Brazil truckers strike drags on as gov’t talks stall

Marcelo Teixeira and Reese Ewing – Reuters, 2/25/2015

Truckers who blocked roads in 10 Brazilian states in an eighth day of protests struggled to find a solution in talks with the government on Wednesday to end a strike that has disrupted food and fuel supplies.

Agriculture Minister Katia Abreu said after a meeting with truckers in Brasilia on Wednesday afternoon that she was confident both sides would reach agreement.

“(The protesters) are flexible and want to resolve the problem,” Abreu said, but she added the government would not give in to on the truckers’ main demands: lower diesel prices and fixed freight rates.

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Brazil scales back Carnival festivities as drought and weak economy persist

Bruce Douglas – The Guardian, 2/11/2015

Severe drought and an ailing economy have forced cities and towns across Brazil to abandon or scale back their plans for Carnival, which is due to start on Friday.

In Brasília, the capital, the local authorities have cancelled the samba school parade for the first time since 1983, in an attempt to plug the R$4bn (£900m) hole left in the accounts by the previous administration.

“It was a really unpleasant surprise,” said Geomar Leite, the president of Brasília’s Union of Samba Schools, said. “We had all the programme ready; the music, the costumes. We feel really frustrated.”

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Local government pulls plug on Indy race in Brazil

Noah Joseph – Autoblog, 2/3/2015

It looks as though the IndyCar Series will be bumped back to running exclusively in North America this season after the planned race in Brazil has been canceled.

The announcement made late last week left many questions unanswered, but subsequent reports indicate that it was the local government in the capital of Brasilia who pulled the plug. Apparently facing backlash over the enormous cost of hosting the FIFA World Cup last year amidst rampant poverty in the country, government officials have been under increased scrutiny over the costs associated with hosting international sporting competitions. The planned return of the MotoGP race in Brasilia was also canceled for the second year in a row.

To make matters worse, a reported two thirds of the tickets had already been sold, renovations to the Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet were well under way, and a sponsor for the race was due to be announced within days. Series organizers, however, say that both they and the participating teams are protected financially for just such an eventuality.

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Brazil Raises Taxes by $7.5 Billion in Quest for Confidence

Mario Sergio Lima and Rachel Gamarski – Bloomberg, 1/20/2014

Brazil’s government will raise taxes on fuel, imports, credit and cosmetics as part of efforts to restore confidence in its fiscal discipline, Finance Minister Joaquim Levy said.

The measures will increase revenue by more than 20 billion reais ($7.5 billion), he told reporters Monday in Brasilia after markets closed. As part of the new policy, Brazil will resume collection of the so-called Cide tax on fuel and raise taxes on loans to individuals and imports. President Dilma Rousseff also vetoed Tuesday a tax break on income tax approved by Congress that would cost the government about 7 billion reais.

“This is a series of actions being taken to re-balance the economy, particularly from a fiscal perspective with the aim of improving confidence,” Levy said. Brazil is “making changes step by step so it can reach, with as little sacrifice as possible, what’s needed to resume the path to growth.”

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Brazil’s Real Drops From One-Month High on Economic Team Concern

Paula Sambo – Bloomberg News, 1/15/2015

Brazil’s real fell from a one-month high on concern over Finance Minister Joaquim Levy’s ability to restore growth to Latin America’s largest economy.

The currency dropped 0.5 percent to 2.6306 per U.S. dollar at 2:57 p.m. in Sao Paulo after climbing yesterday to its strongest level since Dec. 9. Swap rates, a gauge of expectations for changes in borrowing costs, declined 0.04 percentage point to 12.62 percent on the contract maturing in January 2016.

Concern that Brazil’s fiscal deterioration would lead to a reduced credit rating helped push the real down 11 percent in 2014. Levy told reporters in Brasilia on Jan. 13 that seeking to cut gross debt below 50 percent of gross domestic product in the long term would be a positive step.

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Brazil’s Levy says any tax hikes to have little impact on growth

Alonso Soto – Reuters, 1/13/2015

Any tax increases implemented as part of Brazil’s push to improve the nation’s fiscal accounts will have a “minimum impact” on economic activity, Finance Minister Joaquim Levy said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting with reporters in Brasilia, Levy said bringing Brazil’s gross debt below 50 percent of gross domestic product was “a positive long-term goal.” He also expressed confidence that the nation’s sovereign credit rating would not suffer a downgrade.

Levy took office this month promising to restore fiscal discipline in President Dilma Rousseff’s second term after warnings from credit rating agencies of a possible downgrade.

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Amid Slump, Brazil Congress Seeks Raise

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 11/29/2014

After a tight re-election victory marked by quarreling over a sluggish economy and yawning budget deficits, Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, has ushered in a new economic team led by Joaquim Levy, a University of Chicago-trained banker nicknamed Scissorhands for his readiness to slash public spending.

How has Brazil’s Congress reacted to this shift? By moving swiftly to grant itself a whopping pay raise.

Seizing on a generally sleepy time in Brazil when many people are preparing to wind down the year and go on vacation during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, congressional leaders in the capital, Brasília, are pushing ahead with legislation to raise their own salaries as much as 34 percent, to about $187,000 a year.

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