Brazil’s Power Dynamics Shifting Amid Political Scandals

April 28, 2015

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 4/28/2015

The head of Brazil’s Senate, Renan Calheiros, has been accused of tax evasion, using a government jet to visit a surgeon who alleviated his baldness with hair implants and allowing a construction company’s lobbyist to pay child support for his daughter from an extramarital affair with a television journalist.

Eduardo Cunha, the conservative speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress, has also faced — and successfully battled — a list of corruption accusations, from embezzlement to living in an apartment paid for by a black-market money dealer.

In some democracies, figures facing such situations might find themselves banished from public life even if they were never convicted. But not in Brazil, where the men who command the scandal-plagued Congress are actually increasing their power over the scandal-plagued president, Dilma Rousseff.

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Amid Crisis, Rousseff Seeks Closer Ties with the U.S.

April 20, 2015

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Paulo Sotero – The Huffington Post, 4/17/2015

Confronted by calls for her impeachment in street protests fueled by a deteriorating economy and a deepening investigation on massive corruption at state oil giant Petrobras, a weakened President Dilma Rousseff sees improving relations with the United States as part of the solution to Brazil’s and her own mounting challenges.

Following a Saturday April 11 meeting with president Barack Obama at the Summit of the Americas, in Panama, Rousseff said concerns caused by the 2013 revelations of the National Security Agency surveillance activities in Brazil were resolved and confirmed she will visit Washington this year. The announcement of the June 30th gathering at the White House put the Brazil-U.S. dialogue back on track following a period of estrangement that cost the U.S. the loss of a major defense contract and frustrated plans to elevate Brazil-U.S. relations to a new level of engagement.

Praised by Rousseff for his decision to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba, the American leader has scored points by enhancing U.S. ties with its largest regional neighbor at a time when Brazil is experiencing its most severe political and economic crisis in two decades. Rousseff’s official visit to the U.S. will not have the frills of the state visit planned for October 2013, which was derailed by the NSA revelations, but was welcomed by the business communities and economic officials in both countries, who hope it will send a positive reassuring message to markets and help to restore investors’ confidence in Brazil.

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Paulo Sotero is the Director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.


Brazil’s ‘bullets, beef and bible’ caucus wants to imprison 16-year-olds

April 17, 2015

Bruce Douglas – The Guardian, 4/17/2015

Among Brazil’s weak and demoralised leftwing members of Congress, they are known as the “Bancada BBB”: Bullets, Beef and Bible Caucus.

These conservative hardliners – from Brazil’s security forces, agricultural sector and evangelical churches – triumphed in last October’s legislative elections, while President Dilma Rousseff, of the leftwing Workers’ Party (PT), only narrowly won re-election.

Over the past few months, the president’s authority has been undermined by a massive corruption scandal, major street protests and the open revolt of many of her former political allies.

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Protests in Brazil: Tropical tea party

April 17, 2015

The Economist (print edition), 4/18/2015

BY NEARLY any standard, the protests to denounce the president, Dilma Rousseff, and to rail against corruption in Brazil were huge. Some 660,000 people turned out on April 12th, in 152 cities. Yet that is compared with roughly 2m Brazilians who rallied a month ago. The drop in numbers is sobering for a movement that dreams of toppling the president with massive shows of street support. It means the organisers will have to change tactics and refine their muddled message.

The anger has not ebbed, and the movement is not going away. According to Datafolha, a pollster, three-quarters of Brazilians support the protests. Two-thirds want Ms Rousseff to be impeached over a multi-billion-dollar bribery scandal surrounding Petrobras, the state oil company. Members of her Workers’ Party (PT) and others in the governing coalition are under investigation, although the president herself has not been implicated. Her popularity has sunk from 40% at the start of her second term in January to 13%. Even in the PT’s heartland in the poor north-east, a majority thinks she is doing a poor job.

The movement against her resembles insurgencies in Europe and the United States, but with big differences. Unlike Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain, the organisers of Brazil’s protests are not left-wing and do not constitute a political party. Some compare the protesters to America’s Tea Party, which agitates for small government within the Republican Party. That is closer to the mark. The protesters lean towards Brazil’s opposition parties and hope to influence them. Renan Hass of the Free Brazil Movement (MBL), a main organiser of the protests, wants the Party of Brazilian Social Democracy to be “more macho”. But the movement is too young, and too fragmented, to have infiltrated Congress, unlike the American Tea Party. Dozens of grassroots organisations called protesters onto the streets.

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Brazil’s president names progressive lawyer to Supreme Court

April 15, 2015

Reuters, 04/14/2015

President Dilma Rousseff nominated a law professor close to leftist social groups on Tuesday to sit on Brazil’s Supreme Court as it begins to investigate dozens of ruling coalition politicians for corruption.

If confirmed by the Senate, Luiz Edson Fachin, a civil law expert from Parana state, will take the seat of Joaquim Barbosa, the former chief justice who retired last year after leading Brazil’s highest-profile political corruption trial to date.

Rousseff, who was narrowly re-elected last October, has been criticized for taking more than eight months to fill the 11th seat on the top court that will play a key role in a widening probe into a bigger scandal involving graft and political kickbacks at state-run oil company Petrobras.

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Mark Zuckerberg meets with Brazil’s president at the 7th Summit of the America’s, in Panama

April 14, 2015

Anderson Antunes – Forbes, 04/11/2015

Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff met Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on Friday during the 7th Summit of the Americas, which is being held in Panama City. A picture of the meeting was released by Brazil’s Presidency press office. The image shows the politician side by side with Zuckerberg, wearing a jersey that contains Facebook’s logo and Brazil’s flag, given to Rousseff by the billionaire.

The meeting took place just a few days after the launch of a new program by Brazil’s government aiming to tackle cyber security and human rights violations on the Internet in cooperation with a private initiative. Facebook is among companies teaming up with the South American nation on the program through its Internet.org non-profit organization, set to launch at the summit. Internet.org aims to bring connectivity to everybody, particularly to low-income communities that have traditionally been deprived of the technology.

 

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An escalating corruption scandal rocks Brazil

April 14, 2015

Mary Anastasia O’Grady – The Wall Street Journal, 04/15/2015

Former Brazilian presidential candidate Aécio Neves speaks for a lot of his compatriots when he says President Dilma Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT) used stolen funds to defeat him in Brazil’s runoff presidential election in October.

In an interview in Lima last month I asked Mr. Neves—who is president of the Social Democracy Party of Brazil (PSDB)—whether he lost the election because the socialism of the hard-left Ms. Rousseff had greater appeal to Brazilians than his more market-oriented platform.

He denied the possibility. He lost, he told me, because of “organized crime.”

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