Brazil’s Slumping Economy and Bribery Scandal Eat Away at Dilma Rousseff’s Popularity

March 20, 2015

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 3/20/2015

President Dilma Rousseff ran for office declaring that she would harness an oil bonanza in Brazil to supercharge the economy while avoiding the corruption and mismanagement that have plagued other oil-rich countries in the developing world.

But less than three months into her second term as president, Ms. Rousseff is fighting for her political survival as Petrobras, the national oil company she oversaw and has championed, reels from a colossal bribery scandal.

Compounding her problems is the prospect that the economy could shrink in 2015 for the second consecutive year, the first such contraction here since the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 and 1930.

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Protests in Brazil: The wisdom of crowds

March 20, 2015

The Economist (print edition), 3/21/2015

DILMA ROUSSEFF, Brazil’s president, expected the anti-government protests on March 15th to be big. She convened a meeting of a crisis group at her official residence to monitor them. But nobody, including the organisers, imagined they would be as massive as they turned out to be. Police in São Paulo put the size of the crowd on Avenida Paulista, the preferred venue for such gatherings, at more than 1m; Datafolha, a pollster, counted 210,000. Either way, it was the biggest political demonstration in the country’s biggest city since the diretas já (“elections now”) movement that helped end military rule in 1985. Overall, police estimated that 2.2m people turned out in dozens of cities across all 27 states. That dwarfs the number who took to the streets on any single day in June 2013, the most recent occasion when Brazilians vented their anger at politicians en masse.

Trade unions, which had organised (much smaller) pro-Dilma demonstrations two days earlier, dismissed the protesters as privileged white people. Many were not. “I am black, poor and want Dilma out,” declared a demonstrator from one of the nine mobile stages along Avenida Paulista. Many wore the national football team’s yellow-and-green jerseys. Opposition politicians wisely stayed away. They realised that their presence would obscure the bottom-up message and reinforce the government’s claim that behind the protests were sore losers of last October’s elections, won by Ms Rousseff and her left-wing Workers’ Party (PT).

The grievances of 2013 were diffuse. Today’s are directed squarely at Ms Rousseff and the PT. Some protesters—about a quarter on Avenida Paulista, according to one poll—want her to be impeached over a multi-billion-dollar bribery scandal at Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant. Most others simply want to show that they are fed up with sleaze and economic mismanagement, which has pushed up inflation and is likely to trigger a recession this year. A vocal fringe called for military intervention—but was shouted down.

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The big picture behind Brazil’s protests

March 19, 2015

Patrick Gillespie – CNN Money, 3/17/2015

Over a million Brazilians protested in the streets Sunday, calling for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.

A massive corruption case involving the president helped spark the protests, but Brazilians also marched out of frustration that Brazil’s economic boom is over.

South America’s largest economy was last decade’s emerging market darling. Now it’s edging toward recession and its currency is losing value quickly. The corruption scandal and economic collapse are creating a perfect storm for public unrest.

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Why is Brazil so angry?

March 19, 2015

Diogo Costa – The Telegraph, 3/18/2015

Popular dissatisfaction is growing in intensity and scope in Brazil. On Sunday, over one million protesters took to the streets in cities of every Brazilian state in the largest political demonstration since democracy was restored in the country in 1985.

As in the previous wave of protests in 2013, there was no unity in the actual demands. Some signs asked for the punishment of corrupt politicians, others for presidential impeachment.

The more nostalgic even asked for military action. This time, however, the target of discontent seemed clearer than ever before: president Dilma Rousseff and her party, the PT. Dilma Rousseff is experiencing the culmination of two crises that have been building up since she took office in 2011.

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Brazil in crisis mode as ruling party sees public trust rapidly dissolving

March 17, 2015

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 3/17/2015

The bad news just keeps coming for Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff. On Monday, the treasurer of the ruling Workers’ Party was formerly charged with corruption. The day before, enormous anti-government demonstrations filled the streets of more than 160 cities. The economy is faltering, inflation is rising and poverty reduction is at risk of stalling.

Her cabinet are in crisis mode, but they are hamstrung by a fractious legislature and a debilitating scandal at the state-run oil firm Petrobras, which has led to investigations of 34 sitting politicians, including the speakers of both houses of Congress. Just five months into her second term, this is posing difficult questions not just for the president, but for her party — and for Brazil’s 30-year-old democracy.

The latest blow was the formal indictment of João Vaccari, the Workers’ Party treasurer, who is accused of soliciting hundred of millions of donations from Petrobras executives. Prosecutors said they had ample proof that Vaccari knew the money was raised from bribes and kickbacks.

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Brazilian protesters are calling for something downright scary

March 17, 2015

Linette Lopez – Business Insider, 3/16/2015

Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets this weekend, calling for the impeachment of recently re-elected President Dilma Rousseff.

The nationwide protests were peaceful, but for observers with knowledge of Brazil’s political past, there was a sinister element to them that cannot be ignored.

In sign after sign, middle-class protesters called for the military to wrest control of the country from Rousseff’s Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT).

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Brazil ruling party’s treasurer charged in Petrobras scandal

March 17, 2015

Anthony Boadle and Caroline Stauffer – Reuters, 3/16/2015

Brazilian prosecutors formally charged the treasurer of the ruling Workers’ Party and 26 others with corruption linked to state-run Petrobras (PETR4.SA) on Monday, in the latest blow to President Dilma Rousseff from the widening scandal.

Prosecutors have “ample proof” that Workers’ Party Treasurer Joao Vaccari solicited donations from former Petrobras services chief Renato Duque and executives at engineering firms accused of funneling money from the oil company, prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol said.

Vaccari was well aware the donations he was seeking comprised funds stemming from bribes, Dallagnol said, adding that much of the evidence was gleaned from plea bargain deals with executives who were indicted and jailed late last year.

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