Lula has returned from his third trip to Africa. This time he participated
in a meeting of the Portuguese speaking countries in São Tomé
e Príncipe. He also visited Gabon, hob knobbing with the dictator,
Omar Bongo, and stopped at Sal in the Cabo Verde Islands.
As pointed out by columnist
Diogo Mainard in this week's Veja magazine, no mention was made
about the calamity in the Sudan. Brazil, now exercising a rotating seat on
the UN Security Counsel, cast a dissenting vote against the resolution condemning
the government of Sudan for allowing the atrocities taking place in Darfur.
Lula and Brazilian diplomats
are attempting to round up support for its bid to become a permanent member
of the UN Security Counsel.
Victory? We Will See
The World Trade Organization's
agreement to continue talks about agricultural subsidies in the First World
has been heralded as a victory for Brazil's aggressive policies. Whether any
concrete results that would help the developing nations will evolve, remains
to be seen.
This is a complex topic
involving the way of life in many European countries and payments to industrial
agricultural enterprises in the US. The future of the WTO as a relevant organ
is as much at stake as the agricultural aspirations of the Third World.
Calm continues to reign
in local financial markets, following the worldwide pattern. In spite of petroleum
prices reaching record levels, the orange alert in the US and revelations
of possible wrongdoings on the part of high officials of Banco do Brasil and
the Central Bank, the future markets for interest and foreign exchange have
not reacted significantly.
Good news about the economy
picking up and continued surpluses in the primary budget and foreign trade
figures have maintained the Brazil risk below 600 basis points with C-bonds
quoted at over 94 percent of their face value.
Dirt in High Places
The week before last,
Isto É, a news magazine, published a story stating that
the Director of Monetary Policy at the Central Bank, Luiz Augusto Candiota,
possessed funds abroad that had not been declared on his income tax return.
Henrique Meirelles, president
of the Central Bank, was said to have made contradictory reports to the tax
and the electoral authorities as to income earned while he resided in the
Initially it appeared
as if this would all blow over as Congress was in recess. But Candiota resigned
saying he did not want to blemish the reputation of the Central Bank.
This week, Veja,
considered to be a more responsible magazine, amplified on the accusations
against Meirelles and added some dirt about possible real estate holdings
that had not been declared on his statement of assets.
My feeling is that Meirelles
will not easily surrender to pressure. Meirelles is independently wealthy
and makes no secret of his political aspirations.
Meirelles, a member of
the opposition PSDB (Partido da Social Democracia BrasileiraBrazilian
Social Democracy Party) or tucano (toucan) party was elected as a Federal
Deputy from Goiás in 2002.
He gave up his mandate
to accept Lula's invitation to preside the Central Bank, a job that several
previously solicited candidates would not touch due to Lula's unorthodox behavior
at the time.
Henrique Meirelles has
done an excellent job in maintaining a strict monetary policy, the positive
results of which are now beginning to appear.
He is at home in New York,
London and Basel and his presence has given Lula's government the much-needed
appearance of responsibility. It would be a blow to Lula's image in international
financial circles should Meirelles be lost.
The resignation of Candiota
has complicated the government's position, as it appears that he has admitted
guilt. The case of Cássio Casseb, president of Banco do Brasil also
indicated as having undeclared accounts abroad, is aggravated by the fact
that Banco de Brasil gave away R$ 70,000 (US$ 23,000) worth of free tickets
to a recent musical show in Brasília.
Profits from the show
went to a fund to build a new national headquarters building for the Workers'
Party, to which President Lula belongs. This is a flagrant violation of ethics
using the bank's funds to help the ruling party.
The end of this case is
not in sight. Both Casseb and Candiota are former employees of Citibank and
Meirelles last position was president of the international operations of Bank
High Price of Money
Meirelles, because of
his professional past, is frequently accused of favoring local banks and foreign
creditors, to the detriment of industry and business. High interest rates
are needed to control inflation, Meirelles believes.
It happens that both Banco
Itaú and Bradesco, the nation's two biggest non-government owned banks,
have posted record earnings for 2004's first semester.
This is in spite of an
economy that is sputtering to show some life after last year's negative GNP
growth. Recent revelations about possible wrongdoings may give Henrique's
opponents more ammunition to shoot him down.
Aside from this possible
occurrence, that is the changing of command of the Central Bank, there are
no pending factors that would immediately alter the market's favorable view
of Brazil at present.
The illegal invasions
of private property, even when deaths result, and the gradual taking over
of all government agencies by the PT, do not seem to draw attention internationally.
Football diplomacy should
receive favorable press, as Brazil will send a lineup of top players to Port
of Prince on August 18. The team, including several men from the lineup that
defeated Argentina in Lima for the championship of the Cup of the Americas
tourney, will train in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
Lula will be heading soon
to the Dominican Republic where he will participate in the inauguration of
their new President, Leonel Fernandez, on August 16.
As head of the UN peacekeeping
mission in Haiti, Brazil is doing its best to restore law and order through
dialog, winning hearts and minds, rather than using force.
Compared to many nations
of the world, Brazil is privileged in spite of the many defects of its rulers.
Richard Edward Hayes first came to Brazil in 1964 as an employee of Chase
Manhattan Bank. Since then, Hayes has worked directly and as an advisor
for a number of Brazilian and international banks and companies. Currently
he is a free lance consultant and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paulo, August 4, 2004.