Letter from Brazil: The Consuming Crisis

Returning to Brazil for five months as a Senior Fulbright Lecturer after an absence of seven years, I expected to see considerable change. Things happen rapidly in such a developing nation. And indeed Brazil today presents striking contrasts to the Brazil I knew for two years in the mid-1970's. There has been a general amnesty, exiles have returned, and habeas corpus has been reestab­lished. The labor movement is growing, the press is free, and an independent Congress meets regularly. Direct elec­tions in 1982 for Congress and for state and municipal offices demonstrated the vitality of Brazil's multiparty system. Opposition parties currently control the House of Representatives and a third of the seats in the Senate. The opposition also won 10 of the 23 state governor­ships, including the key states of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Minas Gerais. It is possible that the presidential election next year will be direct.

On the other hand, the economy, which was in rapid expansion in the 1970's, is now in a state of crisis. Pro­longed recession and a $100 billion foreign debt combined with devastating floods in the south and drought in the northeast (no rain for over five years) have severely crippled the country. The rate of inflation isstaggering (recently as high as 160 percent),...

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