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We Liked Brazil Before It Was Cool...
Alex Steffen, 16 Apr 04

Longtime listeners will know that we've been geeked about Brazil and the Lula administration for, well, months now. We're into the Brasilia Consensus, Fome Zero, Telecentros, green technology for the poor, Debt-for-Science Swaps, AIDS drugs for all, and, of course, Carnival.

Now Bruce turns us on to this (UK) Telegraph piece, declaring Brazil the flavo(u)r of the month:

"There is something inherently absurd about an entire country becoming fashionable, like the latest chic appliance. But in this case, there may be something more fundamental going on under the modish surface."

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just when it looks like lula's honeymoon with the press and financial markets (and people?) appears to be over...,,SB108207038275084392,00.html
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Just 16 months into a presidency that promised to remake Brazil with a tropical-style New Deal, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva finds himself besieged on all fronts and with very few answers.

The Brazilian president is wrestling with an agonizingly slow economic recovery, a festering corruption scandal and now a security crisis that has forced police to mount a military-style blitz against drug traffickers here in the scenic hills of this tourist capital. While the problems are virtually as old as Brazil itself, Mr. da Silva is a victim of the high expectations he himself created with his extravagant rhetoric and the inspiring example of his own rise from poverty to the presidency.

Mr. da Silva's election in late 2002 "represented the biggest hope of change through democratic means in Latin America in the past decades," says Jorge Eduardo Saavedra Durao, president of the Brazilian Association of Non-Government Organizations.

Now, however, more and more Brazilians are feeling let down. For the first time, Brazilian opinion leaders are broaching the idea that Mr. da Silva won't be re-elected to a second term in 2006. His approval ratings have lately fallen to 53%, seven points below those of his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, at the same point in his presidency and 16 points below Mr. da Silva's own rating as recently as December.

Yesterday, J.P. Morgan added to Brazil's woes by downgrading the country's debt to marketweight from overweight. The bank said the government "has missed an important window of opportunity to launch a more positive reform agenda."

Notes Brazilian political pollster Ricardo Guedes: "Overall, it is not a positive picture. People don't think Brazil will grow [much] this year, they think violence is rising, that poverty is rising and the number of people who think incomes will grow has diminished."

Because working-class Brazilians feel such an emotional connection with Mr. da Silva, they look to him for personal accountability. Earlier this week, a 30-year-old unemployed man set himself on fire in front of the presidential palace, saying he had been frustrated in an effort to meet with the president.

Mr. da Silva started promisingly last year, stemming a speculative attack on the currency with stern monetary and fiscal policy and an aggressive package of congressional reforms.

The president has touted his success in stabilizing the economy. "If you take the macroeconomic numbers, you will see that finances are in order, that we are rapidly reducing distortions provoked by state spending in a manner that no other government has managed to do in so little time," he said recently.

But this year his administration seems to have been paralyzed, first by squabbling over economic policy within Mr. da Silva's own leftist Workers Party and then by a scandal involving an aide to chief of staff Jose Dirceu.

"When you're on a soccer team and have a good bench, you take out one and put in another, take out two or three and shake up the team," said Jorge Bornhausen, president of the conservative Liberal Front Party. "The president doesn't have a bench, the government doesn't have plans and the team is weak."

Administrative disarray has also undercut a much-ballyhooed antipoverty program that Mr. da Silva launched to take the sting out of the rigidly orthodox economic policy. "Lula was elected for social policies," says Maurice Costin, a director of the Federation of Industries in Sao Paulo. "But those ministries have been inoperative."


Posted by: reflexorset on 16 Apr 04

Consider the source, though. The American Right absolutely despises Lula and all he represents - uppity and not-completely in the thrall of the IMF and WTO...

Posted by: Alex Steffen on 16 Apr 04

Brazil's administration has appeared increasingly aware of the Digital Divide, and has been trying to address it - at least, that's what it looks like from here. In fact, one of the destinations I have been considering is Brazil - for this very same reason.

Posted by: Taran on 16 Apr 04

also kinda shocking is the idea to wall off rio's favelas...(1)

to the larger point of a "battle between the hedonists and the puritans" it does appear a study in contrasts(2) with the phenomenon of christian revivalism (viz the passion, left behind) in the US and say, increasing secularism in europe(3). like there was another interesting WSJ article(4) recently noting that:

"...religion is assuming a bigger role in the world generally, and opening gaps among the U.S., Europe and the Islamic world.

"In the U.S., religion is becoming an increasingly important--or at least increasingly visible--part of political life. President Bush describes himself as a born-again Christian. Americans increasingly turn to religion as an organizing force in their lives, and religion is discussed openly in political campaigns. That's fed Middle Eastern paranoia that the U.S. is on a religious "crusade" in Iraq.

"In the Islamic world, it's even more obvious that religion is a growing political force. The very debate under way in Iraq-how Islamic will the country's new government be?-is playing out in nations across the Middle East and the wider Islamic world. Islamic overtones are influencing even governments that once prized their secular status.

"Meanwhile, Europe is moving in a third direction, further away from religion and toward secularism. For evidence of the gap, look at a new international survey conducted by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. It found that 58% of Americans and 89% of Pakistanis, but only 13% of the French and 25% of Britons, said it is necessary to believe in God to be moral. It's a safe bet that one reason Europeans don't want to get involved in Iraq is their distaste for a conflict in which religion is intertwined with politics."

which presumably is true of brazil as well :D also, fwiw, here's what i thought was a rather illuminating economist article on race in brazil and its experience with quotas...(5)

and apropos of well, everything, i guess, maybe what's needed is a "global magna carta!?"(6)


Posted by: reflexorset on 16 Apr 04

oh, and yeah, brazil is not without answers, or at least options :D
"The surge in Brazil's exports has helped stave off economic disaster and reduced the country's dependence on flighty foreign capital. But the government is also committed to reducing deforestation."
"It [the EU] apparently hopes that it can strengthen its position in the Doha talks by making a separate peace with Brazil."*



Posted by: reflexorset on 16 Apr 04

Thanks for posting this--great article.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 16 Apr 04



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