In First Press Conference Brazil’s New President Says Currency War Can Lead to Real War

Dilma visits Lula in Palácio do PlanaltoBrazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the president elect, Dilma Rousseff, held a joint press conference. What follows is a summary of what Rousseff, said to reporters on a variety of subjects:

Minimum wage – [This is very important in Brazil as so many people depend on it and so many other things (social security benefits, for example) are linked to it]: “Our criteria for minimum wage adjustments is based on GDP and inflation. However, because of the international financial crisis, 2009 GDP growth will be close to zero. I want to find a way to come up with some compensation. By the end of 2011, beginning of 2012, we expect the minimum wage to reach 600 reais (US$ 357). By 2014 it should be around or more than 700 reais (US$ 417),” Dilma explained.

Bolsa Família – [This is the Lula program that pays very low income families a subsidy] Dilma said she intends to ensure that the program reaches every single needy family in the country (“100%”) and that the amount paid would increase.

Forming a New Administration – One of the results of Dilma’s victory, is that no less than eleven political parties will be jockeying for jobs, positions and influence. Dilma diplomatically called the process “the construction of a united team, rather than a division [of spoils]”. She declared that the PMDB [the biggest party in her coalition] has not asked for anything, but rather was actively involved in creating a unified team.

Economy – Dilma said that everybody except the United States and China can see that there is a currency war underway that cannot be resolved by any one country by itself. She added: “Individual solutions leave countries unprotected and when you start competitive currency devaluation you get what you got [60 years ago]: the Second World War.”  

Land reform – Dilma said she refuses to see the problem with the Landless Farmer Movement (“MST”) as a criminal case for the police. She said she will not permit land conflicts to become armed conflicts such as the massacre of Eldorado dos Carajás when 19 MST members were killed by the police [in April 1996]. “Land reform is also a question of human rights,” she said. “However, it was unacceptable for the MST to invade public buildings or productive farms.”

Agriculture – Dilma called for a revolution in the countryside, turning farmers into landowners whose children could receive good schooling. The solution to the land problems in Brazil, she declared, is to create thousands of small farmers who own property so land conflicts can be taken care of democratically. Farmers must be assured income and should feel that their situation is improving. They have to be able to ensure their children a good life in the countryside, she said.

Pre-salt – [This is a subject Dilma spoke of with authority: she was the minister of Mines and Energy and presided over the Petrobras administrative council.] She pointed out that a lot of money would be lost if the country became an exporter of raw petroleum. “We need two premium refineries because that will allow us to break into the important area of petrochemicals. When we export petrochemical products we will earn a thousand times more [aggregated value] than with just raw petroleum,” she explained.

Priorities – Dilma said health and public safety were her priorities. She said education was on the right track and would have necessary funding. Various times she referred to the need for cooperation at the state and municipal levels for finding long lasting solutions.

Taxes – Dilma said the creation of taxes [including the recreation of the financial transaction tax (CPMF) which expired last year] was not one of her priorities. She admitted that many governors have complained about lost revenue.

Foreign Relations – Dilma said she intends to base relations with other nations, including Iran, on peaceful dialogue. “Our policy is not one of aggression or violence. We will talk to anyone who comes in peace. With regard to human rights, my position is intransigent. We defend human rights, period.” Asked about the case of the Iranian widow, Sakineh Ashtiani, who is accused of adultery and murdering her husband, Dilma said she was opposed to the death penalty and called the sentence to death by stoning “barbarous.”



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