Brazil’s Political Crisis, Explained

Zack Beauchamp – Vox, 04/21/2016

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is in the midst of a stunning fall from grace.

In 2013, Rousseff had a roughly 80 percent approval rating. Today, it’s around 10 percent. Just this Sunday, one house of Brazil’s Congress voted to impeach her.

The story behind Rousseff’s collapse is extraordinary — but also a bit complicated. If you’re just learning about it, it might be a little bit difficult to parse why Rousseff is in so much trouble, and why this is all blowing up now.

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Lula and Rousseff square off in Brazil’s austerity soap opera

Joe Leahy – Financial Times, 10/25/2015

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff must wonder sometimes that with friends like her predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who needs enemies.

Tensions between Ms Rousseff, a taciturn technocrat, and Mr Lula da Silva, a charismatic populist, have begun to take the twists and turns of one of Brazil’s sprawling telenovela soap operas, in which close friends and family often stab each other in the back.

For Ms Rousseff, who is facing the possibility of impeachment by an opposition emboldened by her growing unpopularity, the enemy within is the last thing she needs. For Latin America’s largest economy, which is sinking into its deepest recession since the 1930s, ruling party infighting will sap investor confidence only further.

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Brazil will be ready in time

Eric Farnsworth – The Miami Herald, 8/13/2015

Paraphrasing Ronald Reagan, there they go again. As Brazil readies to host the 2016 Olympic Summer Games one year from now, international observers have begun the countdown clocks and a familiar litany of complaints that are aired out before virtually every major worldwide sporting event.

Venues that will not be ready to host events. Infrastructure that can never be completed on time if at all. Community redevelopment projects that will remain on the drawing board. Security concerns and police over reaction. Cost overruns, debt accumulation, and corruption. Environmental clean-up and pollution control measures that are failing, endangering the health of athletes and spectators alike.

Hosting the Olympic Summer Games is not for the faint-hearted. It is a massive, risky, hugely expensive undertaking with increasingly questioned benefits. For approximately two weeks, cities and the nations they represent draw the eyes of the world, bringing the attention and anticipated revenue they might otherwise not have other opportunities to attract.

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Lava Jato Investigations will continue, as painful as it may be

Eliane Cantanhêde and Andreza Matais – O Estado de S.Paulo, 7/04/2015

Andre Dusek/Estadao

Photo by Andre Dusek/Estadao

A man of few words, the director-general of the Federal Brazilian Police, Leandro Daiello came out of anonymity to state, in an interview to Estado that no one will be exempt from the law. The ongoing investigations will proceed even if they lead to President Rousseff or former President Lula, he said. “We investigate facts, not people. Where those facts take us is a consequence of the investigation itself, as painful as it may be”.

Originally from the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, Daiello has been and director-general of the Brazilian equivalent to the FBI since 2011. He used the expression “as painful as it may be” three times during the interview, to make clear that the Federal Police is an independent institution with solid rules of conduct, and that investigations are to continue “with or without José Eduardo Cardozo as justice minister, and with or without Daiello leading the Federal Police”.

Continue reading “Lava Jato Investigations will continue, as painful as it may be”

Correcting Brazil’s police violence: the case of Rio’s Pacifying Police Units

Layne Vandenberg – Brazil Institute, 12/18/2014

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Widespread protests against police violence and racism have recently scattered the United States after the release of the Ferguson (Michael Brown) and Eric Garner grand jury decisions. While Americans grapple with the reality of police violence, other countries live deeply entrenched in this reality. Scholar Ignácio Cano says there is “a Ferguson every day” in Brazil, and the state of Rio de Janeiro has been trying out a new policing strategy in hopes of improving community-police relations in its slums, called favelas.

Between 2009 and 2013, Brazilian police killed more than 11,000 people, or about six people per day. The 2014 edition of the Brazil Public Security Yearbook also found that 53,646 homicides occurred in 2013, or one person every 10 minutes.

With the highest per capita rate of killing of any Brazilian state and 6,826 homicides per year between 1991 and 2007, the state of Rio de Janeiro is “comparable with urban areas of countries in civil war.” But Rio needed a quick solution for its violent reputation among the international crowd. Rio is home to Maracanã stadium, where several 2014 FIFA World Cup matches, including the final, were held and the city is the host of the upcoming 2016 Olympic games. So how do you change the face of a city and a state in time for the world’s two largest sporting events?

The Rio state government’s solution: pacification.

Continue reading “Correcting Brazil’s police violence: the case of Rio’s Pacifying Police Units”

Second Presidential Debate in Brazil’s Second Round Election Runoff

Layne Vandenberg – Brazil Institute, 10/16/2014

Presidential candidates Dilma Rousseff and Aécio Neves

Presidential candidates Dilma Rousseff and Aécio Neves

The second set of presidential debates between the incumbent President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party (PT) and Aécio Neves of the Social Democratic Party (PSDB) takes place tonight. This debate, following the first one last Tuesday (10/14), will hopefully begin to turn the tides of Brazilian voters in what Mauro Paulino, a Datafolha pollster, says is one of the most unpredictable elections in Brazil’s history.

After the first round of voting on October 5th, the candidates were narrowed down to two: Dilma Rousseff, who received 41.5% of the votes, and Aécio Neves, who received 31.5%. Third place runner-up, Marina Silva (PSB), who was anticipated to advance to the second round along with Rousseff because of her rapid rise after the death of Eduardo Campos, was left with only 21.3%. This past Sunday, Silva officially endorsed Neves, possibly posing herself as king maker of the election. Rousseff and Neves will compete in a second round runoff election on October 26th to determine the presidency. Continue reading “Second Presidential Debate in Brazil’s Second Round Election Runoff”

A vulnerable Rousseff will face a surging Neves in the final round

Paulo Sotero – Brazil Institute, 10/06/2014

Marina Silva, signaling support for the president’s opponent, could be the king maker

President Dilma Rousseff failed to secure an absolute majority of votes in the first ballot of Brazil’s elections and will face senator Aécio Neves, a popular former governor of the state of Minas Gerais, in a final round scheduled for Sunday October 26. Rousseff received 41.5% of the record 115 million votes cast, a weaker performance compared to the votes she received and thather predecessor President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva received in the first round of the previous three presidential election won by the Workers Party (PT). Neves, of the Social Democratic Party (PSDB) of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, surged in the final week of the campaign to obtain 33.5% of the votes and position himself as a strong challenger to Rousseff. Former senator Marina Silva, an environmentalist who led for a while in opinion polls, finished a distant third with 21.3% but may be the deciding voice in the race’s outcome.

Speaking to supporters Sunday evening, Marina, who remained neutral in 2010 when she ran for the Green Party and also came in third, indicated she will endorse Neves’ candidacy. “Brazil has signaled since 2010 it clearly disagrees with what we have,” she said, referring to the rule of the Workers’ Party, which was her political home for more than a quarter century.

Rousseff won in fifteen of Brazil’s 27 states, including in Neves’ Minas Gerais, by a narrow margin. Analysts attributed this result, however, more to the popularity of the Workers’ Party candidate for state governor, Fernando Pimentel, a former mayor of the capital city of Belo Horizonte, than to Rousseff’s performance. In September, Pimentel’s campaign removed the president’s picture from his ads, fearing the association with Rousseff would reduce his favoritism. The PSDB gubernatorial candidate , João Pimenta da Veiga, a dull politician, did not generate much enthusiasm among voters. In contrast, Neves’ campaign manager, former two-term governor Antonio Anastasia, was easily elected to the Senate, beating Josué Alencar , by a two to one margin. A close ally of Rousseff, Alencar is the son of the late vice-president of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva government.

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Paulo Sotero is the Director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

*Photo courtesy of Flickr users PSDB MG and Joao de Bourbon.