RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Now that all that Christmas and New Year revelry is out of the way, the fog has lifted and the list of things to do clears up. This is actually not the case so much in Carioca culture, as it is mid-summer, the schools are all on break still, and everyone has lined up their days-off to hit the beach between now and Carnival (Saturday, February 18th to Tuesday, February 21st).
President Dilma Rousseff certainly has a lot to do, and this week we gave it some focus in both domestic and foreign affairs. In general it seems she just needs to stay the course, as opposed to the U.S. and Europe who need to pull a rabbit out of their back-side.
There is so much hype around the Brazilian bull economy, even if many see it as a reflection of how poorly the rest of the developed world is fairing. But certainly the Brazilians can only see the last few years as a good thing.
The GDP is high, unemployment low, consumer spending and middle class is booming, and of course the oil industry is underwriting the World Cup and Olympics spotlight. For those humanists on the ground though, we just hope the standard of living improves for the vast majority, as ten, or even twenty years is a long time for the impoverished to watch the new rich buy new luxury cars.
I suppose I am still scratching my head at how the favela population in Rio has grown by 27 percent since 2000, while the rest of the city only by 3.4 percent. And also how a minimum wage in Brazil is increased to just R$622 per month, which will barely cover rent in a pacified favela near Zona Sul (South Zone).
Although as my conservative capitalist friend comments with confusion; “how is that bad for the economy?” I don’t know, but I believe it is a thriving middle class that defines a modern successful society (aka American patriot propaganda machine) and I hope Brazil can get there soon.
In foreign affairs, it is interesting to compare President Dilma Rousseff to the iconic Lula. It would be hard to beat his simple charm and under-dog rhetoric, and perhaps it was his success that allows Rousseff to pick and choose her moments more.
Another friend here was talking about the ‘beats’ of marketing plan, almost like a story-line, it can’t be all money-shots, there needs to be ups and downs to give more weight to the high points. Now that Brazil has the stage, Rousseff can craft the international story a little more efficiently.
Another way to look at it is she has more at stake and can’t pander to every developing, aspiring or declining country looking to break bread and line up and finger point the bad guys. And of course there is some political pressure at home to clean up the corruption, which so far she seems to have stayed ahead of, as the heads roll.
So the list of things to do for Rousseff, if I had her ear, or if she is reading this. First, continue the policy of pealing off revenue from resource-hungry investors to social equality programs to bring people out of poverty. Second, make economic and political alliances with the culture you would like to see Brazil resemble (not copy, but take the best of), and finally, enact new laws enforcing capital punishment for corrupt politicians.