Brazil and its president: Dealing with Dilma

March 26, 2015

The Economist (print edition), 3/28/2015

SHE is less than three months into her second term, but already most Brazilians want to see the back of Dilma Rousseff. Grappling with a sickly economy and a hydra-headed corruption scandal at Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant, she finds herself almost friendless in Brasília. She has already lost control of a Congress where, in theory, her coalition has a comfortable majority. More than 1m Brazilians took to the streets on March 15th to repudiate their president. Her approval rating has fallen by 30 points in six months to 13%, the lowest for a Brazilian president since Fernando Collor in 1992, on the eve of his impeachment for corruption.

Nearly 60% of respondents in one poll believe that Ms Rousseff merits the same fate. It is not hard to see why voters are angry. She chaired Petrobras’s board in 2003-10, when prosecutors believe more than $800m was stolen in kickbacks and funnelled to politicians in the ruling Workers’ Party (PT) and its allies, 47 of whom face criminal investigation. She won last year’s presidential election—albeit by just 3% of the vote—by assuring Brazilians that their living standards, jobs and social benefits were threatened only by her opponents.

In fact, as many voters now realise, Ms Rousseff was peddling a lie. It was the mistakes committed in her first term that have led to the spending cuts and tax and interest-rate rises she is now inflicting (and which have earned her the enmity of her own party). Add the perception that her re-election campaign may have been partly financed by money stolen from Petrobras, and Brazilians have every reason to feel they are the victims of the political equivalent of a confidence trick.

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Exclusive: U.S. bets on Brazil, extends new invitation to Rousseff

March 24, 2015

Brian Winter – Reuters, 3/24/2015

The Obama administration has again invited Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff for a state visit to Washington, a diplomatic breakthrough that both sides hope will lead over time to greater trade between the two biggest economies in the Americas.

Rousseff had originally been scheduled to make a state visit, which involves a black-tie dinner at the White House and is considered the strongest expression of friendly ties between allies, in October 2013.

But the leftist leader canceled her trip after she was angered by revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied on her personal communications. She said it was “incompatible” with a relationship among allies.

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FIFA made an insane amount of money off of Brazil’s $15 billion World Cup

March 24, 2015

Tony Manfred – Business Insider, 3/20/2015

FIFA released its 2014 financial report, and it shows how the organization profited off the World Cup that cost Brazil billions. The 2014 World Cup generated $4.8 billion in revenue for FIFA compared to $2.2 billion in expenses. Over the four-year cycle, the event turned a $2.6 billion profit.

FIFA made $2.4 billion in TV rights fees, $1.6 billion in sponsorships, and $527 million in ticket sales.

Much of FIFA’s World Cup spending went to participating teams and confederations ($476 million) and TV production costs ($370 million). FIFA contributed $453 million to the local organizing committee between 2011 and 2014, and gave Brazil a $100 million “legacy” payment after the tournament.

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Brazil: At breaking point

March 24, 2015

Samantha Pearson – Financial Times, 3/20/2015

Emilio Pastore normally spends the weekend visiting his elderly parents or taking a quiet bike ride in the countryside around São Paulo. But last Sunday the 50-year-old systems analyst printed out a banner with the slogan “no more lies” and took to the streets for the first protest of his life.

The multibillion-dollar corruption scandal engulfing state-controlled oil company Petrobras and President Dilma Rousseff’s ruling coalition was too much to bear, he says.

“Corruption has escalated from random cases to a state strategy — it now seems to be the official source of party funds, from the small-town mayor all the way up to the nation’s president,” he says. “We’ve had enough.

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In Brazil, Water Is Power

March 24, 2015

Jack Levine – The Huffington Post, 3/23/2015

Of the many stories I heard about the drought while I was in Brazil earlier this month, one stands out: a colleague was riding the elevator in her building and saw a note from a concerned neighbor. “Dear neighbors,” the note read, “As you know we are in a severe crisis. Everyone must do their part to conserve water. That is why I have decided to only wash my car once per month. I hope everyone else can make a similar sacrifice.”

I had just spent five days in Sao Paulo, visiting electric utility executives to imagine how software technology could better engage their consumers toward addressing the deepening crisis. Twenty million people live in Sao Paulo, which is suffering its worst drought the metropolis has seen in nearly a century. A couple of weeks earlier, during Carnival, some towns in the region had canceled street parades for fear there may not be enough water to clean the streets or cool down the crowds. Officials from Sao Paulo’s water utility, Sabesp, had already begun rationing water.

The last time Brazil faced a water crisis of this magnitude, a small private utility – the Sao Paulo Railway and Light Company – was at work constructing the foundation of a modern infrastructure to supply water and power. Today, Brazil’s system of reservoirs and dams provide not just drinking water; they supply more than three-quarters of its electricity generating capacity. So as the Cantareira’s stores fluctuated like a dollar stock – dipping to just five percent of capacity in early February  – Brazil’s utilities braced for an energy crisis.

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Brazil opposition party not seeking impeachment: Cardoso

March 23, 2015

Brian Winter – Reuters, 03/23/2015

Brazil’s biggest opposition party has no interest in impeaching President Dilma Rousseff despite recent street demonstrations calling for her ouster, former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso told Reuters.

Cardoso, who at 83 remains an influential leader in the centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), said removing Rousseff so soon after she was re-elected would be destructive to Brazil’s 30-year-old democracy, especially since prosecutors have found no evidence she participated in a corruption scheme at state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

“Nobody should want impeachment, it’s a very complex thing,” said Cardoso, who led Brazil from 1995 to 2002.

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In Denial Over Racism in Brazil

March 23, 2015

Vanessa Barbara – The New York Times, 3/23/2015

One Friday night last month, the electricity was off in the streets of Palmeirinha, a favela in Rio de Janeiro. Three black teenagers were joking around in front of their houses. One of them started to run and the others followed, laughing. At that moment, the police came out shooting. Chauan Jambre Cezário, 19 years old, was seriously wounded. Alan de Souza Lima, 15 years old, died on the site with a cellphone in his hands — he had caught everything on video, including his own last agonizing minutes.

According to an official report released the next day, the boys were shot after a confrontation with the police. Officers allegedly found two guns at the scene and charged Mr. Cezário with resisting arrest. The boy, who sells iced tea on Ipanema Beach, was carried to the emergency room and handcuffed to the hospital bed.

Days later, the nine-minute cellphone video went public. Images clearly show that the teenagers didn’t have any guns on them and that there was neither confrontation nor resistance. Seconds after the shooting, a policeman asked why they had been running, to which a bleeding Mr. Cezário answered: “We were just playing around, sir.”

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