Russia Versus Brazil: a Tale of Two Countries in Crisis

Russia and Brazil have a lot in common. It’s not something to brag about.

Both are blockbuster commodity exporters. They have a penchant for big government. Even their airports have that same doorbell chime before public announcements are made. Both are dealing with a serious political crisis, and corruption is endemic in the system. One is in slightly better shape than the other.

Ten months ago, I traveled to Brazil for a month, visiting my old home in Sao Paulo, and saw an entire region reeling from back-to-back years of recession and political crisis. Brazil was a complete mess, I wrote.

For the political class, it is even more of a mess now. The country’s president, Michel Temer, is without a doubt the least popular leader in the Americas, if not the whole world. Brazilian life has deteriorated in cities like Salvador and Rio de Janeiro where violent crime is rising. Last year was the worst year on record for homicide.

Over 14 million people are out of work. Unemployment is near an all-time high at 13.6%. Brazil’s crisis is a crisis created by its political establishment. Its biggest state-run company, oil giant Petrobras, and its private contractors colluded in milking the government for private gain and political influence. Brazil has been greatly embarrassed by this.

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