Brazil

Ariana Cubillos / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

Here we go again, only in reverse.

If you remember the Great Recession, then you remember every liberal coming out of the woodwork in those days to denounce capitalism.

Not just the capitalist excesses that caused the U.S. financial collapse. Free-market mutants like subprime mortgages and the deranged securities they were bundled into. But capitalism itself.

Courtesy Family of Parker Amet

COMMENTARY

The impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was last week’s biggest Latin American story, but maybe not the most important.

Personally, I think the weightier news was three scientific studies that conclude that the Zika virus does indeed cause fetal microcephaly – the heartbreaking condition that leaves newborns with reduced head and brain size.

Alex Silva / AP via Miami Herald

Last week Brazil’s Senate voted overwhelmingly to impeach and suspend the country’s President, Dilma Rousseff. She now faces a long trial on charges of illegally using state bank funds to cover up big budget deficits.

Rousseff is caught up in an angry public revolt against Brazil's epic corruption, including a $3 billion scandal at the state oil firm Petrobras. But she calls her impeachment a hypocritical "coup" – pointing to the fact that more than half the members of the Brazilian congressional committee that recommended her ouster face corruption charges too.

Memegen

COMMENTARY

Venezuela’s economic disintegration has wrought severe shortages. Food, medicine, electricity. And now – ¡cónchale, chamo! – even Polar beer.

But there might be one scarcity above all others keeping President Nicolás Maduro awake and sweaty at night.

It’s a shortage of scapegoats. Especially U.S. scapegoats.

DNGUAH / YouTube

If there’s one parcel of waterfront turf South Florida real estate videos love to gush about, it’s the Sunset Islands.

Located just north of the Venetian Causeway, the four isles feature some of the ritziest properties in Miami – a Planet One-Percent where long yachts are docked next to multimillion-dollar mansions.

Superstar celebs like Shakira have digs there.

And until recently, so did the former head of Brazil’s national soccer federation, Ricardo Teixeira.

'Two Friends' Veloso And Gil Bring Brazil's Tropicália Songs To Miami

Apr 18, 2016
Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Two Brazilian musical icons performed in South Florida over the weekend. In their heyday they were as important to Latin American music as the Beatles were to rock and roll.

Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil are both 73 today. But they haven’t slowed down. They’ve just released a live, acoustic retrospective album of their songs called “Two Friends, One Century of Music.”

 

Eraldo Peres / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, made a particularly sensible point when I talked to him during his visit to Miami this week.

The recent normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations, Almagro said, is good for the Western Hemisphere because it “has changed the logic of relations between Latin America and the United States.”

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Mario Stevenson is a respected virus expert. He heads the infectious diseases division at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. He’s done pioneering research on HIV.

But until last year he’d barely registered Zika.

“Four months ago,” Stevenson told me, “I thought Zika was an Italian football player.”

He’s since learned Zika is a mosquito-borne virus – one that’s marauding so badly throughout Latin America and the Caribbean that the World Health Organization this week declared it a global health emergency.

Carl Juste / Miami Herald

In a 2008 interview, then Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva offered me his formula for success: “I allow the rich to earn money with their investments and I allow the poor to participate in that economic growth.”

Lula’s capitalist-socialist policies, and soaring commodities prices, led Brazil to an astonishing boom in the 2000s. By 2010, as Lula was leaving office, the country was the world’s sixth-largest economy, and 40 million people were added to its middle class.

It was a confident global player.

Now it’s a foundering cautionary tale.

If you want to get a sense of how complex racial identity is in Brazil, you should meet sisters Francine and Fernanda Gravina. Both have the same mother and father. Francine, 28, is blond with green eyes and white skin. She wouldn't look out of place in Iceland. But Fernanda, 23, has milk chocolate skin with coffee colored eyes and hair. Francine describes herself as white, whereas Fernanda says she's morena, or brown-skinned.

dnguah / YouTube

In March, hundreds of Brazilian-Americans in South Florida gathered at Miami’s Bayfront Park to protest massive corruption in Brazil. But many may not have known that one alleged perpetrator of all that graft back in their mother country owns a home – a really big one – just across Biscayne Bay.

A trial about who owns a 840-pound emerald will continue despite international protest.

The ownership of the Bahia Emerald, as the massive rock is known, has been hotly contested for years. But in September, the stone became the subject of international controversy, when Brazil said all the ownership questions were irrelevant because the 180,000 carat, $372 million rock was illegally exported.

The Miami Open / Banco Itau

The big pro tennis tournament that starts Monday on Key Biscayne has had four different corporate names since its debut 30 years ago. But now the event is free of a commercial label. And that may be the smartest corporate move yet.

It was most recently the Sony Open. Now – and many hope from now on – it’s the Miami Open.

For that you can say obrigado – thank you – to Brazil’s Banco Itaú.

As far as I’m concerned, one of the year’s most important Latin American stories happened this week in China.

Yep, communist China. On Monday the government’s Internet watchdragon, known as the Great Firewall, pulled the plug on Gmail because it's a subversive instrument of free speech and dissent.

In the process, Beijing affirmed President Obama’s historic decision this month to pursue a policy of engagement with communist Cuba.

One look at the Brazilian flag and you think: This must be a space-age, high-tech country. That star-spackled orb in the middle glowing like a planetarium. The banner wrapped around it hailing "Order and Progress." Engineers must be rock stars there, right?

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