Ricardo Lewandowski: Brazil’s Rising Chief Justice

July 25, 2014

Shannon Sims – OZY, 7/25/2014

A chance encounter sometimes makes history.

Like when lawyer Ricardo Lewandowski’s mom invited his good childhood friend Laerte Demarchi to lunch in the early 1990s.

“I told her I already had plans, that I was meeting a union organizer at my dad’s restaurant,” Demarchi recalls. “She said to bring him over, too.”

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Brazil and Africa: the southern link

July 22, 2014

Claudia Valenzuela – Public Finance International, 7/22/2014

Growth, opportunity and potential have ricocheted across Brazil and the African continent in recent years. While other more mature markets are only just beginning to click into gear after the financial crisis, the economies of Brazil and Africa have enjoyed better times as a result of rising popularity with foreign investors, and burgeoning domestic markets driven by an expanding middle class and abundant natural reserves.

Africa, in particular, is picking up the pace. It’s perceived attractiveness relative to other regions has improved dramatically over the past few years, according to EY’s recent Africa attractiveness survey, moving from the third-from-last position in 2011 to become the second most attractive investment destination in the world. Its total share of global FDI projects has also reached the highest level in a decade, with investors increasingly looking across the continent and to new sectors.

An African horizon

While separated by the vast expanse of the southern Atlantic Ocean, the fact that, millions of years ago, Africa and Brazil were joined in a single landmass, and continue to share similarities in soil and climate, serves as a far more apt geographic metaphor. The increasingly close relationship between the two began during the Presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who himself traveled to Africa 12 times in the 1990s, visiting 21 countries in the process. This pattern has continued under his successor, Dilma Rousseff, who, for example, visited Angola, Mozambique and South Africa during her first year in office.

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Brazil’s ‘Quilombo’ Movement May Be The World’s Largest Slavery Reparations Program

July 11, 2014

Roque Planas – Huffington Post, 7/10/2014

When Luiz Pinto was growing up, his parents wouldn’t let the family talk about slavery. The issue raised ugly memories.

Pinto’s grandmother was born into slavery. She threw herself into a river before Pinto was born, taking her own life after the son of a wealthy, white landowner raped her. The subjects of slavery and racism became taboo in the Pinto household, a sprawling set of orange brick homes perched on a hilltop where Rio de Janeiro’s famed statue of Christ the Redeemer is visible in the distance through the trees.

“I only knew her from photographs,” says Pinto, a 72-year-old samba musician.

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The goal of projecting the country overseas is still a distant one

June 23, 2014

Carlos Eduardo Lins da Silva – Folha de S. Paulo, 5/31/2014

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Ten years ago on August 18th, with then President Lula in the audience, the Brazilian national soccer team with Ronaldo and Ronaldinho Gaúcho, beat Haiti in Port au Prince 6-0 in what was called the “Match of Peace.”

The event symbolized the Brazilian presence as the head of the UN mission in Haiti since 2004.

President Lula’s decision to accept this mission had to do with his ambition to project the country in the international stage as a first class actor even in areas that do not align with the country’s innate geopolitical interests.

Among the objectives on this agenda was gaining a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Lula’s willingness to take the lead with MINUSTAH was very well received by the U.S. Administration under George W. Bush.

Haiti, an extremely unstable and poor country, has been an issue of concern for Washington due to its geographical location, ever since its independence in 1804. Read the rest of this entry »


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’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 to investigate ex-president Lula in vote-buying scandal

April 8, 2013

Reuters, 04/06/2013

Brazilian federal prosecutor has opened an investigation into allegations that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was involved in a vote-buying scheme in Congress that led to the conviction of close aides for corruption.

The federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement late on Friday it asked the federal police to probe accusations of a businessman at the centre of the corruption case, Marcos Valerio, who alleged that Lula not only knew about the illegal scheme but received money from it.

Lula has repeatedly denied the allegations that he knew of the vote-buying scandal known as the “mensalão,” under which operatives from the ruling Workers’ Party paid lawmakers in Congress to back the government’s legislative agenda. The scandal, which erupted in 2005, almost brought down Lula’s government at the time and led to the biggest political corruption trial in Brazilian history.

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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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Brazil: prosecutor to analyze testimony by suspect about former president

January 10, 2013

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 01/09/2013

The prosecutor general, Roberto Gurgel, said Wednesday that he would analyze testimony in which a businessman convicted in an embezzlement and vote-buying scheme tied Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to the scandal.

The businessman, Marcos Valério de Souza, received a 40-year sentence in October after he was found to have operated much of the scheme, the mensalão, or “big monthly allowance,” named after payments received by legislators.

The Supreme Court’s trial of suspects in the scheme resulted in the conviction of senior figures, including Mr. da Silva’s former chief of staff, who was sentenced to nearly 11 years in prison. In testimony, Mr. de Souza said he deposited funds in 2003 for Mr. da Silva’s “personal spending,” in an account controlled by another aide to the former president. After Mr. de Souza’s assertion, Mr. da Silva said he could not “respond to a lie.” Mr. Gurgel said no decision had been made on a formal investigation.

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