Brazil

Marina Silva, a political outsider who is threatening to end the 12-year reign of Brazil’s powerful centre-left Workers’ party, is quenching Brazilians’ thirst for change.

Qatar’s foreign minister has rejected claims Qataris are funding Isis in Syria and tells the west to back moderate Sunni fighting the Assad regime.

• Islamist extremists such as Isis are exploiting the conventions of X-rated movies in their own hardcore film productions, writes The Atlantic.

• Russian academic Sergey Karaganov argues that the delusions of a west that has become a directionless gaggle are responsible for triggering the conflict over Ukraine.

• An independent Scotland would face running a gauntlet to gain admission to the EU. 

Gideon Rachman

Watching the World Cup from Brazil – as I did last week – it was impossible to miss the huge weight of expectations placed on the national team. Half the country – including some toddlers and dogs – seemed to be wearing the yellow jersey of Brazil. Some Brazilians told me that the players would use that pressure to inspire themselves to greater heights. That always seemed doubtful to me. And last night, we saw the opposite happen: the Brazil team crumbled under unbearable pressure and lost by an unthinkable amount. 

Brazilian players listen to their national anthem before a Group A football match between Brazil and Mexico in the Castelao Stadium in Fortaleza during the 2014 FIFA World Cup

(Photograph: AFP)

By Thalita Carrico

One week after the start of the World Cup, there seems little doubt

about where Brazilians’ loyalty lies. On days when the Seleção – the national team – is playing, São Paulo comes alive with people wearing their yellow and green jerseys and the streets are filled with the noise of horns used by soccer supporters.

After Brazilians staged massive protests last year during the
Confederations Cup, the dress rehearsal event for the World Cup, the country put on hold any excitement over the 2014 tournament. As demonstrations this year against government spending on the World Cup allegedly at the expense of social services became more violent, people began to question whether Brazil was still the country of soccer. 

Brazil 3 (Neymar Jr 29, 71 penalty; Oscar 90)

Croatia 1 (Marcelo own goal 11)

By Simon Kuper in Sâo Paulo

This was the joyous start the World Cup needed. After all the Brazilian anger about wasteful spending, and Fifa’s anger at Brazil’s tardy preparations, this was a surprisingly attacking, open, cheering game.

It was also played in perfect conditions: the stadium looked ready, the weather handily cooled off just before kickoff, and Brazil’s players and crowd got us into the mood by continuing to belt out the national anthem for half a minute after the music had stopped. 

  • The US president’s thicker skin and conviction that he can transact little business with Congress means he is using his executive authority to shape policy – and his legacy.
  • The next king of Spain will need to work hard to restore faith in the Bourbons, says the FT’s Tobias Buck.
  • Not one of the ECB’s new measures addresses the problem of low inflation directly, says Wolfgang Münchau.
  • This week’s Ofsted report that is expected to warn of hardline Islamist teaching creeping into a handful of British schools will revive the debate on whether a much broader push is needed to combat extremism in the UK.
  • Even before the bribery allegations concerning Qatar’s World Cup bid emerged last Sunday, the young emir of the gas-rich state had reason to believe the world was turning against his country.

Football interlude:

  • Young prodigy Cassiano de Jesus has captured the footballing world of Brazil where the sport is one of the few equalisers in one of the planet’s most unequal countries.
  • Four years after the last World Cup, residents of South Africa are still waiting to see its legacy.
  • Lionel Messi “rejected the advances of Spain’s national team to choose Argentina, the land of his birth, only to find that he could never really come home.”

 

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. 

♦ 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. 

♦ 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.

 

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.) 

♦ 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.