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Violent protests spark U-turn on transport fares

June 19th, 2013

Protestors in Brasilia: Photo: Agencia Brasil

Rises in public transport fares in São Paulo and Rio de Janiero that sparked nationwide protests have been cancelled following talks between city and state governments.

The scope of the protests that at times have been marked by violence and looting has widened to include the cost of the the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup football tournaments, as well a lack of investment in health, education, basic sanitation and other infrastructure.

Corruption among public officials such as judges and congressmen, who regularly vote themselves hefty pay increases on top of salaries beyond the wildest dreams of poor and even well-paid middle class Brazilians has also become a target for protestors’ anger.

Social media sites have been crackling with chatter and the exchange of information about the demonstrations.

One graphic shared on Facebook showed a congressman picks up more than 25 times the monthly salary of a fireman. Another listed the names of 200 congressmen said to be in favour of a constitutional amendment aimed at limiting their immunity from prosecution.

Brazilian football great Ronaldo, a World Cup winner in 2002, became a target for satirists and cartoonists, after reportedly saying “you can’t have a World Cup with hospitals” during a recorded broadcast.

Some Brazilian fans risked the wrath of FIFA President Sepp Blatter holding up placards protesting at corruption at the Confederations Cup match between Brazil and Mexico on Wednesday in Fortaleza in the northeast of the country, where Brazil ran out 2-0 winners. Political protests at matches are against FIFA rules.

Demonstrations started last week after the price of a single journey ticket in São Paulo was increased on June 2 from R$3 ($1.38) to R$3.20 ($1.47).

Though São Paulo and Rio have now followed the lead of other cities in cancelling the rises, demonstrations have continued with main highways leading in and out of São Paulo and a bridge connecting Rio de Janeiro with Niteroi among the routes being blocked by protestors.

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Brazilian Spring? Transport, World Cup cost protests gather momentum

June 18th, 2013

Protestors occupy the rooftops of Congress in Brasilia. Photos: Agencia Brasil

A wave of protests sweeping across Brazil over increased transport fares and the cost of the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup tournaments has reached the rooftops of Congress in the capital Brasilia.

On Monday, police reportedly fired tear gas as they tried to disperse protestors in the south east city of Belo Horizonte. Demonstrations also took place in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Belem.

While police pledged to refrain from using tear gas and rubber bullets in a protest involving a reported 65,000 people in São Paulo, unless property was being threatened, social media sites have been full of images and cartoons critical of their use by police in previous demonstrations.

Some images have even depicted calls for a general strike.

Though football is close to a religion in Brazil - a country that has won the World Cup five times - many people are unhappy that billions of dollars have been spent on building or modernising new stadiums, while swathes of the population go without infrastructure, access to medical treatment or basic sanitation.

Protestors express their anger in English in Brasilia

Protestors express their anger in English.

One municipality close to Belem in northern Brazil saw a record 1,210 admissions per 100,000 people for diarrhea in 2012,  figures from an NGO that monitors basic sanitation in Brazil show. It compares with a low of 1.4 cases per 100,000 people in Taubaté, São Paulo state a year earlier.

For some people the fare increases appear to be the last straw.

One taxi driver in Salvador, northeast Brazil previously took me by surprise, saying that he wouldn’t go to matches at next year’s World Cup even if he were able to get tickets in disgust at the amount of money that should be used to help the public being diverted to fund the tournament.

Though previously said quietly by people through gritted teeth it’s an attitude that now appears to be being expressed more openly and vociferously. Protesters are just as angry about grinding inequality and rampant corruption among officials.

Judges and politicians frequently vote to award themselves enormous pay increases on top of salaries already beyond the wildest dreams of most poor and even well-paid middle class people in Brazil.

At the weekend, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and FIFA boss Sepp Blatter were both booed by the crowd at the Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasilia as they declared the dress rehearsal tournament for next year’s World Cup open.

A protestor is dragged away in Brasilia

On Monday, President Dilma, who herself was imprisoned and tortured during Brazil’s dictatorship, said peaceful protest is a legitimate part of democracy.

Demonstrations started last week after the price of a single journey ticket in São Paulo was increased on June 2 from R$3 ($1.38) to R$3.20 ($1.47).

The protests, which turned violent, started to take in the cost of the Confederations Cup currently taking place in Brazil and the World Cup tournament, which kicks off in just under a year from now.

A number of journalists were among those injured. Earlier pictures showed one young woman reporter, after being hit around the eye by a rubber bullet and another a TV cameraman being sprayed with police pepper gas.

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Massive new government growth programme announced

March 30th, 2010

Lula's public approval ratings stand at 76%. Photo: Agencia Brasil

Brazil’s government has unveiled a second rapid growth acceleration programme worth $890 billion, aimed at boosting the country’s economy and infrastructure.

The original so-called ‘PAC’ programme to the tune of $280 billion announced in early 2007 targeted 5% growth a year.

Apart from last year when Brazil suffered fallout from the global economic downturn, targets were met,  though the government and opposition dispute how much of the original programme has actually been completed.

The new programme runs between 2011-2014 and beyond. Projects are grouped into in six categories.

Oil and gas exploration projects will get $ 490 billion, two-thirds of the money after 2014, with $76 billion destined for electricity generation and $70 billion going into projects to drill Brazil’s vast untapped oil resources buried deep below the seabed.

Housing initiatives will get $ 154 billion. Last March, the government announced a $15 billion social housing programme, aimed at building one million homes, though it left the timetable open-ended. The new plan envisages the building of another two million homes. Brazil’s housing shortage stretches to seven million.

High stakes game

With Presidential elections in October, there is little doubt that ‘the son of PAC’ as it has been dubbed will be the flagship policy of the ruling Workers Party (PT) and its official candidate, Dilma Rouseff, who is aiming to become Brazil’s first woman president.

She takes on Sầo Paulo state governor José Serra, whose colleagues immediately attacked the new proposals.

The leader of the main opposition party (PSDB) João Almeida said the government should be re-evaluating the original programme, which he said is weak in management terms, with a low rate of projects being carried out.

“The launch of PAC 2 was an act of campaigning complete with crying and emotion,” he said.

But the government hit back saying the opposition is divorced from the Brazilian people and the interests of the country.

“The opposition only speaks about the election, denunciation, criticism, because they have no other plan,” said Cândido Vaccarezza, the ruling party’s leader in Brazil’s lower congress chamber.

The government says 40% of the original programme has been finished, insisting two-thirds of work on housing and sanitation has been completed, though this falls to 28% in the energy and logistics sectors. Opposition parties banding together say only 11% of work has been done, with the number falling to 4% in the northeast of the country, where it is most needed.

But so far any such talk has had little effect.

Recent reports that the president and his preferred candidate had toured the country together inaugurating unfinished infrastructure projects and that he made comments appearing to back Cuba’s oppressive stance towards dissidents have not dented his standing with the Brazilian public.

As the election approaches Dilma will be hoping to be swept along on a tide of approval from the new programme, as much as for outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who continues to notch up astonishingly high poll ratings for a second-term president with only nine months left in office.

Dilma may have her work cut out though. A Datafolha poll published at the weekend showed Lula’s stardust has yet to rub off on her, with the vote between the main presidential candidates tied among those who would normally vote for the president.

Since declaring his candidacy recently, Serra has opened up a nine point lead over Dilma, having received an expected ‘bounce’ from the announcement.

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Brazilian presidency up for grabs, poll shows

February 28th, 2010

Still his to lose

José Serra: Is the presidency still his to lose? Photo: Janine Moraes, flickr

The race for the Brazilian presidency is heating up with just four points now separating the two main candidates and a north-south divide opening up between voters, latest data from polling company Datafolha shows.

While the election is being billed as a battle between two less than charismatic but competent centre-left administrators, lately the race itself has become anything but dull in statistical terms.

Starting from a long way back, Dilma Rousseff, now said to be clear of lymph cancer, is suddenly breathing down the neck of the former health minister José Serra, the long-time frontrunner from the PSDB party.

In two separate Datafolha polls featuring the four candidates expected to feature in the first round of elections and a second round run off the gap between Sấo Paulo state governor Serra and Dilma, who officially declared her candicacy last weekend has narrowed to four points.

The poll puts Serra on 45 points and Dilma on 41 points, should no one get more than half the votes in the first round, meaning the race has to go to a deciding vote on October 31. The last time the pollster thrust the metaphorical thermometre into the mouth of the electorate in mid-December, the difference stood at 11 points.

Former Lula government Integration Minister Ciro Gomes and environtmentalist Senator Marina Silva, who left the president’s Workers Party (PT) over policy disagreements are the two candidates expected to line up with the best-placed contenders in the first round four weeks earlier.

In Brazil’s northeast from where much of the president’s popularity stems, Dilma is on 36 points with Serra on 22, but in the more affluent south and southeast regions Serra scored 38 points in contrast to Dilma’s 24 points.

Serra also scores higher among wealthier, better-educated citizens. Dilma holds sway with those who earn and study less.

Political stardust

Photo: Janine Moraes, flickr

Dilma’s recent surge may have been helped not only by the President Lula’s still astonishingly high 73% poll numbers for a politician in their final year of a second term in office, but also by the fact that he has been banging the drum for her at every opportunity at public appearances, hoping some of his stardust will rub off.

The president, who is not allowed to run for a third consecutive term recently ruled out making a comeback in 2014, saying that Dilma’s bid for office would be made on the basis of trying to achieve two-terms for herself.

While president Lula and Dilma, bidding to become Brazil’s first female president, have been hogging the headlines recently, Serra has yet to officially declare himself a candidate.

Some commentators say it’s about time Serra — defeated by Lula in 2002 — got out on the stump and that when he does his poll ratings should get the benefit of a ‘bounce’, as long as he doesn’t leave it too late.

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Controversial Iranian leader in new Brazil visit

November 23rd, 2009

Photo: karimii,flickr

Photo: karimii,flickr

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is expected to raise human rights issues with Iranian leader Mahmoud, Ahmadinejad, while outlining his continued support for Iran’s nuclear programme, which has sent alarm bells ringing among western nations.

Ahmadinejad makes a stopover in Brazil on Monday, as part of a five-nation trip, including: Bolivia, Venezuela, Senegal and Gambia, aimed at boosting economic ties.

Last week, Iran appeared to reject plans to send most of its stocks of low-enriched uranium abroad, delivering a heavy blow to UN-brokered efforts to ease Western fears it could use the material to make a nuclear bomb.

So far, Brazil has far backed the Islamic state saying it has the right to peaceful nuclear power. President Lula is opposed to international sanctions on Iran.

On a visit to Brazil two weeks ago, Israeli President Shimon Peres called on Brazil to use its influence to challenge Iranian threats against his country.

Though Iran insists its nuclear energy programme is for peaceful purposes, Ahmadinejad’s previous questioning of neighbouring Israel’s right to exist has provoked understandable nervousness.

For the Brazilian government, the visit is seen as an opportunity to boost trade links, while developing an independent foreign policy, including relations with increasingly influential countries.

In May, Ahmadinejad cancelled a visit to Brazil scheduled, staying at home to concentrate on elections, the results of which later sparked widespread protests by opposition groups, amid allegations of fraud.

Ahmadinejad’s new visit, like first one has angered Jewish and human rights groups, leading to protests in Brazil.

Opponents of the visit argue Brazil should not be rolling out the red carpet to a leader who has repeatedly questioned whether the holocaust took place and openly supports the oppression of women and the persecution of homosexuals.

Protestors, waving placards in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, compared Ahmadinejad’s denial of the holocaust with denying the shipment of three million slaves from Africa to Brazil from the 16th to the end of the 19th century.

The treatment of women´s rights and the persecution of gays are seen as other reasons why Brazil should not get involved with Iran.

Opponents also say Lula  — a symbol of Brazil´s struggle to free itself from military dictatorship — should not be rolling out the red carpet to a leader who openly promotes oppression.

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‘Lightning strikes’ hit Presidential election race

November 12th, 2009

Getting their heads together. Lula with Dilma

Getting their heads together. Lula with Dilma. Photo: Agencia Brasil

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva finds himself having to shield his preferred candidate to replace him from criticism, after late night power cuts hit 18 states across Brazil earlier this week.

Before she became Lula’s chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, who is being treated for lymph cancer, was energy minister, but the president says he won’t be ready to apportion blame until the facts are known.

With Brazil, hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2012 and having last month been awarded the 2016 Olympic Games, the government will be keen to head off any suggestion the country’s ability to do so is in any way compromised by the events of Tuesday night.

Well before the Olympic announcement, the issue of power cuts was a politically sensitive one.

Instances during the previous government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who was in office for eight years until the end of 2002, prompted finger pointing and accusations of a lack of planning.

‘Rationing is bungling’

“Today we have an inter-connected Brazilian electricity system,” President Lula said. “In this last seven years we have put in place approximately 30% of what was done in 123 years.”

Claims of progress appeared to be backed by ABDIB, the body representing the infrastructure building sector, which like many others is calling for a far-reaching investigation.

Presidential elections will be held at the end of next year, with Dilma trailing in the polls behind frontrunner José Serra, in a race that has been billed by observers as a contest between two competent administrators lacking in charisma.

Though the government insists the problems do not stem from her watch, Dilma was notified in July of the potential for a blackout.

“A blackout is a thing that no one can say won’t happen. What I promised is that there will not be rationing. Rationing is bungling,” said Dilma, who is aiming to become Brazil’s first female head of state.

Dilma, like others, is citing lightning strikes as the most likely cause, something dismissed by the National Airspace Research Institute, which provides satellite data to meteorologists.

Photo: Agencia Brasil

Until more is known about the incident, Serra, from the PSDB party, was careful not to blame the government, but with close to half the national electricity capacity affected, he said it is vital to get to the bottom of the matter quickly.

“We have to know what happened so measures can be taken,”  Serra, the governor of Sấo Paulo state (pictured right) told reporters.

Political stress

The incident, which left 60 million people without light and also fed through to water supplies, has put increased strains on the relationship between Lula’s Workers Party PT and rival PMDB with which it has forged an often shaky alliance.

Should Dilma win power, her party is expected to remain dependent on PMDB to get legislation through the Senate – a source of anger for her party and those in Brazil, who see PMDB as opportunists from a bygone age doing little promote development and prevent corruption.

The president was heavily criticised from all sides for sticking with the alliance through a corruption scandal, which for a time this year threatened to topple Senate President José Sarney, before charges against him were dropped.

As part of earlier efforts to smooth relations with Sarney and his PMDB party, Edison Lobấo was installed as energy minister, when seats in government were handed out.

How Lula now deals with Lobấo could have a significant impact on that alliance.

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17 million Brazilians have sold votes at elections - survey

October 5th, 2009

 Photo Wikimedia

Photo: Wikimedia

As many as 13% of Brazilians admit to having sold their votes in elections, according to a survey by pollster Datafolha published by the Folha da São Paulo newspaper.

Projected across the whole country, the figure equates to 17 million people over the age of 16, among an electorate of 132 million voters.

Almost 80% of those asked said they thought  Brazilians do sell their votes, while 94% condemn the practice.

The survey published a year before Brazilians go to the polls in presidential elections shows 79% of people think votes are sold in the country.

While the gap between rich and poor in Brazil is one of the the widest in the world, vote buying is not a new phenomenom.

Since the first elections were held in Brazil at the end of the 19th century, some of the more unscrupulous politicians seeking power, particularly in poorer more remote areas of the country, in addition to cash have handed voters items such as water, cattle, crop seeds, even paying for false teeth and other dental treatment in exchange for their support at the ballot box.

Voters in the country’s poorer North-East and North Centre West regions topped the list of those having admitted to sell their vote with 19%, while the figure fell to 8% in the more affluent South-East and South regions.

The beauty of the Brazil’s electronic voting system is that once the polls close, results are delivered within a few hours in a country the size of the United States without Alaska.

Though there are no American-style hanging chads, which left the race for the White House undecided for six weeks at the end of 2000, it’s what happens before voters go to the polls that concerns reseachers in this case.

Twelve per cent of those questioned said they would be prepared to sell their vote.

“If a candidate pays my debts I will sell on the spot,” one voter was quoted as saying. “If someone comes to me I’ll sell. I’ve lost all my faith in politics. This [vote] has lost its value,” another reportedly said.

Brazilians can often be heard expressing exasperation and a feeling of helplessness about a seemingly never-ending stream of political corruption scandals.

Before the most recent scandal surrounding Senate President José Sarney, who saw a string of allegations against dropped, months of separate revelations flowed from the capital Brasilia earlier this year, including the misuse of travel expenses meant for official business and overly inflated allowances.

The Datafolha survey revealed 92% of voters believe there is corruption in Congress and among political parties, while 88% think it exists at the very top of government and among the various ministries.

Researchers for the survey interviewed 2,122 people in 150 municipalities across 25 Brazilian states leading Folha da São Paulo to the story in a separate section on Sunday under the headline ‘No one in innocent’, perhaps in reference to the 83% of those surveyed who admitted they have broken the law at least once.

As if to underline that not all Brazilians are lawbreakers, the survey pointed out that 74% said they always respect the law even at the expense of ‘lost opportunities’.

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Brazilian president under fire from own party, voters

August 21st, 2009

Students protest against-Sarney. Photo: Agencia Brasil

Students protest against Senate President José Sarney. Photo: Agencia Brasil

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is facing a backlash, not only from within his own party, but also potentially from voters at next year’s presidential election.

It comes after he pressured members of his own Workers Party (PT) to vote down corruption charges against Senate President José Sarney on a Senate Ethics Commission this week.

After the commission voted 9-6 in favour of dropping charges against Sarney, Aloizio Mercadante, Lula’s party chief announced he was quitting but on Friday agreed to stay on in his job, following talks with the president.

It was claimed Sarney failed to declare millions of dollars in assets and received hidden payments through a foundation, among a string of allegations against him made by a number of newspapers.

Police opened a criminal investigation against Sarney’s businessman son, who it’s alleged abused family connections to win deals with state companies.

The senate also stood accused of having passed ’secret acts’; under which taxpayers’ money was used to fund hidden increases in public servants’ salaries and hire employees without going through the proper channels.

Sarney in combatative mood. Photo: Agencia Brasil

Sarney, 79, who took charge of the senate for the third time in February, said he had no knowledge of any ‘secret acts’, before annulling 663 that were revealed.

He also insisted that a two million-dollar mansion undeclared to electoral authorities belonged to his daughter, and that he had no control over the José Sarney Foundation, which received money from semi state-owned oil company Petrobras.

Many are unhappy about Lula’s continued defence of Sarney, a man seen by his critics as one of the last of a dying breed of Brazilian politicians or families, which have retained a powerful grip on corners or regions of the country, promoting their own interests, while holding up its development in the process.

While Sarney rejects the allegations against him, insisting they are part of a media witch hunt, underlining his 50 years of public service, including five years as Brazil’s president, critics say an opportunity has been missed to start drawing a line under generations of widespread corruption in the country’s politics.

Disillusionment meets popularity

Former environment minister Marina Silva had already announced her intention to leave the party to stand at next year’s poll and has now been joined by Senator Flávio Arns whose comments that the party has abandoned its traditional moral high ground position are reflected by angry voters, leading some to say they will never vote for Lula’s party again.

“These senators have thrown the history of the party in the bin and burnt its main banner, that of ethics,” one reader wrote to the Folha de São Paulo newspaper.

Though Lula has said he doesn’t intend to change the constitution to allow him the possibility of being elected for a third consecutive time, it looks likely his favoured candidate Dilma Rousseff will be standing.

The make-up of Brazil’s political system means the president needs the support of Sarney’s PMDB in congress to ensure a smooth transition for his preferred successor.

Sarney’s party is seen by its detractors as having few ideals, only willing to lend its support to those from whom it can gain most advantage.

If elected, among many other things, Dilma will be charged with seeing through Lula’s pledge to build one million homes to at least partly address Brazil’s chronic housing shortage.

Dilma and the president share a quiet word. Photo: Agencia Brasil

Dilma and Lula share a quiet word. Photo: Agencia Brasil

Lula’s party won power for the first time in 2002 pledging to be squeaky clean, but senior PT figures were caught up in a damaging corruption scandal three years later that led the president to face an uncomfortable run-off for re-election in 2006.

Despite that episode, Lula’s personal approval ratings having remained remarkably high for a second-term president, perhaps even more so for one having to deal with fallout from an almost unprecedented global economic downturn.

It will be interesting to see how harmful these latest developments will prove, not only for the Lula’s Workers Party and its chances of getting Dilma elected at next year’s presidential poll, but also how voters will treat Sarney’s PMDB party.

But even before then, Dilma has other battles to fight, not least a battle with lymphatic cancer, but also now to retain her own credibility, after being accused of urging tax authorities to speed up investigations into Sarney’s affairs, something she rejects.

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Political scandal is no joke for Brazilian president

July 21st, 2009

José Sarney is a man under fire. Photo Agencia Brasil

Sarney, a man under fire. Photo Agencia Brasil

A political scandal threatening to bring down the president of Brazil’s Senate is being portrayed by wisecrackers on file-sharing website YouTube, using spoof dialogue dubbed onto scenes from the Oscar-nominated film ‘Downfall’, depicting the final days of Adolf Hitler in his Berlin bunker and Nazi Germany in 1945.

It may be a laughing matter for some, but corruption allegations surrounding José Sarney, a former president of Brazil have put him at the centre of a media storm, with political ramifications, not only for Brazil’s current President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government, but his hopes of a smooth transition for his chosen successor, if she wins power at next year’s election.

It’s claimed Sarney failed to declare millions of dollars in assets and received hidden payments through a foundation, among a string of allegations against him made by a number of newspapers, including Folha de São de Paulo and Estado de São Paulo.

Police have opened a criminal investigation against Sarney’s businessman son, who it’s alleged abused family connections to win deals with state companies.

The senate is also accused of having passed ’secret acts’; under which taxpayers’ money was used to fund hidden increases in public servants’ salaries and hire employees without going through the proper channels.

Sarney, 79, who took charge of the senate for the third time in February, last month said he had no knowledge of any ‘secret acts’, before last week annulling 663 that were revealed.

He also insists that a two million-dollar mansion undeclared to electoral authorities belonged to his daughter, and that he had no control over the José Sarney Foundation, which received money from semi state-owned oil company Petrobras.

Constant scandal

Brazilians can often be heard expressing exasperation and a feeling of helplessness about a seemingly never-ending stream of corruption scandals.

Even before pressure began to mount on Sarney, months of separate revelations flowed from the capital Brasilia, including the misuse of travel expenses meant for official business and overly inflated allowances.

Under Brazil’s proportional representation system, seats in Congress and the Senate are handed out to parties based on how many votes each party receives, rather a than straight fight at the ballot box to decide which candidate will represent a particular area of the country for the next term.

Photo: Antonio Cruz, Agencia Brasil

Photo: Antonio Cruz, Agencia Brasil

Although President Lula (pictured left) has continued to score remarkably high poll ratings for a politician two-thirds the way through a second term, the voting system has left his ruling government short of the majority needed to ensure its policies become law, putting the onus on forming alliances.

In a bid to get his promises adopted, Lula turned to one of Brazil’s largest parties Sarney’s PMDB, which in the words of its detractors, is the ‘whore’ of Brazilian politics, with few ideals, willing to lend its support to those from whom it can gain most advantage.

Many are unhappy about Lula’s gushing defence of Sarney, a man seen by his critics as one of the last of a dying breed of Brazilian politicians or families, which have retained a powerful grip on corners or regions of the country, promoting their own interests, while holding up its development in the process.

The affair has given Brazil’s president multiple headaches. Not least for being seen to backtrack on critical statements about Sarney made in his earlier days as a radical union leader and politician.

Lula’s support for Sarney has infuriated members of his own Workers Party (PT), with some voters promising to shun PT in future.

Whether true or not, Lula’s backing of Sarney has also led some to say he is willing to turn a blind eye to corruption when it suits him, despite coming in to office promising to be squeaky-clean, prompting one columnist to say it is tantamount to supporting other high-profile discredited politicians.

The president needs the support of Sarney’s PMDB to ensure a smooth transition for his preferred successor Dilma Rousseff, who if elected among many other things will be charged with seeing through his pledge to build one million homes to at least partly address Brazil’s chronic housing shortage.

‘Witch hunt’

For his part, Sarney rejects the allegations against him, insisting he has no intention of stepping down, quoting the words of the philosopher Lucius Aneu Sêneca. “Great injustices can only be combated with three things: silence, patience and time,” he said.

Sarney maintains he is the victim of a media witch hunt against him – something the YouTube clip also underlines.

Portuguese subtitles added to scenes in Hitler’s bunker portray staff fretting over the existence of ‘secret acts’, before loyal associates reluctantly tell Sarney (as Hitler) that the most cited phrase on Twitter during the week was Sarney Out!

In the midst of his own misfortunes, Sarney’s character rants on about how senators should stick together to keep their perks, while angry at an uneducated Lula, who he says armed with a speech defect and an economic stimulus package, breaks wind and belches on every political platform, grabbing all the public adoration, while he himself with 50 years public service can’t make even the smallest indiscretion without the press jumping all over him.

Finally, in a scene that some might argue is a sad, but true reflection of Brazilian politics generally, as he address his staff, a woman in the guise of Eva Braun kisses and reassures the leader telling him: “Don’t worry you’ll get back in at the next election, the Brazilian people are stupid.”

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Iran leader cancels Brazil visit

May 4th, 2009

Photo: karimii,flickr

Photo: karimii,flickr

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has cancelled a visit to Brazil scheduled for Wednesday, Agencia Brasil, the country’s government news agency said.

The planned visit, which angered Jewish and human rights groups, led to protests in Brazil.

Before the announcement, opponents of the visit argued Brazil should not be rolling out the red carpet to a leader who has repeatedly questioned whether the holocaust took place and openly supports the oppression of women and the persecution of homosexuals.

Though Iran insists its nuclear energy programme is for peaceful purposes only, western governments are worried about its intentions, given Ahmadinejad has questioned neighbouring Israel´s right to exist.
On April 20, a speech by Ahmadinejad at a United Nations Security Council anti-racism conference sparked a walkout by diplomats from western nations.

The following day, Brazil’s foreign ministry issued a softly-worded statement saying it would use this week’s meeting to raise the issue of discrimination with Ahmadinejad and while it sees dialogue as crucial, the government is concerned about the Iranian leader’s comments “diminshing the significance of the holocaust.”

Ahmadinejad has also dropped plans to visit Ecuador and Venezuela Agencia Brasil, said.

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