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Brazil,Geography,Government,History  November 25, 2019 – 12:29 pm
Brazil President Dilma Rousseff
The Lula Administration Oversees Economic and Social Reform

In Jan. 2003, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former trade union leader and factory worker widely known by the name Lula, became Brazil's first working-class president. As leader of Brazil's only Socialist party, the Workers' Party, Lula pledged to increase social services and improve the lot of the poor. But he also recognized that a distinctly nonsocialist program of fiscal austerity was needed to rescue the economy. The president's first major legislative success was a plan to reform the country's debt-ridden pension system, which operated under an annual $20 billion deficit. Civil servants staged massive strikes opposing this and other reforms. Although public debt and inflation remained a problem in 2004, Brazil's economy showed signs of growth and unemployment was down. Polls in Aug. 2004 demonstrated that the majority of Brazilians supported Lula's tough economic reform efforts. He combined his conservative fiscal policies with ambitious antipoverty programs, raising the country's minimum wage by 25% and introducing an ambitious social welfare program, Bolsa Familia, which has pulled 36 million people (20% of the population) out of deep poverty.

In 2005, an unfolding bribery scandal weakened Lula's administration and led to the resignation of several high government officials. Lula issued a televised apology in August, promising “drastic measures” to reform the political system. By the following year, his popularity had rebounded as he continued a successful balancing act between fiscal responsibility and a strong social welfare system. But after another corruption scandal surfaced right before the Oct. 2006 election, Lula won only 48.6% of the vote, forcing a runoff election on Oct. 29 in which Lula garnered 60.8% of the vote, retaining his office.

A new oil field, called Tupi, was discovered 16, 000 feet below the ocean's floor in November 2007. Tupi will yield five to eight billion barrels of crude oil and natural gas, making it the largest oil field discovered since Kashagan Field in Kazakhstan in 2000.

After a three-year decline, the National Institute for Space Research reported that the deforestation rate in Brazil during 2008 increased 228% in 2007.

In Oct. 2009, Rio de Janeiro won the bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, becoming the first South American city to host the Games. Tokyo, Madrid, and Chicago, Ill. were the other finalists in the running.

Brazil Elects Its First Woman President

In Oct. 2010's second round of presidential elections, Dilma Rousseff, an acolyte of Lula and his former chief of staff, defeated José Serra 56% to 44% to become the country's first woman president. Because of term limits, Lula could not run for a third consecutive term. Rousseff is expected to follow through with Lula's agenda, but faces the task of improving the country's education, health, and sanitation systems. The vote was seen as an endorsement of Lula and his social and economic policies.

Former Student Behind Worst School Shooting Brazil Has Ever Seen

On April 7, 2011, A 23-year-old former student returned to his public elementary school in Rio de Janeiro and began firing, killing 12 children and wounding 12 others, before shooting himself in the head. While Brazil has seen gang-related violence in urban areas, this was the worst school shooting the country has ever seen. Tasso da Silveira elementary and middle school, the site of the shooting, is located in the working class neighborhood of Realengo, on the west side of Rio.

The shooter, Wellington Menezes de Oliveria, age 24, entered the school around 8 a.m., telling a teacher who recognized him that he was there to speak to a class. Oliveira opened fire a few minutes later with a .38-caliber pistol in one hand and a .32-caliber gun in the other. He killed 10 girls and 2 boys. When Oliveira ignored a police officer's order to drop his guns, the officer, Sgt. Marcio Alves, shot him in the leg. Oliveira then shot himself in the head. A letter found in Mr. Oliveira's pocket made it clear that he intended to die and that the attack was premeditated, but offered no clear motive for the shootings.

Rousseff Faces Political Crisis as Top Aide Steps Down

In June 2011, top cabinet official Antonio Palocci resigned. President Rousseff's chief of staff, Palocci, was accused of increasing his personal wealth as a corporate consultant while he was also serving in congress and coordinating Rousseff's presidential campaign. Out of the last four chiefs of staff, Palocci was the third to resign amid accusations. Palocci's resignation did not cease investigations which continue to explore if there was a connection between Palocci's business dealings and Rousseff's presidential campaign.

Security Measures Begin for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics

Around three thousand soldiers and police officers moved into Rocinha, one of the largest slums in Rio de Janeiro, on November 13, 2011. It was part of an operation by the government to gain control over troubled areas in the city before the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2014 World Cup. The operation, named "Shock of Peace, " involved military helicopters, tanks, snipers stationed on rooftops, and police squads patrolling alleys.

Rocinha, a community of more than 80, 000, is located near some of Rio's wealthiest neighborhoods. Occupying the area was an important step in imposing order in the city and cracking down on drug traffickers who control most of the city's slums. Shock of Peace was made possible by the arrest of Nem, a drug lord whose real name is Antônio Bonfim Lopes, as well as months of gathering intelligence.

Club Fire Kills 233 People

In the early morning hours of Jan. 27, 2013, a fire broke out in a nightclub in Santa Maria, a southern city in Brazil. The cause of the fire was a flare from pyrotechnics used by a band performing on stage at the club. At the time of the fire, the club was packed with hundreds of students from nearby universities. According to officials, at least 233 people were killed.

The fire stunned the nation. President Dilma Rousseff immediately left a summit meeting in Chile and traveled to Santa Maria to console the victim's families. As she left Chile, in tears, she said to reporters, "This is a tragedy for all of us."

Judiciary Council Rules on Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies

On May 14, 2013, the National Council of Justice ruled that notary publics in Brazil could no longer refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. Many saw the ruling as an opening for gay couples to get married in Latin American's largest country.

Legal scholars said that with the ruling the National Council of Justice, a 15-member panel led by Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa, legalized gay marriage in Brazil. The ruling follows recent decisions by lawmakers in Argentina and Uruguay to legal same-sex marriage. The National Council of Justice voted 14 to 1 in favor of requiring notary publics to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. Notary publics would also be required to convert same-sex civil unions into marriages. In 2011, Brazil's high court ruled in favor of allowing same-sex unions.


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