Brazil’s economic rise is forcing it to deal with a problem it long regarded as the sole concern of rich countries like the United States: the need to secure its borders and slow down a flood of drugs, illegal immigrants and other contraband. President Dilma Rousseff, under political pressure from a crack epidemic in Brazilian cities, is spending more than $8 billion and overhauling Brazil’s defense strategy to tackle an issue that has implications for trade, agriculture and the overall economy (Reuters Special Report).
No central banker in the world’s top 10 economies has surprised analysts as frequently as Brazil’s Alexandre Tombini. Since taking office 15 months ago, Tombini set interest rates lower than economists expected in three out of 10 policy meetings, including an August reduction that all 62 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg failed to anticipate (Bloomberg).
The Brazilian Health Ministry announced an investment of 505 million reais (270 million U.S. dollars) on cancer treatment in the country’s public health care system (Xinhua).
Former president Jose Sarney is recovering in intensive care in a Sao Paulo hospital after undergoing heart surgery. Mr Sarney, 81, underwent angioplasty over the weekend to clear an obstructed artery, doctors said (BBC).
Representatives of the Landless Farm Worker Movement (Movimento do Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – MST) delivered a list of their demands to representatives of the president’s cabinet on April 11. This has become an annual occurrence, a harbinger of what is known as Red April (“abril vermelho”) when a wave of red flags (symbols of the MST) is supposed to sweep across the land as the group holds demonstrations and invades farms and public buildings commemorating the 17th of April in 1996 when the Massacre of Eldorado dos Carajás took place. At that time, 21 landless workers were killed by police in the state of Pará (Agencia Brasil).
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The International Monetary Fund’s bid to win a big boost in funding to handle the euro-zone debt crisis hit a speed bump when Brazil demanded more power at the IMF for emerging economies as a condition for lending it extra cash. Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega laid out the terms for a deal after a meeting with fellow BRICS nations Russia, India, China and South Africa (Reuters).
Energy Minister Edison Lobao said that state-run oil company Petrobras’s relations with the Argentine government were “totally normal” and the company could increase investments there. The minister’s statement, in response to a reporter’s question, comes days after Argentina announced it would expropriate 51 percent of the oil company YPF, which is controlled by Spain’s Repsol (Reuters).
U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, were among the officials in Brazil this week to continue bilateral talks. Secretary Clinton was previously at the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Colombia from April 13-15th, before traveling to Brasilia April 16-17th to lead the U.S. delegation for the third U.S.-Brazil Global Partnership Dialogue (The Rio Times).
The U.S. is committed to reform of the U.N. security council and will support the entrance of Brazil in the future once international consensus is built around the matter, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said (Fox).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the CEO of Brazil’s government- controlled oil and gas giant Petrobras to discuss potential Brazil- U.S. partnerships in the oil sector (Xinhua).
Cooperation in energy development, closer economic ties including a free trade agreement and praise for Brazil’s economic and political leadership were some of the issues discussed by visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her first day of meetings with Brazilian officials (MercoPress).
Brazil criticized Argentina’s decision to restrict the import of Brazilian pork, threatening a tit-for-tat response. In a radio interview, Brazil’s Agriculture Minister Mendes Ribeiro said that if the restrictions, announced in February, remained in place, Brazil might take similar measures against Argentine exports (Xinhua).
Brazil says it will seek an explanation from Iran after an Iranian diplomat was accused of molesting underage girls at a swimming pool in Brasilia. The Iranian official was questioned by police following complaints from parents but released after invoking diplomatic immunity (BBC).
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad plans to pay an official visit to Brazil in the near future, official sources said (Fars).
Brazil’s International Relations community remains concentrated in the triangle of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasília, and most academics rarely have a chance to engage with Brazilian thinkers located in other regions. While the South is better developed and boasts growing IR departments in places such as Porto Alegre and Florianópolis, very few IR scholars are based in the Northeast and North of Brazil, so this regional perspective is particularly underrepresented in debates about Brazil’s national interest. This is all the more worrying because it is in the North where the most serious challenges lurk (Post Western World).
Dr. Hewitt is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada and Visiting Public Policy Scholar at the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Hewitt offers critical insight into Brazil’s role in the 21st century and its ascendency to global power as he addresses a wide spectrum of issues ranging from the history and shape of Brazilian-Canadian relations to what Canada can learn from Brazil’s technological advancement and expertise. This interview is a must-read for anyone interested in South America’s emerging giant (Geopoliticalmonitor).
DEFENSE & SECURITY
Argentina and Brazil agreed to work on a common defence agenda underlining the importance of strengthening Unasur and working to ensure that Latin America is a peace zone thus sending a strong message to the UK on the Falklands/Malvinas issue (MercoPress).
Defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp said it filed a court challenge to the U.S. Air Force’s new plan for a bungled competition to supply 20 planes to Afghanistan. Sierra Nevada’s Brazilian partner Embraer, for its part, said an Air Force briefing only heightened concerns that officials could throw out findings from a 15-month competition that awarded it the $355 million contract (Reuters).
Israel’s Rafael has expanded into Brazil with the acquisition of a 40 per cent stake in Gespi Aeronautics. State-owned Rafael said the purchase – its first in Brazil – would improve local capabilities and boost the government’s efforts to increase defence exports. Gespi’s customers include all three of Brazil’s armed services (Janes).
DuPont, widely known as a chemical maker, introduced its bulletproof Kevlar fibre and SentryGlas car kit Armura in 2008 to middle class Brazilian families with Chevrolets, Hondas and yes, even low-cost Kias. Now, it wants to bulletproof taxis that will shuttle visitors between events for the 2014 World Cup soccer championship and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic games (Reuters).
The CIA recently released “sanitized” documents on American involvement in Brazil’s 1964 coup, and there’s bad news for the Brazilians although not the bad news that might be expected. Instead of supporting what is often claimed in Brasilia—that the U.S. hijacked a democratically-elected Brazilian government—the CIA messages, if they can be believed, show that the Brazilians did most of the heavy lifting in the destruction of their own democracy. The U.S. military had plans for more, much more, but never had to act because the Brazilian generals did such a good job at coup execution (MercoPress).
President Rousseff’s visit to the U.S. last week was a resounding success in at least one important respect: developing the Brazil “Science Without Borders” program. The goal is to increase student exchanges in areas vital to Brazil’s continued development (e.g. engineering, science, IT), to be achieved in large part by a five-year fellowship agreement concluded between Harvard University and the Brazilian government (The Rio Times).
With more job opportunities in the US and other countries, the Science Without Borders programme could lead to an exodus of Brazil’s most talented individuals. And is the 3.6bn reais ($1.9bn) allotted to this programme a good use of resources, given the poor performance of the country’s primary and secondary schools (BBC)?