Well, here we are two months into 2015 and past carnaval but still seem to be waiting for things to engage and get going, at least in Brazil.
In the meantime, we have had another mass murder in the US, more kidnappings and killings by the so-called Islamists in the Middle East. Strife and death continue in the undeclared war between Russia and the Ukraine. Boku Haram has failed to release any of the kidnapped girls and, in fact, have been involved in further atrocities. East Africa, especially Kenya, Somalia and Sudan suffer under threat from self-serving pseudo religious groups. Europeans suffer from the stagnant economy, the problems of Greece, (not to mention Italy, Portugal, Spain) and the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack. Unresolved political assassination of prosecutor Nissman in Argentina and the killing of Russian opposition leader Nemtsov are ominous signs and hopefully will not find imitation in Brazil.
So the general impression is that the world is going to hell in a hand basket and indeed, I have Christian fundamentalist friends who sincerely believe we are in the last days before the Second Coming. Probably, more than a few of Brazil’s “evangelicos” believe the same.
In the midst of all of this, one of my favorite news magazines, The Economist, puts Brazil on its cover with title of “Economic Quagmire”. Typically, this might be a good indicator as traditionally when the Economist predicts, the opposite occurs. The problem is that Brazil has recently appeared on two covers: one with the Christ of Corcovado taking off like a rocket and then the second with the same figure crashing out of control. But before we get too excited, I should point out that Brazil did not make the cover of the US edition where we have instead the “Planet of Cell Phones” with Brazil relegated to page 63. So the conclusion might be: there is only marginal relevance for the events in the world’s 7th largest economy given the larger on-going crises worldwide.
Hopefully, benign neglect and rain to end the drought might get Brazil through March with no political deaths and the political institutions still functioning. One problem is the fact that the “aguas de Março” have, in the past, had dire implications. March of 1964 was the month that brought the military dictatorship and March this year has started with intensified cries for Dilma’s impeachment and, of course, the PT sees such clamor as a direct threat of another coup d’état. The reasons Dilma is wearing a tight skirt are numerous and mostly self-inflicted. Since the election, she has shown weak leadership and perhaps embarrassment in having to do all the things that she promised not to do. The list is long but well known and includes her inaction regarding the Petrobras corruption scandal, the weakening of guarantees for the working class, tax increases, less spending on education and social programs, higher interest rates and higher inflation. More importantly, she has failed to bring Congress to heel and has seemingly lost her political base. She appeared totally caught off guard by the recent trucker’s strike and instead of leading has only produced a few self congratulatory propaganda videos that hark back to pre-election themes but resolve none of the problems.
Ideally, Brazil needs a pact to preserve the institutions and a political basis for taking the measures of fiscal restraint to stop the slide. Lula getting together with Fernando Henrique Cardoso seems a bridge too far. The animosity between Aecio and Dilma is also insurmountable. Luis Carlos Bresser Pereira, a former minister in FHC’s government but a supporter of Dilma in the last election also proposes such a pact, however, sees that “hate” has replaced cordiality and that Brazil’s financial elite will not bow. So pessimism reigns.
While there must be concern, I am hopeful that the demonstrations planned for mid March will release some of the political steam and buy some time so that the immediate problems of interest and inflation can be addressed. Second, if this happens, perhaps Dilma and PT leaders such as Jacques Wagner can assert themselves in finding a path that can avoid disaster and eventually result in rebuilding a coalition with a project for balancing social and economic development.