Historic Day for Truth and Transparency

Half a year ago I wrote about a historic week, the week of October 23rd. Brazil’s National Congress enacted a freedom of information law and a truth commission — two brave policy advances for a country marked by legacies of secrecy and authoritarianism. Today was a similarly historic day: the freedom of information law and the Truth Commission went into effect. President Dilma Rousseff struggled to hold back tears as she officially convened the Truth Commission. Tearful Truth Commission Beginnings A survivor of torture during...

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Brazil’s Unmerited Swagger

Mighty Brazil A couple of weeks ago, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega puffed out his chest and idly suggested that the BRIC countries might bail out Europe. A few weeks later, Dilma Rousseff stood before the United Nations Assembly and tossed daggers at economic mismanagement in the U.S. and Europe while at once highlighting Brazil’s sure-footedness: “Part of the world has not yet found the balance between appropriate fiscal adjustments and proper and precise fiscal stimuli to demand and growth […] It is noteworthy that it is...

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Movements Against Corruption Afoot in Brazil

The performance of Brazil’s Congress, and particularly the governing coalition makes one wonder whether the nation’s deliberative process should be moved somewhere else— far away from the alleged ‘representatives of the people.’ Congress is where the government’s coalition ‘allies’ select their robber baron cabinet ministers, the same ones that have been resigning one after the next in the wake of President Dilma Rousseff’s spring cleaning. Yet despite the rash of corruption scandals over the past months, and one...

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Reviewing the New Brazilian President’s 1st Semester: Policy

Sure, federal governments run the postal service, a military that doesn’t have a lot to do, and a few social programs, but what the heck are they good for anyways, besides causing a lot of bickering in Congress? You’re not likely to find very good answers perusing the news. Look in any newspaper and you’ll see that headlines refer to conflict—the politics of policy make the news, not policy itself. Good policy analysis is difficult to find, which makes understanding what the heck goes on at the federal level a very difficult exercise...

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Reviewing the New Brazilian President’s 1st Semester: Politics

This past Wednesday night Dilma Rousseff threw a cocktail party to celebrate the end of her government’s first semester and the beggining of the National Legislature’s mid July break. According to LatinNews.com, 17 of 38 ministers made an appearance, as did the Presidents of both Chambers of Congress and the Vice President. The event began at 7:30, but by 9pm most invitees had already left. The lukewarm turnout and hasty departures reflect a palpable lack of enthusiasm for Rousseff’s performance after six months in power. To her...

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Brazil’s Congress: Paying for Consensus

Brazilians have a saying, that every corruption scandal “ends in pizza.” The malfeasant and the enforcer settle things by sharing a meal and leaving behind what brought them together in the first place. Unlike other Latin American elites, the Brazilian elite peculiarly tend towards consensus as opposed to hot-headed conflict. Rather than incriminate each other, they let each other off. Rather than fight, they separate. The Brazilian Congress: Consensus or Collusion? There is no place that reflects this behavior more powerfully than...

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Freedom of Information Bill in Jeopardy as Rousseff Backtracks

[Published on by Greg Michener] President Dilma Rousseff reversed her support for expedited passage of a Brazilian freedom of information law this week, ceding to Senators’ desire to reappraise the law and include weakening amendments. The proposed changes to bill 41/2010 aim to eliminate time limits on how long information can be classified as secret and held from the public. Such amendments would contravene regional and national legal guarantees, in addition to delaying and enfeebling a prospective freedom of information law. About-face...

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Access to Technology versus Manaus: Brazil’s Conflicting Goals

Among the thirteen pillars of President Dilma Rousseff’s mandate,  number 7 and 8 are about education and technology: 7. To guarantee education for social equality, citizenship, and development. 8. Transform Brazil into a scientific and technological power. A goal that falls in line with both of these pillars is to make computers more accessible to kids. Brazil would be smart to follow the lead of the one laptop per child concept. Undoubtedly the most important learning tool available, a computer is a window into the  universe and a...

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A Freedom of Information Law in Brazil: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Article written for freedominfo.org, a site curated by the D.C. based National Security Archive,  18 April, 2011: Heartening events and significant setbacks added more drama to Brazil’s bid for a freedom of information (FOI) law this past week, but the overall outlook is considerably more promising now than before. Heartening Events: President Rousseff Declares Support for FOI bill President Dilma Rousseff confirmed her support for the FOI bill, (41/2010), which was approved by the Chamber of Deputies in April 2010 and has since been...

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“Number of people using internet more than doubles in last four years (118%)” “Income goes up by 20% over the last five years” “The country now has more houses with washing machines”

These were a few of today’s not-to-be-missed headlines in Brazil’s most respected newspaper, Folha de São Paulo. With the presidential election less than one month away, this news would appear to be a thinly veiled attempt to laud Lula’s time in office and, by association, his chosen candidate, Dilma Rousseff. Yet no… and yes… it so happens that the government-run Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics has just released its 2009 household survey, nicely timed to coincide with the pre-election race. Well...

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