March 23, 2016 - Christopher Sabatini

March 23, 2016
Christopher Sabatini

One of the worst things I’ve ever had to watch was a house burning down. No one was inside. Everyone had gotten out alive, but a house is a home, where people live, where lives are not just sheltered but kept.

Houses usually burn room by room, and each time flames are first seen through a new set of windows is like a fresh scorch to the face.

The nation of Brazil is like a house on fire.

The blaze broke out on the ground floor, kindled by the global recession, especially the slowdown in China, Brazil’s best economic customer. Job losses burnt many households, and as the drop in earnings hit government, public services from schools and hospitals to police and fire-fighters were reduced.

These cutbacks were made more hurtful by uninterrupted government spending on the Soccer World Cup Tournament and the Summer Olympic Games, especially when revelations of cronyism and corruption stained many of the big-money projects tied to the sports events. That’s when the fire jumped to the  upper story of Brazil’s national house, it was revealed that the favoritism and payoffs that defined sports stadia and the highways that ran to them had burned through much of Brazilian business, involving many of the top developers who dreamed up projects to the construction companies that built them and the bankers who financed them.

As the flames of corruption spread to Petrobras, the national oil company and the crown jewel of Brazil’s state economy, and then to politicians and their parties, the flames went through the roof.

It’s a real question what, if anything can be saved.

President Dilma Rousseff looks done. A big-time political head-counter says, if the House impeaches her, which is predicted to happen by late next month, the Senate will convict her.

The Vice President, The Speaker of the House, and the President of the Senate are all under investigation, while 60% of the membership of the Brazilian House and Senate, 383 out of 585, are facing criminal charges.

Executives and lawyers for many major firms in the private sector have also been accused, and in some cases convicted and jailed for corruption.

It makes you want to say, “Burn, Baby, burn,” but Brazil is somebody’s country, 200 million people’s homeland, where people live their lives and keep their treasures.  It is horrible to watch it implode.

Reading Room

Christopher Sabatini, PhD, is the editor of and an adjunct professor at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University.  From 2005 to 2014 he was the senior director of policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas (AS/COA) and the founder and editor-in-chief of the hemispheric policy journal Americas Quarterly (AQ).

“Brazil protests: Rousseff and Lula supporters rally amid corruption claims” – The Guardian

“Brazil is in danger of turning the clock back on democracy” – The Guardian

“Release of tapped phone calls between Lula and Rousseff sparks mass protests in Brazil” – The Guardian

“Brazil judge strips Lula of office amid mounting political crisis”- The Guardian




Subscribe to insider notes from Dave Marash along with previews and cartoons of upcoming podcasts. You’ll be richer, taller, and if you don’t eat, thinner.


Here & There is kept afloat by wonderful sponsors and curious listeners like you. Your support is appreciated!