Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff officially launched a new anti-poverty program Thursday aimed at eradicating extreme poverty in Brazil over the next three years. The “Brazil without Poverty” initiative will expand health, education, job training, and cash-transfer programs to the over 16 million Brazilians still living in conditions of so-called “misery.” The plan also seeks to help small farmers by setting food prices and will increase the flow of development aid to Brazil’s most historically marginalized regions through the creation of new basic infrastructure projects (See a May report from the Washington Post).
AP notes that between 2000 and 2010 the country’s poorest 50 percent saw their income increase by 68 percent. The income of the wealthiest 10 percent of the nation saw its income by 10 percent over that same period, marking an important shift against the country’s notorious problem of income inequality. Moreover, over 20 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty and 36 million moved into the country’s middle class over that period. But Dilma insisted the government still had more to work to do.
“Fighting poverty is a government duty and a task for all Brazilians,” she said during her Thursday roll-out of “Brazil without Poverty.” “We cannot forget that the most challenging crisis, the biggest and most distressing problem in this country, is chronic poverty.”
According to AFP, Social Development Minister Tereza Campello says the “Brazil Without Poverty” program plans to budget around $12.5 billion dollars per year and will extend above and beyond the country’s widely-acclaimed Bolsa Familia cash-transfer initiative. “A country that has grown like Brazil can't be content with just having a big social program like Bolsa Familia, Social Development Minister Tereza Campello tells BBC Brasil.
More details in the coming weeks.
Today’s bullet points:
· In what is turning into a crisis in the Brazilian Amazon, yet another rural land activist was found murdered Thursday. As AP reports, the latest killing comes just days after Brazilian officials discussed how they might halt deadly disputes over logging in the region. The details of the latest killing are particularly gruesome. The police chief in the southeastern Pará town where the killing took place says two witnesses to the shooting tried to take the wounded activist to a hospital, but were pulled over on their way by gunmen who got out of their vehicle to “finish off the victim,” execution-style. The group Catholic Land Pastoral, a monitor of threats against land activists in the Amazon, has contended gunmen are frequently hired by loggers and ranchers to silence protests over logging and land rights issues in the region. Thursday’s murder follows the killing of three land activists and one witness to those killings last week in the same part of Pará state. Brazilian Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo said this week the armed forces, national guard, federal police and highway police will aid state police departments in their effort to stop the recent spate of killings, although details about what that cooperation might look like have not yet emerged.
· Amnesty International is the latest to issue a statement critical of the Brazilian government’s plans to move forward with a massive dam project on the Amazon basin’s Xingu River. On Wednesday Brazil’s environmental agency approved the construction of the Belo Monte dam, despite the on-going protest of environmental activists, indigenous groups, and human rights organizations, among them the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
· IPS offers a relatively optimistic look at the impact of Rio de Janeiro’s community policing program – a shift away from what the news agency calls a “war on drugs” model for taking on violence and trafficking. Meanwhile Insight republishes journalist Julia Michael’s more critical examination of the second-phase of the community policing program in Rio, which is supposed to bring new social investment to so-called “pacified communities.” The report comes from an interview this week in Brazil’s O Globo with state public safety secretary José Mariano Beltrame who says such investment has been too slow in its disbursement.
· As a high commission of former global leader’s released their damning assessment of the global war on drugs, calling it a “clear failure,” new figures from the epicenter of the drug wars – Mexico – show 70% of Mexicans in opposition to one of the commission’s principal recommendations: legalization. Additionally, 82% of those polled in the Encuesta Nacional sobre la Percepción de Seguridad Ciudadana en México, carried out by Mitofsky, say public security has worsened over the last two years while 71% say they approve of the decision to increase the presence of the military to take on problems of public security. Mexico’s Proceso reports.
· HRW’s Nik Steinberg, author of an excellent recent piece in The Nation on the drug wars in Monterrey, talks with WNYC’s Leonard Lopate about drugs, violence, and human rights abuses in what has long been considered one of Mexico’s most prosperous cities.
· AP says charges have been filed by Mexico’s Attorney General’s office against Tamaulipas Zeta cell leader Martin Estrada Luna – a man suspected of being involved in the killing of hundreds of individuals whose bodies have been pulled from mass graves in the northern Mexico state in recent months. The charges include kidnapping, drug trafficking, involvement in organized crime, and illegal possession of firearms but do not yet include murder of any of the individuals recovered from the San Fernando graves. Born in Mexico, Estrada grew up in the US and was only deported back to his home country in 2009.
· Ahead of Sunday’s presidential poll in Peru, the Wall Street Journal has a final look at the race between Ollanta Humala and Fujimori, as well as the vocal role author Mario Vargas Llosa has played during the election campaign. To those who have followed MVL’s thoughts on the economy over the last two decades, perhaps one of the most interesting splits this year’s election season has caused has been between the Nobel Prize winner (and his son, Alvaro), both unlikely Humala backers, and their (former?) friend and colleague, neoliberal economist Hernando de Soto. De Soto has come out in support of Keiko Fujimori. On Washington’s view of Sunday’s election, CEPR’s Mark Weisbrot comments in The Guardian on US government’s strong dislike of Humala. Bloomberg has final Ipsos/Apoyo poll numbers before Sunday which put Fujimori at 51.1% and Humala at 48.9%.
· In Venezuela, representatives from nine Latin American countries gathered yesterday to discuss the creation of a new continental news agency that might unite already existing state-backed wire services from around the region. TeleSur highlights the new umbrella body, apparently to be called the Unión Latinoamericana de Agencias de Noticias (ULAN).
· El Universal and TeleSur report on Lula da Silva’s visit with Hugo Chavez in Caracas yesterday – the ex-Brazilian president’s first since leaving office in January. AP highlights Chavez’s statements before that meeting re: his decision to continue handing over to Colombia FARC rebels picked up in Venezuelan territory. Next week Chavez heads south to Brasilia for his first meeting with Dilma Rousseff.
· And finally Mexico’s Central Banker Agustín Carstens was in Brazil this week, the second candidate for the IMF’s managing director opening to visit the country less than a week. (French Finance Minister Christine Lagard paid Brazil a lobbying visit earlier in the week). So far only Uruguay has publicly endorsed the Mexican economist in his bid break Europe’s monopoly atop the Fund. The Wall Street Journal reports, noting, among other things, that Carstens is a Chicago Cubs fan.