World Economy

Brazil Economy Wavers, Rousseff Challenged

Brazil Economy Wavers, Rousseff ChallengedBrazil Economy Wavers, Rousseff Challenged

Dilma Rousseff battled back from faltering approval ratings at the end of last year to win a second term as Brazil’s president in October. But 2015 appears to be stacked with more challenges for the leader of Latin America’s largest economy.

Rousseff’s approval rating has fallen by around 20 percentage points since the beginning of the year as the country struggles with a stagnant economy, rising inflation, and a major corruption scandal at the state-run oil company, France24 reported.

“After the elections Brazilians were dealt a reality check,” said Alessandro Janoni, research director at the Brazilian opinion polling firm Datafolha. “Since the beginning of this year people have seen prices rise steadily and have mainly placed the blame on Rousseff.”

Forty-two percent of Brazilians thought the left-wing president was doing a “good” or “excellent” job when she narrowly defeated conservative candidate Aécio Neves in a runoff poll on October 26. That figure remained unchanged in December 2014, but plummeted to 23 percent in February 2015, according to Datafolha. Rousseff’s image has not just taken a hit in the more prosperous south, where Neves garnered most of his votes in last year’s election. Her support has seen its biggest drop-off in northeastern Brazil, considered the mainstay for Rouseff’s Worker’s Party (PT).

  Popularity Declines

In December, 53 percent of northeastern residents thought Rousseff was doing good or excellent work running the country. By February, only 29 percent of people in the region still held that opinion. “It was the biggest surprise of our poll,” Datafolha’s Janoni told FRANCE 24 by telephone from Sao Paulo.

After years of runaway growth, even through the great recession of 2008, Brazil’s economy tripped last year. The country returned to meek growth in the third quarter of 2014 after a short recession, but ordinary people are not feeling relieved.

The national statistical institute IBGE said Friday that prices rose 1.22 percent in February, bringing inflation well above the government’s target ceiling of 6.5 percent.

Pessimism is mixing with frustration over political corruption. As many of 46 lawmakers will potentially be investigated for alleged involvement in a huge kickback scheme at the national oil company Petrobras.

Billions were stolen, it was said. Allegations say that Petrobras profits were funneled to members of Rousseff’s party and its allies. People say they would join fellow Brazilians calling for Rousseff’s impeachment in mass rallies on March 15.

Rallies will all depend on the economic climate. Rousseff could pull off a sudden economic success. There could be a recovery, a citizen said. “Even big scandals in the past have seemed unimportant to Brazilians when the economy was on the upswing.”