Brazil Federal Police arrest another former Petrobras executive

Rogerio Jelmayer – The Wall Street Journal, 7/02/2015

Brazil’s federal police have arrested another former executive of state-run energy company Petróleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, as part of an investigation into a broader corruption scandal that has wounded the country’s largest company.

Police arrested Jorge Zelada, a former top executive of Petrobras, early Thursday at his home in Rio de Janeiro. Mr. Zelada was arrested on suspicion of corruption and money laundering, said a police spokesman. Mr. Zelada’s lawyer couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

Mr. Zelada was director of international operations of Petrobras from 2008 to 2012. He replaced Nestor Cerveró, who was convicted in May of money laundering and sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the widening scandal.

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Brazil’s Petrobras slashes 5-year investment budget

Paul Kiernan – The Wall Street Journal, 6/29/2015

Brazilian state-run oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA said Monday it plans to slash investments by 37% over the next five years in an urgent effort to reduce its soaring debt load.

Petrobras expects capital spending over the 2015-19 period to total $130.3 billion, the company said in a long-delayed document outlining its five-year business plan. Petrobras’ previous five-year plan foresaw investments of $220.6 billion over the 2014-18 period.

The company also increased its goal for asset sales this year and next, saying it now expects to divest $15.1 billion in 2015-16, up from a previous target of $13.7 billion.

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Brazil to boost beef productivity by 82% to protect Amazon

Mathew Carr – Bloomberg Business, 6/26/2015

Brazil, which was overtaken last year by India as the world’s biggest beef exporter, is encouraging cattle farmers to boost productivity around the Amazon rain forest as it balances environmental protection with economic production.

The nation wants to increase output at beef farms to at least 2 head-of-cattle-per-hectare from about 1.1 head, Francisco Oliveira Filho, director of policies to reduce deforestation at the Environment Ministry, said Friday in an interview in London. Such an increase will ease pressure to fell more trees, he said.

“There is space to increase the productivity of the beef sector in the Amazon region” and the 2 head-per-hectare level has been reached in some of the nation, he said. “On one side you have people that want development at any cost. On the other hand you have people trying to protect everything. We are trying to find something in between.”

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Working within the system to disrupt Brazilian politics

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 6/26/2015

Some Brazilian politicians duck questions about the scope of their aspirations, insisting they have absolutely no plans, say, of running for mayor of São Paulo, seeking a cabinet post or wielding power from some other coveted perch in Brazil’s huge bureaucracy.

Then there is Roberto Mangabeira Unger, the Harvard philosopher who once counted Barack Obama among his students. Not given much to small talk, Mr. Unger is known to quote Hegel and Thomas Jefferson in the same breath. He expounds on subjects like the human condition.

When an interviewer once asked him if he hoped to become president of Brazil, Mr. Unger said with a laugh, “I was always much more ambitious than that.”

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Brazil probe pits investigators against long-protected elite

Caroline Stauffer – Reuters, 6/26/2015

In a nation where the elite have enjoyed relative impunity, a new generation of police and prosecutors in Brazil are bent on using the country’s largest-ever corruption investigation to send the message that no one is above the law.

They have displayed in a local museum works of art seized in arrests in connection with alleged bribery at state-run oil firm Petrobras. They have also paraded lobbyists and chief executives in handcuffs before TV cameras.

And they gave the moniker Operation ‘Erga Omnes,’ Latin for ‘For everyone’ to a raid that jailed one of the country’s most powerful corporate scions, CEO Marcelo Odebrecht.

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A setback in Brazil

The Editorial Board – The Washington Post, 6/27/2015

Just a couple of years ago, it was widely concluded that Brazil had finally overcome the decades-old gibe about the world’s fifth-largest country: that it would always be “the country of the future.” Exports, particularly to Asia, were booming; a middle class was filling in the once-polarizing gap between the very rich and very poor; and huge offshore oil discoveries appeared to ensure yet another economic acceleration. In seeming confirmation of its new status, Brazil was chosen to host both soccer’s World Cup last year and the 2016 Olympics.

The Rio de Janeiro games are still a year away, but already Brazil’s bubble appears to have burst. The economy is mired in a deepening recession, thanks to the drop in oil and other commodity prices. The state oil company, Petrobras, has triggered the biggest corruption scandal in the country’s history, with dozens of businesspeople and more than 50 members of Congress implicated in some $2 billion in kickbacks. Investments in the vaunted new oil fields have been cut back, even as Brazilians fume over the billions spent on new stadiums.

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Brazil’s prison system faces ‘profound deterioration’ if youth crime law passes

Bruce Douglas – The Guardian, 6/29/2015

Brazil’s justice minister has described his country’s violent and overcrowded prison system as “terrible” and warned that it will only get worse if congress votes this week to lower the age of criminal responsibility.

José Eduardo Cardozo ordered the early publication of a justice ministry report on prison overcrowding ahead of a vote on Tuesday over legislation which would reduce the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16 for serious offences involving violence.

The new statistics show that Brazil’s prison population has doubled in the last 10 years and now contains more than 220,000 inmates over its capacity. Lowering the age of criminal responsibility will add up to 40,000 more inmates to the system, Cardozo said.

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