Tag Archive: Lula


A controversial new film about the life of the phenomenally popular Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has failed to build the desired hype and is getting lukewarm responses at the box office. These are not the reactions that the film-makers – nor the presidency – might have wanted but then again this film has caused a storm of controversy in Brazil.

Many commentators have expressed outrage that a fictionalised, hagiographic biopic should be launched as Mr Lula da Silva enters the last year of his presidency, hoping to use his enormous popularity to elect his chosen successor in October’s election.

The film depicts the childhood journey by lorry from impoverished origins in Brazil’s north-east to Santos and later São Paulo; the years as a child labourer selling oranges and shining shoes; the abuse from an alcoholic father; apprenticeship as a metalworker; the loss of his first wife and baby in childbirth; and his rise through the trade union movement during Brazil’s military dictatorship of 1964 to 1985.

Opposition politicians have demanded an inquiry into government contracts involving the film’s 27 corporate sponsors. José Serra, the likely opposition candidate in October, said it was a clear attempt to boost the chances of Dilma Rousseff, Mr Lula da Silva’s candidate.

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ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) — It’s been nearly five months since the presidents of Brazil and Paraguay agreed on a breakthrough deal to triple Paraguay’s income from the world’s second-largest hydroelectric dam, but the money won’t be flowing anytime soon.

The treaty would increase Paraguay’s income from energy generated by the Itaipu dam on the shared Parana River to $360 million, money that Paraguay’s President Fernando Lugo wants to spend on agrarian reform to benefit 300,000 landless peasant families.

It also calls for Brazil to invest in high-capacity power lines across Paraguay, creating an energy grid that could help one of South America’s poorest countries reshape its agricultural economy.

The treaty, signed by Lugo and Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva on July 25, was quickly approved by Paraguay’s congress, but lawmakers in Brazil have yet to move the plan out of the first of four committees due to consider it — partly because what Brazil mostly gets from the deal is good relations with its poorer neighbor.

”It is controversial. It’s not a simple matter, because it carries more benefits for Paraguay than Brazil,” Brazilian Rep. Severiano Alves, a member of the lower house’s foreign relations committee, told The Associated Press.

He said both houses of Congress would probably vote on it in the first half of 2010.

Carlos Mateo Balmelli, Itaipu’s Paraguayan director, has lobbied for the agreement, but Alves says Brazil should not be pressured.

”They didn’t pay anything to build the dam — they just provided territory and water from the river. Brazil was the one that assumed the cost of financing Itaipu,” Alves said.

Itaipu’s 20 huge turbines generate electricity divided equally between the neighbors, but Paraguay’s much smaller population and economy consumes the energy of only one turbine. The current treaty forces Paraguay to sell its excess capacity to Brazil until 2023, without the possibility of selling the energy elsewhere, at far less than market prices.

The new treaty would increase Paraguay’s income from $5.10 to $15.30 per megawatt/hour for excess power sold to Brazil. Lugo said the proposal has already succeeded in overcoming Paraguay’s

isolation, a legacy of Alfredo Stroessners 1954-1989 dictatorship.

The existing treaty was signed in 1973, before the dam was built. Both countries took on loans to build it — debt that now totals $17 billion. But Paraguay doesn’t recognize $8 billion of it because it considers the debt to be illegally obtained by corrupt officials of the former government.

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Associated Press Writer Marco Sibaja in Brasilia, Brazil contribued to this story.

By Andrew Downie, from Time.com

After Lula

By John Prideaux: São Paulo bureau chief, The Economist

Whoever wins, Brazil should remain in capable hands after its presidential election

 

Latin America’s largest economy is enjoying its best moment for a long time. One of the last countries to enter the global downturn started by the financial sector in 2007, Brazil was also one of the first to come out of it. For the first time in its history it has found a combination of economic growth, low inflation and full democracy—and the good fortune looks set to continue.

Much is due to Brazil’s president since 2002, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a charismatic former metal worker, with hair so curly that he was nicknamed “squid” (lula). The presidential election in October will be the first one that he has not contested since the country reintroduced direct elections in 1990. At the end of his second term he is so popular that it is hard to imagine that he was once a serial loser. He will leave a hole that nobody vying to be his successor will quite be able to fill.

The two best-placed are José Serra, the governor of São Paulo, and Dilma Rousseff, the head of the casa civil, an office analogous to presidential chief-of-staff.

Mr Serra has a head start. His approval ratings in the country’s most populous state are high. He was a good health minister in the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and ran for president against Lula in 2002. As Lula proved, losing elections is no barrier to future success in Brazil.

Ms Rousseff’s chances depend on whether Lula will be able to transfer his popularity to his anointed successor. Much will also hang on whether her appeal is hurt by other candidates on the left, not least Marina Silva, a senator, former minister and long-time star of the environmental movement.

The vote will split the country geographically, particularly if Mr Serra picks a running-mate who is also from the south-east of Brazil. This would line up the poorer north and north-east against the wealthier, more populous south and south-east. That would suit Mr Serra but would exacerbate the contrast between the two nations within Brazil.

The winner in October will inherit a country with a higher international profile and a more successful economy than when Lula came to power. But there will also be problems, despite a golden period in which tax revenue grew faster than GDP. In response to the global crisis, Lula’s government both cut taxes and boosted spending, the kind of policy response that only mature countries can manage without terrifying their creditors.

Rather than the extra spending going on infrastructure, it has been lavished on increases to public-sector wages and benefits. These entitlements will be hard to cut. Revenue from the recently discovered oilfields off Brazil’s coast will not come in quickly enough to rescue the new president from this inherited problem.

The debate about the country’s future will be swamped by private dealmaking

The rules about how oil money is spent—crucial for the country’s development—will be pushed through Congress just as the presidential campaign is getting going. This means that there is a big risk that the debate about the country’s future will be swamped by private dealmaking, preventing Brazil from making the most of its “present from God”, as Lula has described the oil.

Both main candidates are well-suited to the tasks they will face. Mr Serra’s time in the federal government is best remembered for his decision to break the patent on efavirenz, an AIDS drug manufactured by Merck, which has helped Brazil to keep the disease under control. But some fear that Mr Serra, with an economics doctorate from Cornell University, would disturb the institutions of economic policymaking that have contributed towards Brazil’s recent success.

Ms Rousseff is also an economist by training, though not such a distinguished one. She is credited with getting Lula’s presidency functioning again after the mensalão scandal in 2005, when it was revealed that the government had been managing its business in Congress by paying bribes.

The really remarkable thing, from Brazil’s point of view, is that it has two technocrats competing for the top job. The country’s hard-won political and economic stability is set to continue, whoever wins.