America must take Brazil seriously

Eric Farnsworth – The National Interest, 6/15/2015

Brazil is on the move. Its economic strength over the past decade has provided the primary means for it to develop long-standing ambitions for a larger global-leadership stake—a path that U.S. policy makers have encouraged for many years, presuming that a stronger, democratic Brazil more actively engaged globally would be a natural ally for the United States.

In so doing, however, it has pursued a foreign policy independent of Washington, leading at times to misunderstandings and dashed hopes. This was in evidence even before the revelations of National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 temporarily froze bilateral relations. Over the past two years, growth has slowed in Brazil and in other nations with which Brazil maintains significant economic links, while the U.S. economy has been on a long march to recovery.

With the late 2014 reelection of President Dilma Rousseff on a platform focused on addressing the unmet economic expectations of a rising middle class, a framework now exists to improve relations between the two countries when Rousseff travels to Washington at the end of June. Still, getting relations back on track will require a more realistic understanding of Brazil’s aspirations and worldview. The United States must move beyond the vague notions of partnership and romantic assumptions of shared interests that traditionally frame its thinking.

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Brazil divided by debate over teenage crime and punishment

Dom Phillips – Washington Post, 6/14/2015

Last July, Patricia fatally stabbed a female relative of her then-partner in a confrontation, provoked by what she described as continuous, poisonous innuendo. “I couldn’t stand it anymore,” she said. “I took the life of another person.”

She was just 17.

A heated debate over whether teenagers who commit violent crimes can be rehabilitated, or should be tried as adults and ­incarcerated in the country’s packed and dangerous prisons, has split Brazil. High-profile violent crimes involving adolescents have inflamed the issue and polarized opinion around a controversial measure in Congress to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16. A vote is planned this month.

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Brazil analysts raise 2015 inflation forecast after May surprise

David Biller – Bloomberg, 6/15/2015

Brazil economists raised their 2015 inflation forecast by more than a quarter-point and lowered their outlook for economic activity as the central bank raises borrowing costs.

Analysts boosted their forecast for inflation to 8.79 percent from 8.46 percent, according to the June 12 central bank survey of about 100 analysts published Monday. The central bank’s top five forecasters increased their forecast to 8.9 percent from 8.47 percent.

Brazil is the only central bank among the Group of 20 nations raising interest rates as above-target inflation erodes consumer and business confidence. Economists in the survey estimate gross domestic product will contract 1.35 percent this year before expanding 0.9 percent in 2016.

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Brazil’s Isolationism

Simon Schwartzman – 6/3/2015

In a world where knowledge, goods, people, and resources are constantly in flux, how does Brazil fare? In terms of its economy, we know that isolationism is greater than we imagine it to be, with exports of goods and services accounting for only 12.6% of GDP in 2013, ranking 177th among the 184 countries for which this information was available, according to the World Bank.

In a recent study published in Brésil(s), a Centre de Recherches sur le Brésil Colonial et Contemporain magazine, also available in English here, Luisa F. Schwartzman and I sought to see what was happening in terms of population flow, especially of highly qualified people, both leaving and entering the country, and what is seen is that isolation is significant. In 1900, there were 1.2 million people born abroad living in Brazil, amounting to 7.2% of the population. In 2010, there were 600 million, or 0.3%. We do not know for certain how many Brazilians live abroad, but an estimate by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2011 said 3.1 million, almost half in the United States, resulting from an exodus that began in the years of the “lost decade” in the 1980’s.

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Soiled by oil scandal, Brazil’s model is primed for makeover

Juan Pablo Spinetto, Anna Edgerton & Sabrina Valle, Bloomberg – 5/27/2015

Oil was to be the elixir of Brazil’s dreams to build a formidable economy, promote industrial development and fund a more generous welfare state even as it attracted billions in private global investment.

Instead, crisis and disappointment in the oil sector are beckoning Brazil’s leadership to move — if grudgingly — toward more deregulated industries and to temper the government’s hand in using state-run companies to forge broader economic policy.

Which helps explain why, as her second term takes shape, some of President Dilma Rousseff’s ministers have jettisoned the statist language of her first four years in office and those of her popular predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Instead, they are floating some liberal notions more in keeping with the pre-Lula years.

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In Brazil, FIFA scandal met with sense of vindication

Taylor Barnes, USA Today – 5/28/2015

As word of the arrests of 14 FIFA officials and sports executives spread, many Brazilians responded with surprise, a measure of support and a sense of vindication over the news.

The country has seen large-scale protests since 2013, often directed at the government with many exasperated with expenditures on last year’s World Cup and the Summer Olympics, which Rio de Janeiro will host next year.

In the year since the World Cup, outsize stadiums built in cities across Brazil that do not have soccer clubs large enough to fill them have reportedly been used as bus parking lots, and venues to host children’s parties, weddings and religious events.

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Sepp Blatter says FIFA must police itself

Sam Borden, Andrew Das, Dan Bilefsky – The New York Times, 5/28/2015

Sepp Blatter, the president of world soccer’s governing body, acknowledged the “unprecedented and difficult times” for his organization on Thursday and said it must do a better job of policing itself, but he largely avoided taking responsibility for the actions of “a tiny minority” arrested in a corruption inquiry this week.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the annual congress of the members of FIFA, the governing body, Mr. Blatter initially struck a somber tone after the arrest of several top soccer officials during a dawn raid at a luxury hotel here on Wednesday. Mr. Blatter, who was not directly implicated in the indictment from the United States Department of Justice (which is seeking extradition of the executives detained on their request) or a separate investigation announced by Swiss authorities, said he knew that many soccer observers “hold me ultimately responsible for the actions and reputation of the global football community, whether it’s the destination of the hosting of a World Cup or a corruption scandal.”

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