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Brazil is over

Tuesday, 7 January, 2014

For the Arsenal and England forward Theo Walcott, Brazil is very over. He’ll miss the rest of the season and the World Cup with a ruptured knee ligament. And it’s not looking so sunny, either, for the host country. “More than six years later, the outlook for Brazil’s oil industry, much like the Brazilian economy itself, is more sobering. Oil production is stagnant, the state-controlled oil company, Petrobras, is hobbled by debt, and foreign oil companies are wary of investing here.” So reports the Washington Post today in a piece titled “Brazil’s oil euphoria hits reality hard.”

And the Wall Street Journal piles it on: “Even Brazil, which has had far more responsible economic management than Venezuela or Argentina, is starting to struggle with rising prices and a boom in credit that is starting to turn. Last year, one Brazilian summed up the Atlantic bloc harshly: ‘Brazil is becoming Argentina, Argentina is becoming Venezuela, and Venezuela is becoming Zimbabwe.'”

Everything that seemed to be going so brilliantly for Brazil has started to go sour of late. The preparations for the World Cup have been marred by delays, deaths, and demonstrations against the diversion of resources from social spending to football stadiums and, in the bigger arena, Mexico’s economic revival has checked Brazil’s hopes of leading a renascent Latin America in the global power game. Last year was horrible for all the BRICs but the home of Pele was especially hard-hit. This year, US Fed tightening could spark a run on Brazilian assets. With the hosting of the World Cup and the Olympics, Brasilia dreamed of taking a leading place on the world stage. Now, the swagger is less assured and the talk is filled with the familiar complaints about a big country that never quite lives up to its promise and remains uncertain about its role.

Indicative of the doubt, is Brazil’s attitude to the American data thief, Edward Snowden. He wrote an open letter last month saying that he would assist the Brazilian government in its investigations into NSA spying in exchange for asylum. Publicly, the foreign ministry has hedged, saying it has not received a formal asylum request and therefore isn’t considering it, but it was the risk involved in angering Washington that prevented President Dilma Rousseff’s leftist government from easing Snowden’s passage from the grimness of Putin’s icy realm to the warmth of the Copacabana.

When it came to making the challenge, Brazil blinked. Not a good omen for the Seleção, that, this year.


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