Thursday, March 19, 2015

Brazilian President Faces Abysmal Approval Amid Growing Discontent

According to a new poll a miniscule 13% of Brazilians approval the work of President Dilma Rousseff as she tries to weather a maelstrom of problems facing her administration.

The Datafolha survey showed that 62% of the 2842 respondents disapproved of Rousseff while nearly one in four considered it as regular. As a result, her approval rating dropped ten points compared to February while her levels of disapproval leaped from 44% last month to 62%.

Interviewees also gave the second-term leader an average grade of 3.7 out of 10, which represents her worst grade since the early months of her presidency in 2011.

Her minuscule approval rating is the lowest a Brazilian president has seen since the brief rule of Fernando Collor de Mello in 1992. Coincidentally, both leaders faced near single digit approval ratings under an increased popular clamor for impeachment amid political corruption and economic turmoil. The conservative Collor de Mello resigned prior to his impeachment trial it seems highly unlikely that the ex-Chief of Staff under President Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva will do the same. That didn’t stop over one million people from taking the streets across Brazil on March 15th in anti-government rallies.

Rousseff has gone into damage control in the days since the protests; first, she promised on Monday to engage in dialogue with her critics and soon presenting a “wide-ranging political reform.” The latter occurred on Wednesday evening when she announced a series of measures that she deemed as “a decisive step to expand the government's capacity and power to prevent and combat corruption and impunity.”

Prosecutors, meanwhile, are continuing their expanding probe into allegations of a major bribery scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras. A former Petrobras senior executive is expected to provide testimony today over his role in allegedly funneling millions of dollars from the firm. At least forty indictments have been handed down in the probe though prosecutors are seeking permission to look into thirty-four sitting politicians.

The Petrobras scandal is one of several factors behind the recent sharp decline in the Brazilian economy:
A boom for commodities had propelled Brazil's economy. Now the price for many of Brazil's key exports, like oil and soybeans, has fallen due to declining demand from China, Brazil's biggest trade partner. 

Brazil's currency, the Real, is losing value too. One U.S. dollar was worth about 1.55 Brazilian Reals shortly after Rousseff took office in 2011. Now one dollar equals 2.80 Reals, a concerning sign for a country plagued by hyperinflation during the 1980s and 1990s. 

Many experts see Brazil eventually emerging from its current economic turmoil but they say the next few years will be rocky for Rousseff and Brazil.
Rousseff faced massive street protests in 2013 but was able to gain enough support to win in a tight reelection race last year. It remains to be seen if she can weather this storm in the years remaining in her presidency.

Video Source – YouTube user The Times of India

Online Sources – Reuters; Xinhua; GlobalPost;;; ABC News

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