As Brazil Erupts, President Rousseff Faces a Tough Challenge

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Audio Transcript:

Carol Hills: That lack of leadership among the protestors is also a challenge for Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff. She's being criticized for reacting too slowly to the unrest. Maruicio Moura is a Brazilian economist and currently a visiting scholar at George Washington University. He says Rousseff is in a tough position because the protestors have so many demands, yet no one leader to open a dialogue with.

Maruicio Moura: I think she has two points to address. The first one is who is she going to speak with and second how she's going to answer to all those demands at this stage.

Hills: It must be kind of strange for Dilma Rousseff, I mean she protested against the government way back in the day and suffered for it. Tell our listeners a little bit about her background.

Moura: Oh, she was a political activist in the end of the 60s, during our military dictatorship and she was actually arrested and she spent like two years in prison. However, I should say that was a very different time. Right now, Brazil is a democracy, so the way that the institutions are handling the protests are very, very different.

Hills: From your perspective, what could she do to assuage the protestors?

Moura: I think one of the things good about the protests, about transportation. Two days ago the Mayor of Rio the mayor of Sao Paulo and the governor of Sao Paulo, big states of Brazil, they came to national TV and they explained it in details how they're pricing the transportation and that means the people demanding much more accountability from the public servants, and that includes the president. She will have, for example, to speak more openly and discuss more the issues of the costs of the World Cup, for example. Some people in Brazil, and there's a lot of claims about this one that the initial budget for the world cup was surpassed 5 times and most is coming from public funding, so she will have to address those questions more openly and I think that will generate much more accountability in our politicians.

Hills: As an economist, what do you think about these cost overages and the focus on the cost of these huge public events. I mean, Brazil has known for a while it's going to do these things and it seemed at the time they were awarded to Brazil, there was a lot of excitement in the country. What's caused all the upset now?

Moura: I think first of all, overall it's not only about Brazil. There is lack of discussions about the real legacy of these events, the real cost-benefit analysis of the overall population World Cup and Olympic games. We have seen Greece, Athens, London and Barcelona and they have huge costs for public money. In the case of Brazil, what happens is in the initial budget for the World Cup had considered 70% of the funding would come from the private sector and exactly happened the opposite and the budget has increased a lot, so that's the main concern.

Hills: You know, we're seeing thousands of people in the streets all over Brazil, but are there certain Brazilians and a sizeable number who actually support these events because they think they agree that these events really will help Brazil? Is there a big opposition to the opposition on the streets that we're just not hearing from?

Moura: We had a poll that said 41% of the Brazilians do not support the protests in the streets, but on the other hand 57% support. It's still, the support for the World Cup itself is very high, it's around 70% of the population.

Hills: And I guess I have to ask you what your own reaction was when Brazil was awarded these events and has your own view of them changed over time?

Moura: My concern would be exactly what's going on right now. That in the end of the day the public source of funding would step up and finance those events and that would be bad for Brazil and that's why people are complaining, so that was my initial concern. On the other hand the Brazilian population loves football and very well connected with soccer, so they were overall very supportive of hosting the world cup.

Hills: Maruicio Moura is an economist from Brazil. Currently he's a visiting scholar at George Washingon University. Thank you Professor Moura.