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 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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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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Brazil’s Rousseff takes nuanced approach to foreign policy

April 29, 2013

Vincent Bevins – Los Angeles Times,  04/25/2013

Shortly before Venezuela’spresidential election, former Brazilian PresidentLuiz Inacio Lula da Silva recorded a video supporting Nicolas Maduro, saying he had “stood out brilliantly in the struggle” for a more democratic Latin America.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was endorsed by Lula in 2010, kept silent on the ultimately victorious candidacy of Maduro, the hand-chosen heir of the late leftist Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez.

The difference in demeanor between the two Brazilian presidents was not surprising to Rousseff watchers. Since assuming office at the start of 2011, she has taken a much more muted approach to foreign policy than Lula, avoiding the type of activism that often annoyed the United States.

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Brazil opens inquiry into claims of wrongdoing by ex-president

April 8, 2013

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 04/06/2013

Brazil’s Public Ministry, a body of independent public prosecutors, has begun an investigation into a claim connecting former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to a vast vote-buying scheme that involved the channeling of funds to the governing Workers’ Party.

The inquiry, which was announced in the capital, Brasília, on Friday and comes after several months of analyzing testimony, opens a new phase in what has arguably been Brazil’s largest corruption scandal, already involving the conviction of Mr. da Silva’s powerful former chief of staff, José Dirceu de Oliveira e Silva, on conspiracy and bribery charges last year.

The move by the Public Ministry, which asked the federal police to carry out the investigation, is thought to be the first time that Mr. da Silva has been directly investigated in connection to the scheme, called the mensalão, or big monthly allowance, for the regular payments that some lawmakers received. The scandal emerged in 2005, during Mr. da Silva’s first term as president. At 67, he remains a towering figure in Brazilian politics.

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Brazil’s leftwing leaders mourn Chavez with not-so-veiled criticism

March 11, 2013

Paulo Sotero – Financial Times, 03/11/2013

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff declared three days of official mourning in honour of her late Venezuelan colleague Hugo Chávez Frias, who died on Tuesday in Caracas after a two-year public battle with cancer. “We recognize a great leader, an irreparable loss and above all a friend of Brazil, a friend of the Brazilian people,” she said before leading a minute of silence at a meeting with rural leaders in Brasília carried live on national television.

There was, however, an uncharacteristic twist in Rousseff’s expression of condolences. “On many occasions,” she noted, “the Brazilian government did not agree” with the policies of the Bolivarian leader. Insiders say this was not an extemporaneous remark, but a pre-planned statement calibrated for domestic and international consumption.

Rousseff also put some distance between her government and Venezuelan Bolivarians and their allies by returning to Brasília before the official funeral ceremony on Friday, attended by three dozen leaders, including Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Cuba’s Raul Castro.

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Latin America After Chávez

March 7, 2013

The New York Times – Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, 03/06/2013

HISTORY will affirm, justifiably, the role Hugo Chávez played in the integration of Latin America, and the significance of his 14-year presidency to the poor people of Venezuela, where he died on Tuesday after a long struggle with cancer.

However, before history is allowed to dictate our interpretation of the past, we must first have a clear understanding of Mr. Chávez’s significance, in both the domestic and international political contexts. Only then can the leaders and peoples of South America, arguably the world’s most dynamic continent today, clearly define the tasks ahead of us so that we might consolidate the advances toward international unity achieved in the past decade. Those tasks have gained new importance now that we are without the help of Mr. Chávez’s boundless energy; his deep belief in the potential for the integration of the nations of Latin America; and his commitment to the social transformations needed to ameliorate the misery of his people.

Mr. Chávez’s social campaigns, especially in the areas of public health, housing and education, succeeded in improving the standard of living of tens of millions of Venezuelans.

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