AS/COA Online | The Tequila-Caipirinha Axis: Rousseff Visits Mexico

When Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff paid a visit to her Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto this week, the two signed agreements at a time when their countries’ economies could each use a leg up. Rousseff, president of Latin America’s biggest economy, headed to Mexico, the region’s second largest, for her first state visit with her homologue there, as well as the country’s Congress. In an interview with Mexican daily La Jornada ahead of her Monday departure, Rousseff said the trip “opens a new chapter in our relations” that could give rise to a “tequila-caipirinha axis.” Meanwhile, Brazilian outlet Folha de São Paulo interviewed Peña Nieto via email; the Mexican head of state, like Rousseff, forecast commercial and investment agreements during the meetings. Accords would build on March’s crucial automotive deal that, according to Peña Nieto, accounts for 46 percent of bilateral transactions. 

A visit in challenging times

The heads of state of the two Latin America giants came together at a moment that’s not without its economic challenges. International Monetary Fund (IMF) projections indicate that Brazil’s economy could shrink by 1 percent in 2015. Unemployment was up in the first quarter of the year and, through the first week of May, year-on-year daily trade rates were down 16 percent.

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U.S. News & World Report | Why the Americas Need More Women Leaders

Come Sunday, Brazilians will turn out for an election in which the top two candidates are women. That President Dilma Rousseff and former Environmental Minister Marina Silva are competing to lead Latin America’s largest economy now comes as little surprise in a region that accounts for a third of the world’s women presidents.

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U.S. News & World Report | Net Neutrality Lessons from Latin America

Will U.S. Internet users soon find themselves paying the price for the fast lane? The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to vote on regulations governing Net neutrality — or the lack thereof. Open-Internet advocates, along with over 100 internet firms, warn the new rules will stifle innovation by allowing large companies to pay internet providers for preferential treatment and faster Internet speeds, thereby creating roadblocks for start-ups and small enterprises. Opponents make the case that, had the same regulations been implemented a decade ago, we would have been stuck using Friendster and AltaVista.

Coincidentally, while the Net neutrality debate heats up in the United States, Latin America’s largest economy has tackled the issue of Net neutrality and Internet access. Brazil just passed a new law internationally hailed by advocates. And Chile passed a landmark Net neutrality law four years ago. What lessons does Latin America have for the United States when it comes to open Internet?....

Read the full article in U.S. News & World Report's online opinion section.

This article was co-authored with Rachel Glickhouse.

AS/COA Online - Brazilian Corruption Crackdown Causes More Ministerial Shakeups

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff may be learning that fighting crime doesn’t come easy. Her efforts to root out political corruption have caused a string of cabinet shakeups. This week brought more woes, with Agriculture Minister Wagner Rossi becoming the third of Rousseff’s ministers to step down amid corruption allegations and the fourth to leave his post since Rousseff took office just over seven months ago. Despite her attempts to cut unnecessary spending and select senior officials based on merit rather than political connections, she has seen public approval fall six points since March to 67 percent. That figure would undoubtedly make many heads of state around the world jealous, but disapproval also doubled to 25 percent while the approval rating for her government slipped from 56 to 48 percent. Moreover, Rousseff’s corruption crackdown is sparking a rebellion in the coalition that includes her Worker’s Party (PT), which could lead to legislative roadblocks. As The Economist put it: “Brazil’s president may find that the price of trying to clean up politics involves forgoing reforms the country needs.”

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AS/COA Online - First Stop Brasilia: Obama Arrives in South America

While Air Force One carried President Barack Obama to Brazil this morning, the White House released his weekly address, making the case for how economic ties with Latin America can help the United States get a leg up on job creation. “[W]hat is clear is that in an increasingly global economy, our partnership with these nations is only going to become more vital,” said the president. The two South American countries he’s visiting—Brazil and Chile—purchase enough U.S. exports to support 320,000 jobs in the United States, he noted. His remarks echoed his USA Today op-ed from a day earlier in which he estimated that exports to Latin America “will soon support more than 2 million jobs here in the United States.” In a sign of this goal, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Brazilian Minister Antonio de Aguiar Patriota inked a pact to create a bilateral commission focused on eliminating tariffs and trade barriers. 

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AS/COA Online - Obama's Latin Spring

This article was co-authored with Roque Planas

U.S. President Barack Obama has never traveled to South America before, but the month of March will mark an uptick in Latin America-related meetings for him. On March 3, he hosts Mexican President Felipe Calderón at the White House. Then, from March 19 through 23, Obama heads to Brasilia to kick off a five-day trip that will also take him to Rio, Santiago, and San Salvador. AS/COA Online looks at the issues likely to be discussed when Obama meets with the presidents of Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador.
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AS/COA Online - Second Time's a Charm: Dilma Wins Brazil's Runoff Vote

Brazil elected its first female president on October 31, when voters chose Dilma Rousseff—and continuity—over ex-Governor of São Paulo José Serra. With 99 percent of ballots counted, the Worker’s Party (PT) candidate won 55.4 percent of votes compared to the roughly 43.5 percent garnered by her opponent from the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PDSB). Most commonly referred to by her first name, Dilma offered supporters the pledge of carrying on the policies of her popular predecessor President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. She served as his cabinet chief and went on to become his handpicked heir. “Twenty-eight million Brazilians have been lifted out of poverty,” said Dilma Friday. “I will remove the remaining 20 million.”

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AS/COA Online - Resource Guide: Brazil's Runoff Election

Dilma Rousseff and José Serra face off October 31 in a runoff presidential election. Dilma, as she is commonly known, is popular President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva’s handpicked successor and former cabinet chief and remains the favorite in polls. Still, Serra, the former governor of São Paulo, has seen the gap ebb and flow since the first round on October 3. One of them will take office in January 2011. AS/COA Online offers an overview of polls, coverage, and primary sources as the country’s 1.36 million voters prepare to head to the polls.

Topics Covered:

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AS/COA Online | U.S.-Brazil Military Pact on the Horizon

The United States and Brazil could ink their first defense pact in decades as early as April 12. Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim made note of the bilateral deal during April 7 remarks to his country’s foreign relations committee in the lower house of Congress. BBC Brasil reported Jobim will travel to Washington Monday to sign the deal alongside U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Earlier in the week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela, while on an official stop in Ecuador, referenced the cooperation pact, revealed few details, and noted it needed to be finalized. The negotiations come at a time of bumps in bilateral relations caused by Brazil’s reluctance to back new UN sanctions on Iran as well as the likelihood that it will purchase French fighter jets over American ones. 

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AS/COA Online | Lula Unveils Major Infrastructure Investment Plan

In a move that could bolster the electoral chances of his chosen political heir, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced a massive infrastructure investment program this week. The plan—valued at roughly $880 billion—will be the second stage of the Growth Acceleration Program and is known by its Portuguese acronym as PAC 2. Lula unveiled the plan at a meeting with 1,200 people and his hoped-for successor Dilma Rousseff in attendance. Rousseff’s administration would carry out the project should she win the October elections. She steps down from her post as Lula’s chief of staff this week to focus on the race as the governing Workers’ Party candidate. But even though Lula’s approval rating has hit a record 76 percent, Rousseff trails São Paulo Governor José Serra in electoral polling.

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AS/COA Online | Brazil Raises Stakes over U.S. Cotton Subsidies

Brasilia took a simmering trade dispute with Washington a step further this week when it announced intentions of suspending a number of U.S. patents and copyrights. The measure builds on a March 8 decision to impose tariffs on over a 100 American goods unless the United States abides by a World Trade Organization ruling that deems illegal Washington’s $3-billion subsidies on cotton. The United States has until April 7 to find a solution before Brazil’s multimillion-dollar retaliations take effect.

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AS/COA Online | Secretary Clinton's Latin American Tour

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tours Latin America this week for a journey that takes her through the Southern Cone, Brazil, and Central America. Though hers is a trip through the Americas, it involves Middle East policy. “I’m on my way to Latin America next week. And Iran is at the top of my agenda,” said Clinton in February 24 testimony at a Senate Appropriation Committee, hinting at concern over Brazil’s deepening ties with Iran. But that was before an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile, one of the stops on the secretary’s trip. Her trip runs from February 28 through March 5 and she travels to Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.

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AS/COA Online - Lula Raises Middle East Profile

Co-authored with Michal Toiba. As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prepares for his trip to South America next week, concerns grow about Tehran’s influence in the region. Ahmadinejad, who canceled a trip to Latin America back in May, visits Brazil, Venezuela, and Bolivia next week in efforts to strengthen political and economic relations. With an ally in Venezuela already, Ahmadinejad’s journey offers the chance for Tehran to deepen ties with South American powerhouse Brazil. However, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's hosting of Ahmadinejad could lead to blowback if Brazil fails to join other global powers in pressuring Iran to curb its nuclear goals.
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AS/COA Online - Brazil Sets Climate Change Bull's-Eye

Presidents Sarkozy (L) and Lula agreed on a proposal they dubbed a "climate bible." (Photo: Ricardo Stuckert/PR)

During a trip to France, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva set a standard for next month’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen. During a press conference with his French counterpart Nikolas Sarkozy, the two leaders agreed on a plan that calls for reducing global carbon emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels over the course of the next four decades. The proposal also suggests that, by 2050, industrialized nations should decrease emissions to 80 percent of 1990 rates. The presidents labeled the plan a “climate bible” and it came just after Brazil announced a sharp drop in deforestation rates. Still, when the Copenhagen summit rolls around, bold plans could give way to a scaled-back agreement.

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AS/COA Online | Rio Wins Battle over Olympics Bid

Candidate countries made their cases and the die has been cast: Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Summer Olympics, making it the first South American city to host the Games. As the clock counted down to the October 2 announcement, competition grew between two contenders in the Western Hemisphere, Chicago and Rio.

Vying cities sent top leaders—including U.S. President Barack Obama and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—to stump for the International Olympics Committee (IOC) in Copenhagen Friday. But, in the end, Obama's home city was the first eliminated. "Chicago's marketing muscle clearly was no match for the sentimental sway of Rio," said Milwaukee's Journal-Sentinal in an article accompanied by an image that shows the disappointed faces of Chicagoans. Tokyo was the next city counted out, leaving Madrid and Rio in the running. The Brazilian city was declared the resolute winner, pulling in 66 IOC votes to Madrid's 32.
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AS/COA Online | Interview: Petrobras CEO José Sergio Gabrielli on Brazil's Energy Outlook

"[W]e are far and ahead of almost all countries in the world in the use of renewable sources of energy right now."
In an exclusive interview, Petrobras CEO and President José Sergio Gabrielli de Azevedo talked with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis about Brazil as one of the world’s top oil and ethanol producers, his firm’s business plan, and global partnerships. In the last case, that includes recent energy deals forged with China and both opportunities and hurdles for the U.S.-Brazilian ethanol cooperation. “Brazil is a possible substitute for other sources that today provide oil to the United States,” said Gabrielli.

AS/COA Online: Brazil plans to follow a Norwegian model for auctioning concessions in its offshore pre-salt oil fields, including creation of a 100 percent state-owned company. Can you talk about this and Petrobras’ involvement?
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AS/COA Online | Interview: U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Clifford Sobel on Bilateral Partnerships

[W]e have a lot of very fertile areas where we look for partnership and for growth in our economic, investment, and cultural institutions."

In an exclusive interview, U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Clifford M. Sobel speaks with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis about opportunities to build U.S.-Brazilian partnerships in areas ranging from energy to security. At a time when biofuels production faces charges of pushing up food production, the two countries can share technology and engage in research exchanges to turn waste into energy resources, says Sobel. The ambassador also describes the goals of the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum, efforts to ease visa requirements, and strides in connecting Brazilian cities with American cities through direct flights.

AS/COA: In what ways do you see current economic and political factors converging to support opportunities for U.S.-Brazilian partnerships?
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AS/COA Online | Interview: Jair Ribeiro on Model for Adopting, Improving Brazilian Schools

“[E]ach school is different from the other and requires a different set of solutions.”

CPM Braxis CEO Jair Ribeiro, in an interview with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis, discusses Partners in Education (Parceiros Da Educação), a program he established in São Paulo to match executives with schools—particularly in poor and underserved areas—to improve teacher training and boost students’ test scores. The program has proven to show marked results in the “adopted” schools. As the model developed by Partners in Education evolves and improves, executives from across Brazil approached the organization about adopting the model in other parts of the country.

AS/COA: Can you tell me a little bit about the history of Partners in Education and how and why you started it?
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AS/COA Online - Interview: Helio Mattar, President of the Akatu Institute for Conscious Consumption on Corporate Social Responsibility in Brazil

“When we talk about CSR we are talking about the collective interest of society; we are talking about returns to stakeholders, not only returns to shareholders.”

Brazil’s Helio Mattar, who serves as the president of the Akatu Institute for Conscious Consumption and founded the Ethos Institute for Social Responsibility talks with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis about the strength of the corporate social responsibility movement (CSR) in Brazil and across the Americas. Mattar, a leading expert in the field of CSR, discusses the factors behind Brazil’s prominent CSR movement and the need for companies to remain accountable to consumers. A former CEO and government minister, Mattar outlines essential evolution for companies must undertake to maximize the capacity of CSR efforts. “[W]e’ve changed the level of consciousness in the market, and companies will have to change the level of action that they will have in social and environmental areas,” says Mattar, who served as a moderator of an AS/COA roundtable on CSR during AS/COA’s annual Latin American Cities Conference in São Paulo, Brazil in July 2008.

AS/COA: Across Latin America, according to Akatú’s research, 50 to 80 percent of consumers have an interest in what companies are doing in terms of corporate social responsibility. The rate is particularly high in Brazil.

: It is. It has been between 75 and 78 percent in the last seven years.

AS/COA: What are the factors behind this high rate of interest in CSR in Brazil?

: I think there is one attribute, which it is not Brazilian. I am totally convinced that mass communication, Internet all over the place, and telecommunications all over the place means that people are becoming more and more sensitive to social and environmental issues.
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The Boston Globe - Expanding the runners' world: Athlete goes the distance for Brazilian youths

Jose Moreira has prepared for the Boston Marathon by rising at 6 a.m. every morning to run a 14-mile course on the Minuteman Trail in Somerville. Tomorrow's race will be his fourth marathon. He is focused on two ambitious goals.

One is to finish the race in two and a half hours. The second is to raise $15,000 from sponsors to build a training camp for youths in Marcolino Moura, Brazil, the small mountain village where he was born.

Moreira decided to build the camp after working as a volunteer coach at an orphanage in São Paulo eight years ago. While working there he saw how running built the confidence of youths in his care. He organized a race and awarded the young runners trophies and some ribbons he'd won himself. He also made himself a promise.

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