Brazil’s current Soap Opera: The Presidential Elections

As some of you may know, the Presidential elections in Brazil are scheduled for this Sunday. The leading candidate must gain more than 50% of the votes in order to win. Otherwise, there will be a second round on October 26.

I got really confused navigating all the points of discussion and trying to decide who should I vote for should I had the option to. One questionnaire told me that based on my opinions, I should vote for Dilma. Another analysis of candidates’ statements on the Globo (the main media channel) website made me favor Aecio,  while on interviews / debates I liked Marina’s way of putting forth arguments. I then decided to organize all the key points to try and see if I could reach a better conclusion. The reader should be advised that this is not a professional’s opinion but rather my reading based on media outlets and conversations with people around me. Enjoy!

Dilma Rousseff, AKA: Lady “Tudo Beleza” (“all is great!”)

Dilma is the current president, representing the PT (labor party). Lula nominated her as his successor and she was therefore able to ride the great waves of his popularity and continue his political legacy. She was previously tortured during the dictatorship times in Brazil, a fact she likes to highlight as an expression of her loyalty to the country.

Dilma’s main points are:

– PT did great job with the economy, improved income inequality, health and education (building tons of universities and schools and strengthening scholarship and study abroad programs). Brazil is in great shape with inflation under control, and lowest ever unemployment rate, and a bright bright future.

– If anyone has any doubts, remember the evil global economic crisis. PT must protect jobs and not go down the horrible ways of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (pre-Lula president), which will cut jobs and put the country in downward spiral.

– Petrobras is the greatest company in the world and will just be greater in the future. Whatever things that could have gone wrong were not my fault, don’t matter anymore, and are evil lies of the opposition that wants to destroy the country and give the company into the hands of evil capitalists

– There is no corruption greater than the previous government’s corruption

– Political reform is needed to avoid corruption because otherwise, it’s impossible to rule without making coalition with corrupt politicians. The only way to solve this is to have a popular vote on political reform

– Minas Gerais doesn’t support Aecio’s successor which obviously means that all Aecio did in Minas Gerais just destroyed the state in the same way he will destroy Brazil

Dilma’s strengths: she cares about improving the conditions of the poor people and reducing the gap between the reach and the poor, which is arguably the biggest problem of Brazil.

Her weaknesses: She is not an inspiring leader: her speeches seem more like socialist demagoguery than a vision for a large nation, she doesn’t feel comfortable on camera, she doesn’t accept any criticism or opposite opinion and attributes any weaknesses to external factors.

Aecio Neves, AKA: “I mean business and I will save you from the RED dragon”

Former governor of Minas Gerias, Aecio comes from a legacy of famous politicians (his grandfather even serving as the president of Brazil for a short while) represents PSDB (Social democrats party). He is known as a playboy who partied it up with cocaine and the ladies and is friends with many of the Brazilian business elite. He recently got remarried and had twin babies, which “obviously” turns him into a serious family man.

Aecio’s main points

– Brazil is in awful awful shape, all thanks to PT: high inflation, high unemployment, crazy interference in the business environment, loss of investor’s confidence

– Government must have accountability, clear objectives, transparency, focus

– Government size must be reduced to achieve the above objectives

– I transformed Minas Gerais into a paradise on earth, with better education, better public safety, better health system and I will transform Brazil just in the same matter.

– Brazil needs a president that will bring back the trust of the investor community

– Central bank needs to be independent to ensure that it doesn’t serve the needs of politicians

– Fernando Henrique Cardoso is the god of the universe and I shall follow his politics

– I will create quality jobs

– All PT programs are just increasing inefficiency and inflation and need to be revamped

Aecio’s strengths: support from the business elite, which ultimately controls the country, simple business approach to running the government.

His weaknesses: personal image as a playboy, elitist group of friends and close ones make it very hard for him to become approachable candidate for the masses. “Old boys” political party that reminds people of worst times from the past.

Marina Silva, AKA: “I’m not like ’em other politicians”

Marina emerged as a strong candidate late in the game as her predecessor Eduardo Campos died in a tragic plane crash. She is a former Minister of the Environment, former PT, Green party, independent, and currently of the PSB (Socialist party, that is really not socialist at all and kind of combines ideas from all the above). Mariana comes from very poor background, growing up extracting rubber in Acre state, in the north of Brazil. She is of mixed race and sometimes seen as the “Obama” of Brazil, although I heard very few mentions of this. She is the face of struggle and ascent as she managed to survive various diseases such as Hepatitis and Malaria and get her education, fight against the dictatorship, raise a family, etc. She is sort of the voice of intellectuals, environmentalists, the poor, and big business at the same time, which is makes her the best or the worst politician, depending on the definition. On the other hand, her religious belief (very evangelical) made people question her abilities to approach neutrally social issues such as gay marriages and aborts and scientific research in an objective fashion.

Marina’s main points:

– I am not aligned to political interests of one party or another, I will work for the people of Brazil

– Business and sustainable development go hand and hand

– The other candidates are creating a divide in the Brazilian people, I will build collaboration between the government, business, NGOs, academia to support better decision making

– Generic stuff like: we need to improve health, education, security, infrastructure and create jobs

– Transparency

– Companies that receive subsidies for the government must make environmental commitments in return

– A president cannot be just a manager, she needs to be a leader and fight for her vision just like Lula, Cardoso and others did in the past

– We must put competent people in the right roles in government instead of appointing political positions and having a whole structure staffed with people protecting individual / party interests instead of working for the people

– PT is going wrong about the economy, they should stimulate investments instead of playing with exchange rate

Marina’s strengths: her poor background and appeal as someone who cares about social issues and the environment. Her perception as someone who puts values above politics.

Her weaknesses: no strong positioning or proposal of measurable actions. No strong previous experience in running a government. Strong religious beliefs.

There are other candidates that are worth noting fo the comical note

Levy Fidelix – extreme right candidate, that wants to solve crime by privatizing prisons, and recently became even more infamous for his anti-gay statements on the presidential debate.

Luciana Genro – the extreme left candidate. She is somewhat the combination of your 5 grade history teacher and Harry Potter’s Divination Professor Trelawney. Her party’s position builds on the “capitalism is the root of all evil” and “PT betrayed its voters and forgot its ideology” maxims. I couldn’t really figure out what’s the alternative proposal as she was using the presidential debate to mostly discuss the evils of PT, corporations, and rich people.

Eduardo Jorge – Green Party candidate. Gave me the impression of a kind-hearted hippy as he defended legalizing drugs as a solution for all crime problems and reducing the financial support to presidential campaigns. He seemed to be buddy buddy of Aecio Neves, the voice of the rich and famous, which made me somewhat suspicious of his idealistic / intellectual motives.

Pastor Everlado – the Socialist Christian party candidate. He represents an increasing growing evangelical lobby. Conservative on issues such as gay marriages and abortions and is pro-business. While his views on the economy made me think he doesn’t really have too much of an opinion, I took personal offence to his assertion of his credibility by explaining that there is no individual more honest and good than that who embraces Jesus Christ to his heart (on the topic that going against LGBT is against Brazil’s values of diversity and respect of human rights).


While I put quite an effort trying to understand the proposals and credentials of each candidate, I couldn’t find any sort of reliable information on both fronts. The data is all biased and indicators are manipulated to support one premise or another. Overall debates are not about facts or action plans but rather about moving the crowd into one emotional spiral vs. the other.

The very complicating factor is the lack of independent media. The key media outlets such as Globo are very strong political players. Therefore, instead of providing independent coverage, they play a prominent role in swaying the vote towards the candidate they prefer, fueling conspiracy theory discussions and constantly failing to provide a balanced picture.

Finally, my bet based on latest survey data: Mrs Dilma is here to stay. Unless….

In case you want to know more and speak Portuguese:

– Key quotes:

– Presidential debates:

– Interviews on main channels:

Trust or Paranoia

Ever since I have moved to Brazil, I got to accept and even appreciate many things that were very different from my previous life. I learned the language, I got used to changing plans and tardiness (which actually fit quite well my own personality), I developed a skill of understanding social queues of the very high context culture (ex: I will think about it = I am not interested/ I don’t like your idea), etc. I fully embraced the fun-loving lifestyle of the cariocas (Rio’s inhabitants).

Unfortunatelly, one thing I could never get used to and I am not sure I will ever be able to is the ability to trust people. I constantly face situations in my personal and professional life when an issue is discussed with much enthusiasm and future plans are made (aka “let’s do this project!”), and then the person simply drops off. Despite people’s best intentions, I feel that it is virtually impossible for cariocas to commit to their word. They mean well, but then they just forget about it, or simply change their mind and are too conflict avoidant to ever bother letting you know. There must be, of course, rare exceptions, but I personally never met any.

Professionally, this makes things very complicated because you have to do everything yourself if you want it to be done within a certain time frame and adhere to a specific quality standard. Or, there is an option to pay someone a very high price for his or her services, just because he or she is known for being trustworthy but even then the quality is not really guaranteed.
On a personal level, it is very hard to form deep friendships. Because “deep” is correlated with the person’s mood of the day/month.

This issue of trust has been bothering me quite a bit and I have been thinking that perhaps I’ve become paranoid until I have recently met another gringo that told me exactly the same stuff. I finally felt like I am not alone.

I am not sure how can one come out of this loop as I cannot do business in Brazil dealing only with foreigners. I also don’t believe in living in a place without being immersed in the local culture (unless it’s the USA).

Would be interesting to know if people had different experiences.

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To the exciting times ahead!


Brazilian government Trying to Encourage Innovation

The following article talks about the Brazilian government launching a program (Programa Inova Empresa) to encourage innovation through investment in defined strategic sectors. Of total resources, the agricultural chain will get $ 3 billion, oil and gas R $ 4.1 billion; industrial health complex R $ 3.6 billion; environmental sustainability with R $ 2.1 billion, aerospace and defense complex with R $ 2.9 billion; energy R $ 5.7 billion, and information technology R$ 2.1 billion.

This sounds like A LOT of money to me.

Initial thoughts:
-how much of this will actually get to innovative hands vs. officials’ pockets or abyss of inefficiency and bureaucracy?

-government states they want to progress from import- substitution economy to an innovation-driven one geared towards value creation. This sounds like tons of bull as from everything I hear, the internal mindset is still somewhere in the 60s or 70s with total reluctance to encourage any competitiveness beyond job creation (regardless of whether those jobs add any value.. To illustrate, I would use my eternal example of the lady at the airport whose sole role is to sit on a chair inside the elevator and press the botton).

Looking at the brighter side, I guess at least stating an intention to creation innovation is better than just talking about soap operas and football…

More on Brazil Cost. This Time: Salaries

This Exame article talks about a very relevant issue for business owners in Brazil – cost of labor. Employee overhead taxes are the highest in the world. The silver-lining is probably that the actual salaries are much lower than, lets say, in the USA. One thing to be aware of, however, is that there are various rules that require hiring a minimum amount of people (which could be much higher than actually needed). A tour at a local shopping mall highlights this very clearly – the shops have more attendants than customers. What I heard was that there is a person-per-retail-square-meter requirement.

So one’s math cannot be average salary * number of employees. It should be something like average salary * 1.6 (at least) * max (number of employees, minimum legal headcount requirements).

Posição País Custo extra para salário de US$ 30 mil por ano Percentual sobre salário
Brasil US$ 17.267 57,56%
Itália US$ 15.544 51,84%
França US$ 12.836 42,79%
Eslováquia US$ 10.560 35,20%
República Tcheca US$ 10.200 34%
Espanha US$ 10.020 33,40%
Áustria US$ 9.357 31,19%
China US$ 9.263 30,88%
Romênia US$ 8.421 28,07%
10º *Japão US$ 7.738 25,79%
11º *Alemanha US$ 7.263 22,81%
12º *México US$ 6.788 22,63%
13º Rússia US$ 6.319 21,06%
14º *Austrália US$ 5.249 17,50%
15º Holanda US$ 4.867 16,22%
16º Israel US$ 4.221 14,07%
17º Malásia US$ 3.804 12,68%
18º Nigéria US$ 3.600 12%
19º Irlanda US$ 3.225 10,75%
20º *Canadá US$ 2.745 9,15%
21º *Estados Unidos US$ 2.652 8,84%
22º Reino Unido US$ 2.486 8,29%
23º Emirados Árabes US$ 2.182 7,26%
24º Dinamarca US$ 1.632 5,44%
25º Índia US$ 1.101 3,67%
Média dos BRICs   US$ 8.488 28,29%
Média global   US$ 6.757 22,52%

Source: Exame