Dilma Rousseff’s Re-Election in Brazil May Present Problems for U.S. Interests

The incumbent president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff (Workers Party), was re-elected on October 26 with a margin of less than 4 percentage points (3 million votes) over opposition leader Aécio Neves (Brazilian Social Democratic Party). The key factor in the election was a threat made through letters and SMS messages by the ruling party’s campaign that an income distribution program called Bolsa-Família would eventually end if Neves wins.

Bolsa-Família is a strong program, especially in the northeastern part of Brazil, where Rousseff won with over 70 percent of the electorate in some states. By comparison, the opposition candidate got 65 percent of the vote in São Paulo, the richest state in the country.

The result frustrated Neves supporters. Earlier in the year, risk agency Standard & Poor’s reduced the country’s credit rating from BBB to BBB- and Brazil went into a recession amid high public spending and a lack of industrial competitiveness. Inflation also got out of control and reached 6 percent, so that stimulated the opposition’s enthusiasm.

So, what exactly does this mean for the United States? In terms of trade, more of the same.

Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the top Rousseff supporter and main leader of the Workers Party, recorded a video released on social media saying that trading goods with other Latin American countries would continue to be the country’s priority. He explained that is in Brazil’s interest to continue to do business with the United States and Europe, but the partners the country should focus on are other developing nation.

That said, political scientist Paulo Moura sees a different economic scenario if Brazil gets deep into a recession and the U.S. appears as the only booming market.

“The United States is not a priority of this government. The priorities are the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil), some African countries, and sometimes the Middle East. I just see a different scenario if the U.S. economy has a strong recovery and Brazil sees [trading goods] as a way to get out of a recession,” he said.

Politically, however, the situation is quite different. In most opportunities they had on the world stage, both Rousseff and Lula criticized the United States’ international role.

Clóvis Rossi, a columnist of Folha de São Saulo, Brazil’s top newspaper, predicts that the first problem U.S. diplomats will face as a result of Brazil’s presidential election will be in April 2015, when the Summit of the Americas takes place in Panama. Most Latin American countries are in favor of Cuba joining the summit, while the U.S. remains firmly against the country’s entrance.

The odds are high that Rousseff favors the inclusion of Cuba. This suggests that she could indirectly want to exclude President Barack Obama from the summit and, therefore, would diminish the U.S.’s influence in the region.

Vice President Joe Biden already congratulated and invited the Brazilian president to come to the White House soon. She accepted the invitation, but a date has yet to be announced.

A Surprising White House Petition

petition on the White House’s “We The People” page is asking President Obama to position himself against Rousseff’s administration and her “party’s plan to establish a communist regime in Brazil – the Bolivarian molds propounded by the Foro de São Paulo.”

Foro de São Paulo is a forum of Latin America’s far left political parties and was created by Fidel Castro and Lula in 1989 right after the fall of the Berlin wall. The organization designs joint efforts to help socialist governments get elected. As of today, member parties govern 12 countries in the region.

The petition has over 130,000 signatures and cites allegations of voter intimidation and an unreliable voting process. Brazil has electronic voting and a study by the University of Brasília concludes that it is not completely safe from tampering.

An audit was accepted by the Superior Electoral Court to mitigate doubts about the electoral process.

The U.S. Embassy in Brasília released a statement saying the petition does “not represent the opinion of the United States of America. Brazil is a good partner for the United States.”

Protests against the incumbent president have occurred in big cities across Brazil and are scheduled to happen again on November 15, the Brazilian independence holiday.

The dissatisfaction with the Brazilian government is based on the alignment with undemocratic governments, such as Cuba, the desire of the Brazilian government to regulate the media, the lack of punishment in corruption cases, and interventionism on the economy.

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