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Overall Rating: 3.20 based on 10 ratings
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abichara (58)
There is a profound shift in the balance of power currently underway in Latin America which is clearly benefiting Brazil. Specifically, Venezuela and Hugo Chavez are losing their edge against Brazil and their President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Economically, Brazil just hit a bonanza, as they recently found an oil field just off the coast of Sao Paulo which may hold 5-8 billion barrels of oil. Once developed, this field may produce upwards to 500,000 barrels a day. This would allow Brazil, a traditionally pro-US ally, to surpass Venezuela in production.

The conventional wisdom until recently was that Brazil, the largest Latin American country, was losing power to oil-rich Venezuela. High oil prices gave Chavez the opportunity to neutralize political opposition, to buy allies in the region and it gave him resources to support other "populist" causes, namely anti-US, anti-globalization, anti-capitalist, and socialistic ideas. Ironic, he used his nation's riches, gained through capital and resource markets, to support anti-market ideas! Chavez used the wealth he gained from this decades higher oil prices to finance a military buildup. As opposed, Brazil seemed to be at a competitive disadvantage until recently: despite their significant territorial advantage, they lacked oil reserves; therefore they could not take advantage of the recent surge in oil prices like Venezuela did. President Lula for his part didn't partake in a populist agenda like Chavez did, out of a concern that he would have put the countries economic and political future at risk, a prudent move actually.

But now the tables have turned: the fact that Brazil may have some significant oil riches in the near future means that it will now be seen as a rising, not a declining power. More importantly, since Brazil and Venezuela both have oil now, it is now easier for the region to compare both nations political and economic models to see which one offers a way out of poverty; Chavez's socialism or Lula's capitalism.

Latin Americans today are divided in their thinking about market economics, issues of poverty and underdevelopment and even democracy. Brazil and Venezuela represent the different sides of the debate. Brazil has achieved macroeconomic stability, has managed to bring significant sums of foreign investment, and they've implemented policies that are truly reducing poverty. Brazil is also rapidly becoming an export economy. All this has been done under democratic rule and independent legislative and judicial branches that provide actual checks and balances to executive power. Brazil has come a long way, and Lula has helped it all along, a former Marxist who has continued the economic reforms begun under prior presidents.

The main difference between Lula's leftism and Chavez's brand is that Chavez has used his nation's wealth on military equipment and foreign adventurism. He has failed to attract foreign investment or to build a diversified economy. Oil production is down in Venezuela today because international companies are not investing in their production and refining facilities. Venezuela has an economy based on oil, but Brazil is building an economy that has oil as one of its by-products. Brazil wants to compete in the global economy; Venezuela in contrast is an example of how misinformed ideologies, unbridled executive power and sudden wealth can create an illusion of development, when in fact that nation is being condemned to a future of more poverty. Hopefully the Venezuelan people will wake and realize that Chavez is not in their interest.
GenghisTheHun (164)
How do you say boooooooring in Portugese? He appears to be going down the chute economically as we peruse this posting.
JonTheMan (26)
Despite being the leader of the usually radical left-wing Worker's Party, Lula has made only relatively mild reforms since becoming Brazil's president. He's even been quite agreeable to the IMF's demands for greater Austerity, to the tune of making quite substantial pension cuts. Despite an initiation of a Zero Hunger program, his attempts to end Brazil's problem with undernourishment have had very little effect (most likely because they haven't been very drastic). However, there are some pretty positive points to his administration. He has, for example, tripled the amount of money paid to desperately poor families so they can afford to send their children to school, and is continuing to increase coverage of this program. This is not only profoundly desirable from a humanitarian perspective, but will be advantageous economically in the long run as the workforce becomes better educated. Lula strikes me as essentially well-meaning but perhaps too worried about rocking the boat to engage in really profound reform.
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