Posts Tagged ‘Dilma’

Nightclub fire disaster probe likely to focus on safety

January 27th, 2013
f Firefighters are shocked.     Photo: Agencia Brasil

An investigation into a fire that left 120 men and 112 women dead at a nightclub in southern Brazil is likely to concentrate on the effectiveness of evacuation procedures and whether safety equipment at the was working and up to date.

The death toll from the incident at the Kiss night spot in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul state has been revised downwards to 232 from the original 245, authorities say.

Following the outbreak of fire, some revellers at a freshers ball being held at the venue reportedly confused the bathroom door with the exit, while others became disorientated amid thick smoke.

The number of casualties may still increase due to changes in medical care in regional hospitals, but all bodies have been removed from the scene of the fire.

With 131 people confirmed as needing hospital treatment, fire department officials say they are trying to assist families and speed up identification of victims. Some bodies have already been released after recognition by relatives.

President Dilma Rousseff cut short a visit to Chile has been visiting survivors, saying that everything possible would be done to help the injured and the families of the victims.

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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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‘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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Presidential Candidate faces chemotherapy

April 26th, 2009

Photo: Fabio Pozzebom Agencia Brasil

Photo: Fabio Pozzebom, Agencia Brasil

Dilma Rousseff, the choice of Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to succeed him, will have to undergo four months of chemotherapy treatment, after recently having a malignant tumour under her left armpit removed.

Doctors in São Paulo say there is a 90% chance the treatment will be successful because it was spotted in the early stages.

Dilma, 61, President Lula’s Chief of Staff, says she plans to continue working normally.

Brazil holds presidential elections towards the end of next year and should Dilma get the ruling Workers Party (PT) nomination, she could become Brazil’s first female head of state.

Dilma, who was jailed and tortured by authorities during Brazil’s military dictatorship period, recently rejected media suggestions she knew anything about an alleged plot by an armed opposition group with which she had links to kidnap a leading economist at the end of 1969.

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Brazil confronts chronic housing shortage

March 30th, 2009

A $15 billion social housing programme announced by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last week could hardly have been timelier, given the worldwide economic crisis now biting in Brazil, but the plan faces huge challenges and its future may hinge on the political will of Congress and the next government.

Photo: kathiao, flickr

Photo: kathiao, flickr

The programme aims to build one million homes for families with combined incomes of up to ten times the minimum monthly wage R$465 ($203).

The plan has won praise for its focus on providing hefty subsidies to the poorest households, whose income only stretches as far as three times the monthly minimum and for the fact it gives title to the property to the woman of the household – something that is seen as protecting the family.

“This has become more important in this moment of crisis because it generates jobs and the capacity to provide homes for low income people,” says Dr Lílian Fessler Vaz from the Architecture and Urban Development Department at Rio de Janeiro Federal University.

Much of the money is being stumped up by Brazil’s Treasury with contributions from the FGTS social welfare fund paid by employers and the national development bank (BNDES).

Massive job

Brazil’s National Industry Confederation (CNI) welcomes the move as a step in the right direction but warns the programme will require massive coordination

“Judging by the experience of other projects it’s a very difficult task to fulfil,” CNI Executive Director Jose Augusto Coelho Fernandes says.

The scale of the undertaking was underlined in government figures reported in February, showing that only 11% of projects announced under the government’s growth acceleration programme (PAC) launched two years ago have been completed.

The programme’s aim is to enable Brazil to grow at least 5% a year.

Brazil’s economy grew 5.1% last year, but the government been under pressure to take action, after the economy shrank 3.6% in the last quarter of 2008 versus the previous three months.

Economists and industry organisations are forecasting anywhere from zero growth to a 1.5% contraction in Brazil this year.

The government calculates the programme will add to 2% to Brazil’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the sum of all goods and services a country produces.

Meanwhile, fears have been expressed that progress on the homes building programme could be hampered by environmental issues, the ability to synchronize projects with existing urban development plans, as well as complex issues such as subsidies, insurance, guarantees and land ownership.

Questions have also been raised whether construction companies actually can build homes put at R$40,000 ($17,500) for the lowest income groups.

Though not referring directly to the housing programme and writing in the Folha de São Paulo newspaper on Sunday, Roger Agnelli, President of Brazil’s, Vale the world’s biggest producer of iron ore used to make steel said the government has to cut down on bureaucracy to get the economy moving again.


Brazil’s opposition parties question the timing and motives behind the announcement, insisting Lula is using the programme to try to ensure his preferred candidate and Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff wins the presidential poll at the end of next year.

Photo: Agencia Brasil

Photo: Agencia Brasil

No deadline has been put on completion of the million houses and Lula (pictured right) concedes it will go beyond the second and final term of his presidency, which has another 21 months to run.

Given the size of the task, by announcing the move now the president must be banking on three things: That his candidate wins the election, the next government either has the political will to continue the programme or will be too afraid to drop it for fear of losing popularity.

Lula will also have to count on cooperation from 26 diverse state governments, municipalities, private companies in the construction sector and perhaps most crucially often self-serving politicians in the country’s capital Brasilia.

One media report suggested in a bid to overcome resistance in Congress, 63% of building work will take place in states where Lula has forged political alliances.

Though the programme has been praised by some in the construction sector as a bold first step,  Brazil still has a long way to go to plug its housing shortage of more than 7 million homes.

Almost 91% of that figure are said to be in the lowest income group.

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Can ‘president’s woman’ negotiate crisis to snatch election win?

March 23rd, 2009

Lula hand Dilma the presidential seal of approval. Photo Agencia Brasil.

Lula hand Dilma the presidential seal of approval. Photo Agencia Brasil.


If Dilma Rousseff wants to become Brazil’s first female president, she will have to win over her own party and a wary middle-class, whilst deciding when to step out of the shadows of current leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, whose remarkable approval rating has begun to slip, with the effects of the global economic crisis now biting, political commentators say.

With almost two years to go before he steps down, it’s not as if the Brazilian public has given up on Lula, the former shoe-shine boy and union boss, who made it to the top job, after ditching some of his more radical left-wing ideas.

What would most first, never mind second-term leaders give for approval ratings of 65%, after six years in power?

But the question is; with his government’s rating having dropped 5% recently, according to pollster Datafolha, will the shine also start to wear off for those around him, should the crisis deepen?

Helped by a boom in commodities, Brazil posted 5.1% growth in 2008, but lately it seems with almost every bad news item economists have been trimming their growth forecasts.

Since figures were released showing Brazil’s economy shrank 3.6% in the final quarter of 2008 versus the June to September period, the talk has turned to whether there will be any growth at all or indeed a contraction this year.

Two weeks ago, Brazil’s independent central bank cut interest rates by 1.5% to 11.25%, in response to the crisis, with business leaders and opposition politicians urging more drastic action.

Last month’s employment figures in the formal sector look slightly brighter and the government insists 100,00 jobs will be created in March, but reported employment ministry figures show Brazil lost 797,500 jobs from November to January, while a separate CNI/Ibope poll shows 58% of Brazilians think unemployment will get worse in the next six months.

To deflect the blame from himself or his Workers Party (PT), Lula could continue to maintain Brazilians have become victims of a crisis that began outside their own borders, but such a strategy has its limitations, according to political analyst João Augusto Castro Neves at the CAC consultancy in Brasilia.

“When it starts to hit people in the pocket and they start losing jobs, they wont much care where the crisis started,” he says.

Runners & riders

Though there’s no starting pistol to get Brazil’s presidential race officially underway, campaigning will not be far from the news between January and October next year.

Dilma, Lula’s preferred candidate, lines up alongside the other two main early contenders: current frontrunner José Serra who lost to Lula in 2002 and Aécio Neves, both from the same Social Democratic (PSDB) party.

Press reports say all three have been doing their best to be seen, while denying public appearances have anything to do with campaigning.

Photo: Alexandre Silva (fotoca), flickr

Photo: Alexandre Silva (fotoca), flickr

Serra, 67,  (pictured right) a former health minister from 1998 to 2002, whose AIDS programme  offering  universal access to treatment and free condoms was lauded by the United Nations, has also held office as mayor of São Paulo, South America’s largest city with a population of 17 million people.

After two years, Serra stepped down in 2006 to successfully run for governor of São Paulo state, a motor for around half the country’s wealth.

An outspoken critic of the Central Bank’s interest rate policy, he argues rates should have been cut significantly at the outset of the crisis.

Photo: Henrique Ribas, flickr

Neves, 49, (pictured left) now  in his second term as Minas Gerais state governor, has built a reputation by revitalising his state’s finances, through cost-cutting measures and putting the emphasis on reorganisation and modernisation in his administration.

Serious illness struck down his grandfather Tancredo Neves, who died before he could be sworn-in as the first post-military regime president in 1985.

Dilma, 62, a former resistance member, tortured by the military government in the early seventies, helped found the Democratic Labour Party, before jumping ship to Lula’s party a decade ago. He appointed her as energy minister in 2003, before making her his chief-of-staff in 2005.

Most recently, she has managed 11% in national opinion polls, up from 3% a year ago, after being seen increasingly at the president’s side.

The trio may yet be joined by Ciro Gomes (pictured below right), who has stood twice before, in a French-style contest held over two rounds - unless one candidate can deliver a knockout blow by scoring more than 50% at the first attempt.

Photo: Wikimedia

Photo: Wikimedia

Dilma’s Dilemma

Ahead of trying to convince those in Brazil’s middle-classes, who shunned Lula in three previous elections, before finally putting their trust in him in 2002, Dilma has a more pressing target this year, political analyst João Augusto Castro Neves explains.

She must get the 25% of the electorate that would have automatically voted for Lula on her side. Even having Lula’s seal of approval, Dilma could stumble on a lack of recognition and competition from within her own party, he adds.

For Carlos Lopes, political analyst at Brasilia-based Santafé Idéias, the campaign is in its very early stages and the fact Lula’s approval rating is down should make little difference.

“There any many things to do before going out onto the street to shake hands with the public,” he says.

Not least, these include getting to know the quirks and demands of prominent leaders in Brazil’s 26 states , as well as negotiating often awkward political alliances, under the complex proportional representation system used to elect members to Congress and the Senate.

When campaigning does get eventually get serious, Dilma’s rivals will underscore their leadership experience in two of Brazil’s most influential states.

And having never been tested during times of economic adversity, the worse the crisis gets, the more Dilma will have to raise her public profile, political scientist Murillo de Aragão told Epoca magazine.

“Crisis brings doubt. Everyone is going to want to know what her answers are.  Without the crisis, she would already be in the second round,” Aragão says.

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