Brazil’s Congress reconvenes, mired in pessimism

Silvio Cascione -Reuters, 02/02/16

Brazilian lawmakers return from their annual recess today with an overwhelming list of work to do as the country sinks into a broadening political, economic and health crisis.

And yet expectations about their actual capacity to make 2016 a better year than 2015 could hardly be smaller.

While there is little consensus on the measures needed to fix Brazil’s budget, deputies and senators are set to spend much of their political energy this year arguing about if and how President Dilma Rousseff should be impeached – and a whole new program of economic reforms could be started from scratch.

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Partying on a precipice

The Economist, 01/30/2016

JANUARY is a languid month in Brazil. Beyond the hullabaloo at samba schools—practising for their bawdy annual face-off during Carnival, which starts on February 5th—business pauses while Brazilians go on holiday in the scorching southern summer. Fewer cars clog streets; more bodies throng the beaches.

Politicians customarily switch off along with everyone else. Congressmen return from their Christmas break on February 2nd, but will probably do little until after Mardi Gras a week later. Neither they nor the president, Dilma Rousseff, will be able to relax, though. A frightening mosquito-borne disease has put the health authorities on high alert (see page 42). Meanwhile, Brazil’s political and economic crises are deepening. When politicians return to work they may regret the time they took off from attempting to solve them.

Brazil to ease Petrobras pressure with offshore oil bill

Joe Leahy – Financial Times, 7/05/2015

Brazil’s congress is likely to pass a landmark bill that could ease financial pressure on state-controlled oil company Petrobras by opening the country’s biggest offshore oil discoveries to greater foreign and private investment.

The changes would remove Petrobras’s obligation to be the sole operator of the fields, known as the pre-salt because they are covered by a layer of the compound, a rule that had overstretched the company, said José Serra, the senator who presented the bill to congress.

The bill, which now could pass as soon as September, is aimed at stimulating a flood of much-needed investment into one of the world`s most promising oil exploration areas. Oil majors, such as Royal Dutch Shell, which so far have been permitted to participate in the pre-salt only as financial partners to Petrobras, have already indicated their interest in becoming operators should the rule change.

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Brazil divided by debate over teenage crime and punishment

Dom Phillips – Washington Post, 6/14/2015

Last July, Patricia fatally stabbed a female relative of her then-partner in a confrontation, provoked by what she described as continuous, poisonous innuendo. “I couldn’t stand it anymore,” she said. “I took the life of another person.”

She was just 17.

A heated debate over whether teenagers who commit violent crimes can be rehabilitated, or should be tried as adults and ­incarcerated in the country’s packed and dangerous prisons, has split Brazil. High-profile violent crimes involving adolescents have inflamed the issue and polarized opinion around a controversial measure in Congress to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16. A vote is planned this month.

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Politics in Brazil: Awkward allies

The Economist (print edition), 2/7/2015

The new Congress was always going to be awkward for Brazil’s president. Having won re-election last October with the slimmest of majorities, Dilma Rousseff has a weak mandate. She faces power cuts, water shortages and a probable recession. She must curb the growing fiscal deficit to maintain Brazil’s prized investment-grade credit rating.

On top of all this she must contend with a far-reaching corruption scandal at Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant. Its embattled boss, Maria das Graças Foster, an ally of the president, has resigned along with five other executives.

Ms Rousseff has now been given a first taste of just how obstructive Congress is likely to be. On February 1st, against her wishes, the lower house elected Eduardo Cunha of the Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) to be its Speaker.

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Brazil: Reforms Fail to End Torture

Human Rights Watch, 7/28/2014

Torture remains a serious problem in Brazil despite recent measures to curb the practice, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the Brazilian Congress. Congress should approve a bill that would safeguard against ill-treatment of detainees by requiring officials to physically present them before a judge for a “custody hearing” within 24 hours of arrest.

Human Rights Watch found compelling evidence in 64 cases of alleged abuse since 2010 that security forces or prison authorities engaged in cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment against people in their custody. In 40 of these cases, the evidence supported the conclusion that the abuse rose to the level of torture. While these abuses often occur in the first 24 hours in police custody, detainees typically must wait for three months or more before they see a judge to whom they can directly report the abuse.

“Brazil has taken important steps to confront the problem of torture, but much more is needed,” said Maria Laura Canineu, Brazil director at Human Rights Watch. “So long as detainees wait months to see a judge, they’re far less likely to report the abuses they’ve suffered – and by then, the physical evidence may well have disappeared.”

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Andres Oppenheimer: World Cup has been a failure for Brazil

Andres Oppenheimer – Miami Herald, 6/21/2014

The World Cup is far from over, but it’s not too early to declare it a failure for Brazil: The country has missed a golden opportunity to rebrand itself as an emerging technological power, and to upgrade its stereotype of being the nation of carnival, beaches and soccer.

Here are some of the stories you are not hearing from the more than 5,000 journalists from 70 countries who have traveled to Brazil to cover the world’s biggest sporting event, and who in recent weeks — before the opening of the games — have written extensively about the country:

• Brazil is one of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers. It’s Embraer aircraft maker is the world leader in production of mid-size passenger planes, which it sells to American Airlines, United Airlines, Air France, Lufthansa and nearly 80 other commercial airlines.

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