Brazil, the largest nation in South America, faces equally momentous challenges as it prepares for general elections this fall, continues to manage mounting environmental problems within its extensive and troubled rain forests, and struggles to develop and implement the policies and infrastructure necessary to bind and heal its socio-economic abrasions. Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula de Silva, ineligible to run again having already served two terms in office, has hand-picked a presidential ‘successor’ as the Brazilian Workers Party (PT) candidate, Dilma Rousseff , an economist, seasoned political activist, and fellow party member whom Lula de Silva appointed as his Chief of Staff in 2005. Ms. Rousseff’s nomination must now be ratified by the Brazilian Congress.
Long standing allegations of corruption plague the Lula de Silva government and the Workers Party, the cause of waning confidence and trust within the ranks of the population who elected him on the platform of ethical governmental reform – a melting -pot population of nearly 200 million people, about 1.5 million of whom are Muslims descended from African Muslims who were forcibly brought to Brazil as slaves, and immigrants from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and other Middle-Eastern lands who sought refuge from wars, and commercial opportunity as well.
Yet, President Lula is credited with forward development in many aspects of Brazil’s growth since he ascended the presidency in 2002, including a noteworthy role in the founding of Mercosur, the Central/South American trade and development cooperative. During his first term as president, Mr. Lula de Silva toured many Middle Eastern countries including Syria. Lebanon, Egypt, and Libya, with the fruit of that diplomacy taking the shape of an unprecedented Arab and Latin American summit that ultimately yielded a boost of Brazilian exports to Arab League countries and nearby regions in 2005 estimated at nearly 10 billion dollars . A recent report from the Getulio Vargas Foundation states under President Lula de Silva’s leadership, the number of Brazilians living a ‘middle-class’ quality of life rose to now include almost half of the country’s population –or about 64 million people; while the remaining 40 percent of Brazil’s citizens exist at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, with incomes below US$600 a month, and many receiving government assistance and struggle to survive.
Among the most serious issues the Brazilian Congress intends to address during its next session, is how the multi-national business sector must clean up its tarnished image abroad. Brazilian "sub-imperialism" is the term used in reference to strong arm tactics used by powerful Brazilian construction companies described as "arrogant and predatory,” who are operating in Ecuador and Bolivia. Corruption charges have been lodged against some high-level managers by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. Brazil’s Environment Minister, Carlos Minc, announced that the Environmental Protection Agency of Brazil has given its approval to begin a project to build a massive hydroelectric plant in the heart of the rain forest, despite the emphatic objections of the indigenous people who live in the region and the warnings of environmentalists who fear further damage to the delicate ecosystems. Minister Minc insists that the gigantic electricity-producing dam, named Belo Monte, will help in the reduction of carbon emissions. About 12,000 inhabitants of the area will have to be relocated because of the man-made lake the flooding from the dam will produce.