Brazil

By Joe Leahy in São Paulo

Team Brazil began its charm offensive in Davos on Thursday with Finance Minister Guido Mantega reasserting the primary role in global economic growth of the so-called Brics, which also include Russia, India, China and South Africa. Read more

♦ Eike Batista built an empire and became Brazil’s richest man with the OGX oil company. It now stands on the verge of bankruptcy, however, after it turned out the oil fields meant to produce more than half of Brazil’s current national production were duds.
♦ Raghuram Rajan has his work cut out for him as the new head of the Reserve Bank of India, with the rupee at fresh lows and the slowdown of quantitative easing on the horizon. Rajan, who warned about the crisis , is expected to take a tough stance on moral hazard.
♦ In an analysis of how Egypt’s rocky present could forecast Turkey’s future if the AKP does not distance itself from Erdogan’s brutal crackdown and drive for Islamisation, Timur Kuran argues that political Islam must gain power legitimately through the creation of democratic systems.
♦ “Once you spend more than $100m on a movie, you have to save the world,” Hollywood blockbuster writer Damon Lindelof tells New York Magazine in this profile the of the U.S. film industry.
♦ A pension crisis is drawing nearer in Chicago, as the retired teachers’ pension fund stands at risk of collapse and in 2015 state law will require it to pay $1bn more a year into city pension funds to make up for years of underpayments. Read more

♦ Lawrence Summers made dismissive remarks about the effectiveness of quantitative easing back in April, while a senate letter by a group of Democrats backing Janet Yellen for the next Fed chair is circulating. The Washington Post’s Wonk blog asks, who would make the better chair, Yellen or Summers?
♦Pope Francis is walking the walk in Latin America, inspiring the masses, and many should be feeling uncomfortable about this, argues John-Paul Rathbone.
♦ When Wen Jiabao defined Bo Xilai as a man who wanted to repudiate China’s effort to reform its economy, open to the world and allow its citizens to experience modernity, he was getting his revenge on a family that had opposed him and his mentor Hu Yaobang.
♦ Medieval Irish chronicles might be able to expand our understanding of climate change.
♦ Abbe Smith, a professor of law and the director of the Criminal Defense & Prisoner Advocacy Clinic at Georgetown University, examines why lawyers choose to defend someone like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev or George Zimmerman.

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John Paul Rathbone

While Dilma Rousseff and Cristina Fernández face rising political uncertainty in Brazil and Argentina, across the Andes plucky Chile soldiers on in time-honored fashion – that’s to say, predictably.

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet after winning primary elections in Santiago, on June 30, 2013

Michelle Bachelet, the former president, steamed towards another presidency on Sunday with a romping win in the primaries – which pretty much guarantees her a landslide win in November’s presidential election. But then again, is everything so certain, even in stolid Chile?

Brazil’s recent protests, and student riots in Chile last week over university tuition fees, have led some to wonder if “Chile is the next Brazil?” (Although, truth be told, it would be more accurate to call “Brazil the next Chile” as Chile’s student riots, despite the country’s booming economy, pre-date Brazil’s turbulence by several years; the first were in 2006.) Read more

♦ In Egypt, at least nine people were killed in protests bigger than those seen during the country’s 2011 uprising. More than a million people demanded that president Mohamed Morsi step down.
♦ Poor public health services are fuelling Brazilian protesters’ sense of anger – the problem is so accute that Dilma Rousseff promised to import thousands of doctors from abroad to staff struggling hospitals.
Syrians are stockpiling goods, ripping up old market rules and switching away from dollar-priced imports, in an effort to combat the threat of a tumbling currency.
♦ The New Yorker looks at how Beny Steinmetz wrested control of the iron ore buried inside the mountains of Guinea. The FT reported last year on the government’s investigation into how Beny Steinmetz Group Resources secured the rights to the half of Simandou that had earlier that year been stripped from Rio Tinto.
♦ Infighting among Afghanistan’s Karzai clan is dominating the political life of Kandahar.
♦ Jeffrey Sachs vowed in 2005 to attack the root causes of poverty by establishing model villages across Africa. However, he is increasingly having to defend himself against a growing number of critics who say that methodological errors have rendered his project worthless.
♦ Sharp new limits have been imposed on fishing cod, haddock and flounder in Massachussets because of dwindling supplies, so restaurants are offerings tasty alternatives, one of which is attractively called the Blood Cockle.  Read more

♦ The BBC visits two Goodyear-owned tyre factories in Amiens, north France, to look at how the country is getting to grips with labour reform.
♦ The nuclear stand-off with Iran can be resolved now that Hassan Rohani has been elected, writes Ayatollah Seyed Salman Safavi.
♦ Thousands of mainland Chinese have permanent residency in The Gambia – as the fastest and cheapest way for a Chinese citizen to gain right of residency in Hong Kong is to first gain permanent residency in mainland Africa’s smallest country.
♦ For the first time in human history, overweight people outnumber the underfed, and obesity is widespread in wealthy and poor nations alike.
♦ The US scrambles to save Taliban talks after an Afghan backlash. Also, take a look at the Taliban’s new Doha office.
♦ With protests continuing in Brazil, it’s a good time to take a read through our São Paulo correspondent’s feature on BBQ activists. Read more

John Aglionby

A demonstrator holds a Brazilian flag in front of a burning barricade during a protest in Rio de Janeiro on Monday

The protests sweeping Brazil began in São Paulo, the country’s commerical capital, last week as a demonstration by students against an increase in bus fares from R$3 to R$3.20 ($1.47) per journey. They have swelled into an outpouring of popular discontent over everything from the billions of dollars the 2014 football World Cup will cost the taxpayer to the police’s heavy-handed reaction to last week’s protests. Commentators say they are probably the country’s largest since the end of the 1964-1985 dictatorship.

Here’s a reading list to help assess whether they are likely to escalate further or fizzle. Read more

♦ The west’s dominance of the Middle East is coming to an end, says Gideon Rachman.
♦ Protests against student bus fares spread throughout Brazil’s major cities, with hundreds of protesters invading areas of the national Congress complex in Brasília.
♦ Hassan Rohani pledges greater transparency for the Islamic Republic’s controversial nuclear programme and says he will work to ease international sanctions.
♦ Iran’s hardliners blame each other for their election defeat, forgetting the millions who turned out in the streets for the jailed reformist Mir-Hossein Moussavi in 2009.
♦ America is the world’s number one and Germany is Europe’s, yet both seem content to punch below their weights, says Josef Joffe, editor of Die Zeit.
♦ The new governor of Luxor comes from the political arm of an Islamist group that once carried out terrorist attacks that killed dozens in the same city.
♦ Chen Guangcheng’s charge that he has been asked to leave NYU because of pressure from China will be followed closely by other universities grappling with the potential difficulties of setting up programmes and campuses in China. Read more

Sampling wine at a Shanghai wine fair (AFP)

As the China-EU solar dispute deepens, oddly enough, wine has been brought into the fray.

Here are seven interesting factoids you may (not) know about China and wine.

1. Chinese investors have bought up 30 French chateaux vineyards over the past four years and they aren’t stopping at that. There’s another 20 deals in the pipeline. Will they be affected by any probe?

2. Chinese wine importers were prominent bidders in the recent Elysee wine sale.

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John Paul Rathbone

Was it the man or the country? Roberto Azevêdo is a polished negotiator, a seasoned trade diplomat and in many ways a perfect pick to head the World Trade Organization.

He knows his way around the Geneva-based organisation, can hit the ground running fully briefed on all the issues, and is well known and liked around the developing world – not least for his record of criticising the farm-subsidy policies of the USA and Europe. If anyone can revive the Doha round of trade talks, launched 12 years ago in an attempt to cut tariffs and trade-distorting farm subsidies around the world but now on life-support, it is surely him.

Yet Azevêdo, 55, is also Brazilian, a country with a patchy record on trade liberalisation and little openness to the rest of the world. Trade accounts for only 20 per cent of Brazilian gross domestic product. Brazil is also the leading member of Mercosul, a regional Latin American trade pact created in 1991 with great hopes that have since foundered. If Brazil can’t boost trade locally, what chance it can boost trade globally? Azevêdo’s nationality therefore makes him an unlikely leader of the WTO, especially as the organisation’s role as a broker of ambitious trade deals is in doubt given the rise of so many regional trade initiatives, such as the mooted US-European trade deal and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Read more