Dilma Rousseff

Nelson Antoine / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

If you needed another reminder that the new Brazil is really just the old Brazil, here’s some handy news:

Yet another epic public fraud scheme has emerged this week – a $2.5 billion scandal involving the pension funds of Brazil’s largest state-run companies.

This latest financial atrocity adds one more fetid float to Brazil’s long samba parade of corruption – including the $3 billion bribery horror at the state-run Petrobras oil firm.

Brazil's suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, faced her country's Senate on Monday, making one last case for herself as her impeachment trial nears its end.

"I have honored my commitments to democracy and the rule of law," she told the senators, according to a BBC interpreter. "I am going to look in your eyes and I will say with the serenity of someone who has nothing to hide that I haven't committed any crimes."

Brazil's suspended President Dilma Rousseff's fate seems to be all but sealed.

Senators voted overwhelmingly to try the suspended leader, 59-21, in the last leg of the process to remove her from office. She will now face a trial in the Senate over alleged fiscal mismanagement. A final vote after all the evidence has been presented and weighed is set to take place at the end of the month.

Eraldo Peres (left) and Molly Riley (right) / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

We’ve seen enough media comparisons of Donald Trump and Hugo Chávez to make us think they had the same father.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee and the late Venezuelan president are indeed nifty portraits of egomaniacal demagoguery. But if 2016 election pundits are looking to Latin America for ominously useful parallels, they might give the Donald-Hugo chatter a rest now and consider Hillary-Dilma.

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.

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.”

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.

Marina40

A political phoenix has risen from the ashes of a plane crash in Brazil. Next month it might result in South America's political upset of the decade.

Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos was killed in that Aug. 13 accident outside São Paulo. Days later Campos’ running mate – environmentalist and former Senator Marina Silva – took his place as the Brazilian Socialist Party’s nominee. In voter polls, Silva quickly catapulted alongside the incumbent front-runner, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. She’s now tied with Rousseff ahead of the Oct. 5 election.

Gabriel Smith / Flickr

The line between confident and conceited was pretty thin in Brazil in October of 2007.

The South American giant was in the midst of a boom that would make it the world’s sixth largest economy. Massive new oil reserves were being discovered off its coast. It considered itself a global player that deserved a permanent seat on the ultra-exclusive U.N. Security Council.

And it had just been awarded the 2014 soccer World Cup.

“God,” then President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva declared, “is Brazilian.”