Brazil grows wary of Venezuela under Maduro

 

Reuters reports that Brazil, Latin America’s biggest economy and diplomatic power, has toned down its support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro because of disappointment over how he is handling mounting economic problems and opposition-led street protests.

The shift, while subtle, has deprived Maduro of some of the regional backing he wants at a time of food shortages, high inflation and political uncertainty in the OPEC nation.

Broadly speaking, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff remains an ally of Maduro. While Rousseff is more moderate, both are part of a generation of leftist Latin American presidents who grew up opposing pro-Washington governments and believe they are united by a mission to help the poor.

However, Rousseff has been increasingly disappointed by some of Maduro’s actions and has reined in the more enthusiastic support that characterized Brazil-Venezuela relations under his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, according to two officials close to Rousseff’s government.

Rousseff is worried the Venezuelan government’s repression of recent street protests, and Maduro’s refusal to hold genuine dialogue with opposition leaders, may make the political crisis worse over time, the officials said.

Brazil Passes Internet Law

Today, Bloomberg reports that the law for Internet rights passed the lower house of Brazil’s Congress last night, advancing the bill after President Dilma Rousseff ended a six-month standoff by giving up on a measure she said would protect Brazilians from spying.

The removal of a requirement for companies to host data from Brazilian users within the country’s borders was a win for Google Inc. (GOOG) and Facebook Inc., which had lobbied against the provision. Rules preventing Internet service providers from favoring some types of Web traffic over others were left intact, despite resistance from phone carriers such as Oi SA and Telefonica Brasil SA.

The bill makes Brazil the leader among large countries in upholding the principle of net neutrality, in which providers must grant equal access to the entire Internet, without selectively blocking or slowing down services. With Brazil weeks away from hosting an international Internet conference, Rousseff chose to let the law advance, even with weaker provisions for the country’s oversight of its citizens’ data.

“Brazil is a giant country, and passage of this law will provide a model for implementing net neutrality as a policy measure in other major markets,” Katherine Maher, advocacy director for international digital rights organization Access, said by phone from Washington before the vote.

 

US Economic Recovery Boosts Brazilian IT Exports

Brazilian IT companies expect to increase their exports this year due to the recovery of the US economy and local currency devaluation, which has made their products more competitive. In 2012, the Brazilian software and IT service exports totaled US$ 2.2 billion, 14.67% higher than in 2011, according to the survey published by the IDC and Brazilian Association of Software Companies (ABES). In 2013, analysts estimate that Brazilian exports increased between 12% and 14%.

“For this year, we should repeat the same performance as last year and export growth will exceed domestic market rates”, said Jorge Sukarie, Abes CEO. The IDC forecasts a growth of 9.2% for the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector this year.

The main markets for Brazilian software exports are Mexico, with a 14.1% share, Colombia (7.7%), the United States (7%) and Argentina (6.3%). The US accounts for almost 39% of the IT market and it is one of the main destinations for Brazilian exports, especially in the services area. Read the whole story here.

Volkswagen to Invest $4.25 billion in Brazil

The WSJ reports German auto maker Volkswagen AG plans to invest 10 billion Brazilian reais ($4.25 billion) in its operations in Latin America’s largest nation in the 2014-2018 period to develop new vehicles and new technologies, the company said in a news release over the weekend.

Brazil is the fourth largest consumer market for Volkswagen behind China, Germany and U.S. The investment program for the period represents an increase in the previous investment plan for the period between 2012 and 2016, which totaled BRL8.7 billion.

“The investment program shows our confidence in Brazil and shows that we are advancing in the modernization of our products,” said Volkswagen do Brasil Chief Executive Thomas Schmall.

The massive investment planned by Volkswagen comes at a challenging time for the vehicle industry in Brazil.

Yearly vehicle sales fell for the first time in a decade in 2013, even as output in Brazil’s auto industry was temporarily boosted by government incentives aimed at strengthening local production and boosting exports.

Brazil vehicle sales declined last year to 3.77 million vehicles from a record of 3.8 million autos sold in 2012, according to auto-maker association Anfavea. Inflation’s erosion of consumer spending power, together with rising interest rates, a volatile currency and disappointing economic growth, crimped vehicle purchases.

Dilma Front-Runner for October Elections

Wall Street reports Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff remains the clear front-runner to win re-election in October, according to a new poll, but many voters nonetheless say they want a clear change of direction.

A poll by the Ibope polling institute showed that Ms. Rousseff has reestablished a firm level of support that had been lost following mass street protests in the middle of last year, when millions Brazilians took street to demand an improvement in quality of life and better public services.

The Ibope poll showed that Ms. Rousseff does best in the most likely scenario, in which she would face Aecio Neves, of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, or PSDB, and Eduardo Campos, of the Brazilian Socialist Party, or PSB, and governor of Pernambuco state.

In that event, 43% of respondents said they would vote for Ms. Rousseff, which would likely be enough to secure her a comfortable first-round win, according to the poll. Mr. Neves would secure 15% support, and Mr. Campos would come in third with just 7% support.

Despite the president’s comfortable position, pollsters say there is room for the picture to change. The first is a desire for change among many Brazilians and the other is that pollsters say the election campaign only really gets going once the campaigns take to the television with debates and advertising.

According to Ibope, 64% of respondents said yes when asked whether they wanted a major change of course by the next president.

read more here.

 

Digital Textbooks to be available in Brazil

Over the last decade, Brazil has “come online” in a big way. The percentage of people using the Web in Brazil leapt from 9 percent in 2002 to about 50 percent in 2012, according to the ITU. With 60 million Brazilians now using Facebook, thanks to increasing access to the Internet and the rise of social media, the country is undergoing a digital transformation — and with that comes a slew of exciting opportunities for startups.

However, usually when it comes to growth potential, Brazil’s eCommerce market gets most of the attention. Nonetheless, a flurry of noteworthy developments over the last six months have begun to make it clear that another big market (and opportunity) is quietly emerging in Brazil: Education technology.

While Google and Apple have made sizable strides in education in the U.S., and chip makers like Intel have begun to reveal EdTech aspirations, Amazon’s plans have been less clear. But with its announcement yesterday, we now have an idea, and it looks to start (at least in part) with Brazil. Though the textbook industry is a fragmented market in the U.S., Jeff Bezos and company see the thriving market in Latin America as a big opportunity for its textbook business.

According to BetaNews, Amazon has landed a major contract with the Brazil’s Ministry of Education, which will see it work with the country’s educational development fund to convert and distribute textbooks to schools across Brazil. The pair have already begun to digitize more than 200 textbooks and distribute them to hundreds of thousands of Brazilian educators through Whispercast.

Amazon claims that over 40 million digital textbooks have already been distributed through its service around the world, and, while it’s not yet clear what its targets are for Brazil, it no doubt intends to be a wide-scale roll-out. Read more here.

Consulate Holiday Closure

The Consulate General of Brazil will be closed on Friday, April 18th, 2014, for Good Friday. Please click here to see all the holidays observed by the office.

Brazil replaces technology minister

As Brazil places more emphasis on its technology agenda, president Dilma Rousseff has brought in a new minister with a clear remit of defining priorities and delivering them fast.

The Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (MCTI) will now be headed up by economist Clélio Campolina, a former professor at the University of Minas Gerais and a specialist in economic development, with a PhD on the subject from the University of Rutgers in the United States.

When taking over from previous minister Marco Antonio Raupp on Monday (17), Campolina said president Rousseff had invited him to take up the job with the specific brief of giving continuity to the ongoing MCTI programs, but more importantly, create a project to drive economic growth through science and technology and boost the quality of Brazil’s output in that field.

“Brazil is in a hurry and has the ability to define and prioritize areas of technology and science that are critical to the transformation of the Brazilian business environment,” Campolina said.

“We need to have a big program [science and technology] program for Brazil, have a forward-looking vision and deliver fast,” he added.  Read the story here. 

Property Investment on the Rise in Brazil

Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America, and is rapidly accelerating towards its predicted place in the top four economies of the world. It is also an extremely attractive market for property investors, for a number of different reasons.

Brazil has been attracting international property investors for a number of years now, and has grown from being “one to watch” to a hot, current investment opportunity. Tourist properties are among the most attractive options the company has to offer property investors. The country is already a popular tourist destination, and most investors and experts agree that its popularity with tourists will continue to grow in years to come. The country has high standards of living, more than 300 days of sunshine in the year, and over 2,000 miles of sunny beaches.

As a result, tourist properties are very much in demand. This demand looks set to not only continue in coming years, but to grow significantly. More and more people continue to flock to Brazil every year, and the government is actively committed to growing the country’s tourist industry. Brazil is expected to become one of the top tourist destinations in the world in the near future, and this will further increase demand on tourist properties, as well as the possibility of returns even higher than their current attractive levels.

Residential property in Brazil is also an attractive option for investors. Locally, the country has a huge housing deficit of between eight and ten million homes. Demand is particularly high in the country’s North Eastern region, which single-handedly accounts for an estimated third of this deficit. With the country’s population growth accelerating, this puts homes in consistently high demand. Due to the extent of the deficit and the rapid development of new builds to try and chip away the disparity between demand and supply, buying off-plan properties is an especially popular option in Brazil, and one that can prove especially profitable. Read the whole story here. 

Social Media and Politics in Brazil

The Economist notes that Brazil’s elites received a rude introduction to the power of social media. Protests, many convened via Facebook, saw millions take to the streets to air disaffection with politicians. Those same politicians now want to harness social networks for their election campaigns.

Just before Dilma Rousseff was elected president in 2010, 6m Brazilians used Facebook at least once a month. As they gear up for a presidential poll in October, 83m do. Only the United States and India have bigger Facebook populations. One Brazilian in ten tweets; one in five uses Whatsapp—part messaging service, part social network. Cyberspace is seen as a crucial battleground for the election, even before campaigning officially starts on July 6th.

In September, shortly after the protests petered out, Ms Rousseff reactivated her Twitter account, dormant since the 2010 election. She has also joined Instagram and Vine, two image-sharing sites, and revamped her Facebook profile. Last month Ms Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT) held its first workshop for activists on how best to use social networks. It plans 13 more in the coming months.

The opposition is pinning even more hope on social media, in large part because the president is likely to dominate the traditional sort. During the campaign free television time is divvied up using a complex formula which takes into account the size of electoral alliances—and tends to favour the incumbent. Despite threats by the PT’s junior partner to dump Ms Rousseff—and take its airtime with it—most pundits predict the coalition will pull through. That would leave the president with around half of the 25-minute television slots; the other candidates would split the rest.

Small wonder, then, that Ms Rousseff’s likeliest rivals have been busy making Facebook friends. Aécio Neves, a senator from Minas Gerais state and leader of the centre-right Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), and Eduardo Campos, governor of Pernambuco and head of the centrist Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), have so far notched up many more “likes” than the president (see chart). The most popular of all is Marina Silva, a former environment minister and Mr Campos’s probable running mate. All are active on other social networks, too.  Read the whole story at The Economist.