Universiteit Leiden

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Brazil in the 21st century: advances and obstacles

Thursday 23 March 2017
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden

Chair of Brazilian Studies Rui Barbosa (1998-2017)

The objective of this conference is that the 5 holders of the Chair of Brazilian Studies Rui Barbosa, each one from a different Brazilian university and from a different academic background, in the framework of its 20 years, analyse from their respective disciplines, some of the advances and obstacles which can be considered consequences of the different policies introduced by Brazilian governments, and the (inter)actions of Congress, the Brazilian justice system, media and society.  The main attention will be given to the developments of the 21st century.

Brazil in the 21st century: advances and obstacles

After the return of democracy, Brazil started to change, as a consequence of the establishment of the 1988 Constitution, known as the Constuitição Cidadã, as many human and social rights were included for the first time. The economic, social and international situation was very difficult at first, a result of the economic crisis. The privatisation project of President Cardoso (1995-2002) had an extremely bad effect on employment. Despite the successful Plano Real, which stabilized prices, economic growth was slow due, amongst other reasons, to very high interest rates.

Under President Lula (2003-2010) Brazil progressed more. Lula developed the biggest Conditional Cash Transfer Programme in the world, Bolsa Família, which lead to a significant decrease in poverty. He invested in education, in the economy with his programme of Accelerated Growth. Furthermore, Lula was extremely innovative in the areas of international cooperation and defence. He was investing in soft and hard power, in sum in smart power. Lula, following in the footsteps of former presidents Getúlio Vargas (1930-1945; 1951-1954) and Ernesto Geisel (1974-1979), worked on a national project for Brazil. He put Brazil on the world map. The Constitution’s objectives became finally implemented.

These policies were also followed by his successor, Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016), albeit as a technocrat and much less popular. This resulted in 4 consecutive electoral victories of the coalition, an unheard fact in Brazilian politics. However, after the 4th victory, a number of powerful politicians started an impeachment procedure in 2016.  The procedure has been considered flimsy, and even a parliamentary coup, by different national and international institutions and academics.

Afterwards a new power structure was set in place. The innovative backbone of the 1988 Constitution, spending in health, education and social programmes has been severely contracted through to constitutional amendments, supported by a very conservative Congress, leading to privatisation programmes, policies in sync with Washington and financial institutions. Areas such as human rights, specially of women and minorities, culture, science, technology and innovation are receiving much less attention and investments.  There also seems to be growing partisanship of the Judiciary.

Therefore, between the 1998 and mid-2016, structural changes took place in Brazil, transforming the country socially, economically, internationally. What has been taking place since mid-place 2016 may be subject to different interpretations, vis-à-vis this historical background.


Conference programme

13.00-13.10      Words of welcome

13.10-13.50      Arlindo Villaschi, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Departamento de Economia: What is new in the Brazilian political economy.

13.50-14.30      Marcos Costa Lima, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco PE, Programa de Pós-graduação em Ciência Política: Foreign relations: from innovative policies to alignment with Washington

14.30-15.10      Ester Limonad, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Programa de Pós Graduação Em Geografia: From national territorial policies to the sale of Brazilian land to foreign multinationals

15.10-15.30      Break

15.30-16.10      Heitor Frúgoli, Universidade de São Paulo, Departamento de Antropologia: Activism and social movements: the occupation of the streets in São Paulo since 2013 and police violence

16.10-16.50      Maria Lucia de Barros Camargo, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Programa de Pós-graduação em Literatura: Avanços e retrocessos na inclusão na educação, com enfoque no ensino universitário

16.50-17.25      Round Table with all participants; moderator Edmund Amann, Leiden University, Latin American Studies, Brazilian Studies.

17.25-17.30      Closing Remarks

Full conference programme

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