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How much more chaos can Brazil take?

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According to Simon Romero, this is how many Brazilians are feeling these days:   

Cartoonish depictions of Brazil’s president are so popular that his office is trying to restrict access to his pictures — so they don’t get turned into lampoons on social media.

Some Brazilians joke that a bold outsider — like Tite, the coach turning around the fortunes of Brazil’s national soccer team — should run the country instead. 

Maybe his star player, Neymar, could become finance minister, they say.

Then there’s the growing chorus of Brazilians who contend that the presidency should be abolished altogether, replaced by citizens making decisions via the instant-messaging service WhatsApp.


Once again, Brazil has found itself in upheaval, with President Michel Temer engulfed in a graft scandal that is threatening his presidency. 

Now, amid all the hand-wringing, anger and exasperation, the crisis is bolstering Brazil’s tradition of gallows humor, fueling a mix of satire and existential resignation.

Of course, we understand the anger over a corrupt system that has become Exhibit A of Crony Capitalism and the talk of Latin America. At the same time, can any country survive such cynicism? As the article explains:  

At the core of the humor is a sobering nationwide trend: a declining faith in the nation’s democracy.

Even before the latest scandal exploded this month, support for democracy in Brazil plunged in 2016 to 32 percent from 54 percent the year earlier, according to Latinobarómetro, a Chilean company that surveys political views around Latin America. 

Only Guatemala, where President Otto Pérez Molina was forced to resign because of a fraud scandal, ranked lower, with only 30 percent there supporting democracy.

Again, we understand the anger and cynicism. In other words, the last president was removed. The current president faces a mountain of problems, too. Can an honest politician be found?

As always, I’d like to check with my Brazilian friend for a little context. His attitude is this: “Letting people govern directly via WhatsApp can’t be worse than what we have now.”  At the same time, my friend is hoping for an honest politician instead. He assures me with a grin that his countrymen would probably get into fist fights if they governed by WhatsApp.

Here is a lesson here for the rest of us. Brazilian crony capitalism worked well when the economy was booming and politicians could give away things in exchange for votes. The whole system is now collapsing because the bad economy forced cuts in social programs and exposed the corrupt relationship between the political class, big business and the public sector unions.    

Will Brazil’s political system survive? Probably, but things cannot get any worse before I start looking at other alternative outcomes.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk), (YouTube) and follow me on Twitter.


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Written by scantojr

May 31, 2017 at 8:06 am

‘Operation Car Wash’ has Brazil’s political class getting a wash

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Not long ago, I couldn’t get a Brazilian to talk about corruption, unless it was in the context of FIFA making a decision that impacted the cherished national “futbol” team.    

Well, that was then and this is now! Brazilians are at war with their political class and there is no light at the end of this tunnel.

They call it “Operation Car Wash” in Brazil. It’s their version of “drain the swamp” and washing quite a few dirty cars to say the least.     

Brazilians are angry with what they’ve learned about their politicians, as we see in this article from Marina Lopes

The messy business of governing Brazil, a country with 35 active political parties, has long taken place far from the symmetrical towers and domes of Congress that dominate the capital’s skyline.


Instead, backroom deals have been the norm, with the country’s most powerful politicians and business leaders deciding the affairs of government over boozy lunches, steak dinners or drinks in dimly lit hotel bars. The daily scheming and bribing would kick off early, one participant told investigators, often at breakfast in the Golden Tulip Hotel on the city’s outskirts.

But three years into the sweeping corruption probe known as Operation Car Wash, an initiative now targeting more than 100 members of Brazil’s political elite, the dining room at the Golden Tulip is silent. The investigation has upended politics-as-usual in Brasilia and opened up a path for outsiders to have a say in government for the first time in generations.         

The Car Wash probe uncovered a complex kickback scheme in which, among other things, Brazil’s largest construction companies paid lawmakers in return for lucrative contracts and favorable legislation. The investigation has been propelled by a string of plea-bargain agreements, leaving longtime friends and allies pitted against one another as more defendants turn state’s witness.

Adding to the mess, the economy stinks: Brazil’s worst recession: 8 consecutive quarters of contraction. Here are some of the details:  

Brazil’s economy shrank 3.6% in 2016.    

Unemployment hit 12.6% in January. A year ago it was 9.5%. 

By comparison, at the height of the U.S. recession in 2009, unemployment peaked at 10%. 

Nearly 13 million Brazilians are out of work.

So the politicians are falling like flies, i.e. the last president was removed from office and the current one has a huge cloud over his head.

My Brazilian friend told me that they are all “Ladrões” and “Criminosos” or translated to thieves and criminals.    

Brazilians are fed up with corruption and that may be good news for the future of Latin America’s largest economy and country.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk), (YouTube) and follow me on Twitter.

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Written by scantojr

May 16, 2017 at 6:57 am

US-Latin America stories of the week with Fausta Rodriguez Wertz 

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Written by scantojr

September 16, 2015 at 4:30 pm