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Expert opinion: India has high stakes in Brazil; here’s what election of new President, a former military officer, means for the world and us
Nov 09, 2018

After the 2016 impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, indictment of dozens of members of parliament for corruption, imprisonment of former President Lula, one thought Brazil had seen it all. On 28 October, the aftershocks of that political earthquake led to the election of Jair Bolsonaro as President 2019-22.
A former military officer and staunch evangelist, Bolsonaro has represented Rio de Janeiro in Brazil’s Congress (parliament) since 1991. His meteoric rise this year was fuelled by public disgust over corruption, deteriorating living conditions and law and order. His left-wing challenger, Fernando Haddad, of the Workers Party (PT) did better in the second round with 45 percent to Bolsonaro’s 55. He labored under the shadow of his imprisoned patron, Lula, who may well have won had he been allowed to contest.
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Brazil, 2.6 times the size of India and endowed with massive natural resources, is an agricultural powerhouse. Thirteen years of PT rule (2003-16) saw 40 million emerge from poverty and peak GDP growth of 7.5 percent (2010). The discovery in 2007 of offshore oil made it an energy superpower, producing 3.3 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. Every litre of petrol in Brazil has at least 25 percent ethanol (India stagnates below 5 percent). The global recession and fall in commodity prices took their toll. In 2015 and 2016 Brazil went through a recession but growth should be over 2 percent in 2018. The number of people in extreme poverty rose by 11.2 percent between 2016 and 2017. Oxfam claims the fortunes of the country’s super-rich rose 13 percent, or 549 billion Reals ($1.5 billion).
Brazil’s energy became its curse. The national oil company Petrobras – partially privatized years ago – was the target of the Lava Jato corruption scandal incriminating politicians involved with overpriced projects. Bolsonaro is untainted and has vowed to roll back this tide. He has promised to loosen gun laws, abolish legal abortion and give the military more powers. His Vice President is a recently retired army general. He has nominated as his Justice Minister Sergio Moro, the renowned judge behind the Lava Jato campaign – and Lula’s imprisonment.

Financial Express