A ‘New Chapter’ between Brasília and Washington

Paulo Sotero – O Estado de S.Paulo, 6/29/2015

The relations between Brazil and the United States have been stagnated since 2011, marked by Lula’s failed attempt to mediate a nuclear agreement between Iran and the international community. President Obama tried to reenact the bilateral dialogue weeks after, as soon as President Dilma Rousseff took office, but NSA’s espionage of Rousseff was not well taken by Brazil, and relations went back to where they had been. Both governments kept emphasizing the importance of a bilateral partnership but didn’t actually do anything to enforce it.
According to the White House’s security adviser, Ben Rhodes, a “new chapter” is about to start with Rousseff’s visit to the United States this week. Rousseff’s agenda includes visits to New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco. She will be meeting with presidents of companies, and attend panels for high executive leaders in New York. In California, she will visit Google and discuss new technologies and innovation. In Washington DC, she will be meeting with President Obama to discuss commerce, investment, security and defense, regional cooperation, science and technology, and very importantly, climate issues.
The timing of the visit is also very significant for the Brazilian leader, since her approval ratings are at a record low. She needs a successful visit and U.S.’s support to push away the discredit her government currently faces. The biggest deliverable of the visit is to rebuild trust, but the biggest uncertainty is if the political drama that Rousseff is facing in Brasilia will allow her a happy ending.

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Brazil’s president seeks investment during U.S. visit

Paulo Trevisani – The Wall Street Journal – 6/29/2015

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said Monday that a more business-friendly environment is needed in Latin America’s largest economy to attract the investment it needs to restore growth.

“We need to reduce the risks of doing business in Brazil,” she said in an interview in New York, as she began a visit to the U.S. aimed at drawing investors and to meet with President Barack Obama in Washington.

Her task is complicated by poor economic conditions at home. Annual inflation is running at 8.8% despite high interest rates, with the benchmark rate at 13.75%. Economists forecast an economic contraction this year. But Ms. Rousseff said Brazil still has strong fundamentals that should attract long-term investors.

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Brazil’s Petrobras slashes 5-year investment budget

Paul Kiernan – The Wall Street Journal, 6/29/2015

Brazilian state-run oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA said Monday it plans to slash investments by 37% over the next five years in an urgent effort to reduce its soaring debt load.

Petrobras expects capital spending over the 2015-19 period to total $130.3 billion, the company said in a long-delayed document outlining its five-year business plan. Petrobras’ previous five-year plan foresaw investments of $220.6 billion over the 2014-18 period.

The company also increased its goal for asset sales this year and next, saying it now expects to divest $15.1 billion in 2015-16, up from a previous target of $13.7 billion.

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Brazil to boost beef productivity by 82% to protect Amazon

Mathew Carr – Bloomberg Business, 6/26/2015

Brazil, which was overtaken last year by India as the world’s biggest beef exporter, is encouraging cattle farmers to boost productivity around the Amazon rain forest as it balances environmental protection with economic production.

The nation wants to increase output at beef farms to at least 2 head-of-cattle-per-hectare from about 1.1 head, Francisco Oliveira Filho, director of policies to reduce deforestation at the Environment Ministry, said Friday in an interview in London. Such an increase will ease pressure to fell more trees, he said.

“There is space to increase the productivity of the beef sector in the Amazon region” and the 2 head-per-hectare level has been reached in some of the nation, he said. “On one side you have people that want development at any cost. On the other hand you have people trying to protect everything. We are trying to find something in between.”

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Brazil ministers rebut new wave of campaign funding allegations

Maria Carolina Marcello and Eduardo Simões – Reuters, 6/26/2015

Two Brazilian ministers denied on Friday that there was anything illegal about campaign donations made in recent years by a businessman allegedly involved in massive corruption scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras.

President Dilma Rousseff’s chief of staff, Aloizio Mercadante, denied that 500,000 reais ($159,908) in campaign donations made to him in 2010 by companies owned by Ricardo Pessoa were linked to kickbacks at Petrobras.

Social Communications Minister Edinho Silva said in a separate statement that 7.5 million reais donated by Pessoa to Rousseff’s presidential campaign last year were legal and approved by Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court. Silva was the treasurer of Rousseff’s campaign.

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Working within the system to disrupt Brazilian politics

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 6/26/2015

Some Brazilian politicians duck questions about the scope of their aspirations, insisting they have absolutely no plans, say, of running for mayor of São Paulo, seeking a cabinet post or wielding power from some other coveted perch in Brazil’s huge bureaucracy.

Then there is Roberto Mangabeira Unger, the Harvard philosopher who once counted Barack Obama among his students. Not given much to small talk, Mr. Unger is known to quote Hegel and Thomas Jefferson in the same breath. He expounds on subjects like the human condition.

When an interviewer once asked him if he hoped to become president of Brazil, Mr. Unger said with a laugh, “I was always much more ambitious than that.”

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Brazil probe pits investigators against long-protected elite

Caroline Stauffer – Reuters, 6/26/2015

In a nation where the elite have enjoyed relative impunity, a new generation of police and prosecutors in Brazil are bent on using the country’s largest-ever corruption investigation to send the message that no one is above the law.

They have displayed in a local museum works of art seized in arrests in connection with alleged bribery at state-run oil firm Petrobras. They have also paraded lobbyists and chief executives in handcuffs before TV cameras.

And they gave the moniker Operation ‘Erga Omnes,’ Latin for ‘For everyone’ to a raid that jailed one of the country’s most powerful corporate scions, CEO Marcelo Odebrecht.

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