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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Eradication of Zika-Spreading Mosquito in Brazil Unlikely

Peter Prengaman, Mauricio Savarese – AP, 04/19/2016

In the 1940s and 1950s, Brazilian authorities made such a ferocious assault on Aedes aegypti – the mosquito that spreads the Zika virus – that it was eradicated from Latin America’s largest country by 1958.

But Aedes aegypti returned, and now Brazil has launched another offensive against the pest, employing hundreds of thousands of troops to fumigate and educate people about how to eliminate its habitats. The assault is part of President Dilma Rousseff’s “war” on the Zika virus, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says can cause devastating birth defects.

But eradication experts say there is little chance Brazil can come anywhere near stamping out the pest like it did a half century ago. The world is different, with globalization bringing more travelers and trade across borders. And Brazil is different; its resources are limited as the country suffers through its worst recession in decades and its president is focused on battling impeachment for allegedly breaking fiscal rules in managing government funds.

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Brazil Unlikely to Hit Universal Sanitation Targets with Progress Sluggish

Dimmi Amora – Folha de S. Paulo, 02/17/2016

The percentage increase of Brazilians in urban areas covered by water and sewage networks stalled in 2014, with time running out if the country is to achieve its goal of universal sanitation by 2033.

According to data published on Tuesday by the Ministry of Cities, the percentage of Brazilians in urban areas covered by water networks increased from 93% in 2013 to 93.2% in 2014, while those covered by sewage networks increased from 56.3% to 57.6%.

The country’s goal is to reach 2023 with universal access to water, with 93% access to sewage networks coming ten years later. However, as Folha has revealed, a survey by the National Confederation of Industry (CNI) shows that the country will miss these targets by at least 20 years if reforms continue at the current pace.

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Rousseff Bets on Mosquito Hunt to Regain Popularity

Andrea Jube – Valor, 02/11/2016

President Dilma Rousseff bets on the fight against the Zika virus and the microcephaly epidemic as a vaccine to contain the progress of Operation Car Wash investigations on former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. In the opinion of Rousseff aides, the affected image of her predecessor hits the president directly and makes her more vulnerable to the impeachment that although asleep, it has not been buried. She will command the mega-operation scheduled for next Saturday, when 220,000 military officials will take the streets to battle the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Presidential aides heard by Valor recognize that the deconstruction of Mr. Lula’s image spills in Ms. Rousseff, although she has chosen not to make a public defense of her predecessor. “Lula is her political guarantor and of our government,” says an advisor close to President Rousseff. For him, with Mr. Lula weakened politically, the government is further weakened.

The Car Wash siege of Mr. Lula has narrowed down in recent days. On the eve of Carnival, Judge Sérgio Moro authorized the Federal Police to open a specific inquiry to investigate the connection of a ranch in Atibaia, São Paulo, visited by the former president, with construction company OAS, one of the targets of the operation. The property is registered in the name of two partners of Fábio Luís Lula da Silva, son of Mr. Lula: Fernando Bittar and Jonas Suassuna, partners at Gamecorp, which renders services to telco Oi. None of them have commented the allegations yet.

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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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Rio Olympics Slims Down as Brazil’s Economic Crisis Bites

Andrew Downie – Reuters, 01/19/2016

The grandstands for watching rowing and beach volleyball at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics are to be reduced in size to cut spending as Brazil’s economic crisis hits home, Olympic officials said on Tuesday.

The number of volunteers has also been cut from around 70,000 to 50,000 and the total of cars slashed by 20 percent to 4,000 from an original estimate of 5,000, Rio 2016 spokesperson Mario Andrada told reporters.

The moves come after four months of negotiations between Brazilian organizers, the International Olympic Committee and federations from around the world over how best to trim spending and ensure that South America’s first Olympic Games do not go over budget.

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Brazil Alleges Environmental Crimes in Response to Fundão Dam Collapse

Paul Kiernan – The Wall Street Journal, 01/14/2016

Brazil’s Federal Police have accused seven people and three companies, including mining giant Vale SA and its joint-venture Samarco Mineração SA, of environmental crimes in response to a major dam collapse in November.

The move, which has no exact equivalent in the U.S. legal system, will trigger the beginning of a deeper investigation by police. It typically represents a step toward formal charges, which in Brazil can only be filed by prosecutors, often after police have presented their findings.

The accusations mark the latest response by Brazilian authorities to what some have called the country’s worst-ever environmental disaster. On Nov. 5, Samarco’s Fundão tailings dam suddenly collapsed, releasing a flood of sludge that buried rural villages, killed 19 people and polluted more than 400 miles of the Rio Doce basin.

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