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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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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Rousseff Gains Edge as Brazil Polls Point to Photo Finish

October 21, 2014

Anna Edgerton – Bloomberg, 10/21/2014

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff gained support over opposition candidate Aecio Neves even as the race remains in a dead heat less than a week before the runoff, according to a Datafolha poll published yesterday.

Rousseff has 46 percent support and Neves has 43 percent, according to the Datafolha poll taken yesterday and released on Globo TV. In the last Datafolha poll published Oct. 15, Rousseff had 43 percent to 45 percent for Neves. Rousseff of the Workers’ Party won 42 percent in Oct. 5 first-round vote, compared to 34 percent for Neves of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party.

The two candidates have clashed over the economy, consumer prices and corruption as polls conducted by Ibope, MDA and Vox Populi also show them statistically tied ahead of the Oct. 26 runoff. While Neves pledges to slow inflation to target and boost growth, the incumbent says her opponent’s policies threaten record-low unemployment rates and social welfare spending. Yesterday’s poll shows Rousseff’s continued attacks on Neves are luring voters, even if those same voters would prefer to hear proposals, according to Thiago de Aragao, a partner and director of strategy at Arko Advice.

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Why Dilma Should Look Back to Her Bases in Brazil’s Runoff Election

October 21, 2014

John L. Hammond – NACLA, 10/20/2014

The outcome of the Brazilian presidential election of October 5 was much as it was predicted to be two months before. Because Dilma Rousseff, the incumbent, of the Workers Party (PT), won less than 50% of the vote, she will face Aécio Neves, of the Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), in a runoff on October 26.

But there were many surprises in between. The election campaign was upended several times. Until 16 months ago, Dilma’s reelection was taken for granted. (The two candidates, like most politicians in Brazil, are always referred to just by their first names. Here we will follow the Brazilian example.) But the urban uprising of June 2013 revealed a level of popular discontent that had gone unrecognized. Protest was predicted to burst out again when the World Cup competition was played there in June and July, but turned out to be muted in soccer-mad Brazil, even when the national team suffered an ignominious defeat, 7-1, against Germany in the semifinals.

Then, less than two months before the election, the third-ranked candidate, Eduardo Campos of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), died in a plane crash, and his place at the top of the ticket was taken by his running mate, Marina Silva. Marina, who was much better known and more popular than Campos, surged to second place in the polls and appeared to have a real chance of defeating Dilma in a runoff. But in the days before the election, Marina’s support collapsed. In the final tally, Dilma won 42%, Aécio 34%, and Marina 21%.

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Brazil Ex-Candidate Silva Defends Her Campaign

October 16, 2014

John Lyons and Luciana Magalhaes – The Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2014

Former candidate Marina Silva defended her decision not to retaliate against a barrage of attack advertisements that many observers say snuffed out her chance to become president and enact a platform of political and environmental reforms.

“I would never fight with the same weapons, because once you do, you become exactly what you are fighting against,” said Ms. Silva, in her first major interview since placing third in Brazil’s Oct. 5 election, and exiting the race. What “we have today is a country where everything we’ve gained is under threat because of the degradation of politics and political institutions, because of corruption, because of the lack of credibility, because of the logic that ‘anything goes’ to take power.”

Ms. Silva cut an extraordinary figure on the Brazilian political stage when she burst into one of Brazil’s tightest election races since the country returned to democracy in 1985. She was a late entrant in August, replacing the Socialist Party candidate Eduardo Campos after he died in a plane crash. At one point, polls showed her defeating incumbent President Dilma Rousseff by as much as 10 points.

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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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