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Yet another senate scandal reveals that senators seek their colleagues’ relatives as employees. The BRICs meet, and decide little other than to convene in Brazil next year. A magazine alleges that the Air France jet crashed without an explosion. Brazil sinks into recession, although some sectors prosper. The FT says Brazil’s hefty regulation protected it from a deeper crisis. And Lula launches a column.
Top News: It’s time to play senate-scandal-of-the-week! Yet another absurd revelation: Hundreds of administrative acts executed by senators were kept off the public record. And, surprise, the secret acts weren’t all to provide food to the poor. Few have been revealed, but those that have mostly involve apparent nepotism in the form of senators’ relatives being assigned to lucrative jobs in other senators’ offices.
At the center of the maelstrom is the senate’s president, Jose Sarney, who has denied all knowledge. The standard excuse: Senators themselves are not at fault, because it was the senate administration who is in fact responsible for publishing the acts.
Leaders of the four emerging economies known as the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China, in case you’ve been living in the Amazon or Siberia or rural Rajasthan or Inner Mongolia) met today. The summit in Yekaterinburg, Russia didn’t result in much more than a vague statement of purpose (roughly “Look at us!”) that skirted around the hot potato issue of an alternative to the dollar as world reserve currency.
But there was a victory for Brazil: landing the 2010 BRIC meeting. Perhaps the most interesting Brazilian moment came last week from foreign minister Celso Amorim in Paris, who, anticipating the meeting, said: “The G8 died. It doesn’t represent anything anymore. I don’t know how the burial will be. Sometimes the burial occurs slowly.”
Search operations continue for the victims of Air France Flight 447, and the press in Brazil carries daily reports of how many bodies are recovered. This week’s Veja magazine goes into detail on “What the Bodies Are Already Saying,” namely that there was no explosion and that injuries imply that at least part of the fuselage remained intact, passengers within, when it slammed down on the ocean’s surface.
Money: Brazil has made it official: It’s in recession. As had been predicted, GDP figures for the first quarter of 2009 showed a downturn, making it the second consecutive quarter the economy has been shrinking. But the 0.8 percent drop was less than most had expected, and was actually seen as a good thing by most everyone but (the public face of) Lula. Certain sectors of the economy actually grew, including services and consumption; exports, investment and industrial production were the big losers.
The Central Bank once again reduced the benchmark Selic interest rate to the lowest in 13 years, lowering it from 10.25 to 9.25 percent on June 10. That was more than the market had predicted. As the Brazilian press loves to point out, Brazil still has one of the highest interest rates in the world, in real terms, coming in third at 4.9 percent, after China and Hungary. But readers of GlobalPost already knew that.
The big business news was the purchase of electronics and appliance retailers Ponto Frio, by supermarket giant Pao de Acucar, creating the largest retailer in the country. Pending managerial and economic changes, the combined company should have about $13 billion in annual sales, 1,200 stores and 79,000 employees.
Lula wants to extend the tax exemption on new car purchases when it expires at the end of the month. Taxes have been eliminated on smaller cars since December and sharply reduced on other cars, trucks and buses. The result: The domestic car industry has put up healthy sales numbers — and requests for credit — that seem to ignore the financial crisis.
And, in the worth-reading category, a Financial Times article on how Brazilian regulation, often considered onerous, helped stave off the worst of the financial crisis.
Elsewhere: The Brazilian national soccer team kicked off its Confederations Cup games in South Africa on Monday at 11 a.m. Brasilia time, causing a large chunk of at least the male workforce to take an early and late lunch on the same day. Brazil barely squeaked out a victory over theoretically-far-inferior Egypt, 4-3. On June 18, they play the also-theoretically-inferior United States team at 11 a.m. (10 a.m. eastern time). No mass absenteeism is expected in the States.
It was an up-and-down couple of weeks for David Goldman, the New Jersey father fighting to win custody of his 9-year-old son Sean from his ex-wife’s widower. (Much of it has been covered breathlessly by American television.) When last we left them two weeks ago, David had apparently triumphed: A Brazilian federal court had ordered Sean to be turned over to the American consulate in Rio de Janeiro within 48 hours. But a political party entered an action in the Supreme Court to block the move, and a justice stayed the order temporarily. On June 10, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the party’s action, reinstating the court’s order. But now the stepfather’s family has appealed the case to a second-level federal court in Rio de Janeiro.
Finally, starting July 7, President Lula will publish a weekly Tuesday column answering citizens’ questions. Any regional newspaper is welcome to publish the column as long as it does not edit it. Sounds like it could be a press-officer-composed bore, but still a lot better tool than endless television shows certain further-left South American leaders use to communicate with their citizenry.