"Now, Bets are on Brazil"

BERLIN/BRASÍLIA (Own report) - The German Ministry for Economic Affairs is calling for an expansion of business with Brazil since the inauguration of its rightwing extremist President Jair Messias Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro's government will probably "facilitate investment and trade conditions for foreign companies," therefore "the time to bet on Brazil is now," according to the ministry's written invitation to business initiation trip in the "civil security" sector. Brazil offers the best opportunities, since that South American country has one of the highest murder rates in the world and the government has announced additional expenditures to combat crime. The current president took a stand during his election campaign in favor of police murder of criminals. Military officers make up more than one-third of his cabinet, and his vice president has called for the military to take power, on various occasions. In fact, the armed forces have already begun to correct official presidential decisions to concord with their concepts.

Shift to the Right and Clearance Sale

Jair Messias Bolsonaro, Brazil's new president, who took office January 1, began within a few days, a major rightwing shift, and initiated extensive steps favoring wealthy entrepreneurs and private corporations. For example, Bolsonaro transferred the responsibilities for delineating indigenous territories from the Justice Ministry to the Agriculture Ministry, headed by a minister with close ties to the agro-industry. It can now be feared that agro-businesses will make incursions onto the territories of the indigenous minorities. He has also withdrawn the competence for dealing with the needs of the LGBT community from the ministry for family, women, and human rights, and abolished the ministry of labor.[1] Already during his first days in office, both, the minister for infrastructure and the minister for mining and energy announced a clearance sale of state property. As a first step, this will include twelve airports, expressways, sections of railroad, and port facilities. "Everything possible" will be sold to private interests, announced the new minister for infrastructure.[2] Sectors of Eletrobrás, the state-majority-owned energy company, are also due to be privatized. Eletrobrás is Latin America's largest energy company.

Under Military Control

Simultaneously the predominating influence of Brazil's military within the new government is more blatant than ever. Bolsonaro's 22-member cabinet has eight military officers: including the ministers of defense, of infrastructure, and of mining, as well as the president's security advisor and Vice President General Hamilton Mourão. In 2015, still during President Dilma Rousseff's administration, the Southern Military Command relieved Mourão of his duties and gave him a disciplinary transfer to the economic department of the armed forces for having publicly honored Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, one of the most notorious torturers of the previous military dictatorship. In 2017, he had declared that, should the government "institutions" prove incapable of solving the current political problems, "we" the military, "will have to do it." As early as 2015, he had stated that the military was "ready to keep the institutions functionable." However, they would "not take power," but merely "guarantee" that the state power "functioned."[3] This seems an ample description of the current actions being taken by the military, which have systematically positioned them around the - elected - president. The reaction to an initiative taken by Bolsonaro can be seen as a confirmation. Bolsonaro had publicly announced - following a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo - that he was in favor of the US setting up a military base in Brazil. Because the armed forces do not want to cede control of the country to the United States, Bolsonaro's initiative was first within the military and then officially overturned by the president's security advisor, Gen. Augusto Heleno.[4]

"Reasons to have Confidence"

The German business community is watching Bolsonaro's presidency carefully and, in principle, with hope. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5]) Shortly following Bolsonaro's electoral victory in the second round of the presidential elections on October 28, 2018, Andreas Renschler, Chair of the Latin American Committee of German Business (LADW), commented positively on the change of government in Brasília, as a "new beginning." In view of the worldwide criticism of the reservist captain's racist, sexist statements and his glorification of the military dictatorship, Renschler said that one should "not be irritated by the nervousness."[6] Germany and its economy should rather "take the opportunities that the upcoming new beginning offers." This is even more true, since "the competitors in the United States, China, and other countries ... threaten to bypass Germany in different sectors." Renschler, a board member of the Volkswagen Corp. and Board Chair at the Traton Corp. wherein VW has bundled its commercial vehicle business, concluded: "There are many reasons to have confidence." However, the German business community is, by no means, uncritical of the new government. The President of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), Dieter Kempf, declared, for example, that his organization expects a cooperative spirit in the finalization of the free trade agreement between the EU and the South American international confederation Mercosur. In addition, "regarding the continued absence of a double taxation agreement between Brazil and Germany ... progress must ultimately be made."[7]

"Positive Forecasts"

The Ministry for Economic Affairs shares the positive attitude toward Bolsonaro's new government. Even though "Brazil's political situation" - i.e. the current president's election victory - "made headlines in the international media," the "economic prospect is promising," according to the ministry.[8] The "political upheaval" is accompanied by "some positives forecasts," particularly "easier investment and trade conditions for foreign businesses" as well as by specific "reforms for liberalization of the market." German businesses are being offered new "opportunities to establish themselves on a growing market." "Now, bets should be on Brazil." These promotional remarks are part of an invitation for a business initiation trip, organized by the German-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Rio de Janeiro on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Affairs. The trip aims to gain access to the Brazilian "civilian security technologies and services" market particularly for German small and medium size enterprises. The trip will be organized in early April as part of the German "Civil Security Technologies and Services" export initiative.

Snipers and Police Murders

The German Ministry for Economic Affairs points to Brazil's internal situation to explain why German industry can hope for profitable business. With 30.8 murders per hundred thousand inhabitants (in 2017), the country has one of the highest murder rates in the world and is otherwise affected by rampant violent crime. Seventy-five percent of the inhabitants of Brazil's major cities, therefore, rightfully classify the security situation as bad and even very bad and "many private households invest in security services," writes the Ministry for Economic Affairs with an eye on profit opportunities. Because of frequent hold-ups and thefts, Brazil's logistical sector is also in great need for these services. President Bolsonaro plans to increase "spending on public security," which in 2017 had already reached nearly 19 billion euros.[9] Opportunities also arise from the increase in the police budget. During his election campaign, Bolsonaro said police should be given license to kill - alleged or assumed - criminals.[10] In addition, his current security advisor, Augusto Heleno, and Rio de Janeiro's new governor, Wilson Witzel, have called for using snipers against - alleged or assumed - armed criminals.[11] Rio de Janeiro, where Witzel has been governor since the beginning of the year, is the first stop of the business initiation trip organized for April, on behalf of the Ministry for Economic Affairs.


[1] Mauricio Savarese: Brazil's Bolsonaro targets minorities on 1st day in office. apnews.com 02.01.2019.

[2] Julio Wiziack: Tudo que puder será privatizado, diz ministro da Infraestrutura. www1.folha.uol.com.br 02.01.2019.

[3] Chico Marés: "Quem é o general que falou em intervenção militar para resolver crise política do país". gazetadopovo.com 18.09.2017.

[4] Brazilian offer of U.S. base in doubt, opposed by military. reuters.com 08.01.2019.

[5] See also The Chicago Boy and His President.

[6] Andreas Renschler: Keine Experimente in Brasilien! Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 31.10.2018.

[7] BDI fordert von Brasilien Bekenntnis zu Freihandel. onvista.de 31.10.2018.

[8], [9] Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie: Zivile Sicherheitstechnologien und -dienstleistungen in Brasilien. Markterschließungsprogramm für deutsche Unternehmen 01.-05. April 2019.

[10] Maurizio Savarese: Brazil presidential hopeful: let police kill criminals. apnews.com 30.08.2018.

[11] Bolsonaro-Regierung will Scharfschützen einsetzen. faz.net 01.11.2018.