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Brazil election: Lula’s legacy set to propel Dilma Rousseff to victory

October 3, 2010

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As voters go to polls for the Brazil election today, support from popular outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is expected to propel candidate Dilma Rousseff to victory.

By Andrew Downie, Correspondent / October 3, 2010

Rio de Janeiro —Brazilians face an unfamiliar ballot today when they enter polling booths to elect a new president. For the first time since the end of the dictatorship in 1985, the name Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will not be on it.

Mr. da Silva, known widely as “Lula,” cannot run for a third consecutive term. Yet he remains the most important figure in this year’s race. His 80 percent approval rating and enthusiastic support for Workers’ Party (PT) candidate Dilma Rousseff nearly guarantees her victory.

“The PT made it a plebiscite: If you like Lula, then vote for it to continue under Dilma,” says Carlos Manhanelli, president of the Brazilian Association of Political Consultants. “She can tell her tailor to prepare her dress for the inauguration.”

Polls show she will garner close to 50 percent of the vote, far ahead of her closest challenger, José Serra of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party. And she remains the clear favorite even amid a series of ethics scandals hitting the PT and one of her closest collaborators – underscoring the general approval of Lula’s leadership.

Lackluster candidates

Simply put, Brazilians want Lula, whose charisma is unmatched by Mr. Serra or Dilma, as everyone in this informal nation knows the former energy minister. She is seen as authoritarian and harsh, and although she was one of the few Brazilians courageous enough to take up arms against the military dictatorship, she only joined PT in 2001 and has never run for office. In contrast, Serra has a long political career, serving as governor of Brazil‘s most populous state and then as health minister. But he is no more likable than his opponent.

Both candidates are essentially vying to show they can continue the prosperity found during Lula’s eight-year term. Under his watch, inflation remained low and debt fell, while trade increased and bolstered foreign reserves to record levels. Confirmation of the country’s newfound economic respect came from international ratings agencies, who last year awarded Brazil investment grade for the first time.

Lula stimulated spending, freed up credit, and injected money into previously moribund parts of the economy through a nationwide program that pays mothers to keep their kids in school and vaccinate their babies. More than 40 million people have benefited from the Bolsa Familia (or Family Aid) program, creating a trickle-up economic model that gave the poor disposable income for the first time.

The global economic crisis caused only ripples here. Jobs disappeared and sales dropped, but Brazil did not suffer the home repossessions, failing businesses, and redundancies that demoralized much of Europe and North America. The economy is expected to grow 7 percent this year.

Why didn’t Lula do more?

But amid such incredible growth, critics question why Lula did not seize the moment to implement more reforms. Brazil’s education standards remain pitifully low, corruption is endemic, and violent crime remains unacceptably high. Moreover, Lula failed to implement pressing tax, social security, labor, and union reforms.

“Lula has an 80 percent approval rating but he hasn’t used that mandate to make tough decisions and push through the necessary reforms,” says Oliver Stuenkel, a visiting professor of international relations at the University of São Paulo. “He’s missed a great opportunity.”

He’s also been lucky. Brazil, with its abundant commodities, has become the world’s No. 1 producer or exporter of beef, chicken, coffee, soybeans, sugar, and iron ore. Oil, too, has recently emerged as a major source of jobs and income. The sector got a huge boost in 2007 with three major discoveries off the Atlantic coast. The presalt fields, so named because they are found under more than 5,000 meters of sea, rock, and salt deposits, contain at least 12 billion and perhaps as much as 50 billion barrels of oil.

Next steps

All that has given Brazil a more prominent role in world affairs and Lula has seized on it. Brazil’s troops have anchored peacekeeping efforts in Haiti, negotiators have been influential in climate and trade talks, and diplomats have sought to broker peace deals in Honduras, Iran, and between feuding Colombia and Venezuela. As if to crown its arrival on the world stage, Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

A hero at home and revered abroad for his work slashing income inequality, Lula has said he may now take a position at an international body, help Africa, or advise Ms. Rousseff – a move sure to be welcomed by most Brazilians.

“The principal explanation that so many people want to maintain the status quo is that the economy is doing well,” says João Augusto de Castro Neves, a political analyst with CAC Political Consultancy. “It’s like Clinton’s slogan in 1992: It’s the economy, stupid.”


KAS report: Strategic International Threats Surrounding Brazil

October 2, 2010

Oliver Stuenkel, International Reports Sep. 30, 2010
Ed.: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V.

Brazil’s economic rise over the past decade has been nothing short of astonishing. While Brazil’s growth has not been as impressive as that in the other BRIC countries (Russia, India and China), Brazil’s key advantage over the other emerging powers is that the international strategic threats it faces are fewer and less dangerous. This does not mean that Brazil faces no threats at all: drug-trafficking, arms smuggling and guerrilla activity in a lawless frontier region in the Amazon are probably the most potent security threats Brazil faces from abroad.

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South Africa must woo Lula’s successor

October 1, 2010


Brazil’s presidential election on October 3 marks the beginning of a new era for Latin America’s biggest nation. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula in Brazil, steps down after eight years in power.

His presence in Brazilian politics is as old as Brazil’s democracy itself: the former union leader has participated in every direct presidential election since democratisation in the late 1980s. Lula became president on his fourth attempt, in 2002, and shaped Brazilian politics like no other in recent decades.

He also travelled to Africa more than any other Brazilian president in history and a cornerstone of his foreign policy has been stronger ties to developing countries. Brazilian exports to Africa more than tripled (to $8,7-billion) in 2009

South Africa’s relationship with Brazil blossomed during Lula da Silva’s presidency. South Africa must keep relations warm as Lula’s successor is unlikely to focus on Africa. (Ricardo Moraes, Reuters)

and South Africa is one of Brazil’s most important African trade partners. During Lula’s time in office, Brazil doubled its number of embassies in Africa to 34. South Africa has been the major beneficiary of Lula’s South-South diplomacy, which helped Africa’s most prosperous nation to strengthen its international standing and strategic weight.

Yet Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, an uninspiring technocrat, is unlikely to focus on Africa as much and may neglect it altogether as she faces formidable domestic challenges, such as urgent tax and pension reform. As the continent’s leader, South Africa’s president must thus be more proactive and reach out to Brazil’s future president if he wants to prevent relations falling back to the low level of the Nineties.

Ties between South Africa and Brazil have traditionally been insignificant. During apartheid Brazil preferred to engage with Africa’s Portuguese-speaking countries, principally Angola and Mozambique. Brazil supported the ANC and, after South Africa’s first free elections in 1994, Brazil’s then-president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, became the first Brazilian head of state to visit South Africa.

Brazil and South Africa began to collaborate on the issue of HIV-drug patents during the Cardoso administration, but relations intensified after Lula took office in 2003, finding their high point in the creation of Ibsa, a trilateral alliance of India, Brazil and South Africa, in which governments and civil society can exchange expertise in areas in which they face similar challenges. Meaningful collaboration is now taking place in the fight against HIV/Aids, cash-transfer programmes to combat poverty and ways to foster social mobility.

Having grown up in poverty himself, Lula cares about development issues, particularly in Africa. He tirelessly points out that Brazil has the second-largest black African population after Nigeria, justifying the special relationship between Brazil and Africa. Trade between Brazil and South Africa increased to nearly $1,7-billion in 2009 and further agreements were made this year, including annual political consultations.

While the Brazilian-South African friendship has grown stronger in the past eight years, there is still upward potential.

Brazil has been the motor behind the idea of South-South diplomacy, most visible in Ibsa, which has boosted South Africa’s international stature significantly. But more can be done jointly to tackle the domestic challenges both South Africa and Brazil face — urban violence, the need to improve education and the promotion of economic growth to lift millions out of poverty.

In addition, their geostrategic position is similar in that both countries are emerging but not yet well integrated into international structures. Most importantly, both countries’ objective of obtaining a permanent seat on the UN Security Council has yet to be fulfilled. In this quest Brazil and South Africa would be well advised to collaborate — a joint bid (possibly with India) is likely to enhance chances for success. It is only in alliance with other emerging powers such as Brazil that South Africa will be able to influence the global agenda in coming decades.

Oliver Stuenkel is a visiting professor of international relations at the University of São Paulo and a fellow of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin

Source: Mail & Guardian Online

Why Brazil Matters

September 30, 2010


Why Brazil Matters

When Brazil elects President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s successor on October 3, analysts around the world will wonder how Brazil will act without the man who has participated in every direct presidential election since democratisation in the late-1980s. While Lula turned president only in his fourth attempt in 2002, he shaped Brazilian politics like no other in recent decades.

Lula was also one of the major proponents of stronger Brazilian-Indian ties. In 2003, in his inauguration speech, he was the first Brazilian president to call India “a priority” for Brazil’s foreign policy. In India, by contrast, interest in the South American giant, soon to be the fifth largest economy on earth, remains strangely low. Despite the large geographic distance, Brazil has strategic significance and a strong alliance could be highly beneficial for India. The Indian government must therefore use the transition of power in Brazil as an opportunity to strengthen ties with Brazil’s new leader and forge a lasting alliance.

It is often forgotten that Brazil and India share, albeit indirectly, a long history. In 1500, Pedro Alvares Cabral landed in Brazil, which would become an important Portuguese colony and stopover on the way to Goa. This indirect connection through Portugal allowed an exchange of plants between India and Brazil early on. The coconut and mango, both from India, were introduced in Brazil, and manioc and cashew from Brazil were planted in India. Furthermore, most of the cattle in Brazil today are of Indian origin.

After India gained independence, commercial ties remained very low, and no single trade agreement existed between the two countries until 1963. What shaped the following two decades was the diplomatic tensions caused by the decolonisation process of Goa, the Portuguese enclave in India. Brazil was historically close to Portugal, and until 1961 supported Portugal in its quest to keep Goa, a strategy condemned by the Indian government.

Brazil and India were able to improve relations after that, and the two countries often aligned during the Cold War in multilateral institutions such as UNCTAD and the G77. After the Cold War, India and Brazil opened up economically and sought rapprochement, which culminated in 2003, when Brazil and India jointly led the developing world during the trade negotiations in Cancun, and when IBSA, a trilateral alliance with South Africa, was created. A year later, Brazil and India formed part of the G4 (consisting of India, Brazil, Japan and Germany) which sought to enter the UN Security Council as permanent members.

Of course Brazilian-Indian ties are, due to the geographic distance, unlikely to reach the importance of India’s relations with Russia or China. Expectations should therefore be managed carefully. But there are three areas where Brazil and India can engage meaningfully: the defence of democratic institutions and human rights in the developing world, the quest for economic development and the reform of global governance. Close ties would be mutually beneficial and help Brazil and India address these challenges.

Brazil and India are the two principal emerging powers whose citizens enjoy a human rights-abiding liberal democratic system. Both countries have been able to maintain such institutions and rights despite highly diverse populations, a lack of social inclusion and high rates of poverty. In a world where an increasing number of national leaders look to China as an economic and political model to copy, India and Brazil provide powerful counter-examples that political freedom is no obstacle to economic growth. Both countries must make use of their legitimacy more frequently, for example, by jointly calling on Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe to respect the unity government with Morgan Tsvangirai.

Secondly, India and Brazil share similar challenges in their respective projects to promote economic growth and lift millions of citizens out of poverty. Each country has a great amount of experience and can provide useful advice to the other side. IBSA has been a step in the right direction to institutionalise such knowledge-sharing, but more can be done. Brazil’s knowledge in agriculture is sorely needed in India, while India can provide software expertise to Brazil. Other areas where the two can collaborate meaningfully is the combat against HIV/AIDS, cash-transfer programmes to combat poverty and ways to foster social mobility and women’s rights. More platforms need to be created for both countries’ civil societies to engage more frequently.

Finally, Brazil and India need to continue to forge a strong partnership in their quest to reform global governance and assure that today’s international institutions adequately reflect the recent changes in the distribution of power. While progress with the World Bank and the IMF has been slow, Brazil and India have immensely benefited from coordinating their efforts. Any renewed attempt to enter the UN Security Council as permanent members should occur in unison and after careful joint deliberation.

Even if it will take time to implement the strategies named above, the potential mutual benefits of stronger ties between Brazil and India are too large to ignore.

The writer is visiting professor of international relations, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Tell A Better Story

September 27, 2010

Sep 27th, 2010 – Oliver Stuenkel |

When Shashi Tharoor, India’s former minister of state for external affairs, spoke about his country’s future status as a great power during an international conference in November 2009, India’s rise seemed indeed inevitable to a large part of the audience. Mr Tharoor, a former UN official and skilled public speaker, argued that India’s source of strength was not its large Army, growing economy, or nuclear weapons but “the power of example” — what is commonly referred to as “soft power”

Soft power has tangible value as it makes other countries align without coercion. Put differently, it is the power of attraction and India boasts plenty of attractive features: an ancient civilisation, tolerance, a vibrant democracy and civil society despite extreme diversity and a uniquely attractive culture of music, film and world-class literature. “In today’s age”, Mr Tharoor concluded, “it is not the bigger Army that prevails, it is the country that tells me better story”, adding that India was the land of the better story. India’s story is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive in the world but as of late, events in India seem to put the happy ending of that story into question. The inability to implement radical reform and combat corruption on a scale that makes even seasoned politicians blush have become as much part of the Indian story as its booming software and Bollywood industry. Unless the government takes more forceful action now, India risks squandering the immense amount of soft power it has accumulated, slashing hopes that India could offer the more attractive option than authoritarian China.

Most analysts sought to avoid the explicit comparison between China’s success at preparing the Olympic Games in 2008 and India’s dismal failure to organise the 2010 Commonwealth Games properly, an event that is far smaller and less complex to stage than the Olympics. Yet India has been promoting itself so aggressively over the past years, so loudly called for a more prominent position in global affairs, and has been projecting itself in the same league as its Chinese neighbour that worldwide expectations for the Games were very high.

The collapse of the bridge close to the main venue in Delhi and the foreign sports representatives’ comments about the “filthy” Games Village revealed all too well the yawning gap between expectation and reality. Yet the crisis is not about the Commonwealth Games which turned out to be 18 times more expensive than estimated in 2003. The incident merely serves as symbol for the government’s inability to implement a more professional, results-oriented mentality in the public sector and to reduce corruption that keeps India from claiming the spot it deserves in the world. The amount of schools, clinics and streets that could have been built with the money siphoned in the context of the Games, and the lost potential for India are not only a national disaster. The globally-televised scandal and endemic corruption in India is a defeat for all those in the world who passionately argue that democracy is no hindrance to economic progress and that other developing nations should look to India, and not to China, as they devise their political and economic strategy.

As African elites discuss ways to bring their countries forward, they are usually most attracted by China’s authoritarian, state-led rise, which seems like a safe way to hold on to power and implement projects without the bothersome negotiations and consensus-seeking that democracy involves. Homes that stand in the way of a new highway, airport or production site are removed without hearing the inhabitants’ concerns, significantly accelerating development. The Chinese government’s ability to organise flawless Olympic Games in 2008 serves as a powerful example for Chinese efficiency, boosting the nation’s soft power. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, who has helped turn Rwanda into a model country, admires China and Singapore and his ruthless action against the Opposition shows that he believes that democracy be shoved aside in the battle against poverty. The number of countries that seek to emulate India remains low and incidents such as the corruption-riddled preparation of the Commonwealth Games bring to light an ugly reality that democracies may, after all, be no more successful in the fight against corruption than autocracies.

Mr Tharoor is right that India wields an enormous power of example in the world, and its democracy, religious tolerance and unrivalled cultural diversity and richness is something they can be proud of, and that no corrupt politician can destroy. Yet precisely because the world’s eyes are on India, it can, and must do more to show that Indian democracy is a system that cannot only rival China’s autocratic model but that it is superior not only because it respects political freedom and human rights, but because of its ability to deliver to its people. The Indian government does not only owe this to the Indian people, but to all those fighting for democracy across the world.

Oliver Stuenkel is a Visiting Professor of International Relations at the University of São Paulo (USP) and a Fellow at the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) in Berlin.

New Publication: The case for Stronger Brazil-India Relations

September 27, 2010

Indian Foreign Affairs Journal, Vol. 5, No.3, 2010

See this issue’s contents


In 2050, India will be the third largest economy on earth, followed by Brazil in the fourth spot.[i] As a consequence of both countries growing economic dominance, ties between Brazil and India will inevitably reach previously unimagined intensity and scope not just in 2050, but much earlier than that. Conscious of these trends, India’s and Brazil’s government have undertaken significant steps to strengthen ties between the two countries. Brazilian- Indian relations reached a historic highpoint in April 2010, when Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh renewed, in a bilateral meeting in Brasilia, their governments’ commitment to the ‘strategic alliance’ between both countries and expressed satisfaction at the growing bilateral relations. Yet the Indian-Brazilian rapprochement is intimately tied to both countries heads of government, Dr. Singh and Lula. In the process of building stronger ties, Brazil has arguably played the more active role, and the Brazilian President has tirelessly promoted stronger ties over the past decade. As his departure looms at the end of 2010, Brazilian-Indian relations are at a fork in the road. As an uninspiring yet competent technocrat is set to succeed the charismatic, energetic and captivating President Lula, it is India’s turn to actively strengthen the relationship which was largely insignificant only two decades ago.

More specifically, collaboration needs to focus on four issue areas: trade, the defense of democracy in the developing world, large scale knowledge sharing on issues of economic development, public health and education, and the democratization of global governance….

[i] Hawksworth, John and Gordon Cookson. The World in 2050- Beyond the BRICs: A Broader Look at Emerging Market Growth Prospects. PricewaterhouseCoopers, March 2008

China, India, Brazil and the global fight for talents

September 18, 2010

Despite advances in education, emerging powers will need to import skilled workers to sustain strong growth

Since Jim O’Neill coined the BRIC label nine years ago, a near-global consensus emerged that China, India and Brazil will become the first, second and fourth-largest economies over the next decades. Almost daily, we are showered with news about yet another discipline in which China has overtaken the United States (e.g. size of the car market), or how Brazil and India inexorably climb up the global rankings. The three countries’ increasingly assertive foreign policy proves their belief in their future power. Yet many forget that the three face formidable challenges on their way to the top. While even the most inept leader would be unable to hold back their ever-more dynamic economies, government action can do a lot to accelerate or slow down growth. Fundamental decisions taken now (for example with regards to education policy) are likely to affect the growth curve for decades to come. As China’s, India’s and Brazil’s transformation takes place at a much higher pace than almost any other in history, their governments are under high pressure to adapt to new realities.

One of the factors that will determine the pace of their future rise are China’s, India’s and Brazil’s capacity to innovate, increase economic productivity, and excel in the production of value-added products. China, for example, is avidly seeking to rebrand its image, move up-market and dominate industries traditionally located in the rich world. India virtually skipped the intermediate step of industrialization and moved directly into the service sectors. Brazil has turned into an agricultural powerhouse, but it is also increasingly focussing on value-added sectors, of which Embraer, the world’s third-largest producer of aircraft, is the country’s poster child. Yet in order to grow in these highly profitable businesses, a precious resource is necessary that is far more difficult to obtain than iron ore, coal and oil: China, India and Brazil need skilled workers to sustain their rise. Making education a policy priority is therefore crucial. Yet sound education policies take years to have an impact, and they are unable to satisfy short-term demands. The solution thus lies in a two-pronged approach: Ramp up education, and adopt a skills-based immigration policy. Even with the high number of IT specialists that leave Indian universities every year, Indian software companies have trouble filling their vacancies.

For Vale, Brazil’s mining giant, to realize its ambitious goal of becoming no.1 in the world, it does not need a small group of Nobel-Prize winning specialists, but thousands of skilled workers such as engineers, technicians and software developers, which it cannot find by merely searching on the domestic market. The same is true for future global champions such as India’s Tata and China’s Sinopec. Their battle to identify and hire these talents is becoming increasingly complex because rich countries, themselves facing an acute shortage of skilled workers, have begun to implement highly selective, skill-focused immigration policies that often deprive developing nations of their brightest. While China (1.3 billion), India (1.2 billion) and Brazil (200 million) all seem to have more than enough human capital, they cannot produce the sufficient number of highly skilled talents to satisfy their companies’ demands. China and India have the key advantage of a huge diaspora that often has done very well abroad, especially in the United States, where Indians and Chinese are the founders of many Silicon Valley start-ups. As the US economy stagnates and China and India show strong growth, many emigrés are returning to their homeland as they see more economic potential there. Brazil, on the other hand, can also point to four million of its citizens who live abroad, but they are not as well-educated and entrepreneurial as their Chinese and Indian counterparts.

While China could enjoy the immigration of Chinese top-level talents for years to come without changing its immigration policy, the Chinese government currently contemplates adopting a more progressive approach to attract more skilled workers from abroad. Legislation in India, on the other hand, is unlikely to change any time soon. The country most hard-pressed to adopt proactive immigration policies is Brazil, whose companies consider the skills shortage as a serious drag on their growth perspectives. While large Brazilian companies such as Odebrecht, a construction firm, or JBS, a giant in the food industry, can easily send their head hunters across the world and hire stars, Brazil’s small and medium-sized firms have virtually no chance to tap the international talent pool.  As the small players are the suppliers to the big firms, Petrobras and Co. are also negatively affected.

Yet, while Brazil has been an immigrant country for centuries, and most Brazilians have immigrant ancestors, the influx of skilled workers has largely dried up, and Brazil lacks an actual immigration policy to attract top talents. More aggressive approaches, such as handing working visa to skilled university graduates from abroad who do not have a job yet, as practiced by the Canadian government, are unlikely to be politically viable in the short-term. Yet whether they like it or not, China, India and Brazil, will have to, just as the United States during its ascension, open its doors to talents from abroad to fuel its rise.

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