Blog, Events, Uncategorized

Brazil Conference Series – First Impressions


By Camila Jordan, Co Editor and Writer at Brazil Talk

While our team is making the five-hour trip from New York to Boston, I cannot stop myself from thinking and creating expectations on the things that will be said during this conference, and if the dialogues undertaken during two intense days will have any lasting legacy on the future of our country.

For the past three years, since former president Dilma’s reelection in 2014, Brazilians have lost the ability of constructing dialogues across diverging opinions. This period has been strenuous and tiring, as most people learned to quickly identify and categorize each other based on basic and too simple concepts of politics and notions of “right and wrong”. (more…)

Society

In the end, who won gold?


by Camila Jordan, Co-Editor and Writer at Brazil Talk

Post Rio 2016 Olympics reflection on the Legacy left by the Olympics

Hosting the Olympics games is sold to the general population as if hosts cities would continue to benefit from investments and improvements made specifically for them. Proponents of the games will say, for example, that investments made for the mega event will bring benefits across the social spectrum through the building of infrastructures, such as public transportation[1], social housing[2], and cleanup of polluted areas[3]. However, this is not the whole truth. Some improvements do happen, but the final balance[4] is not positive, as this last edition in Rio de Janeiro has once again proven.

Rio’s metropolitan area has a serious housing deficit problem[5], and hosting big events like the World Cup and the Olympics exacerbated the issue, forcing more than 22.000 families[6] out of their homes, often through provisional and inhuman housing solutions. Under Mayor Eduardo Paes, Rio suffered the biggest displacement operation in its history[7], with the eviction of around 77.200 people. In the beginning of the removals, families were given one week’s notice to move out with merely R$6.000[8] compensation. Violence was used if the families offered resistance causing deep trauma. Some people even moved back to their longtime communities after evictions, exposing themselves to dangerous situations[9].

At the same time, much needed social housing projects are not coming into fruition. Some of the evicted communities have been in place for over 40 years[10], during which time were abandoned and ignored by the government.

According to the World Cup and Olympics Popular Committee of Rio the mega-events were used as an excuse by the government and big construction companies to “clean up” favelas located in extremely valuable areas, aiming to profit from real estate appreciation and transportation improvements in the region.

Furthermore, many people have been questioning why there always seems to be a lack of investment in education, health, and other pressing issues. In the past years, sports facilities in underprivileged communities have been closed. The Célio de Barros Stadium, that had the best training tracks in the city, closed in January 2013 leaving hundreds of children and Olympic athletes without a place to practice. After popular manifestations the city government decided to remodel it, construction is planned to be concluded in 2017[11].

In spite of these problems, Brazil was able to deliver two mega events leaving an overall positive image to the world. However, do Brazilians question themselves about the not so surprising misallocation of resources and capability? Brazil has the tools and resources to end poverty and inequality, unfortunately, big interests, aka corruption, prevent structural changes, keeping the poor away from opportunities of participating fully in society, not being able to fulfill their rights and duties as citizens.

“This is a missed opportunity. We are not showcasing ourselves. With all these economic and political crises, with all these scandals, it is not the best moment to be in the eyes of the world. This is bad.”

– Former Mayor Eduardo Paes

The Olympics was another chance Rio and Brazil missed. This was even admitted by the former Mayor[12], although he did not acknowledge any responsibility on, for example, all human rights violations committed in the name of the event during that period. In addition, the infrastructure built for the event will have an annual cost of R$ 59 million, of which the federal state that filed for bankruptcy[13] and had its governor arrested on corruption charges[14] pledged to pay R$ 46 million.

The Olympics are over and Rio’s image sold across the world as an inclusive city has washed away on the still polluted beaches of Copacabana.

A famous Brazilian artist once said that “Brazil is not for amateurs”. Indeed, learning how to navigate Rio is not an easy task. After the euphoria of the games and despite everything mentioned above, I personally feel that people’s awareness has grown. The games shed light on issues that beforehand, were easily dismissed over who won the latest football match. Many social movements were born out of these difficulties and injustices, and their legacy will remain and they will continue fighting for long lasting inclusive change in the city.

[1] “Dossiê do Comitê Popular da Copa e Olimpíadas do Rio de Janeiro” (Nov 2015)

[2] “Como no Rio, Vila dos Atletas de Tóquio 2020 irá privilegiar luxo em vez de moradia social, diz diretor”, (Ago 2016)

[3] “Promessas ambientais ficaram no papel” (Jun 2016)

[4] “Em vários países, a população já percebeu quem realmente ganha ao se sediar a Olimpíada” (Ago 2015)

[5] “A explosão do déficit habitacional no Rio” (Apr 2014)

[6] “Dossiê do Comitê Popular da Copa e Olimpíadas do Rio de Janeiro” (Nov 2015, Portuguese version) | Mega-Events and Human Rights Violations in Rio de Janeiro Dossier (Nov 2015, English version)

[7] [8] “Remoções na Vila Autódromo expõem o lado B das Olimpíadas do Rio” (Ago 2015)

[9] “The Never-Ending Eviction” (Jan 2014)

[10] “Vida removida: a luta pela permanência na Vila Autódromo” (Jun 2016)

[11]  “Novo estádio Celio de Barros ficará pronto em 2017” (Set 2015)

[12] “Rio mayor Eduardo Paes: ‘The Olympics are a missed opportunity for Brazil’” (Jul 2016)

[13] “Hosting Olympics Bankrupts Another Place: Rio de Janeiro Declares Financial Disaster” (Jun 2016)

[14] “Sérgio Cabral, Ex-Governor of Rio de Janeiro, Arrested on Corruption Charges” (Nov 2017)

Education, Society

Bullying and Education: Do Schools Make Students Angry?


by Ana Carolina C D’Agostini

We all know deep in our hearts that wearing uniforms is a method of control. One of the aims of school is to get you used to the idea of obeying orders and to make you biddable. Sitting in rows, getting there on time, changing activity every 40 minutes, were useful if you were going to cannon fodder of factory fodder or office fodder. But it isn’t so useful these days, when there is more call for creativity.[1]

Bullying embodies a common phenomenon which can be extremely damaging for students’ mental health and academic accomplishment. Bullying is centered on a “subset of aggressive behavior that has potential to cause physical or psychological harm to the recipient”[2] and it includes “noxious and constant actions by one individual against another that can be even not so easily recognizable, as it comprises exclusion and repudiation from a group”[3]. A range of existing work and theories depict bullies and victims as part of childhood and adolescence, especially in schools. In addition, common sense seems to dictate that “few individuals navigate their way through adolescence without being teased and bullied”[4].

This phenomenon has not been well investigated in research in Brazil as the predominant assumption is that bullying within relationships between children is inescapable. A closer examination of this matter can broaden our understanding that it might not be mere coincidence that bullying, as a form of violence, frequently occurs in schools. The current findings and theories on bullying bring to light the difficulty of explaining bullying behavior, particularly when addressing why would bullies act violently against their victims in an environment that was supposedly created for their education, development and well-being.

Bullying is an intense attitude among early adolescents because “students who bully do so to attain social position and maintain control over others”[5]. Moreover, there is a solid relationship between anger and bullying behavior, as there is also the absence of being capable of making use of “nonviolent strategies, such as talking out a disagreement, as well as lack of intentions to use those strategies”. [6]

This initial description about bullying fosters the debate into those aspects related to violence and to hatred. Data shows that more than 20.8% of elementary, middle school and high school students have suffered bullying at school in Brazil[7]. Like other forms of aggression, bullying occurs in a social context. This raises an important point to further investigate what is it so particular about schools that makes this kind of violence arise?

Schools have consistently been the instrument of society’s need to convert children into adults with most definite and objective means and leave childhood behind. As an ultimate goal, children need to have to conform to adulthood that intends “to direct them away from childhood freedoms and toward adult beliefs and practices”[8],  and to follow standards which “have little to do with the child but rather what the child must become”[9]. Along the same lines, schooling throughout history has regularly presented a steadfast battle “between education for control in order to produce citizens and workers who were conformist, passive and politically docile” opposed to educating for “critical consciousness, individual liberation and participatory democracy” [10].

A significant number of students feel unsafe at school due to bullying but do not seek assistance because they have the impression that teachers and administrators will not do anything about the aggression. This piece of evidence calls attention to the fundamental role that school’s staff play in preventing bullying behavior, as victims can “be taught appropriate self-assertion techniques and interactive skills”. Bullies need to be aware of the implication of public policies that should be made known to all students and parents before school begins, such as “bullying is a social process that requires a concerted reaction from teachers, parents and other pupils”[11].

An analysis of how the educational system was implemented and the significance of schools showed that such places have consistently been instruments of control that “clearly our Puritan ancestors utilized schools such as they were to contain the potentially disastrous inclinations of youth”[12].  Similarly, authoritarianism can be seen as a basis on which most schools function, “where pupil’s rights, needs and feelings can too readily be ignored or suppressed and where it is difficult for teachers and pupils to act independently and to critique and challenge dominant social and political orthodoxies”[13].  On the same line of thought, education in a more extensive sense shows the presence of power as a source of symbolic violence, which includes the “imposition of a cultural arbitrary by an arbitrary power”[14], a pedagogic authority. In a concurrent view, there is strong evidence that most schools function in an authoritarian rather than democratic form, and that “education in democracy, human rights and critical awareness is not a primary characteristic of the majority of schooling”[15].

As an alternative to this problem, a “pedagogy of discomfort” aims to invite students and educators to examine the fear of change in the educational environment that activates emotions and discomforts arising from questioning old assumptions. As a result, adjustments and changes in the educational system are slowed. To solve this issue, a collective critical inquiry from both educators and students, could help them “engage in collective self-reflection regarding the reasons for our emotions”[16].

In addressing bullying, the notions of peace education were implemented in one project in England and the authors concluded that this model offered an interesting perspective to violence in schools as it proposed the acquisition of learning interpersonal skills to reduce violence and hatred. This model points out to the importance of establishing goals to discuss the appropriate “values for the practice of conflict resolution, communication and co-operation in relation to issues of peace, war, violence, conflict and injustice”[17].

Putting things together, there are a number of different approaches to troubling questions about bullying. These questions concern authority and arbitrary power as frequent themes when discussing conditions that can produce violence at school. Authoritarianism and arbitrary power leave no space for discussion and dialogue of student’s learning processes, as the adult-centered perspective yield absolute power and uncontested knowledge. Furthermore, the shortened childhood and the difficulty in addressing student’s feelings at schools are potential roots of manifestations of violence in the educational systems.

Bullying is a prevailing phenomenon that should not be underestimated. Despite the many rather simplistic views in society that bullying is “normal” and expected to take place during school years, the fact is that this complex scenario may contribute to the understanding that students may have reasons to be “angry” with schools.


Ana Carolina C D’Agostini holds a degree in Psychology and Education. She is currently a Master’s student in Psychology in Education at Columbia University. She believes education is the most crucial area to accelerate social change and for the development of Brazil.


[1] Times Educational Supplement, UK,  3/10/2003

[2] Bosworth, Espelage and Simon, 1999, p.343

[3] Olweus, 1991

[4] Leary, Kowalski, Smith and Phillips, 2003, p.211

[5] Bosworth et al.,1999, p.358

[6] Bosworth et al.,1999, p.358

[7] Ministério da Saúde e do Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), 2015

[8] Zucherman, 1997, p.127

[9] Zucherman, 1997, p.127

[10] Harber and Sackade, 2009, p.173

[11]  Batsche and Knoff, 1994, p.80

[12] Zuckerman, p.1997, p.133

[13] Harber, 2004, p.20

[14] Bourdieu and Passeron, 1990, p.05

[15] Harber et al. , 2009, p.172

[16] Boler, 1999, p.192

[17] Harber et al., 2009, p.174

Education, Society

The Hidden Scandal: Corruption in the Brazilian Public Education System


On October 2, 2009, Brazil was announced the winner of the 2016 Summer Olympic bid in Copenhagen, Denmark.

President Lula, holding a handkerchief over his watering eyes, famously wept tears of joy, later proclaiming, “The world has recognized that the time has come for Brazil.”

Brazil is the first South American country to win an Olympic bid, and consistent social and economic growth has helped make this victory possible. From 1980 to present, Brazil’s Human Development Index has increased dramatically from low human development at 0.547 to high with 0.755. The mean years of schooling has more than quadrupled since the mid-80’s, allowing access to education for millions more Brazilians than was previously possible.

Despite the country’s relative economic and social success in the past thirty years, a myriad of issues still plague the upward development of Brazil. One such issue has caste an international spotlight on Brazil, and that is none other than systematic and rampant corruption.

Operation Lava Jato, the federal investigation of corruption allegations from state-owned oil company, Petrobras, has received worldwide publicity. The New York Times estimates that bribes total over 3 billion USD, and news sources note the investigation has resulted in at least 80 individual charges, 117 indictments, and 13 criminal cases with companies. Media coverage has only intensified in scrutiny as allegations purport that Brazilian police involved in Operation Lava Jato plan to investigate over 10 billion USD in corrupt construction contracts linked to Olympic infrastructure. In total, the amount of money lost connected to Petrobras alone exceeds the 2014 GDP of Liberia, and while the world scrupulously watches the scandal unfold, corruption of another kind remains hidden.

In August 2015, Lidiane Leite da Silva—ex-mayor of Bom Jardim, a rural northeastern municipality—fled her mayoral post after allegations of embezzling 4 million USD in educational funds earmarked for school meals and infrastructure. Leite is notorious for governing Bom Jardim from a distance in the capital of São Luis by using Whatsapp to communicate with staff. Parents consistently stated their children did not receive school meals while Leite was in office, leaving children without an important source of daily sustenance for many in rural areas. Instead, Leite flaunted her wealth on Instagram as she used public finances for personal gain at the expense of children obtaining resources for an adequate, accessible education.

Escolas, Bom Jardim, Maranhão
Photo Credit: BBC

Education became dramatically more accessible after 1998 with the establishment of FUNDEF, the Fund for Maintenance and Development of Basic Education and the Valorization of Educational Professionals. Given vast socioeconomic differences between the 26 Brazilian states, the federal government established a pool of funds to equalize educational expenditures nationwide and establish spending minimums. States contribute three-fifths of state revenues to the federal government, and money is redistributed back to municipalities based on need.

Unfortunately, oversight and transparency councils that monitor education spending are ineffective, poorly resourced, and frequently captured by local politicians. A lack of accountability in public education spending allows politicians like Leite to easily embezzle funds, and at least four corruption scandals demonstrate the frequency of corruption occurring within the Brazilian public education system.

São Paulo, Bahia, Amapá, and Maranhão are four states, among others, that have been federally investigated by police and the Comptroller General of the Union, the federal anti-corruption branch, for widespread corruption of educational funds from 2007 to present. Examination of the scandals using local media sources and police documents reveals total losses of roughly 83 million USD. With this money, 103, 750 additional primary school students could have enrolled in school using 2010 federal minimum spending estimates and urban school construction plans. This equates to closing roughly 133 medium size urban primary schools for one year due to these four corruption scandals alone. The scandals vary in severity and dollar amount from 15 million in Bahia and 59 million in Amapá; however, one aspect they all have in common is the potential to decrease educational attainment for children studying in municipalities where corruption is present.

Of the four analyzed states, there is a strong correlation between students studying in areas where corruption occurs and underperformance in schools. Analysis using Brazilian Ministry of Education data shows that of the 31 named municipalities affected by corruption in schools, 68% of the time students did not meet their educational goals.[1] With millions of dollars being siphoned off to public officials for private gain, corruption in education puts children at the risk of being denied access to educational resources that help support their human development. Harkening back to Brazil’s social and economic growth, the government will need to address corruption scandals in all sectors of Brazilian society if it wishes to continue to support the full potential of its citizen base. Ensuring all educational investments reach students and schools and not corrupted public officials is a solid first step to reforming a public education system plagued with teacher dissatisfaction and high drop out rates.

A public education sector permeated with corruption has left the country in a difficult situation. Brazil is equally as successful as it is troubled. From one angle, the world praises Brazil for its rapid development and international undertaking to host the Olympics. From another, international media attention and investigations surrounding Petrobras and mega-events expose corruption scandals, leaving others hidden. While necessary measures must be addressed to resolve publicized corruption scandals, corruption in the Brazilian public education system poses a real threat to the future development of the country.


[1] The Ministry of Education sets educational goals using the Index of Basic Education and Development (IBED). The index is calculated using national test scores and passing rates, and geographical units—such as states, municipalities, or individual schools—are assigned an index goal to meet.

 

 

Society

Violence against women in Brazil: it is time to break the silence


by Talita Nascimento

May 29th, 1983. It is almost midnight, the biopharmacist Maria da Penha Fernandes is sleeping when her husband shoots her, leaving her paraplegic for life. Marco Antônio Heredia Viveros, her husband, was an economist and professor at that time. They first met at the University of São Paulo (USP), one of the most renowned universities in Latin America, where both were graduate students. It was not the first time that Marco Antônio had physically assaulted Maria da Penha, but she kept silent about it. Four months after this episode, he tried to electrocute her, and Maria da Penha decided to finally break her silence.

(more…)

Economy

Brazil Talk in 90 Seconds: Economic Outlook



Brazil Talk in 90 Seconds is a series of videos, one every week, with news analysis from Brazil. This week we talk about the pessimistic economic outlook after Carnaval celebrations. GDP is expected to shrink between 3% and 4% in 2016 and inflation is projected to continue rising until the end of the year. In the meantime, Rousseff’s administration decided to postpone the announcement of spending cuts until March, raising speculations that the government is ready to reduce costs as required.

Foreign Policy

“Brazil has open arms to welcome refugees”


Brazil is now the “largest host country of Syrian refugees in the Americas,” says Ambassador Simas Magalhães.

by Fernando Brigidi de Mello

Over the past few years, and specially in 2015, the world has been facing a devastating global refugee crisis. Violence and deprivation have forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, particularly in Syria, where the civil war is heading towards its sixth year. Recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Istanbul, and the episode of young women in Cologne who were groped and robbed on New Year’s Eve by men described as having “a North African or Arabic” appearance, have increased anxiety over absorbing scores of refugees. In the United States, expressing fear about terrorism, several Governors have taken action to prevent Syrian refugees from settling in their states. Anti-refugee sentiment has also been taking hold in many parts of Europe.

(more…)

National Politics, Society

Hidden in Plain Sight: Brazil’s Humanitarian Crisis


by Deborah Kaufmann

Vitória da Conquista, BA, October 8th: Child dies from stray bullet; two other teenagers are also shot.
Rio de Janeiro, RJ, November 29th: Five young men are shot dead inside car in the North Zone of Rio.
Porto Alegre, RS, December 8th: Dead boy in Vila Cruzeiro lost cousin in the same way three years ago.

(more…)

Enviroment

Counting our blessings – and destroying them


by Isabela Messias

Brazil is a blessed country. We have no hurricanes, no earthquakes, no harsh winter. We have the largest tropical forest in the world, the Brazilian Amazon, which amounts for around 5 million square kilometers, and hosts an unparalleled biodiversity[i]. Moreover, Brazil also has 12% of the world’s freshwater, more than the European or the African continents. It is fair to say that when it comes to natural resources, we are an extremely lucky country. But we are ruining it. Little by little, with years of neglectful environmental policies, we are ruining it.

(more…)

National Politics

Dark Clouds Over São Paulo


Secret Documents in the Alckmin Administration

by Lucas Valente da Costa

Alckmin
Governor Alckmin says confidential documents are being reavaluated (photo credit: Ciete Silverio/A2img)

When it took effect in 2012, Brazil’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was seen as  a revolution in the fight against secrecy and bureaucracy. Yet, albeit necessary, the law has since proved to be insufficient in ensuring transparency and accountability in the public sector. In 2014, Transparency Audit Network, an initiative based at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV) in Rio de Janeiro, submitted over 500 electronically freedom of information requests to eight jurisdictions[1]. Only 31 percent got full responses – a very low rate that shows governments still have a long way to go to comply with transparency regulations.

(more…)

Foreign Policy

Brazil: a hosting country?


by Isabela Messias

Barco-1002x480


The humanitarian crisis we face is unprecedented in many ways.  By the end of 2014, there were 19.5 million refugees worldwide[1], and with numbers growing daily, their destination options become ever more limited. With refugee camps overpopulated in countries such as Turkey, Pakistan or Ethiopia[2], and European countries increasing border control and entrance restrictions[3], many have started to look further and consider other alternatives. Brazil has become one of them.

(more…)

Culture, Events

The Pride of Being Brazilian – Film Screening and A Conversation with Adalberto Piotto


Brazil Talk invites to the film screening of ‘The Pride of Being Brazilian’ — ‘Orgulho de Ser Brasileiro’ — followed by a conversation with director Adalberto Piotto on October 29, from 6:30 to 8:30 in IAB 405.

(more…)

Sustainable Cities

Five Ways São Paulo Can Improve Urban Mobility (without Building More Bike Lanes)


by Anthony Scott

São Paulo is undergoing a transportation revolution that some have begun to call the “São Paulo Spring”.[i] Since taking office in 2013, Mayor Fernando Haddad has applied what he calls “Shock Therapy” to get residents of the largest City in South America out of their cars. Identifying cars as the problem, Mr. Haddad has done everything from reducing the speed limit on highways, to taking lanes away from cars for exclusive use by buses; but no measure has been as controversial as the installation of bike lanes.

(more…)

Economy, National Politics

Brazil Enters a Recession and Officials are Divided Over How to Resolve It


by Silvio Ramirez

150218100037-brazil-economy-780x439


Brazil is South America’s largest economy, the seventh largest economy in the world, and was considered, for many years, as a favorite for investors. For the past decade, Brazil has benefited from a global commodities boom. During President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s two terms in office, Brazil enjoyed rapid economic growth by capitalizing off of soaring commodities prices and a booming China willing to purchase iron ore, oil, and soya beans from Brazil. Brazil’s commodities boosted tax revenue and the Lula administration was able to create a government cash-transfer program that helped 30 million Brazilians escape poverty. As a result, consumer spending expanded. More recently, however, Brazil’s economy has started to tank due to the commodities bust and China’s sluggishly performing economy. Making matters worse, Brazilian officials are indecisive on what actions to take to enhance economic performance.

(more…)

Economy, Events

Event with Tereza Campello, Brazil’s Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger


Last week, Brazil Talk participated in an event with Brazil’s Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger, Tereza Campello, at Columbia University. Mrs. Campello is responsible for the leading widely recognized programs such as Fome Zero and Bolsa Família, two of the most important social policies adopted by Brazil in the last decades. Minister Campello discussed the social impacts of these policies in the last ten years. Prof. Albert Fishlow, Prof. Sidney Nakahodo (both members of Brazil Talk’s Advisory Board) and Prof. André Lara Rezende (former president of the Brazilian Development Bank – BNDES) were also present at the event.

Check out the pictures!

2015-09-17 18.25.19 2015-09-17 18.25.44 2015-09-17 19.35.56

Economy

From National Pride to International Take-Down


by Marcus Vinicius Tenente Ahmar

Petrobas


Although its stocks are negotiated in the international markets, Petrobras is a Brazilian oil company mostly owned by the Brazilian Treasury. The company was founded in 1953 by former president Getulio Vargas to provide the government with oil production security.[i] Oil security would assure the country’s industrial progress in a complex geopolitical environment after the Second World War.

(more…)

Economy, Foreign Policy

A new age for China in Brazil and South America?


by Luiz Pinto

China is unstoppable. Within less than a year, Beijing-led initiatives pledged to mobilize US$477 billion to enhance South-South cooperation and finance trade, infrastructure and industrial projects overseas. High-profile ventures such as the New Silk Road and BRICS-sponsored projects are likely to benefit most.

(more…)

National Politics, Society

Despite protests and widespread scrutiny, Brazil continues to face ‘giant’ dilemma


A culture of corruption and a weak judicial system hinder Petrobras probe

by Enrique Xavier López

brazil-flag-graffiti

In Giant—George Stevens’ 1956 Hollywood blockbuster—oil tycoon Jett Rink, played by 24-year-old James Dean, is a man blinded by greed and corruption. In this classic rise-and-fall story, Rink is able to extend his wealth and influence beyond the oil business, where even the sitting governor and U.S. Senator of Texas are at his every beck and call. The climactic scene unfolds when Rink, who in his youth was a poor wildcatter, attends an Austin gala honoring his success. After a brief squabble with his longtime rival, Bick Benedict, Rink staggers into the party drunk, takes his seat at the head table, and then passes out. All the politicians and guests leave in disgust, and an almost incoherent Rink ends up speaking to an empty room.

(more…)

Economy, Foreign Policy, National Politics

Will Dilma Rousseff be able to foster foreign direct investment to save the fiscal package and resume economic growth?


by Cassiano Alves and Leticia Corrêa

On June 28th, President Dilma Rousseff landed in the United States for an official visit, leaving behind an economy in imminent recession and a country in political crisis after the corruption scandal involving state-owned oil company Petrobras.

Speculation over Mrs. Rousseff’s impeachment resurfaced after a national magazine reported that Ricardo Pessoa, the owner of construction company UTC Engenharia, told authorities that the president’s campaign in 2014 received illegal donations. UTC Engenharia is one of the firms accused of forming a cartel and paying kickbacks to politically appointed directors at Petrobras.

(more…)

Economy, National Politics

New Infographic Series on the Economic and Political Situation in Brazil


Brazil is in crisis. The economy shrank 0.2 percent in the first quarter, and the forecast is for negative growth of 1.2 percent this year. Unemployment rate reached 6.4 percent in April, its highest level in four years. There is also pessimism on consumer prices, raising the 2015 inflation forecast from 7.93 percent to 8.12 percent, above the central bank’s inflation target rate of 4.5 percent.

Politically, there is not much cause for optimism for Brazilian President Dilma Roussef, whose approval rating is at a record low 13 percent, according to an April 10 Datafolha poll. The government has lost influence over the legislative agenda and has been struggling to pass tax increases and cuts to social benefits meant to shore up fiscal accounts. Eduardo Cunha, speaker of Camara dos Deputados, Brazil’s lower house, is the man behind controversial actions that have threatened to derail the government coalition just months into Ms. Rousseff’s second term. Mr. Cunha is from the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, supposedly the government’s most important ally; but he was elected speaker with the promise of independence from the Executive. Under his command, Camara dos Deputados has held 121 voting sessions in the first five months of 2015, a record number for the beginning of the legislative year since 1995.

This is not necessarily good news for the country. Today, Congress has more weight and more strength; it has also become more conservative and more self-centered. Two weeks ago, Mr. Cunha and his supporters pushed forward political reform measures after outmaneuvering other members of the house and disregarding three months worth of work from a congressional commission. Among the proposals approved in the first round were the private financing of political campaigns and the end of reelection in the Executive. The constitutional amendments still have to undergo a second round of voting in the lower house before moving on to the Senate for approval.

Starting this week, Brazil Talk will closely follow the economic and political situation in Brazil with a series of infographics that will inform our readers about the struggle for power in Brasilia as the government attempts to recover the economy. The first infographic – Austerity Ahead – explains the fiscal measures sponsored by finance minister Joaquim Levy to hold on to Brazil’s investment-grade credit rating and hit a primary surplus target of 1.2% of GDP by the end of this year. Mr. Levy has also slashed almost 70 billion reais from planned discretionary spending for 2015 and urged lawmakers to back tax increases. But Congress approved softer versions of the austerity bills, upsetting Mr. Levy’s efforts to increase government revenue.

Austerity Ahead

Events

Cidade Democrática: Open Innovation Challenges on Public Issues


In partnership with Brazil Foundation and the Center for Brazilian Studies, Brazil Talk invites you to “Cidade Democrática: Open Innovation Challenges on Public Issues,” a talk by Rodrigo Bandeira, CEO of Cidade Democrática, at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University – May 18 12:00 PM.


School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA)
420 West 118th Street
Room 802, 8th floor
New York, NY 10027

Foreign Policy

It’s not (just) the economy, Minister


By Camila Assano

President Rousseff confirms Mauro Vieira as the new Minister of External Relations

Foreign policy has returned to the spotlight in the early days of President Dilma Rousseff’s second term after having all but disappeared during the election period. The good news is that the appointment of a new foreign minister and the future of diplomacy over the next four years have received considerable attention both in the specialized press and in the mass media. More importantly, it has created the expectation that Brazil will become more active again internationally.

(more…)

National Politics, Society

The Protests in Brazil: Dialogue as a Necessary Alternative


by Leonardo Petronilha

image
photo by Marcelo Bonatto

March 15, 2015 was marked as a Sunday of protests all across Brazil against Dilma Rousseff’s—from the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party)—government. One of the most vaunted demands was for impeachment proceedings to be opened against the President of the Republic.

First, it’s important to call attention to the fact that we live in a “Democratic State of Law” in accord with the preamble of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Brazil, enacted on October 5, 1988. “Democracy,” in quotation marks, because our social and political culture is characterized—for example—by slavery, patrimonialism, and innumerable historical examples of authoritarianism, such as: repression, manipulation, and extermination of indigenous populations by our country’s explorers; blacks brought here as commodities and treated like animals; the Bahia and Minas Gerais conspiracies; the Sabinada revolt; the Balaida revolt; the Praieira revolt; Guerra dos Farrapos (The Ragamuffin War); the Canudos War; Revolta da Vacina (The Vaccine Revolt); Chibata (the Revolt of the Lash); and military dictatorship, amongst others. There are important traces of this history present in our social and political culture today. This is why it is important that we defend democracy, without quotation marks, and not “democracy,” in quotation marks, that still tortures, persecutes, promotes inequality, silences, controls, selects, represses, etc. To defend democracy is to try and remove the quotation marks.

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National Politics

Petrobras: a tail of dirty politics, heavy corruption and an absent Board of Directors


by Tina Evaristo

by seloart
by seloart

The disclosure last year of what was apparently just a bad business done by Petrobras – the Brazilian semi-public oil company – evolved and became one of the biggest corruption scandal to hit the country after the reinstatement of democracy in 1988. The Brazilian Supreme Court has authorized the investigation of more than 40 politicians, including the speakers of the Chamber and the Senate and a former President. They are all suspects of integrating a large kickback scheme. Parliament is also promising to carry out their own investigation too, politically unbiased and dispassionate according to them. The hearings have already started.

The subject requires a lot of explaining indeed. Apart from Petrobras’ own executives, the corruption ring also included big companies from Brazil, Europe and Asia. The scheme, based on the payment of bribes in exchange for contracts, is supposed to have managed over $ 2,5 billion. Where was the Board of Directors? And the Fiscal Board? What about the Risk Management Committee? There is also the Advisory Committee. Everyone failed to spot the wrongdoings that took place over, at least, one decade.

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National Politics, Society

Police violence part of Brazil’s security problem


by Heidi Lipsanen

image
photo by Heidi Lipsanen

On the morning of April 22nd 2014 the body of 26-year-old Douglas Pereira, the talented dancer of a popular television show, was found on the yard of a kindergarten in Rio de Janeiro’s Pavão-Pavãozinho slum. Locals and his family refused to believe the initial police statement according to which the injuries were compatible with a death caused by fall. Instead they took to the streets. Images of burning car tires and testimonies of gunfire between the police and the community spread like wildfire in international media. Another man lost his life during the disarray. The kick-off of the FIFA Word Cup was less than seven weeks away and the eyes of the world were fixed on Brazil.

The following day the uncomfortable truth behind Douglas’ death was announced. His slender body had been penetrated by a lethal bullet, which was later matched to a police firearm.

Nearly a year has passed since Douglas was murdered. Despite delays in the investigations his mother Maria de Fátima hopes the officer who triggered the killer weapon will be brought to justice. There is, however, a hint of despair in her voice on the other end of the phone line.

“The police was created to arrest, not to kill“, Maria de Fátima says and compares the Brazilian police to a combat force. “But the system is very corrupt and I just wonder how they will ever manage to pull these bad officers off the streets”, she adds and wishes that God will deliver justice in case the Brazilian judicial system fails to do so.

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Events

Brazil Talk going live on April 1st!


Launching reception at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.


School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA)
Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS)
420 West 118th Street
Room 802, 8th floor
New York, NY 10027

Enviroment

Development without Displacement in Favela do Vidigal


by Anthony Scott

Favela do Vidigal, Rio de Janeiro (Fabio Seixo - O Globo)
Favela do Vidigal, Rio de Janeiro (Fabio Seixo – O Globo)

How to integrate marginalized populations into the social and economic fabric of our societies is the premier public policy challenge of this century. Ahead of the World Cup and Olympic Games, the government of Rio de Janeiro has been aggressively seeking to regain control of and integrate select favelas (shantytowns) into the larger city. This has been done principally by the State government’s police pacification program, which permanently establishes a community-policing unit (UPP) to maintain security gains, along with UPP Social to facilitate social and physical investments (Municipal Government of Rio de Janeiro, 2013). In response to this public investment in physical capital and security in formerly inaccessible real estate markets, international and Brazilian speculators and developers are buying up valuable property while it is cheap (Steele, 2013). While existing favela homeowners with titles to their land have gained from increased land value, there is growing concern that their children will not be able to afford to buy a home in the neighborhood or even afford to rent after the mega-events (Barbassa, 2012).

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Economy

The Infrastructure Issue in Brazil


by Eloy Oliveira

The ability to broadly provide infrastructure for its population is the basic premise for a country’s sustainable growth and economic development. There is a great consensus among scholars that infrastructure directly affects the development of a society (ABOSEDRA et al., 2009; MANDEL, 2008; FRISCHMANN, 2007; PENDSE, 1980). As used, the term infrastructure is very broad, since it may involve several activities that are distinguished depending on their economic and technological nature.

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National Politics

Rollercoaster Elections in Brazil


by Eloy Oliveira

Candidates Dilma Rousseff,  Marina Silva, and Aecio Neves
Candidates Dilma Rousseff, Marina Silva, and Aecio Neves

In the most curious Brazilian election of the last two decades, President Dilma Rousseff will faceoff with the Social Democrat candidate, Senator Aécio Neves, and not Marina Silva, as predicted by many political commentators.

To understand the current situation, we must look back four years when Rousseff was first elected president. (more…)

Society

A democratic Brazil doesn’t need a military police force


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by Isabela Cunha

Policiais_ocupam_Complexo_do_Alemao
Police officers enter Complexo do Alemao, a favela in Rio de Janeiro

September 18th, 2014. It is 5 pm in São Paulo. Carlos Braga, a street vendor, is shot in the head while trying to protect his friend from the pepper spray used during a police blitz. He was unarmed. The police officer is taken into custody, but released four days later. According to the judge responsible for the case there were not enough elements to justify the imprisonment. The other police officers who witnessed the incident declared it was accidental.  Other witnesses declared it was deliberate murder.

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National Politics, Society

Brazil’s Deadly Bill Against Women


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By Fernando Haddad Moura, Editor and Writer at Brazil Talk

[4 minute read]

Every day 4 women die due to complications in abortions in Brazil. Estimates put the global number at around 50 thousand deaths annually, placing Brazil as one of the countries with the highest abortion mortality rates. The vast majority of these deaths are a result of clandestine procedures. Since abortion is still criminalized in Brazil young and poor women who cannot afford to seek out a private, willing doctor to perform safe surgeries. Currently, women can choose to abort if any of the following hold true: (i) the pregnancy is a result of rape; (ii) if it poses risks to the mother’s life; (iii) or if the fetus is anencephalic. Reasons that are legitimate due to their cruel and unfair conditions. Unfortunately, the word choose cited above may soon no longer exist. Last week a special commission of the Brazilian House of Representatives approved a proposed constitutional amendment (PEC 181) that criminalizes all forms of abortion, including the aforementioned conditions. The commission passed Congressman Jorge Tadeu Mudalen’s proposal initially focused on increasing maternity leave for mothers with premature babies. After the approval by 18 to 1 (the only vote against was from a woman), the bill now goes to the floor where an increasingly conservative and religious House, composed 91% of men, will decide the future of millions of Brazilian women. It is urgent that pressure be made by society so the bill is rejected and Brazil does not go back to the list of only five countries in the world where abortion is prohibited. After all, it’s women’s bodies, their burden and it should be their decision.

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Blog, National Politics, Society, Uncategorized

Is contemporary slavery a contemporary issue in Brazil?


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By Fernando Haddad Moura, Editor and Writer at Brazil Talk

[5 min read]

In the late 19th century Ed Morel discovered how Belgian companies were exploring Congolese natives forcing them to collect thousands of pounds of rubber to enrich their European colonial powers. Those that didn’t obey were beaten and had their hands cut off to be set as an example for anyone who’d dare defy their leaders.

In a country set thousands of miles from the Congo, the Belgians had no idea of what was going on, and if it weren’t for Morel and his team of missionaries and other informants, the exploitation might have continued up to present days. This sad account of Congo’s history, told by Adam Hochschild in the globally acclaimed novel King Leopold’s Ghost gives an excellent example of how companies can act if they aren’t held accountable and if no one is looking. It reflects how, in the search of maximizing their profits, unethical corporations and their suppliers might be willing to ignore international treaties and submit people to terrible conditions.

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Blog, Society

Law regarding current military trials sanctioned by Temer – do you know what that means?


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by Camila Jordan and Fernanda Nogueira, Editors and Writers at Brazil Talk

[7 min read]

(This article was updated on Monday, 16th of October 2017) 

On October 10th, the Senate approved the PLC 44/2016[1] amendment to the  9.299/2016 Law; the proposal alters the current decree that defines the Military Penal Code, from October 21st, 1969[2], concerning the judging process of military servants in the exercise of their duties. In layman terms, it means that crimes committed by the military in duty (under policing and “Law and Order enforcement” operations) against the lives of civilians would be judged by the Military Justice System.

As of today, Monday the 16th of October, Michel Temer, acting President of Brazil, has sanctioned the Law PLC 44/2016. The law was already published in the Diário Oficial da União, roughly translated as the Federal Official Journal of Brazil.

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Blog, Events, Uncategorized

Brazil Talk interviews Taís Araújo


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[4 min video]

by Brazil Talk Team

Brazilian actress and activist Taís Araújo talks about the racial issue for Brazil Talk. [Sorry, no English subtitles are available at this time]

We talked to Taís Araújo, a Brazilian actress, and activist, during the opening ceremony of Africa Week that started on Sep 25 at Columbia University.

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