I cover business and investing in emerging markets.
Brazil’s Vice President Michel Temer has broken with his president Dilma Rousseff over the country’s worst political crisis in a generation. The crisis threatens to roll back nearly a decade’s worth of socio-economic gains and independence from the IMF. (Photo by Andre Penner/AP)
Congratulations, Brasilia, you have shot the country in the foot with a double barrel shotgun. The political crisis, now well into its first year and with no end in sight, stripped the country of its coveted investment grade (IG) rating by Standard & Poor’s this month. Fitch and Moody’s still consider Brazil IG. But guess what? The political drama still unfolding in the capital promises to see at least one more credit watchdog push Brazilian sovereign debt to junk before the year is out. “Our rating judgments will have to take into account the political environment,” says Shelly Shetty, head of Latin American sovereigns at Fitch Ratings. Shetty took part in a round table discussion on Brazil in New York on Sept. 10 when she made those comments. “There are three issues that make Brazil different than other investment grade countries. One is loss of popularity of the president (Dilma Rousseff) very early in the term. The second is not a very cooperative congress. And the third is the contamination that is coming from the Petrobras investigation, and the expanding nature of those investigations, and how that’s clouding the overall environment and hampering the legislative success of this government.” The political crisis in Brazil may have started with the ruling Workers’ Party and state controlled energy firm Petrobras. But since the Federal Police’s historic busting of Brazil’s untouchable oligarchs, and the court’s charging ruling coalition politicians like house leader Eduardo Cunha with corruption, the country’s entire political apparatus is in disarray. Brasilia is now one-part Greek tragedy, one part Keystone Cops…shaken, stirred and on the rocks. Brazil is becoming as ungovernable as Greece. President Dilma Rousseff has lost support of her own vice president, Michel Temer. Earlier this year, Temer said his party would consider running a presidential candidate against the Workers’ Party in 2018. His party, the Democratic Movement, or PMDB, is being disruptive in Congress. Dilma is essentially a lame duck president. Whatever she proposes, the congress rejects. And vice-versa. Her Finance Minister, Joaquim Levy, is running the business. Austerity is the nature of the beast. The opposition party, meanwhile, the Social Democrats, or PSDB, is unsure whether or not they, not the country, will be better off with Dilma impeached, or severely weakened over the course of her last term in office. A severely weakened Dilma means the Workers’ Party is finished for the time being. As it is, its star and founding father, ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is under investigation for influence peddling in the Petrobras scandal. With both of the Workers’ Party’s top dogs being tarred and feathered, it is unlikely that the Party will survive unless Brazil’s economy can grow and grow fast.