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Brazil car wash update, aka bye-bye, Lula

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We’ve posted about corruption in Brazil for some time.  They call it “Operation Car Wash” down in Brazil.

To say the least, a very big vehicle got washed a couple of days ago.  Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was found guilty of corruption: 

The case against Mr. da Silva, who raised Brazil’s profile on the world stage as president from 2003 to 2010, stemmed from charges that he and his wife illegally received about $1.1 million in improvements and expenses from a construction company for a beachfront apartment.

In exchange, prosecutors said, the company was able to obtain lucrative contracts from Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant.

His conviction tarnishes the legacy of one of Brazil’s most commanding political figures, a charismatic leader who grew up poor, challenged the military dictatorship and nurtured global ambitions for his nation, helping to land the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.


“This goes far beyond himself and his political career, which is seriously damaged. It’s Brazil’s reputation,” said Christopher Sabatini, executive director of Global Americans, a research group in New York. “He was a brand. Brand Brazil.”

This is a huge victory for democracy and the rule of law in Brazil. 

As my Brazilian friend told me on the phone, let’s keep car-washing, because there are lots of dirty vehicles in our political class.

A few years ago, Lula was the face of Brazil.  He took the country to new heights of popularity among investors.  He was the man from the left who could get along with investors as well as labor leaders.

In the end, Lula was probably too good to be true.  Or better put, he fell to the same crony capitalist system that made him wealthy and powerful.

To be fair, Lula is still challenging the conviction, but it looks as though his future is over. 

Frankly, a Brazil without Lula, or the crony capitalism he stood for, is a good thing.

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

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Written by scantojr

July 14, 2017 at 5:52 am

Looking for a Brazilian politician free of scandal

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Don’t be surprised if your Brazilian friends refer to every politician as a “crook.” Frankly, he’s got good reasons to reach that conclusion.     

Down in Brazil, where the last president was impeached for corruption, the new man is now sitting under a huge cloud of his own. This is from Simon Romero of The New York Times:      

A judge on Brazil’s Supreme Court authorized new corruption investigations on Tuesday involving dozens of the country’s most powerful politicians, dealing yet another blow to the beleaguered government of President Michel Temer.

The ruling by Justice Luiz Edson Fachin allows federal prosecutors to start new inquiries of at least eight ministers in Mr. Temer’s cabinet, including his chief of staff, Eliseu Padilha, and his foreign minister, Aloysio Nunes Ferreira, as well as much of the Senate.

Altogether, this means that nearly a third of the cabinet and nearly a third of the Senate will be the target of inquiries in this new phase of the colossal scandal that emerged three years ago into graft around Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil company.


Brazil has been Exhibit A of crony capitalism for some time. It is a terrible drain on the economy, one of the Top 10 GDP’s of the world.    

Graft is so common that it is an accepted cost of doing business or no different than having good coffee around when your customers come in for a plant tour.
According to a 2013 report by Forbes:

A 2010 study by the FIESP (the Federation of Industries of Sao Paulo State, in its acronym in Portuguese), the average annual cost of corruption in Brazil is between 1.38% to 2.3% of the country’s total GDP. 

The World Bank lists Brazil in its database with a GDP of $2.253 trillion as of 2012, while the OECD expects Brazil to grow 2.5% this year.

If the numbers of the FIESP study are to be believed, just in 2013 something between $32 billion and $53.1 billion can be accounted as “corruption money,” which, it is important to remember, gets out of circulation that hits growth. 

To put into perspective, if that money was invested in Brazil’s precarious education system, the number of Brazilian students enrolled in elementary school could be improved from its current 34.5 million to 51 million.

Better schools and better bridges and better roads and so on.      

Last, but not least, let’s not  forget about the voters. In other words, they voted for these people. Yes, they voted for them when the economy was booming and there was plenty of money to pay for all of those campaign promises.

The investigation pf President Temer will take months so don’t expect an impeachment or resignation any time soon. Nevertheless, it just makes Brazilians more cynical and they were pretty cynical before all this started a couple of years ago.

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

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Written by scantojr

April 13, 2017 at 7:38 am

And now there is a yellow fever outbreak in Brazil

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It’s been a rather bad two years from Brazil.  It started with that humiliating 7-1 loss at home in the 2014 World Cup, aka the afternoon that Germany did not stop scoring.  Add zika, the impeachment of a president for corruption scandals, and now an outbreak of yellow fever.

This is from Dom Phillips:

The governor of the Minas Gerais State in southeastern Brazil declared a public health emergency on Friday over an outbreak of yellow fever that appears to have killed at least 10 people so far and led to reports of more than 100 suspected cases of the disease.

The state authorities said Friday they were investigating 133 suspected cases of yellow fever, of which 20 were considered probable, pending further testing. They said they were also looking into reports of 38 deaths, 10 of them suspected of being caused by yellow fever, according to the State Health Secretariat’s website.

The state health authorities said the number of suspected cases had more than doubled in recent days: 48 suspected cases had been reported as of Wednesday, and that figure rose to 110 on Thursday.

To be exact, this is happening in one state and not the entire country.  Nevertheless, Minas Gerais is the second most populous (20 million) and the fourth largest state in terms of its geographical area.  The city of Belo Horizonte is here.  Again, this is not a small, isolated area with a small population.

As the article outlines, yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted by mosquitoes.

It leaves me wondering about the state of social services in a tropical country where mosquitoes are everywhere.  What happened to the vaccines?  Why was it allowed to get this bad?  As a local health official said:

The question is why people weren’t vaccinated in these areas[.] … Minas Gerais has long been known as a risk area for yellow fever. That is what most calls my attention.

Well, let’s hope it all works out.  It’s been a rather bad year for the good people of Brazil!

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

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Written by scantojr

January 15, 2017 at 7:26 am

‘Austerity’ now comes to Brazil

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(My new American Thinker post)

Over the last 18 months, the Brazilian economy, one of the Top 10 GDPs in the world, has been in a “funk”, i.e. minus 3.8% growth in 2015 and about minus 3% is expected in 2016.     

Can you remember the last time that the U.S. economy had back to back declines like that? We would call it a very bad recession.

Add to that the political crisis and Brazilians are not a happy bunch.   

This week, President Michel Temer, who followed the impeached President Dilma Rousseff, announced some tough austerity measures

Mr. Temer insisted on Tuesday that the spending cap was needed to lift Brazil out of the country’s most severe economic crisis in decades. 


He called the Senate vote an “extraordinary victory,” though various senators from his coalition refrained from voting, diminishing support for the measure after a first round of voting.

The positioning against Mr. Temer comes as he grapples with claims that he solicited millions of dollars in illegal campaign donations from Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction giant. 

In addition, Mr. Temer is embroiled in a scandal over claims that he pressured a cabinet minister to assist an ally in a property deal.

President Temer is going in the right direction. His center-right instincts have my support and probably those of most business people. However, I am not sure that he will be around when the country reaches the intended destination of a more vibrant economy.     

At times like these, or when a president calls on his countrymen to make sacrifices for the common good, it is very difficult to have a leader under an ethical cloud. Fair or unfair, most Brazilians see him as another politician who needs to go through the “car wash” or the Brazilian expression similar to Mr. Trump’s “drain the swamp”.   

Brazilians just don’t trust anymore, an understandable position given everything that has come out about the people running their country.     
The good news is that stories of corruption and graft fill the pages everyday. In other words, a lot of cars are getting washed.    

The bad news is that the country is running out of leaders who are not stained by corruption or the crony capitalism made famous here.

An interesting sign is that an evangelical bishop just got elected mayor of Rio! He beat a socialist by 20 points in one of Latin America’s largest cities.    

So now it’s time for President Temer’s austerity. There are protests in the streets.   

Let’s see what happens in 2017. However, don’t be shocked if we are talking about a new president by next Christmas.

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



Written by scantojr

December 23, 2016 at 6:26 am

Rio goes for a bishop

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(My new American Thinker post)

We’ve posted a few things about the corruption crisis in Brazil, from the impeachment and replacement of a president to more and more disenchantment with the political class. It’s amazing how talking to a Brazilian these days is like chatting with someone at a Trump rally.   

So is it any surprise that a evangelical bishop was elected as mayor of Rio de Janeiro?    

This is the amazing story:

An evangelical bishop has been elected mayor of Rio de Janeiro, as rightwing candidates across Brazil strengthened their influence at the expense of a decimated Workers’ party.

Despite his past condemnation of Catholics and homosexuals, Marcelo Crivella of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God won control of the city in a second round of municipal elections that underscored the rise of religious conservatism and the demise of the leftwing party that has dominated national politics for more than a decade.

My friends in Brazil tell me that his election, and specially the rise of a Christian right, is the direct result of the corruption in the left. It does not help that a crushing recession occurred during the left’s watch!     

Rio is a metropolitan area with a population of over 6 million people, the third largest city of South America and the 6th largest in Latin America.      
The results in Rio follow other gains by right-wing parties in Argentina and Chile. In other words, something is happening in Latin America as more voters reject the left.

It also reflects the persistence of the Christian right as a political force. They’ve been working door to door telling people to put their faith in God rather than a political party. Furthermore, they’ve associated the collapse of the country with a breakdown in moral standards. They are opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage.

Will it last? I guess that it depends on the economy and the honesty of the newly elected leaders. At the same time, this is a dynamic new chapter in Latin America because it is from the bottom up!

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


Written by scantojr

November 3, 2016 at 6:49 am

Posted in US-Brazil issues

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Rio and the poor side of town

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(My new American Thinker post)

As the world celebrates some rather amazing athletic skills, Rio’s slums are war zones where drug cartels fight for territory and profits.    

This is from Simon Romero, who’s spending some time reporting  from the poor side of town:

But in the shadow of the Olympics, a slow-burning war between drug gangs and the nation’s security forces is taking place. As the casualties mount in the favela where Richard lives with his family, the Games seem — to them and thousands of others in some of Rio’s poorest areas — like they are taking place in some distant city.

In a flare-up of fighting over the last week, more than 200 police officers stormed into Alemão’s labyrinth of alleyways. Calling their operation Germânia, the European region of warring tribes that was once largely subdued by the Roman Empire, the police fatally shot two men, while a top counternarcotics official was wounded…

Some of the 70,000 people who live in Alemão, outside the gaze of the television crews focusing on Rio’s wonders, nurtured hopes of a calm as the Summer Games got underway. But then came the gunfire on Tuesday, followed by more battles on Wednesday and an outpouring of desperation and rage.

Am I the only one who sees a little bit of Chicago in all of this? I mean the helplessness of people living in areas without investment, growth, or opportunity.   

Brazil is frustrating to watch for a couple of reasons:   

a) This is one of the top 10 GDPs in the world. It’s hard to believe that you can see this poverty in a country that manufactures aircrafts and has done a masterful job in using ethanol to move cars; and,

b) Most of the nation’s problems are a tribute to crony capitalism. In the end, it does not create prosperity but it sure makes a few people really rich.

The world will say goodbye to Rio soon. The slums will go back to being Rio’s poor side of town.

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

Written by scantojr

August 15, 2016 at 7:32 am

Down in Brasilia, not far from Rio

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(My new American Thinker post)

As the readers may know, Brasilia is the capital city of Brazil. It was a city literally built to avoid conflicts of jealousy between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, the two monster metropolitan areas. The idea was finally turned into reality in 1956, although construction began many years before.

As athletes win medals in Rio, Brazil’s politicians in Brasilia have been engaged in their own contests in the form of the corruption trial of President Dilma Rousseff. Yesterday, the Brazilian Congress voted to impeach the leftist president and begin a full trial.    

This is from Reuters:

With the eyes of the world on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, senators in the capital Brasilia voted 59-21 against the suspended leftist leader in a raucous, 20-hour session presided over by Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski.

A conviction would definitively remove Rousseff from office, ending 13 years of leftist rule by her Workers Party, and confirm that interim President Michel Temer will serve out the rest of her term through 2018.

Rousseff’s opponents needed only a simple majority in the 81-seat Senate to put her on trial for manipulating government accounts and spending without congressional approval, which they say helped her win re-election in 2014.

A verdict is expected at the end of the month and will need the votes of two-thirds of the Senate to convict Rousseff, five votes less than her opponents mustered on Wednesday.

Acting President Michel Temer will serve out the rest of President Rouseff’s term if she is convicted.  

Beyond the dramatics of a corruption trail, there is some economic reality to deal with. Mr. Temer is hoping for a conviction so that he can formally take over and address the worst economic crisis since the 1930s.

Temer wants the trial behind him so that he can address public spending and reform a very generous pension system. Temer, who is well liked by the business sector in contrast to the leftist Rouseff, wants to restore confidence in the world’s 8th largest GDP.

So there are two major events going on down in Brazil: Rio and the medals plus an unprecedented political crisis in the federal government.

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

Written by scantojr

August 11, 2016 at 7:10 am

Posted in US-Brazil issues