MS Risk Blog

Venezuela and Brazil: From Slow Cooking to Boiling Over

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

This month saw the culmination of several processes in Latin America that have been slow cooking for some time now. Venezuela is on the brink of civil war as its economy is collapsing, food is scarce and violent protests rage in the streets. The country with more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia is going through the world’s deepest recession. Supermarkets are empty and the little food available is unaffordable for most Venezuelans due to skyrocketing inflation. The supermarket queues alone are extremely dangerous as people have been robbed and killed while standing in line. However, there is no alternative. Almost three quarters of the population lost on average almost twenty pounds due to the ‘Maduro Diet’. People are combing thrash for food while child mortality levels increased by thirty percent. Hospital conditions are extremely harsh with a chronic shortage in medicine and basic healthcare. A Malaria outbreak compounds this problem. Daily protests in response to these conditions have up to date killed at least 46 people. In order to curb the rioting Maduro has jailed its opponents, shut down independent media outlets and unleashed his security forces on the populace. 2600 soldiers were sent to the Andean area near Colombia in order to regain control as the country marked its 50th day of violent clashes. Still, Maduro vowed to push ahead in July with the formation of a ‘constituent assembly’ in order to rewrite the constitution thereby increasing the fear that opposition parties will be excluded from future elections. Meanwhile, to the south, in Brazil, months of simmering anti-corruption probes reached a climax when the current sitting President Michel Temer himself was implicated in a corruption scandal. An audio recording emerged in which Temer and the President of meat-packing firm JBS, discuss bribing a jailed politician in exchange for his silence in his role as witness in Operation Car Wash. The tape’s fallout and the resulting news that the President himself was involved in a cover-up connected to the continent-wide anti-corruption probe shook the nation. Brazilian assets were dumped on foreign financial markets and protests ensued in the country’s major cities. Running battles between police and tens of thousands anti-Temer protesters led to the deployment of the army on the streets. While the financial markets have recovered, Temer’s position likely has not. Even though Temer, in a defiant public speech, has explicitly announced not to stand down, the possibility that the country will see a second President fall in less than a year has become more likely. If that happens the country’s long overdue, but unpopular, economic reforms will be further away than ever, thereby decreasing the prospects of ending the deep recession that has been going on. The spillover effect of both country’s crises are likely to keep on influencing the entire continent’s economic and political state of affairs for the time being.