Will Brazil Maintain a South-South Development Partnership with Africa?

President Lula da Silva is recognized as the first Brazilian president to be active in international and African policy; his increased foreign engagement resulted in greater investment, trade, and aid. The south-south co-operation, as labeled by President Lula, was originally presented as an altruistic development relationship and began with the president’s diplomatic visits to 29 African states on 12 separate occasions, as well as the establishment of 34 African Embassies in Brasilia.[1] Government also funded development projects in Mozambique, Angola, and Nigeria through the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA). Private corporations followed suit and invested in oil, mining, and construction in Libya, Namibia, and Tanzania.[2]

Between 2003 and 2013 Brazil became engaged in the agricultural, natural resources, and social development sectors in several African nations. By 2009, 6.6% of Brazil’s total imports were from African countries and Brazil was Africa’s third largest trading partner behind China and the United States.[3] This increase in trade is due to private infrastructural investment for oil extraction and agricultural assistance from EMBRAPA which increased production and expanded both markets. In 2004 the Brazilian Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger began to provide technical assistance to African governments to develop and implement social protection programs, offering their own expertise in developing social programs like Bolsa Familia and Minha Casa Minha Vida.[4] Brazil has been a partner to African nations by empowering governments and employing the local workforce whereas Chinese investors import their own workforce.

The 2010 elections brought President Lula’s foreign policy position into question. Candidate and future President Dilma Rousseff promised to continue and strengthen Brazil’s relationship with developing nations. However, her competitor, Jose Serra, hoped to refocus Brazil’s foreign policy to improve Latin American relations. [5] Despite President Rousseff’s campaign she has actually distanced herself from Brazilian-African relations. One reason for this change in policies was because of heavy domestic criticism on a debt restructuring policy for 12 African countries Rousseff announced in 2013.[6] Her inexperience internationally and failed attempt at diplomacy in Africa raises the question: if diplomatic relations fade, will Brazil remain a partner in development with Africa?

Changes in the markets and increased investment in Africa by France, the UK, and the US are complicating factors to Brazilian development prospects in Africa. Natural Resource markets are becoming crowded and a greater demand for consumer goods and services is emerging; however, if Brazilian investors and development agencies can adjust to these changes in the market then perhaps the south-south co-operation can continue to be productive.[7] Unfortunately, the current economic recession in Brazil casts doubt on African policy and investment improvements happening within the next year.

Amy Wallace
MPP ’16


[1] Muggah, R. Thompson, N. 2015. What is Brazil Really Doing in Africa?. Washington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-muggah/what-is-brazil-really-doi_b_6413568.html

[2] 2011. Brazil’s Economic Engagement with Africa. The African Development Bank Group. http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Publications/Brazil’s_Economic_Engagement_with_Africa_rev.pdf

[3] 2011. Brazil’s Economic Engagement with Africa. The African Development Bank Group. http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Publications/Brazil’s_Economic_Engagement_with_Africa_rev.pdf

[4] 2011. Brazil’s Economic Engagement with Africa. The African Development Bank Group. http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Publications/Brazil’s_Economic_Engagement_with_Africa_rev.pdf

[5] 2010. Factbox – Positions of Brazil’s Leading Candidates. Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/01/11/brazil-election-issues-idUSN3013312120100111?loomia_ow=t0:s0:a49:g43:r1:c0.500000:b29738878:z0

[6] Muggah, R. Thompson, N. 2015. What is Brazil Really Doing in Africa?. Washington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-muggah/what-is-brazil-really-doi_b_6413568.html

[7] Muggah, R. Thompson, N. 2015. What is Brazil Really Doing in Africa?. Washington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-muggah/what-is-brazil-really-doi_b_6413568.html

Brazil’s Water Crisis

Brazil can be characterized in many ways. Sparkling beaches, verdant rainforests and enormous waterfalls are especially evocative of this diverse country. Yet all represent Brazil’s water resources, which are threatened by the country’s worst drought since at least 1930.

Several factors have contributed to this crisis. First, deforestation in the Amazon and the Atlantic forest in Brazil’s Southeast has drastically altered the climate. Antonio Nobre, a respected Brazilian climatologist, has argued that “forests have an innate ability to import moisture and to cool down and to favor rain.” Although deforestation had been slowing in Brazil, it has recently accelerated again, which may be contributing to this crisis. Besides a lack of rain, recent work suggests that variability in rainfall and access to water is increasing in Brazil. This enhances the possibility of drought. Distribution issues are also possibly to blame. Brazil’s water resources are located far away from their population centers. 80% of Brazil’s water is in the Amazon river basin, where only 4% of its population lives. This unequal distribution of water resources means that 40% of urban Brazilians experience medium to extremely high water stress. A recent BBC story quoted a Datafolha survey, stating that “71% of the population of São Paulo and 36% of Brazilians have experienced problems with the water supply in the past month.”

Brazil has also been hindered by a poor government response to the crisis. São Paulo state’s governor has been accused of down-playing the crisis in the run-up to his October 2014 election. He has recently enacted several reforms to attempt to save water: “raising charges for high consumption levels, offering discounts to those who reduce use, and limiting the amounts captured by industries and agriculture from rivers.” But it may be too little, too late. The city’s main reservoir, depended on by 8 million people, is currently at 5.2% of its capacity.

The crisis is disrupting the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Brazilians. Rationing was recently put in place in São Paulo; some families have been under strict quotas for months. Restaurants are using plastic cups and plates to avoid using water on dishes. A laundry owner in São Paulo changed his hours of operation to keep his business afloat, as he has access to water for only 6 hours a day. Universities are considering canceling classes if the situation does not improve.

Industry, agriculture and energy are also being affected by the crisis. Many industrial processes require high water inputs. If Brazil’s industry must slow down to conserve water, this will hinder an already struggling economy. Brazil’s cattle industry is second in the world in volume behind India, and number one in beef exports. This very water-intensive business will suffer if rationing spreads. Finally, nearly 75% of Brazil’s electricity is generated by hydroelectric power. If water volume decreases on major rivers, millions of Brazilians will face the possibility of higher energy prices. Rolling blackouts are already happening.

Solutions to this crisis appear temporary and disjointed. Local governments waited so long to respond that rationing in many states is a must, absent extensive rainfall. Higher prices for greater water use is an aspect of some plans. However, especially in a crisis, higher prices tend to exacerbate inequalities in water access. There is little evidence of inter-regional cooperation, but that is how Brazil could avoid this sort of crisis in the future.

Brazil is still dependent on crisis-style water management strategies. A more collaborative, long-term water management system can help the country move forward sustainably. Most Western US states and some Eastern ones abide by the Reasonable Use doctrine to jointly manage scarce water resources. This facilitates cooperation among all community members. Brazil should enact similar policies in those states currently in crisis. Also, Brazil’s hydroelectric dependency is costing the country too much water. Large dams create large reservoirs, with greater surface areas than the normal flow of a river. This leads to increased evaporation, and less water for Brazilians to consume. Instead of hydroelectric power, Brazil ought to utilize other sustainable energy sources. They are already a leader in sugarcane-based ethanol fuels, and their extensive coastlines could be a gold mine for wind power. Instead of spending an estimated $221 billion between 2014 and 2018 to access pre-salt oil deposits, Brazil should invest in its solar and wind power capacities.

There is no easy fix, but hopefully, Brazil will take this crisis as an opportunity to lay the foundation for a sustainable water future.

Kyle Olsen
JD/MPP ’18

Meeting the Demand for Urban Sustainability in Rio

Rio de Janeiro is a city known for its vibrant culture, beautiful beaches and rainforest, as well as carnival celebrations. With the 2016 Olympics on the horizon, this city faces challenges related to transportation, security, sanitation and environmental protection. In response to these challenges, the city invested in programs that help promote sustainable growth and urban revitalization.

One of these programs is the Morar Carioca (Portuguese for Rio de Janeiro living), also called the Municipal Plan for the integration of Informal Settlements, which aims to turn all favelas into neighborhoods by 2020. This program is expected to improve the living conditions of up to 320,000 households. [1] Apart from improving the living conditions of several households, transforming slums into formal housing will also contribute to improving health conditions of the people and minimizing environmental pollution.

Another adopted program is the Municipal Recycling Collection Expansion, which is supported by the Brazilian National Development Bank. This gives high priority to increasing household waste segregation and recycling programs. The city also aims to collect an additional 31,000 tons of waste per year by this year [1] and this will benefit the local waste picker cooperatives that depend on waste recycling for their livelihood.

With regard to transportation, Rio implemented the “Bicycle Capital City”, a key program that promotes bicycle as a mode of transportation for improved urban mobility, environmental quality, social inclusion and economic benefits. The strategies to this program include the expansion of cycling infrastructure, implementation of bike-share program, increasing the number of bike-parking facilities and the development of bike map. [1] Bike-sharing was first introduced in Amsterdam back in 1965 where bicycles were free to use as long as they will be returned in good conditions. [2] Cycling has a lot of mental and health benefits too and is an efficient and environmentally-friendly way to travel in short distances. Building a cycling culture has also been initiated in several countries such as in Turkey. [3]

In addition to the cycling program of Rio, it has also been successful in launching its first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor that helped hundreds of thousands of residents by providing them with safer transport and shorter commutes. Apart from this, BRT also has great impact in reducing pollution emission from transportation. In the future, BRT system in Rio is expected to expand from one corridor to four. As stated by Mayor Eduardo Paes “This is the first BRT with others to come. It is a cultural change around how people move about in the city. It’s like a subway train on wheels, at much lower costs.” [4] The second BRT system was opened last year and this is a great advancement of this program.

Because of the massive transit improvements in Rio, together with two other cities, Belo Horizonte and São Paolo, these three Brazilian cities garnered the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award; the first time to have a three-way tie in this award. A great accomplishment for Brazil! This award was established in 2005 and is given annually to a city that has implemented innovative sustainable means of transportation projects in the preceding year. Last year’s award was given to Buenos Aires, Argentina, which launched two new corridors of their BRT system. [5]

Attaining high level of sustainability in Rio will cost a lot, but with the projected economic and environmental returns it will definitely pay off provided that these programs be continually monitored and there is cooperation among involved individuals. Gaining support of the residents will be a key success to the full implementation of these programs.

Meg Daupan
M.S. Natural Resources and Environment ’16


[1] http://www.epa.gov/jius/policy/rio_de_janeiro/rio.html

[2] Midgley, P. 2011. Bicycle-sharing schemes: Enhancing sustainable mobility in urban areas. NY: Commission on Sustainable Development.

[3] http://www.embarq.org/our-work/project-city/building-cycling-culture-turkey

[4] http://www.wri.org/blog/2012/06/rio-de-janeiro-opens-first-bus-rapid-transit-corridor

[5] http://staward.org/

World’s Largest Open-air Landfill Closed: Threats and Opportunities

The world’s largest landfill, Jardim Gramacho (“Gramacho Gardens”), located at Duque de Caxias, Rio de Janeiro closed last June 2012. This was few weeks before the United Nations’ Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. This landfill received about 9,000 to 10,000 tons of rubbish per day and reached up to 300 feet high across 14 million square feet. [1] For a city that has been an excellent tourist destination, this might sound absurd. But Jardim Gramacho has been in operation for 34 years and like other big landfills, it had been oozing toxic chemicals that threaten the nearby community and the sea. This resulted in added pollution of Guanabara Bay. [2]

The closing of the landfill had been postponed several times and finally advanced in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics alongside the UN Rio+20. [1] This was also done in abidance with the Kyoto Protocol and this act alone is said to potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1,400 tons per year. [3] Rio, being one of the pilot cities for the newly developed international standard for inventorying GHGs-the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories (GPC), has found that the biggest contributors for its overall emissions are transport (39%) and waste (19%). [3] Closing of this landfill is therefore a critical step to meeting the city’s goal of reducing 20% of its emissions by 2020 based on 2005 levels.

But then where is the garbage from Jardim Gramacho sent? It was moved to the high-tech Seropedica landfill where wastes get treated and transformed into recycled water. [1] This new landfill is located 70 kilometers away from the city and is expected to have a 30-year lifetime and this presents opportunities for the recovery and use of landfill gas (LFG). [4] Since landfills have their own carrying capacities, continuous dumping of enormous wastes into this new landfill might later on cause further pollution problems at this site and the city will have to take necessary actions again. Currently, the Jardim Grimacho landfill is being used for biofuel production. The city made a deal with the Petrobras Company to purchase the gas and use it in running one of its refineries.

It is not surprising that environmentalists welcomed this act of closing Jardim Grimacho landfill, but not everyone is satisfied with it. The catadores, favela residents who make a living from recycling, for example, are challenged by the loss of income source from this landfill. There are about 5,000 catadores who depend on Jardim Gramacho for their livelihood. They generally earn about the minimum wage in Brazil (roughly $268/month) but this earning has increased about two-folds since they formed the Association of Recycling Pickers of Jardim Gramacho that enabled them to create a decentralized recycling and to secure professional recognition for their services. [5] Despite being retrained and compensated, the catadores were still better off with their own recycling system. A solution to one can be a problem for another and meeting the demand for both is not a simple task.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujyvuD4HaU8

Meg Daupan
M.S. Natural Resources and Environment ’16


[1] Brocchetto, M. and A. Ansari. 5 June 2012. Landfill’s closure changing lives in Rio. http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/05/world/americas/brazil-landfill-closure/

[2] BBC News. 3 June 2012. Brazil’s biggest rubbish dump closes in Rio de Janeiro. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-18318714

[3] Fong, W. and R. Schleeter. 8 December 2014. Hundreds of cities poised to replicate Rio’s approach to measuring and reducing emissions. http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/12/

[4] CCAC. Solid waste management in Rio de Janeiro. http://waste.ccacknowledge.net/sites/default/files/CCAC_images/city_fact_sheet/Rio_MSW_FactSheet_0.pdf

[5] Benton-Short, L. and J. Short. 2013. Critical Introductions to Urabanism and the City. 2nd ed. NY:Routledge.

Minha Casa Minha Vida Security Issue

Imagine that you are a low-income person living in Brazil.

Prior to 2009, your chances of accessing quality housing were slim to none. You and your family had no other choice but to live in (at best) subpar housing in a favela, sometimes even having to share already limited space with other people.

Then, you were given hope when the federal government announced a housing credit plan called Minha Casa Minha Vida (My House, My Life).

Even though you still lived in a historically vulnerable area plagued by violence and poverty, you were now assisted by the government and did not provide a down payment given that 1) you were a first-time housing assistance beneficiary, 2) you were not a homeowner and 3) you fit the income limit requirements.[1] OK deal, right?

The Program

Minha Casa Minha Vida (MCMV) was created with the goal of resolving Brazil’s housing deficit by constructing 1 million new homes by 2016, thereby also creating over 1 million jobs. An implicit expectation was that state and local decision makers would band together to implement the gathering of funds, land donation, infrastructure, tax reductions and demand accumulation.

The Ministry of Cities recently estimated that 7.6 million people are currently living in MCMV residences: an unprecedented housing assistance aggregate investment of R$ 241.3 billion.

Downsides

Apart from overwhelmingly high fixed and variable costs of meeting demand, an ongoing concern for the supposed beneficiaries of MCMV is that a significant number of them live in historically unsecured favelas – the cheapest and most appealing locations to build – where they are dangerously susceptible to illegal occupation of (their) apartments, and correlated drug trafficking and violence.[2]

The Ministry of Justice has received over 100 complaints, mapped here, from MCMV residents across sixteen states. Not only do 70% of these cases involve the presence of drug traffickers; but also, said traffickers have resorted to threats, attacks and even homicide to obtain the homes.

One case in Rio resulted in the arrest of 21 gang members who were making R$ 1 million per month by collecting taxes, making sales and enforcing rent from six MCMV complexes. The punishment for residents who did not comply? A harsh beating, or death.

In this vein, occupation of apartments now constitutes the second-most prevalent complaint after trafficking – clarifying the correlation between occupations and drug crime.

All of this leads to the question of whether a policy meant to empower populations marginalized from the basic need of housing, has actually made life worse for those populations by adding fire to the proverbial flame of a security crisis?

Moving Forward

Something important to note is that the abovementioned complaints reflect a new (Ministry of Justice) Group’s outreach in an effort to ‘develop integrated action with security organs about illicit conduct within the scope of housing programs put into place’ by policymakers.[3]

Addressing the problem of too much freedom for construction firms in deciding where to build, a Ministry official coordinating the Group recently commented that the government needs to be more involved in the design-side implementation of the program to diminish the capitalizing on vulnerable areas.

A sociologist at the Institute for Labor and Society also identifies issues of administration of the program’s complexes as precursors to security issues. Informal payment arrangements along with inexperienced residents serving as building managers make the residences vulnerable to criminal acquisition and control.

In fact, the additional income insecurity and consequent unmanageable needs of residents sometimes leads to the desirability of new people in charge – the militias or traffickers. This issue highlights the need for more support for residents and managers through expanded program financing (currently constituting no more than 2% of initial investments).

An integrated response is certainly necessary, as it is no coincidence that notable portions of complaints were in states like Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and São Paulo that face high levels of myriad other social welfare issues like drought.

As an actual low-income Brazilian reliant on the program commented recently, “the only right you have [as things now stand] is to keep your mouth shut” and obey – in their particular case – the local militia.[4] “When they want to play, they kill people with a sledgehammer.”

Aliza Kazmi
MPP ’16


[1] Novais, Andréa. “Introduction to the Brazilian Housing Program Minha Casa, Minha Vida.” The Brazil Business, October 6, 2011. http://thebrazilbusiness.com/article/introduction-to-the-brazilian-housing-program-minha-casa-minha-vida

[2] Rogero, Tiago. “Minha Casa Minha Vida tem denúncia de tráfico, milícia e invasão.” Estadão, January 4, 2015. http://m.estadao.com.br/noticias/brasil,minha-casa-minha-vida-tem-denuncia-de-trafico-milicia-e-invasao,1615122,0.htm

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Expulsos do ‘Minha Casa, Minha Vida’ milícia no Rio denunciam mortes.” Globo, July 4, 2014.
http://g1.globo.com/rio-de-janeiro/noticia/2014/04/expulsos-por-milicia-do-minha-casa-minha-vida-denunciam-assassinatos.html

Drought and Recession Lead to Downsizing of 2015 Carnaval

The millions of spectators that flock to Brazil to revel in the nation’s famous carnaval, scheduled to begin Friday, February 13th, may be disappointed to learn that this year’s festivities have been downsized, or cancelled altogether in many localities. Amid concerns of Brazil’s ongoing drought, at least 15 cities and towns in the southeastern states of Minas Gerais and Sao Paolo have already called off all or parts of the carnaval festivities.[1] Though the carnaval will go on in Sao Paulo, many city counselors have advocated for its cancellation. Brasilia, the nation’s capital, will not host a carnival parade this year. Given the immense proportions and cultural significance of the carnaval, these measures are a huge blow to the Brazilian people.

The drought, which has been ongoing for the last year and is being reported as the worst in nearly a century, has left millions short of drinking water, withered crops, and cause blackouts in many areas.[2] Brazil’s southeast region is the most adversely affected by the drought; it is also the nation’s wealthiest and most densely populated area. Conditions have worsened over the past few weeks as the southern hemisphere experiences the peak of the summer months.

Measures to downsize or cancel carnaval activities are an effort to reduce the strain of tourists visiting areas that are already strapped for water and to reduce or eliminate the usage of water during the street festivities. Traditionally, the giant parade floats created for the carnaval often use water features to enhance the floats. Cognizant of the water shortage, samba schools performing during the Rio carnaval have already made modification to their floats. Unidos do Viradouro, a participating samba school that will exhibit a 160-foot float honoring Brazil’s African heritage, revised its plan to have the float’s two water fountains spew 10,500 gallons of water continuously, to just 2,600 gallons intermittently.[3] The float paraded by the União de Ilha do Governador samba school will create the effect of a gushing water fountain with lights and smoke, replacing the water it had planned to use. The schools hope these measures will demonstrate their sensitivity to the water shortage problem and motivate citizens to conserve water.

Financial woes have also played a role in the downsizing of the 2015 carnaval. Several of the blocos, popular street bands that can attract over 100,000 people, have had to cancel their events this year, citing a lack of sponsors who are willing to provide basic infrastructure for the popular events’[4] TV Globo, Brazil’s most prominent broadcaster has pulled out of a substantial part of its regular carnaval coverage, including the final Parade of Champions, citing a lack of sponsors. Without the support of media partners, broadcasting the full two days of parading and the grand finale was simply not unviable.[5] Some have cited the upcoming 2016 Olympics to be at fault for cuts to carnaval expenditure.

At a time when political leaders have attempted to downplay the severity of the water crisis in Brazil, downsizing the carnival could prove an embarrassment to the federal government, which has demonstrated years of ineptitude and negligence in water management.[6]

Analidis Ochoa-Bendaña
MPP ’15


[1] http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Brazil-Cities-Cancel-Carnival-Because-of-Drought-20150207-0006.html

[2] http://www.wsj.com/articles/brazilian-drought-leaves-carnival-awash-in-doubt-1422402594

[3] http://www.wsj.com/articles/brazilian-drought-leaves-carnival-awash-in-doubt-1422402594

[4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/southamerica/brazil/11395192/Rio-carnival-downsizing-and-another-cancelled-as-Brazil-feels-the-pinch.html

[5] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/southamerica/brazil/11395192/Rio-carnival-downsizing-and-another-cancelled-as-Brazil-feels-the-pinch.html

[6] http://www.wsj.com/articles/brazilian-drought-leaves-carnival-awash-in-doubt-1422402594


Please consider making a tax-exempt donation to help fund IEDP’s trip to Brazil. Your gift is indispensable and will help defray critical program costs. To make a secure donation through the University of Michigan, follow this link, enter the amount of your donation, and type “for IEDP” as a comment on the next screen.

What’s the deal with Petrobras?

While Brazil’s obsession with the growing Petrobras scandal has existed for almost a year, the international community is just now starting to ramp up media coverage. To understand the implications of this scandal, it is important to know the history of Petrobras in Brazil and its essential role in Brazil’s economic growth. The scandal symbolizes Brazil’s current sluggish economy and the people’s growing anger at corporate/business cabals.

Petrobras, founded over 60 years ago in 1953, was a state-backed company that held a monopoly on Brazil’s oil production and exploration until 1997 when the government allowed competition (both to international and Brazilian companies). Despite the new competition, Petrobras had a strong starting position and continued to grow. It is currently the sixth largest energy company by assets in the world.[1] Much of this growth came from its exploration of deep-water oil reserves in the Santos Basin. Although Petrobras is not the only oil company, it still is a large employer of Brazilian citizens and a major component of the economy.

The Petrobras scandal, named “Operation Car Wash,” has embroiled top executives at nine Brazilian construction companies, engineering firms, and even international shipbuilders, not to mention Petrobras leaders and Brazilian politicians as high up as President Dilma Rousseff. Petrobras executives are alleged to have bribed politicians using company profits, Additionally, construction, engineering, and shipbuilding companies are alleged to have paid Petrobras executives bribes for contracts. Over 40 politicians received a 3% commission on Petrobras contracts signed between 2004 and 2012 according to chief police witness and ex-Petrobras director Paulo Roberto Costa.

Brazilian Federal Police have indicted 35 people with charges such as corruption, money laundering, organized crime, bribery, and establishing a cabal. The sheer size of the Petrobras corruption allegations is staggering; Federal police estimate as much as $3.9 billion in “atypical financial transactions” were made between 2004-2012.[2] Morgan Stanley estimates the scandal could cut the value of Petrobras by $8.1 billion.[3] Rousseff, former chair of the board of directors during most of the alleged corruption, is caught up in the blowback as well. Despite no official allegations of knowledge or wrongdoing, President Rousseff’s approval ratings hover at 23%, the worst of her career, because of her connection to Petrobras according to a Datafolha poll conducted last week.[4] 77% of voters believe she knew about the corruption when she chaired Petrobras’s Board of Directors, and 60% believe she lied during her presidential campaign about her knowledge of the scandal.[5]

Petrobras’s rise to one of the world’s top companies coincided with Brazil’s growth from a struggling third-world economy to one of the world’s most powerful emerging democracies. These deep roots only make the current scandal more detestable for the Brazilian people – they are not just disgusted by corporate and political greed, they feel personally betrayed by a Brazilian institution. With the variety of challenges facing the Brazilian people (the water crisis in Sao Paulo, stagnating economic growth, and continuing concerns about police violence), the Petrobras scandal symbolizes the leadership’s inability to represent the people effectively.

Lauren Burdette
MPP ’15


[1] Barnato, Katy. “Why the Petrobras scandal is shaking Brazil.” CNBC 24 Nov. 2014 http://www.cnbc.com/id/102212048#.

[2] Costas, Ruth. “Petrobras scandal: Brazil’s energy giant under pressure.” BBC News 20 November 2014 http://www.bbc.com/news/business-30129184.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Levin, Jonathan. “Petrobras Scandal Drags Rousseff Approval to Record Low.” Bloomberg Business News. 8 February 2015 http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-08/petrobras-scandal-drags-rousseff-approval-to-record-low.

[5] Ibid.


Please consider making a tax-exempt donation to help fund IEDP’s trip to Brazil. Your gift is indispensable and will help defray critical program costs. To make a secure donation through the University of Michigan, follow this link, enter the amount of your donation, and type “for IEDP” as a comment on the next screen.