections are likely to bring major changes at the national level—though incumbent governors are largely poised to claim victory at the state level—that could significantly alter the course of Brazil’s domestic and international policies.
After five presidential election cycles, the see-saw rivalry between the coalition led by the Workers’ Party (PT) and the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) seems to have come to an end. Following the tragic death of Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) presidential candidate Eduardo Campos on August 13, his running mate, Marina Silva, now heads the ballot, with a stunning turnaround in voters’ intentions. Aécio Neves, the PSDB candidate, seems poised to take third place.
In just two weeks, the PSB ticket saw first-round support increase from 9 percent before Eduardo Campos’ death to 34 percent. As of September 23, IBOPE polls indicate Marina and President Dilma Rousseff (PT) are neck and neck in the second round with 41 percent each. As former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) summed up, the death of Eduardo Campos ended one election and the entrance of Marina Silva marked the start of a new one.
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September 26, 2014
The Economist (print edition), 9/27/2014
To describe the final weeks of Brazil’s presidential campaign as dramatic would be putting it mildly. There was tragedy, when Eduardo Campos, leader and candidate of the centrist Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), perished in an aeroplane crash in mid-August. There were tears: Marina Silva, Mr Campos’s running-mate-turned-candidate, broke down after being criticised by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in whose cabinet she had once served as environment minister but whose protégée and successor, Dilma Rousseff, is seeking a second term. This being Brazil, there was also scandal, as a former executive at Petrobras, the statecontrolled oil firm, alleged that politicians from Ms Rousseff’s left-wing Workers’ Party (PT) and some coalition allies were involved in a kickback scheme there.
The twists and turns have led to lots of head-scratching among pollsters and pundits. With days to go before the first round of voting on October 5th, firm predictions are scarce. Mauro Paulino, boss of Datafolha, a big polling company, says the way the campaign as a whole has unfurled is “incomparable”. And not just with any prior Brazilian election, but with anything that has happened anywhere in the world, at least in living memory, according to José Toledo of Estadão Dados, a data website.
The prediction that commands most confidence is that Ms Rousseff will not secure an outright majority in the first round and that the election will go to a run-off on October 26th. There she will almost certainly face Ms Silva, who in the weeks following Mr Campos’s death has surged past Aécio Neves, the candidate of the centre-right Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB). The latest second-round simulations show Ms Rousseff and Ms Silva running neck and neck.
September 25, 2014
Mac Margolis – Bloomberg, 09/24/2014
God, the natives like to say, is Brazilian. So with the country weathering its worst drought in decades, it’s no surprise that officials in the worst-hit regions are pleading force majeure. Geraldo Alckmin, governor of water-stressed Sao Paulo, chalked up the emptying reservoirs to “exceptional” and “unimaginable” drought.
But Saint Peter, the national patron saint of rain, gets a bum rap. The great Brazilian dry spell is as predictable as Sunday mass, and this year’s is no exception. Sao Paulo owes its skyline in large part to the hands of men and women who fled the parched backlands of the northeast to become bricklayers and steelworkers in the country’s biggest metropolis. One of them was Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who wet his whistle with politics and became a rebel union leader and then president.
Now the problem has migrated, too. Sao Paulo, the nation’s most prosperous state, is facing its worst dry snap in four generations. Last week, the water level in the region’s biggest reservoir, the Cantareira complex, dropped to just 8 percent. The state sanitation authority, Sabesp, is offering fat discounts to consumers who slash their yearly water use by at least 20 percent. Dozens of cities are already rationing water.