Brazil’s hugely expensive election campaigns have focused on corruption, as they always do. But the same companies implicated in the Petrobras scandal are paying for the whole thing – as they always do – and the skyrocketing election costs are what put pressure on politicians to practice corruption in the first place.
Some 95% of Brazil’s campaign financing comes directly from corporations – primarily meat producers, construction companies, and banks – and while some politicians and legal bodies are pushing back against a system that badly distorts the world’s fourth-largest democracy, they will likely fail without political pressure.
Over the past few weeks, Brazilians have been subjected to a constant onslaught of campaign materials – slick TV ads, never-ending social media updates, unwelcome music blasts into their homes, quick presidential visits, and candidate flyers covering the streets. For some, it’s terrible. For others, it’s a carnival of democracy.
But for the country, it’s very, very expensive. And the huge companies who pay for it are not giving the money away for fun.
Amapá – last outpost of Sr. Sarney
After giving up his Sente seat and watching his candidate lose in his home state of Maranhão, José Sarney, former President and one of the last political barons from the dictatorship era, needs his man to win to hold on to influence in Brazil’s Guiana. Above, a gallery of photos from around the state.
While most of Brazil has its eyes turned to the presidential runoff between Dilma Rousseff e Aécio Neves, the gubernatorial dispute in the far-flung state of Amapá could be host a desperate effort by one of the country’s last semi-feudal coronels to ensure the political survival of his dynasty.
Sunday was full of surprises, and most of them dispiriting for the groups that thought they’d made gains during last year’s protests. Here’s the five biggest.
By Mauricio Savarese
1 – Marina Silva out of the run-off
From presidential front-runner to the falling star of Brazil’s politics. The former environment minister was a bad player from the start of her campaign. Not all of her demise is her fault, of course. As usually happens with third way candidates, she preached new politics and became an easy target for the left and right. But her defeat doesn’t have to do only with her rivals: she flip-flopped on gay rights, lost many of the staff that were working with her deceased former running mate Eduardo Campos, avoided openly supporting of conservative politicians, played victim too soon, failed in answering criticisms from Dilma Rousseff and Aécio Neves (who are now heading to the run-off), and failed to make Brazilians more confident about what kind of president she would become. In the end, anti-government voters left her when it became clear Aécio Neves might have a better chance of actually taking down Rousseff.
After getting roughly same vote she did in 2010, it’s hard to see her as a presidential contender again. For now, supporting Neves in the run-off is all that is left for her – and if he loses that will show her political leverage is even smaller than many expected.
São Paulo to Acre, by bus
As is the case in many countries of this size, the citizens of Brazil don’t know their own nation very well. I mean that geographically – someone from the Southeast may have visited the Northeast, but is unlikely to have been to the Center-West or the North, too. Someone from Recife may have visited Rio, but Paraná? Roraima? Amapá?
Brazilians are travelling more than ever, but they often look to visiting the US or Europe as quickly as they do to diving deep into the Amazon jungle. This is understandable – the prices are often almost as high within Brazil - and things are quite similar in the US, for example. But for this reason, and because basically all media in Brazil comes from Rio or São Paulo, perceptions about life in certain regions can be very far from reality.
As a correspondent, I suppose I could say that travelling by bus allows me to escape the trails tread by Brazil’s traditionally over-represented elites, and that’s it a professional duty. But the truth is that I actually just like it. People in Brazil’s small or far-flung towns have a remarkable amount in common, no matter where they are, and the country’s reputation for warmth holds up everywhere. I’ve done most of the country by road – from São Paulo to Salvador, to Recife to Belem, or from Porto Alegre up to Rio. Last year, to do a story on the “Mais Medicos” Cuban doctor program, I went from São Paulo to Acre, and then to the Bolivian border. It was about 100 hours in total, and took me through the major communities of Cuiabá, Ji-Paraná, Rondônia, and Rio Branco. So here’s some pictures with some captions.
Brazil is divided economically, socially and politically between its two major population centers, the wealthier Southeast and the historically richer Northeast, so much so that prejudice still exists. Far too few appreciate the ways in which the fiercely proud, culturally rich Northeast revels in its uniqueness.
by James Young
A week after Brazilian football was rocked by the racist abuse of Santos goalkeeper Aranha by Grêmio fans during a game in the south of Brazil, veteran Ceará midfielder Souza wanted to talk about a different type of prejudice after his team were knocked out of the Copa do Brasil by Rio side Botafogo.
“I don’t want to play the victim, but I’m nordestino, [from Brazil's poor Northeast]. I’ve seen this happen plenty of times. When it comes to the crunch, they always favor the other side and hurt teams from the nordeste. How can I go home and explain this to my kid?” he said, in protest at a number of controversial refereeing decisions made during the game.
If Brazil is such a macho, backwards country, how has it managed to put on a major presidential race between two progressive women*, with barely a sexist protest in the national media? It may take decades before something like that could happen in the United States.
By Anna Jean Kaiser
On the heels of Chile’s Presidential election last year, Marina Silva and Dilma Rousseff’s battle in Brazil is the only other presidential election I can find where the two principal candidates are women. This milestone for gender equality seems to comes from an unlikely place, as Brazil and Latin America are infamously “machista” and sexist. But Dilma’s gender barely made ripples when she was first elected in 2010, and the topic has gone practically unmentioned as Marina and Dilma go at each other a month before the first round of this year’s elections.
If there is anyone who has benefited directly from the energy that exploded in Brazil last year, it is likely wildcard environmentalist candidate Marina Silva, who was seen as an outsider. But the complicated ‘protest movement’ changed much more than that, even as it remains to be seen whether any of its slogans can be transformed into concrete political outcomes.
How much did the protests of 2013 affect one of the most exciting presidential races of Brazil’s young democracy? It may take decades to really understand what happened last June.
A brutal desigualdade brasileira é tão onipresente que os que vivem aqui simplesmente param de notá-la. Uma mensagem inesperada do exterior serve como lembrete de um tema tão pouco discutido tanto na sociedade quanto na mídia e na eleição atual.
[to read the original post in English, click here]*
Moro no Brasil há mais de quatro anos, o que tem sido incrível em quase todos os aspectos, incluindo as formas que arrumei para me adaptar à cultura local. Por outro lado, há partes do país e do meu processo de adaptação que não gosto. Odeio sobretudo a forma como me tornei insensível a níveis chocantes, brutais e ridículos de desigualdade, que minam o avanço do país. Me acostumei a eles, passei a vê-los como algo de certo modo aceitável.
Brazil’s brutal inequality is so ubiquitous that those who live here simply stop noticing it. An unexpected message from abroad serves as a reminder of the topic that is so rarely discussed here, in society, the media, or the current election.
I’ve been living in Brazil for over four years now, which has been incredible in almost every way, including the ways in which I’ve adapted to the local culture. But there’s the bits I don’t like, too. More than anything else, I hate the way I’ve become desensitized to shocking, brutal, and stultifying levels of inequality. I’ve become accustomed to it, as if it were or ever should be normal.
[para ler o texto em Português, clique aqui]
This, most foreigners in Brazil learn quickly enough, is actually one of the required characteristics of being authentically “Brazilian.” True locals understand that extreme inequality is just a fact of life here, and it is bad taste to bring it up or transgress established class boundaries, so much so that an extreme preoccupation with the topic, or wanting to get to know Brazil outside elite circles, are sometimes considered “gringo” things to do. The more I find myself becoming “local” in this sense (and in this sense only), the more uncomfortable I become.
The very fun World Cup confounded expectations while exposing some deep truths. Was it all worth it? Above, dismantling the extra seats at São Paulo’s Itaquerão Stadium.
It is January. The foreign journalist sits at his desk in London (or New York or Berlin) and thinks about the World Cup. The foreign journalist is not happy. The foreign journalist is worried. The foreign journalist is angry. The stadiums are not ready, he hears, and even if they were, the traffic and the public transport network in Brazil is such a seething mess that he and his fellow foreign journalists would not be able to get from their expensive hotels to the matches anyway. People say the hundreds of thousands of protestors who took to the streets last June will back in five months’ time, and that there will be more of them, and that they will be more furious and more violent. “It’s the World Cup of chaos!” he writes, and leans back in his chair, pleased with his work.