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LatAm in Focus: Maurício Santoro on Brazil's Old Problems in a New Year

Anti-government protestors parade Brazilian flag

A protest in Brazil. (AP)

January 05, 2017

Trade & immigration = top issues for Brazil-U.S. relations in the new year. @msantoro1978 explains in this podcast.
"It's not just the crisis of one government." —@msantoro1978 on addressing structural issues in Brazil

Brazil faced a severe economic contraction and political crisis last year, and starts 2017 with major hurdles like state- and city-level bankruptcies, even as politicians try to convince a skeptical population about austerity measures. “We are facing very low levels of trust in political institutions,” says Maurício Santoro, international affairs professor at the Rio de Janeiro State University. “We are also facing the risk of the rise of political extremism, of the rise of some very hard populism in Brazil, as we are seeing in other countries and other regions.”

Santoro spoke with AS/COA Online’s Luisa Leme in Rio about why the start of the year is clouded by major questions about the future shape of Brazil’s entire political system. “This is, I think, the most important political agenda in Brazil for the twenty-first century: What kind of government…are we going to have now that we’re becoming a middle class country?” says the political scientist. “How is the government going to deal with this new level of political awareness by the citizens in this country?”

"How is the government going to deal with this new level of political awareness by the citizens in this country?" 

He also shared his views about what incoming U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies could mean for bilateral relations, given that the United States is Brazil’s second-biggest trade partner. While the South American country seeks a more open approach, Trump is taking a protectionist approach. “This is bad news for Brazil,” says Santoro, who adds that domestic industries are also fearful of Chinese imports. In fact, the overall global mood serves as a barrier, even as Brazil seeks to restore the confidence of foreign investors. “The problem is that we are not facing the best moment in the world to have this kind of foreign policy,” says Santoro. “We’re facing…the threat of a protectionist wave all around.”