Post-Lula Brazil: country of the future?

Saturday 30 October, 1.30pm until 3.00pm, Café

The old joke has it that Brazil is the ‘country of the future…’ and will always remain so. Does Brazil’s steady economic advance and growing international role mean it might be finally fulfilling its promise? And after eight years of the Lula government, what has been achieved?Whatever happens in October’s presidential election, things seem to be looking up for Brazil. It was one of the last large economies to enter recession and one of the first to exit. Growth this year is predicted at 5%, cementing a decade of steady progress. Brazil has been dubbed an agricultural superpower - the breadbasket of the world. Discovery of the massive pre-salt oil reservoir in the Atlantic, plus big hydroelectricity generation capacity including the new Belo Monte dam – to be the world’s third-largest – indicates Brazil’s future may be as an energy superpower as well.

Internationally, Brazil’s close links to China and its emerging diplomatic role, seen in the recent negotiations with Iran in the face of the Obama administration’s concerns, is evidence for some that Brazil is no longer a ‘second-class country’. Hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 should see Brazil come out onto the world stage, by then perhaps even having overtaken the UK, Italy and France in economic size. Does the attraction of Brazil - a consolidated democracy unperturbed by ethnic divisions, in contrast to the other BRICs – nonetheless mask its deeper problem? Brazil remains by most measures one of the most unequal societies in the world. The urban violence, drugs and crime that dominate the headlines are symptomatic of Brazil’s uneven development. Rural areas have seen a significant increase in farm occupations that continue to dog the Lula administration. The government’s new Accelerated Growth Programme notwithstanding, Brazil suffers from crumbling and underdeveloped infrastructure which many see as a major hindrance to further development.

After the economic stabilisation through austerity programmes under Lula’s predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Lula’s election was seen to herald an end to the period of neo-liberalism. Yet Lula has maintained the macroeconomic policies of his predecessor, drawing criticism from radical circles. Supporters nevertheless point in retort to the massive redistributive programme, the Bolsa Familia, as well as growing infrastructural investment and development of the country’s interior. Do the political and economic categories drawn from 20th century experience still apply, or is Brazil forging a new model of development? What are we to make of Brazil’s advances on the world stage, and how does this impact on Brazil’s self-conception? Is there a ‘Brazilian Dream’ in the making?

Listen to session audio:


Professor Alfredo Saad Filho
professor of political economy, SOAS, University of London

Professor Anthony Pereira
director, Brazil Institute, King’s College London; author, Political (In)justice: authoritarianism and the rule of law in Brazil, Chile and Argentina

Patrick Wilcken
researcher on human rights in Brazil, Amnesty International; author, Empire Adrift: the Portuguese Court in Rio de Janeiro 1808-1821

Alex Hochuli
communications consultant, researcher and blogger based in São Paulo

Produced by
Alex Hochuli communications consultant, researcher and blogger based in São Paulo
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