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Rousseff Delivers Victory for Despotism in Latin America

By: Hana Fischer - @hana_fischer - Oct 29, 2014, 12:51 pm
Dilma Rousseff, del Partido de los Trabajadores, gobernará Brasil hasta 2019.
Rousseff and the Worker’s Party are not expected to change course during her second term. (Neuquen24)

EspañolFor lovers of liberty, limited government, and republicanism, Dilma Rousseff’s reelection in Brazil is bad news.

It is well known that Rousseff was victorious at the ballot box on Sunday, garnering 51.6 percent of the vote. She and her opponent may have finished in a near dead heat, but given the manner in which democracy currently functions in Brazil, that fact maters little. Even if a candidate wins an election by only a single vote, it as if she won 100 percent of the votes, and her opponent won nothing.

Despite the outpouring of emotions that follows this sort of electoral result, the only thing that matters is the final tally: who wins and who loses. Everything else is anecdotal.

As soon as the results were known, Rousseff received congratulatory calls from Cristina Kirchner, Rafael Correa, and Nicolás Maduro. In Uruguay, where national elections were being held on the same day, the biggest players in the ruling Broad Front Party had one eye on their own elections and another monitoring the situation in Brazil. The governments of these four countries were clearly satisfied with the outcome.

Kirchner and Maduro expressed their satisfaction via Twitter, commenting on how Rousseff’s second term would permit the continuation of polices they have implemented in the region.

Foreign policy is one of the areas where the two Brazilian presidential candidates disagreed most sharply. Rouseff is in favor of continuing her “south-south” approach to foreign policy, which her government has used to promote relationships between Brazilian businesses and the private sector in Latin America and Africa.

In one presidential debate Rousseff said, “Brazil used to look to developed countries, and now it looks to Latin America [and] Africa, and to form a relationship with BRICS nations,” referring to the potential emerging powers of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Her administration will also look to strengthen organizations that Brazil helped to create in recent years, leaving Washington aside in favor of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

Although supporters of these organizations will say otherwise, these undemocratic institutions were the pet projects of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. One need not look much further than what is going on in Venezuela, or where Argentina is headed, to imagine the direction that Rousseff will take Brazil.

Her opponent, Aécio Neves, on the other hand, proposed a dramatic shift in Brazil’s foreign policy. He rightly noted that Rousseff prioritized the “ideology” of the Venezuelan, Argentinean, and Cuban regimes. Neves proposed changing course and forming partnerships with the United States, Europe, and Asia, as was done by the Pacific Alliance — comprised of Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico.

Neves also questioned “dark” business dealings between Brazil and Cuba. He specifically mentioned a US$800 million agreement to finance work being done on the Port of Mariel in Cuba, using funds from the state-run Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES). He asked why Brazil was offering favors to a country “that doesn’t even respect democracy.”

It is possible that Rousseff’s narrow victory is related to the fact that during the time the Workers’ Party has been in power, BNDES has been a source of perpetual credit for the largest construction companies in the country, who have been completing infrastructure projects throughout the continent. Consider that between 2001 and 2010 these loans increased by more than 1,000 percent.

One of the primary areas of electoral support for the Workers’ Party is northeast Brazil, an underdeveloped and poor region, whose inhabitants are kept in a state of perpetual dependency by “help” from the federal government. People in this region obviously prefer that the current regime stay in power.

Brazil under the Workers’ Party is a reflection of the mechanisms of power used by governments of the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA). There is an exchange of favors based on social status: political support in exchange for privileges and perks for big business; and political support in exchange for gifts to the underclass. Add high levels of corruption, and you have the traditional recipe for authoritarian governance.

The markets immediately reacted to the electoral result. On Monday, the Brazilian stock exchange (BM&F BOVESPA) opened down 6 percent, although it later made up some ground, finishing its fall at 2.77 percent.

Shares of the Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras — currently mired in a corruption scandal — fell in Europe. Compared to when the market closed on the Friday before Sunday’s elections, shares in Frankfurt were down 14.56 percent, the Lyxor ETF Brazil fell 10.77 percent in Paris, and the main Brazil ETF in Japan dropped more than 7 percent.

When the currency market opened on Monday, the Brazilian real lost almost 4 percent against the dollar, although it rebounded to a 3.21 percent loss by the end of the day.

The negative reaction of the markets to the election results is directly related to government action in recent years. It is important to remember that in the four years of Rousseff’s first term, the BM&F BOVESPA fell 30 percent, and the real has lost 33 percent of its value.

These economic figures are significant, even though the average Brazilian remains unconcerned. The markets are “signals” that are indicating “danger.” In political terms, this means the markets will not wait for Rousseff to change the course her government has taken thus far.

For citizens of other South American countries, this is an indication that Brazil will continue supporting and strengthening the despotic regimes of the region.

Translated by Alex Clark-Youngblood. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.

Hana Fischer Hana Fischer

Hana Fischer was born in and resides in Uruguay. She serves as a writer, researcher, and international affairs columnist in different media outlets. A specialist in philosophy, politics, and economics, she has written several books and received honorable mentions. Follow her @hana_fischer.