WhatsApp Blocked in Brazil as Judge Seeks Data

Vinod Sreeharsha – The New York Times, 05/02/2016

WhatsApp, a messaging service owned by Facebook, was shut down in Brazil on Monday after a court order from a judge who is seeking user data from the service for a criminal investigation.

Judge Marcel Maia Montalvão ordered telecom companies operating in Brazil to suspend WhatsApp nationwide for 72 hours. As of just after midday Monday, Brazilians said they could not use the popular messaging service.

The shutdown is the latest twist in a case that has embroiled WhatsApp in legal trouble. The case, which is under seal, involves an organized crime and drug trafficking investigation in the court in Lagarto, in the northeastern state of Sergipe. The court has been seeking data from WhatsApp to aid in the investigation. Diego Dzodan, a Facebook executive, was briefly taken into custody in March for refusing to comply with orders to turn over WhatsApp information in the case.

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Brazil’s Corruption Culture ‘can be beaten’

Paul Moss – BBC, 04/26/2016

Even a visitor who detests shopping can admire the building’s quirkiness, a semi-arch that seems almost to fall on to the pavement, embodying the modernist curves which define architecture in Brazil’s capital.

This is a city that was constructed virtually from scratch in the 1950s and which is supposed to proclaim the new, progressive side of the country.

Yet the man I had come to meet at the mall had a story as old as his country’s creation: “When you bid for a government contract in Brazil, they usually say ‘what can you do for us? What can you do to make this contract a win-win for all of us?’ They want a percentage of the contract…which means bribes.”

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Isolated, Rousseff Faces Diminishing Chances to Survive Impeachment

Paulo Sotero – Brazil Institute, 04/13/2016

The loss of support to President Dilma Rousseff intensified after the Chamber of Deputies special committee approved, on April 11, a motion to move forward with impeachment proceedings against the embattled Brazilian leader. The action is grounded on evidence that Rousseff’s government manipulated budget accounts and made unauthorized expenditures to hide an exploding fiscal deficit at the root of the country’s ongoing economic disaster.

The impeachment process has been fueled by revelations of the ongoing investigation of a $3 billion corruption scandal involving state oil giant Petrobras, Brazil’s largest company. The crimes, exposed by multiple defendants through plea bargain agreements with federal authorities, started during the administration of popular former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and continued under Rousseff. Prior to being elected president, Dilma Rousseff was minister of energy and chaired the Petrobras board of directors for five years. Although the president has not been charged in the Petrobras case, politicians closely associated with her have been arrested and accused of a variety of crimes. And she may be charged with obstruction of justice for trying to shield Lula from a criminal investigation related to Petrobras by naming him to her cabinet.

Following last month’s decisive break between the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), Brazil’s largest party, and the government, other members of Rousseff’s fraying coalition have cut ties with the unpopular president, leaving her increasingly isolated to face the Chamber of Deputy plenary vote on impeachment, scheduled for April 17. Her survival depends on ensuring the allegiance of members of small parties who are driven by their interests in accessing federal agencies budgets and patronage jobs.

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Brazil’s government in crisis – the Guardian briefing

The Guardian, 03/17/2016

Tens of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets on Wednesday to protest against the government, as a gathering corruption scandal threatened to engulf the president and her predecessor.

Earlier Dilma Rousseff appointed Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva as her chief of staff, in what was widely seen by her critics as an attempt to shield him from prosecution over alleged corruption and money-laundering. Under Brazilian law, only the supreme court can authorise the investigation, imprisonment and trial of cabinet members.

Hours after Lula’s appointment, a judge investigating a corruption scandal at the state-run oil company Petrobras released a number of secretly taped phone calls between Lula and Rousseff, which appeared to suggest that the job offer had indeed been made to protect the former president.

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In Brazil, Former President Lula da Silva Running For New Term Despite Corruption Woes?

Sarah Berger – International Business Times, 02/29/2016

Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he would be willing to seek another term in 2018 and would put himself forward as a candidate “if necessary,” the Associated Press reported Monday.  While Lula will be 72  by the time of the next election, during his speech Saturday in Rio de Janeiro commemorating 36 years of the governing Workers’ Party, he said he still has the “desire of a 32-year-old to be president of the republic.”

While Lula had high approval ratings in 2010,  the end of his two-term limit, the former president has since been plagued by scandal, resulting in a sharp drop in his poll ratings. Lula is being investigated on the heels of a corruption scandal at state-led oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA and has been notified that Brazilian courts plan to subpoena his bank, telephone and financial records.

 “If this is the price people must pay to prove their innocence, I’ll do it,” Lula said Saturday, referring to the subpoenas, Reuters reported. “The only thing I want is that afterward they give me a good conduct certificate, because I doubt there is anyone more honest than I am in the country.”

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Brazil: Moody’s becomes third rating agency to label country’s debt junk

The Guardian, 02/24/2016

Brazil’s economic gloom deepened on Wednesday when credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded the recession-hit nation’s sovereign debt status to junk.

Moody’s said the outlook for Brazil’s issuer and bond ratings was negative due to the prospect of further deterioration in debt ratios amid an economic contraction, as well as the risk of further external shocks.

The announcement, which follows similar downgrades by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch came as no surprise and has been largely priced into markets. But that is hardly cause for relief. While everybody can see the Brazilian economy is in peril, nobody seems to foresee a way out.

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The Rot at the Heart of the Brazilian Economy

Christopher Sabatini – Foreign Policy, 02/10/2016

In late 2014, Brazil seemed on the verge of a meltdown. Its economy had grown a mere 0.1 percent that year, as its currency (the real) dropped like a stone and business confidence plummeted. In response, in November of that year Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff turned to a Chicago-trained technocrat — a common antidote among Latin American leaders. Domestic and international investors welcomed the appointment of Joaquim Levy, a former banker and fiscal hawk, to lead the finance ministry, but they acknowledged he would have his work cut out for him. If Levy hoped to enact the drastic fiscal cuts and structural reforms needed to fix the careening economy, he would have to first overcome the resistance of not only a fractious congress, but also many members of Rousseff’s leftist Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) and her cabinet.

Success would ultimately elude Levy. In December 2015, he quit, handing the ministry over to Nelson Barbosa, another well-respected economist. But Barbosa lacks Levy’s credibility among investors. And the task before him has only become more unenviable. He will have to push through his predecessor’s stalled reforms, while turning around an economy that suffered a GDP contraction of 3.7 percent in 2015, staving off potential debt crisisstabilizing the real, and avoiding what analysts predict could become Brazil’s worst crisis since 1901.

The first step to fixing Brazil’s crisis will have to involve recognizing that the rot goes much deeper than it might seem. Brazil’s troubles began with the downturn in the global commodity markets, which once bolstered the country. But the roots of the malaise trace much farther, to a historically autarkic economic model, a political system hobbled and corrupted by party factionalism and localism, and a constitutional carnaval of guarantees for social rights and payouts.

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