Connect to share and comment

It’s not easy being a global do-gooder

President Da Silva compares his annointed successor to Jesus Christ, and tries prevent an execution-by-stoning in Iran. Rio de Janeiro is hot with investors. Telefonica sweeps up cell-phone company Vivo. Plus, congress considers a ban on spanking, and Giselle demands that women world-wide breast feed.


Top News: With a presidential election just two months away in October, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been working overtime to make his political “magic dust” stick to his anointed successor, Dilma Rousseff, and get her elected as the first female leader of Latin America’s largest country,  the New York Times reports. Not only has Da Silva flouted electoral laws against campaigning by a sitting president, but he even compared Ms. Rousseff to Jesus Christ. The second coming may be Da Silva’s, who said he doesn’t rule outrunning for president again in 2014.

Some Brazilians are starting to worry that the candidates’ hapless vice presidential picks could actually take office someday, as has happened four times in Brazil since 1954. The Economist suggests the VP picks are“a train wreck” in the making.

Brazil’s cozy relations with Iran took a bizarre turn when President Da Silva offered sanctuary to an Iranian woman sentenced to deathby stoning for “illicit relations” with two men. An internet campaign in Brazil sought to shame Mr. Da Silva to take action in the case. Iran reacted negativelyto the Brazilian offer, with officials calling Mr. da Silva a “humane and emotional person” who “doesn’t have the facts.”

Brazil always wants to be the good guy. That may explain a wave of political correctness sweeping the country. The famously race-blind nation passed a racial equality lawthat many consider unnecessary. Another law would outlaw spanking. First time spankers get a “warning” and repeat offenders will be sent for psychiatric treatment.

Brazil calls itself a developing country, but is it? A deep look by the Economistfinds that Brazil has become a major international donor, with aid and loans to Haiti, Africa, the Gaza strip and other regions totaling $2.7 billion in 2010, similar to what Canada spends. The British news magazine ventures the goal of the largesse is “soft power” in resource rich areas like Africa, where rival China already invests heavily. The Guardian follows upnoting that Brazil has opened a string of new embassies across the continent.

Is destruction of the Amazon increasing or not? It is hard to be sure in Brazil, where the government reporteda big decline in deforestation but a respected Brazilian non-profit said the trend of destruction was rising.  Revisions to Brazil’s Forest Act advancing through Brazil’s Congress would increase destruction and species loss, critics say. The law would reduce by half the distance of clear-cutting from rivers and provide a general amnesty for illegal deforestation prior to 2008. Brazil’s powerful agricultural lobby calledthe claims ridiculous.

Money:Business Weekpublished a major take-out on the city of Rio de Janeiro, describing how a swarm of investors and hedge funds are descending on the resurgent beach city ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 21016 Summer Olympics. After years of decline, the city is “more alive and has more energy” says Goldman Sachs economist Paul O’Neill, thanks in part to the oil industry. 

Some of those hedge funds are trying to corner the marketon agricultural production, predicting big price rises. Brazil is certain to figure in such plans, as it is the top exporter in many food categories, including frozen meats, coffee, sugar, and orange juice.

Spanish phone giant Telefonicawill pay about $9.8 billionfor full control over Vivo, its mobile phone joint venture with Portugal Telecom in Brazil. Depressed conditions and falling profits in Europe makes Brazil’s fast-growing cellular market attractive. The Portuguese government initially tried to veto the deal, but relented under pressure from investors and a higher bid by Telefonica.

Vivo is Brazil’s leading cell phone company, with a 30 percent share. Following the deal, Portugual Telecom turned around and bought a minority stakein number two cell-phone operator for $4.7 billion.

Brazil’s central bank raised rates by half a percentin late July, a sign that monetary policy makers think inflation make be slowing. Brazil’s inflation rate is running above the country’s upper target of 4.5 percent, with analysts predicting headline inflation of 5.35 percent  for 2010.

Elsewhere: The month began with the firing of Carlos Dunga, Brazil’s soccer coach, after Brazil’s early exit from the World Cup. Taking his place is Mano Menezes, who promises a return to Brazil’s “beautiful game.”  Menezes quickly appointed a new squad keeping only four membersof the team that lost in South Africa for a friendly against the U.S. on August 10th.

No one in Brazil accused Menezes of exaggerating when he called his job “one of the most important positions in the country."

Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen called for a world-wide lawrequiring mothers to breast feed their children for the first six months of life, and not feed them “chemicals.” The controversial remarks likely fell on deaf ears in Brazil, where bottle feeding is the rule.

Aging actor Sylvester Stallone is being suedby production partners in Brazil over The Expendables, an action pic about “a group of mercenaries hired to infiltrate a South American country and overthrow its ruthless dictator." Producers say the Rocky star owes them over $1.5 millionfor filming in Rio last year.