The cashmere revolution

J.P. – The Economist, 10/23/2014

Business barons and financiers are not known for taking to the streets. Yet on October 22nd thousands turned out in the centre of São Paulo in support of Aécio Neves, the centre-right challenger to President Dilma Rousseff, of the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT), in a tight run-off election on October 26th. Together with spouses and children they sauntered down São Paulo’s Avenida Faria Lima, a thoroughfare conveniently located close to many of their offices.

It was a sight to behold—perhaps unprecedented in election history, and not just in Brazil. Besuited types with crisp, initialed shirts toting “Aécio” flags. Snazzily clad socialites, wrapped in pashminas to keep out the unseasonable chill, chanting anti-PT slogans. Everyone snapping selfies with pricey iPhones (most Brazilian rallies are cheaper Samsung affairs). The only thing missing from this “cashmere revolution” was champagne flutes—and Mr Neves himself, campaigning in his home state of Minas Gerais.

“Most of Brazilian GDP is here,” observed one private-equity boss with four Aécio stickers on his checked shirt, shortly after bumping into a pal from a big American technology firm. In that sense, the event played right into PT propaganda, which relentlessly paints Mr Neves as a pawn of the rich elite. On October 21st Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Ms Rousseff’s popular predecessor and political patron renowned for his earthiness, went so far as to compare Mr Neves’s Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB) to the Nazis for its apparent intolerance of the less advantaged. (Mr Neves had previously compared Ms Rousseff’s formidable marketers to Joseph Goebbels.)

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Rousseff Is Brazil’s ‘Most Progressive’ Option

teleSUR, 10/22/2014

Supporters of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff told teleSUR on Wednesday they believe her bid for reelection can maintain steam in the last days of the presidential race.

According to the Brazilian Social Movements’ (MST) coordinator Joaquim Pinero, “The social movements here in Brazil are certain that only with Dilma can we push for what we are asking for here in the streets – for political reform in Brazil.”

“Only through reform, will we be able to have working class representation in congress, which continues to be controlled by the big corporations,” Pinero told teleSUR English’s correspondent in Brazil, Stephanie Kennedy. Another leftist activist in Rio de Janeiro told Kennedy that Rousseff has already “managed to deepen” political reform to empower the poor and strengthen democracy.

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Overlooked Opponent Faces Uphill Battle in Brazil

Adriana Gomez Licon – Associated Press, 10/06/2014

Aecio Neves’ surprisingly strong showing in the first round of Brazil’s presidential election has turned the nation’s politics on its head and put him within striking distance of incumbent Dilma Rousseff, but the former governor still faces a heavy task if he is to unseat her.

The business-minded Neves came within 8 percentage points of Rousseff in Sunday’s vote and has momentum and a strong central-right party on his side. The challenge for Neves, who was born into affluence and political power, will be to connect with Brazil’s poor, millions of whom have directly benefited from Rousseff’s policies.

“He needs a more popular dialogue to build a bridge to those voters,” said Mauricio Moura, a Brazilian pollster and professor of political strategy at George Washington University. The 54-year-old economist has three weeks to do it.

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AP Interview: Silva Seeks Grassroots Brazil Reform

Associated Press – ABC News, 09/18/2014

Front-running presidential candidate Marina Silva says the key to her support among millions of Brazilians who joined in anti-government protests last year is her understanding that reforming a broken political system will come from the ground up.

Silva spoke exclusively with The Associated Press on Wednesday in her first interview with a foreign media outlet since being thrust into a hotly contested campaign just a month ago, after her Socialist Party’s first candidate died in a plane crash Aug. 13.

In a wide-ranging, hour-long interview, Silva said that as president she would seek bilateral trade deals and better relations with the U.S. and Europe, and would push for improved human rights in allies such as Cuba.

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Brazil’s Silva looks presidential, but not a shoo-in

Brian Winter – Reuters, 09/01/2014

Popular environmentalist Marina Silva looks capable of winning Brazil’s presidential election in October but a major campaign gaffe and mounting attacks from other candidates and the media suggest the race is still wide open.

Polls have shown Silva with a lead of about 10 percentage points over President Dilma Rousseff if the Oct. 5 election goes to a runoff, as seems likely. Silva’s meteoric rise has led Brazilian stocks to rally 10 percent in the last three weeks on hopes she would be more business-friendly than Rousseff and help stir a stagnant economy.

In the last week, Silva has successfully begun to address some of the doubts voters have about her – namely, whether she has the personal gravitas and organizational support to govern this continent-sized nation of 200 million people.

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Brazil’s Marina Silva Reverses on LGBT Rights Overnight

Geoffrey Ramsey – The Pan-American Post, 09/01/2014

Marina Silva’s odds of winning Brazil’s presidential election in October are looking better and better. As the AP notes, Friday brought some bad news for President Dilma Rousseff’s re-election campaign in the form of a one-two punch: not only is the economy now officially in a recession, but polls show support for Silva is continuing to rise.

According to the latest Datafolha survey, support for Silva increased by 13 points in two weeks, with the poll showing both her and Rousseff tied in the first round with 34 percent of the vote. In a second-round matchup, however, Datafolha found that Silva would beat the president by ten points, 50 to 40 percent.

Also on Friday, Silva released her official electoral platform, outlining her position on a range of issues in a 244-page document. The program contains a number of interesting proposals, like putting an end to re-election and gradually increasing healthcare spending to 10 percent of GDP. On economic issues, Silva promised to lower the country’s tax burden and give more autonomy to Brazil’s central bank, which has earned her support among the business community.

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Rival Brazil Candidates Train Fire on Silva After Poll Rise

Raymond Colitt and Anna Edgerton – Bloomberg, 09/01/2014

Marina Silva’s rise to the top of opinion polls in Brazil’s presidential race has forced her rivals to step up criticism of her proposals on such subjects as energy, gay rights and economic policy.

President Dilma Rousseff, whose lead over Silva vanished in less than two weeks, said in a televised debate today the former environment minister hasn’t said how she would finance increased spending on public services. Senator Aecio Neves, who trails third in polls, mocked Silva’s change in posture on economic policy, saying her proposals were contradictory.

With discourse that taps into widespread discontent and positions that are friendly to business and investors, Silva has become the focal point of the campaign since she entered the race Aug. 20. Having presented her government platform on Aug. 29, she is now subject to scrutiny by media and rivals who will test her resilience in polls, said David Fleischer, a University of Brasilia professor who follows Brazilian politics.

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Market Reduces Brazil Growth Forecast After Weak 2Q

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 09/01/2014

Brazil’s back-to-back economic contraction in the first and second quarters now has the nation’s top banks reducing their year-ending GDP forecast to a whopping 0.52%. This is the 14th consecutive week that economists reduced their forecasts for Brazil’s economy.

Last week, the Central Bank’s Focus survey had GDP growth ending 2014 at 0.7%. The survey comes out every Monday.

The decline comes on the heels of a poor showing in the second quarter. The economy contracted 0.6% from the first quarter, which had also contracted, putting Brazil in a technical recession. Compared with the second quarter of 2013, Brazil’s GDP slipped 0.9%.

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Recession puts brake on Brazil’s once-booming car industry

Joe Leahy – Financial Times, 08/31/2014

Workers in Brazil’s automotive industry have become accustomed to seeing their sector break new records, with Latin America’s biggest country becoming the fourth largest car producer in the world over the past decade.

But last week, 930 employees at General Motors’ plant in São José dos Campos near São Paulo were forced to accept a five-month “lay-off” or suspension to avoid outright dismissals.

The country’s weak economy, which was revealed on Friday to have slipped into a technical recession in the second quarter, is undermining the industry, leading it to report its first annual fall in car sales in a decade last year – a trend that has continued into 2014.

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Brazil Polls: Silva Gets More Than Sympathy

Dimitra DeFotis – Barron’s, 8/28/2014

Marina Silva has emerged as THE candidate to watch in emerging market politics.

As Brazil Socialist Party candidate, Silva has surged ahead of the current president and Worker’s Party candidate Dilma Rousseff in polls, especially in a potential runoff election. Brazilian Social Democracy Party candidate Aecio Neves seems sidelined.

But there are two signposts to watch: one, the approval level for Rousseff’s administration has increased from 32% to 34%. And, Silva could slip and reveal “some of the evident contradictions that already haunt her campaign … her fairly intolerant views on moral issues such as abortion or embryonic stem cell research combined with evidence of her acceptance of old-time politics,” writes Mario Marconini at Teneo Intelligence.

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