Monday, July 1, 2013

Support for Rousseff Falls 27 Points as Protests Continue in Brazil

Despite Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s proposal to hold a vote on political reforms, the recent demonstrations in the country have caused her approval rating to plummet, dropping 27 points in three weeks.

According to a Datafolha poll conducted on June 27- 28 and released on Saturday, just 30 percent of respondents view her administration as “good” or “excellent,” down from 57 percent at the start of June. The proportion of those who gave her a “regular” rating rose from 22 to 43 percent, and those who voiced outright disapproval rose from 9 to 25 percent.

Some 80 percent expressed support for the demonstrations, a factor which the New York Times suggests raises pressure on the president to respond “more energetically” to protestors’ demands.

The poll also casts uncertainty on the October 2014 presidential elections, which Rousseff had been widely expected to win easily. While a March survey found her leading former Environment minister Marina Silva -- her most popular rival -- by 42 percentage points, the latest numbers put Rousseff’s lead at a mere 7 points (30 to 23 percent).

The good news, from the president’s perspective, is that Datafolha found widespread support (68 percent) for her proposal to hold a referendum on political reforms. The administration hopes to hold this vote as early as mid-August, which will likely give it a slight boost in the polls. The Wall Street Journal reports that the president is expected to begin lobbying the opposition to support her plan today.

Meanwhile, the protests have continued, albeit at a reduced pace. According to the Associated Press, over 5,000 demonstrators gathered outside the Brazil-Spain Confederation Cup soccer final in Rio on Sunday, where clashes broke out between rock-throwing protesters and police, who responded with tear gas and shock grenades. Rousseff did not make an appearance at the match, a smart choice considering she was heavily booed  during her appearance in the opening game in Brasilia.  

News Briefs

  • In a Sunday interview with the New York Times, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa expressed further sympathy for former CIA contractor Edward Snowden, saying that the information Snowden illegally leaked represented a “very urgent truth” to the world. According to the president, this is “a weighty argument in deciding whether or not to give him asylum.” However, in separate interview with the AP Correa also cautioned that there is little he can do at the moment for Snowden, as his immediate fate is up to Russian authorities.  
  • The Miami Herald features an assessment of President Correa’s mixed human rights record at home, noting that the Andino University’s human rights program claims that since 2011, there have been 204 cases of civil society and environmental leaders charged with terrorism and sabotage.
  • Former Chilean president and current candidate Michelle Bachelet won 73 percent of the votes in her center-left New Majority coalition’s primary elections on Sunday, the first primaries in Chile’s history. She will now face off with former Economy Minister Pablo Longueira in November’s election. El Mostrador reports that Bachelet received more than 1.5 million votes yesterday, while the two conservative opposition candidates together received nearly half that (roughly 806,000). This suggests that Bachelet has a good chance of winning the elections in November in the first electoral round, which hasn’t happened since 1993.
  • Salon has a piece by Patricia Rey-Mellen profiling the student protests in Chile, asking if their escalation could mean the country is poised to become “the next Brazil.” Rey-Mellin claims that the fact that student protests have been joined by other sectors of society, namely mining and fishing unions, show widening support for their demands. The protests are likely being studied carefully by Bachelet, who faced sizable student protests during her first term.
  • Friday saw the first clear demonstration that the Colombian government’s plan to implement agrarian reform as part of a peace deal with the FARC will face opposition from economic elites in the country. El Espectador reports that the president of the Colombian Federation of Ranchers (FEDEGAN), Jose Felix Lafaurie, sent a strongly-worded public letter to the head of the government’s negotiating team in Havana. The full letter (available here) accuses President Juan Manuel Santos of yielding to the FARC’s view that “a communist utopia of equality is achieved by redistribution.”
  • InSight Crime hosts a piece by Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope on the positive and negative aspects of a recent announcement by the Peña Nieto administration: that the president’s controversial gendarmerie force will be incorporated into the national police. According to Hope, the move suggests the military may “continue to be involved in public security matters for a long time.”
  • On Friday, former governor of Mexico’s Quintana Roo state Mario Villanueva Madrid was sentenced to 11 years in prison in the United States after pleading guilty to federal charges of laundering millions of dollars in proceeds from drug trafficking. Villanueva is the latest former governor to make headlines for corruption allegations of late, after former Tabasco governor Andres Granier was arrested last week for allegedly embezzling state funds.
  • Americas Quarterly Blogger Ana Defillo looks at the Cuban government’s response to popular dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez and other female opposition figures through a gendered lens, arguing that they face personal attacks on their achievements or awards that their male counterparts do not.
  • Over at Venezuela Politics and Human Rights, Hugo Perez Hernaiz and David Smilde offer a helpful explanation of the political dynamics behind ongoing protests by independent professors’ union FAPUV, which is pressing forward with a strike it began on May 30th despite the Venezuelan government’s announcement of salary hikes and increases in funding for the university system.
  • Writing for the Huffington Post, professors Ann Helwege and Jeffrey Rubin of Boston University look at the economic and historical impact of Brazil’s protests, arguing that Rousseff, and President Luiz Inácio 'Lula' da Silva before her, were “too complacent about threats to the commodity boom that kept workers and those new to the middle class afloat.” 

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