Corruption is not new to Brazil, so why is it threatening the presidency now?

Ryan E. Carlin, Gregory J. Love and Cecilia Martínez-Gallardo – The Washington Post, 05/05/2016

Ronald Reagan was famously called “the Teflon president” for his ability to deflect scandals that might have sunk his popularity. So why couldn’t Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff tap into this same protection?

Following the lower house’s overwhelming vote on April 17 to impeach Rousseff, Brazil’s government sits on the brink of collapse. An onslaught of corruption charges against the president and her Workers Party (PT) has emboldened her political opponents. In response to allegations of an elaborate kickback scheme that funneled bribes to politicians via the state-run oil firm, Petrobras, Brazil’s elites — including the government’s largest coalition partner, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) — and the public have abandoned Rousseff’s government. Her approval stands at a historically low 9 to 10 percent.

Media coverage of these scandals has been scathing and unrelenting. Yet high-level corruption is hardly new in Brazil. In fact, Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, also from the PT, was himself at the center of several scandals. In 2005, the expansive mensalão investigation of PT payoffs for legislative support threatened to derail his bid for reelection. And yet Lula proved to be a Teflon president and cruised to an easy victory in 2006 — and then helped his chosen successor win the presidency in 2010.

Read More…

 

Understanding the political crisis in Brazil

Lisa Desjardins, Paulo Sotero, Uri Friedman, Monica de Bolle and Brian Winter – NPR, 05/03/16

Last month in Brazil, the lower house of the country’s National Congress voted to impeach the president, Dilma Rousseff. There are the legal grounds for the move — alleged cooking of the government books. And then there are the political motives, which as many observers have pointed out, are what’s really driving the impeachment. Those have to do with a massive corruption scandal at Petrobras, the state owned oil company. Add to that a severe recession, and many Brazilians are not happy with how their country is being run. Guest host Lisa Desjardins gets an update on the political crisis in Brazil from our panel of guests.

Listen to the podcast…

 

Petrobras scandal

Paulo Sotero – The Editors of Encylocpædia Britannica

Petrobras scandal, Brazilian political corruption scandal beginning in 2014 that involved the indictment of dozens of high-level business people and politicians as part of a widespread investigation alleging that many millions of dollars had been kicked back to officials of Petrobras, Brazil’s huge majority-state-owned oil company, and to politicians—especially members of the ruling Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores; PT) of Pres. Dilma Rousseff—by prominent Brazilian corporations in return for contracts with Petrobras.

The malfeasance was revealed by a federal investigation begun in 2014 under the code name Lava Jato (“Car Wash”). The massive scheme to defraud Petrobras—Brazil’s largest enterprise and a symbol of the country’s entrenched economic nationalism—did not fully come to light, however, until after the narrow reelection of President Rousseff on October 26, 2014. By the time of her second inauguration, on January 1, 2015, Rousseff’s approval rating had collapsed to 14 percent, with some two-thirds of Brazilians blaming her for Petrobras’s troubles.

Dubbed “Petrolão”—after mensalão (“big monthly bribe”), the vote-buying scandal that had plagued the government of Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (better known simply as “Lula”)—the episode came to be viewed as the largest corruption scandal in Brazilian history. By June 2015 a massive scheme to defraud Petrobras on contracts to develop the so-called pre-salt oil reserves found offshore in 2007 had appeared on investigators’ radar. Moreover, reports suggested that federal prosecutors were also looking into the electricity-generating sector, pension funds for employees of state-owned companies, and the National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES). The latter had provided billions of dollars in subsidized financing to Petrobras and other “national champions,” such as billionaire Eike Batista, whose wealth plummeted spectacularly in 2013.

Read More…

 

Is Brazil giving up on growth?

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 04/25/2016

Inflation is down nearly 100 basis points from a few months ago, but the Central Bank of Brazil has no intention of lowering interest rates. Investors should take this coming Wednesday’s meeting as a cue whether or not there is a growth strategy anywhere in Brasilia.

Nomura Securities said that they are forecasting the Bank to keep rates at 14.25% even though inflation is coming down. Brazil’s rolling 12-month inflation was as high as 10.7% in January. It’s currently 9.4%. Nomura has close ties to Brazil’s central bank and is good gauge of which way the wind is blowing on the monetary policy committee.

Brazil’s economy, expected to contract by around 3.5% again this year, is facing a massive political crisis. It would be good if the central bank could be more independent and cut rates to boost growth. On the other hand, sentiment among Brazil’s business class is so burned out with the twin crises of politics and economics that it is going to take more than a rate hike to improve things.

Read More…

The campaign to impeach Brazil’s President is viciously sexist

Marc Hertzman – The New York Magazine, 04/22/2016

On Sunday, Brazil’s lower house (the Chamber of Deputies) voted to proceed with impeachment hearings against Dilma Rousseff, the nation’s first female president, by an overwhelming 2:1 majority. The case now moves to the Senate, which is expected to vote on Rousseff’s ouster by May 17. Much like in the U.S., both houses are overwhelmingly male. And just like in the U.S., the treatment of the country’s most prominent female politician is largely a function of sexism.

The stated reason for Rousseff’s impeachment is her alleged misappropriation of funds in an effort to cover budget gaps and boost confidence in the economy (and her administration). The accusations come from a sweeping anti-corruption campaign, Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash), that has uncovered a dizzying array of malfeasance at nearly every level of government.

So the proceedings against Rousseff might not seem so remarkable, if not for the mind-blowing contradictions involved. Brazil’s previous two presidents, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Rousseff’s mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, both faced numerous similar — in some cases, more serious — charges (17 counts against Cardoso, 34 for Silva), none of which prompted impeachment hearings.

Read More…

 

The real reason Dilma Rousseff’s enemies want her impeached

David Miranda – The Guardian, 04/21/2016

The story of Brazil’s political crisis, and the rapidly changing global perception of it, begins with its national media. The country’s dominant broadcast and print outlets are owned by a tiny handful of Brazil’s richest families, and are steadfastly conservative. For decades, those media outlets have been used to agitate for the Brazilian rich, ensuring that severe wealth inequality (and the political inequality that results) remains firmly in place.

Indeed, most of today’s largest media outlets – that appear respectable to outsiders – supported the 1964 military coup that ushered in two decades of rightwing dictatorship and further enriched the nation’s oligarchs. This key historical event still casts a shadow over the country’s identity and politics. Those corporations – led by the multiple media arms of the Globo organisation –heralded that coup as a noble blow against a corrupt, democratically elected liberal government. Sound familiar?

For more than a year, those same media outlets have peddled a self-serving narrative: an angry citizenry, driven by fury over government corruption, rising against and demanding the overthrow of Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, and her Workers’ party (PT). The world saw endless images of huge crowds of protesters in the streets, always an inspiring sight.

Read more…

 

A test of “Brazilience”: What next for Brazil?

Thomas Kamm – Brunswick, 04/15/2016

Brazil is on the verge of what could be the biggest crisis this crisis-prone nation has ever faced – or a cathartic break from its past. It is being subjected to a massive stress test that can either lead to a prolonged downward spiral or prove to be a pivotal moment that ultimately sets the country back on a more sustainable political and economic course. Call it a new test of what could be called “Brazilience,” Brazil’s resilience and resourcefulness in the face of crisis.

So where does all this leave Brazil? Brunswick Partner, Thomas Kamm, looks at three possible short-term scenarios, all fraught with uncertainty.

Read More…