Brazilians feeling a little doomed these days
It's been a terrible 30 months for Brazil.
It sort of started with Germany humiliating Brazil at home in the World Cup. The score was 7-1, but most Brazilians will tell you that it was like 1,000 to 1. And I repeat that the game was in Brazil! Perhaps you remember the thousands of local fans with long faces and tears watching their team destroyed on the field. It was like watching Clinton supporters on election night.
Then came the Zika virus scare that threatened the Rio Olympics.
Then the terrible and horrific story of a plane crash involving a local "fútbol" team in the middle of a historic season. No one will feel good about this apparent explanation for the crash:
The pilot of a plane that crashed late Monday while flying members of a Brazilian soccer team to a competition in Colombia pleaded to make an immediate landing because the aircraft was out of fuel, according to a recording leaked to Colombian news outlets on Wednesday.
Last, but not least, corruption is once again blowing up national politics. The allegations are against the current president, Michel Temer, who replaced the recently impeached president Dilma Rousseff.
Here is the latest from Simon Romero:
Much of the increasing nervousness in the capital, Brasília, stems from a sweeping corruption investigation that, despite the change in administrations, has refused to go away.
Politicians are so anxious that only hours after Mr. Temer declared three days of official mourning for a shocking disaster — the crash of a plane carrying a Brazilian soccer team to play in the final of an international tournament — Brazilian lawmakers held a marathon session until 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Their focus: gutting the authority of prosecutors and judges who are investigating politicians in corruption cases.
After learning how their lawmakers had spent the night after the tragedy, many Brazilians were furious.
“The entire political structure is corrupt,” said Marcos Defranco, a civil police investigator in São Paulo.
“It’s like chasing rats out of one hole and straight into another. The attitude of Congress in their vote the other night shows their fear.”
How do you say "drain the swamp" in Portuguese? Or "kill the rats"?
Like their neighbors in Argentina, many Brazilians are starting to figure out that these political games are a serious drag on their economy.
In 2013, Forbes published a well circulated article calculating the cost of corruption:
A 2010 study by the FIESP (the Federation of Industries of Sao Paulo State, in its acronym in Portuguese), the average annual cost of corruption in Brazil is between 1.38% to 2.3% of the country's total GDP. The World Bank lists Brazil in its database with a GDP of $2.253 trillion as of 2012, while the OECD expects Brazil to grow 2.5% this year.
If the numbers of the FIESP study are to be believed, just in 2013 something between $32 billion and $53.1 billion can be accounted as "corruption money," which, it is important to remember, gets out of circulation that hits growth. To put into perspective, if that money was invested in Brazil's precarious education system, the number of Brazilian students enrolled in elementary school could be improved from its current 34.5 million to 51 million.
Should that money be invested in the public health system, the number of beds available in Brazil's public hospitals could almost double, from 367.397 to 694.409. That same money could house more than 2.9 million Brazilian families, and if invested in sanitation it could reach an additional 23.3 million households that aren't on the public sewer system.
Brazilians have a reputation for smiling, dancing, and just being fun people to be with. Don't be surprised if they look a little gloomy these days.
A Brazilian did tell me at church the other day that maybe this whole experience with politics and corruption will teach his countrymen a big lesson. He is hoping that his countrymen take politics more seriously and demand more accountability from their leaders.
Let's hope that's the case. In the meantime, Brazil is doom and gloom from Manaus on the Amazon River to Porto Alegre all the way down the coastline.