Brazil’s real weakens further against dollar on political, economic turmoil

March 4, 2015

Jeffrey T. Lewis – The Wall Street Journal, 03/04/2015

The Brazilian real plummeted against the dollar Wednesday as a burgeoning scandal at state-controlled oil company Petrobras and a steady stream of bad economic indicators pushed investors to seek safety in the U.S. currency.

The real was trading at 2.9755 at 11:21 a.m. São Paulo time, according to Tullett Prebon via FactSet, the weakest level since 2004. The real closed at 2.9111 on Tuesday.

On Tuesday night, Brazil’s attorney general asked the country’s Supreme Court for permission to proceed with investigations against a number of politicians, and local news media have reported that several prominent politicians have been implicated.

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Brazil attorney general seeks investigation into political figures in big kickback scandal

March 4, 2015

US News/AP – Brad Brooks, 03/02/2015

Brazil’s attorney general on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court for permission to investigate 54 people, the majority top political figures, for alleged involvement in what prosecutors say is the country’s largest corruption scandal yet uncovered.

Attorney General Rodrigo Janot’s request opens an expansive new phase of the investigation into the kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras.

“We’re going to work with tranquility, with balance. Those who must pay will pay,” Janot told supporters outside his office late Monday night. “We’re going to investigate. This will be a long process, we’re just now beginning. The investigation begins and we’ll follow it through to the end.”

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Study shows rise in purchasing power in Brazil’s shantytowns

March 3, 2015

EFE – Fox News Latino, 3/3/2015

Growth in median incomes and employment over the past few years has increased residents’ purchasing power in Brazil’s “favelas,” or shantytowns, a study by consulting firm Data Popular found.

The approximately 12.3 million people living in favelas across the country spent roughly 68.6 billion reais ($24 billion) in 2014. The increase in purchasing power has led to growth in discretionary spending, compared to the previous year.

Two telltale signs of this discretionary spending are purchases of plasma television sets and washing machines.

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Brazil’s king of deforestation dethroned in drive to beat land clearers

March 3, 2015

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 3/2/2015

For most of the past six years, Ezequiel Antônio Castanha had seemed a pillar of the community in the small Amazonian city of Novo Progresso. As the owner of a supermarket, hotel and car dealership, he provided more jobs than anyone else. Outside his municipality, few had heard of him. Neighbours described him as a “pessoa normal” (regular guy).

Today, however, the thick-set, middle-aged man sits in jail with a notoriety across Brazil as a Tony Soprano-like character whose businesses were used to launder money from one of the biggest land clearance syndicates ever uncovered.

Castanha was arrested last weekend, along with 15 associates, in what has been hailed as a major breakthrough for environmental enforcement. The local media have described the detainee as the “king of deforestation”. According to the environment ministry Ibama, he and his gang were responsible for about 10% of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon last year.

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5 reasons why the impeachment of Dilma is improbable, according to Brazilianists

March 3, 2015

Alessandra Corrêa – BBC Brasil, 3/2/2015

A series of problems confronted by President Dilma Rousseff in the start of her second mandate was already indicated by some as a signal of a threat to her government.

In response to the Financial Times blog post published last week on ten reasons why Dilma should be impeached, BBC Brasil offers five reasons why this likely will not happen. These reasons include the lack of solid grounds for impeachment and the absence of evidence proving the involvement of Dilma in the Petrobras scandal. Brazil Institute Fellow Matthew Taylor states, “Until now, there is still no evidence that Dilma is guilty of anything other than bad management (in the case of Petrobras).” Taylor also goes on to show why the opposition parties are not interested in having Dilma go through the impeachment process, observing, “I don’t think that the PSDB would have much to gain. Furthermore, they would need the support of the PMDB and other parties in the government’s coalition. And frankly, none of these parties would like to see Dilma suffering an impeachment.”

The article continues with evidence showing that Dilma’s support in congress is still much higher and stronger than that of former president Fernando Collor de Mello, who was impeached in 1992. Another reason for the unlikelihood of impeachment is that the current problems in Brazil are not rare for the region. Brazil is not alone in the lack of investor confidence and therefore unlikely to stand out by themselves by inciting an impeachment process. Taylor concludes by noting that the Petrobras scandal has left the country “warily optimistic.”

For full article [IN PORTUGUESE], click here.

Translation and summary by Brazil Institute intern Erica Kliment.


Haitian immigrants’ ‘Brazilian dream’ sours as work hard to find for tens of thousands

March 3, 2015

Adriana Gomez Licon (AP) – U.S. News, 3/3/2015

Under a scorching sun, dozens of Haitians shuffled impatiently about the brick-walled courtyard of Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church. The sight of an approaching employer sparked a skirmish, with the men pushing against each other, jostling for attention.

“How many people you need?,” several men shouted. “I need a job, what do you want me to do?” No matter what the job was, someone in the crowd yelled out, “I can do that!”

There are fewer jobs in Brazil than there are Haitians looking for work. An open-door policy intended to help migrants from the impoverished island is fueling Brazil’s largest immigration wave since World War II and prompting calls for lawmakers to do more to help the new arrivals.

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Radio journalist gunned down in Brazil

March 3, 2015

Committee to Protect Journalists, 3/2/2015

Brazilian authorities should immediately investigate the murder of radio journalist Ivanildo Viana, identify the motive, and bring the killers to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

“Journalists in Brazil have faced a wave of deadly violence in recent years and, in most cases, the killers have gone unpunished,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s Americas senior program coordinator, from New York. “Brazilian authorities must thoroughly investigate this crime and examine all possible motives.”

Unidentified assailants on a motorcycle pursued Viana, who was on his own motorcycle, and shot him several times, news reports said citing police. His body was found on the side of the highway that runs between Santa Rita and João Pessoa, the capital of Paraíba state. None of his belongings, including his motorcycle, were taken, police said.

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