Category Archives: Brazil
Two films from Brazil top and tail this week’s review of new TV and internet adverts from around the world
Recife’s Arena Pernambuco is inaugurated, becoming the last of the six Confederations Cup venues to receive a test event
New director general was not Britain and the US’s preferred candiate but gives developing nations a voice at WTO
Earlier this month the World Trade Organisation (WTO) announced that it had chosen the Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, 55, as its next director general. In September he will take over from France’s Pascal Lamy, who has served two four-year terms.
It is a personal success for this career diplomat, but it is also a victory for Brazil on the international scene. The Brazilian diplomatic corps pulled out all the stops to convince a majority of the 159 member states that their candidate was the right choice. But Azevedo’s appointment is also a new departure, this being the first time that a Brazilian has headed one of the key bodies in the postwar Bretton Woods system. The country at last has a seat at the top table.
The vote “shows a global order in transformation”, said foreign minister Antonio Patriota, with “emerging markets [showing] leadership”.
The selection process took more than four months. Starting with nine declared candidates, it involved three stages, gradually narrowing the field down to two finalists, Mexico’s Herminio Blanco and Azevedo. Both undertook to try to restart the Doha round of trade liberalisation, originally launched in 2001 but held up for years by the deep divisions between developed and developing countries.
Azevedo has been Brazil’s permanent representative at the WTO since 2008, establishing a reputation as a gifted negotiator and an advocate of multilateralism. He gained the support of 89 countries, according to the Brazilian foreign ministry.
Some sources maintain that all the African countries and a very large majority among poor and developing nations backed Azevedo. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) were certainly unanimous in their support, and after Indonesia’s Mari Pangestu had been knocked out, at least three more Asian countries switched to the Brazilian candidate.
Brazil’s good relations with emerging countries clearly weighed in the balance, whereas Blanco, backed by the United States, Japan and Britain, was seen as an advocate of free-market values. Despite Brussels’ call for a united front in favour of the Mexican, divisions among European Union member states sealed the latter’s fate.
According to the Brazilian daily Valor, President Dilma Rousseff called her French opposite number François Hollande the week before the vote, who allegedly told her that France had not yet taken a decision “but that it would vote for a name, not a country”.
Azevedo joined Brazil’s diplomatic service in 1984 and was allocated to the permanent mission in Geneva in 1997. Four years later he helped set up a dispute settlement unit at the foreign ministry. With the election of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2003, Brazil started to play a leading role in the WTO, acting as one of the main negotiators alongside the EU, China and the US.
As the head of the Brazilian delegation, he successfully campaigned against subsidies in rich countries, in particular cotton in the US and sugar in the EU. He has taken part in all the ministerial conferences so far in the Doha round.
The main handicap for Azevedo was Rousseff’s protectionist policies, with a range of tax incentives and higher customs duty on about 100 imported goods. Addressing the media, he explained that once elected as the WTO head, he would no longer represent a single country. “Brazil’s candidacy [will] bring people together, it does not divide them,” he asserted.
Azevedo’s acid test will probably come in December, barely three months after taking office, with the ninth WTO ministerial conference in Bali. He will need all his talent to avoid further deadlock, at a time when people all over the world are asking what purpose the organisation serves.
• This article appeared in Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from Le Monde
While biofuels have facilitated slow but positive change for farmers in Brazil, other countries have been less successful
Biofuels have long been hailed as one of the potential answers to climate change. Their environmental credentials are controversial, but a handful of countries are now looking at them from another angle entirely: they want to use biofuels to try to reduce poverty among rural smallholder farmers.
Such efforts are in full force in Brazil, a country that is home to both a sizeable biofuels industry and about 4.1m small-scale family farms. But while some of the country’s biofuels policies have fallen short, others have proved a boon to the rural poor. Smallholder farmers have seen their incomes rise thanks to the introduction of more progressive standards and new rules on contract negotiations.
“The numbers show that the farmers in Brazil … have been earning far more than they were before – not only in absolute quantities, but also as a percentage of the whole value of the [biofuels production] chain,” says Mairon Bastos Lima, a PhD researcher at the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Amsterdam and the author of a recent briefing paper (pdf) that looked at the social impacts of biofuels polices in Brazil, India, and Indonesia. Bastos Lima describes the Brazilian biofuels policies as “the best example” he has seen.
In most cases, he says, smallholder farmers who cultivate biofuels are included only in the lowest level of the production chain. That means that most of the wealth from production accrues to the refiners, or to the company that is managing the process, not to the farmers themselves. But in Brazil this has started to change, albeit slowly.
This success, Bastos Lima says, is largely due to the fact that Petrobras, Brazil’s state-run energy giant, created its own biofuels division in 2008. The new state company took over from the private firms that had been running the government’s biofuels production contracts with smallholder farmers in north-eastern Brazil.
When Petrobras came on the scene, the company introduced a number of changes. It required that farmers devote no more than 20% of their arable land to growing the precursors to biofuels; the rest of their farms had to be reserved for edible crops. This “mixed food and feed-stock” policy helps to guarantee that the farmers maintain a steady food supply, regardless of what happens in the biofuels market.
Petrobras also introduced a policy of including social movements in all of its contract negotiations with smallholder farmers. Under the current policy, any contractual agreement with farmers is not valid until a rural social movement has signed off on it.
“This balances the bargaining power,” says Bastos Lima, “because suddenly you cannot put pressure on one individual household” to accept the terms of an agreement. The impact of the change is already being felt.
“Social movements had to fight really hard with Petrobras to actually stand their ground and say, ‘no, we want to climb up at least one step in the value chain … and have more of an income’,” says Bastos Lima.
The number of households involved in Brazil’s smallholder biofuels production programme quadrupled between 2008 and 2010; more than 100,000 families are now involved. In 2010, the Brazilian government bought roughly $635m (£413m) worth of biofuels feedstock from its smallholder farmers, a fivefold increase from two years earlier.
But while Brazil has had some success with its efforts to include smallholder farmers in the biofuels production chain, things have not always gone so well in other places, warns Bastos Lima.
“The case of India has been particularly disastrous,” he says, noting that the Indian government placed a huge bet on a plant called jatropha, which was widely hailed as the next big breakthrough in biofuels back in 2007 and 2008. Inspired by promising scientific studies, the government called for the cultivation of jatropha on more than 11m hectares (27m acres) of land. But then reality set in: the crop’s yields were disappointing, and many Indian farmers were left with reduced incomes, coupled with a smaller supply of food to give their own families.
Such experiences demonstrate why more work needs to be done to understand the social consequences of biofuels production, says Chris Charles, a project manager in the Geneva office of the International Institute for Sustainable Development.
“There’s a real lack of research – quantitative and qualitative research – assessing … the extent of the negative or positive impacts on smallholder farmers,” says Charles. “Campaigning groups publish very emotional pieces showing small farmers in Asia, for example, being displaced from their land by large monoculture biofuel operations. [But] it’s hard to know how academic or rigorous that analysis is.”
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Hamzi Ahmad Barakat, a Lebanese citizen, was accused in a plot to defraud Lebanese immigrants in Brazil, though American officials have suspected him of trafficking in arms, drugs and counterfeit bills.