If the US wants a glimpse into its future, it need only look at the state of Brazil after over a decade of populist rule. The same is also true for Brazil – the ascendancy of a right-wing populist backlash there is increasingly making the country look like Trump’s America.
The Beija Flor samba school used its platform to deliver a scathing criticism of the ills plaguing Brazilian society in a display that was part lament, part catharsis.
A proposed constitutional amendment that would limit public spending growth, one of the Temer government’s key initiatives, is making waves in Brazil. Some have cheered it, stating that getting Brazil’s finances in order is crucial for the country’s economic recovery. Others however, worry that this extreme measure will ultimately harm the country’s poorest citizens. So who’s right?
As a Secretary in the Finance Ministry of Michel Temer’s interim government, economist Mansueto Almeida is one of the people tasked with the seemingly impossible task of fixing Brazil’s finances in the face of a crushing recession and a record budget deficit of some R$ 170 billion. Unsurprisingly, he is frustrated. Frustrated with the difficulty of it all, for sure, but even more so with the widespread speculation and unrealistic expectations coming from analysts and commentators about how it should be done.
This is Part III of a five-part series entitled "What now? The trade-offs and budget cuts needed to fix Brazil’s finances." Part III examines inefficient and wasteful spending in Brazil's massive government bureaucracy, particularly with regard to public sector pensions, salaries, and other benefits.
If we consider the current local context, in which Brazil has robust if flawed democratic institutions; the international context, in which terrorism has replaced communism as the global threat du jour; and the regional context, in which leftist regimes all over Latin America are collapsing on their own, it becomes clear that the Brazilian military is not primed to intervene on this occasion.
The Brazilian left, led by the beleaguered Workers’ Party, has furiously and justifiably condemned recent praise for Brazil’s past right-wing dictatorship. Indeed, the Brazilian far right should absolutely be criticized for its reactionary views. But the left should not get a free pass and deserves just as much scrutiny. In fact, given their history of supporting dictators in other countries, the selective nature of the left’s outrage is intellectually dishonest. Likewise, Workers’ Party claims of persecution by the corrupt political establishment belie the party’s own history of malfeasance.
The adversarial nature of the massive corruption investigations taking place in Brazil has led the Workers’ Party (PT) to call foul. But given the long list of shady dealings and outright crimes associated with the party, can their claims of persecution be taken seriously?