Read more: Growth of the Anglosphere/decline of the BRICS
In November 2007, Petrobras, Brazil’s state-run energy company, announced it had made the largest ever deep-water oil and gas discovery off the country’s southern coast. By 2009, with the economy growing at 6 per cent, Brazil was being hailed as the “next oil giant.” Later that year, the 2016 Olympic Games was awarded to Rio de Janeiro.
Today, Brazil is facing a political and economic crisis. Petrobras, South America’s largest company, is the centre of a huge corruption scandal in which officials are accused of taking kickbacks from the construction industry. Meanwhile, the economy is enduring a sustained contraction that is unparalleled since records began in 1901. Brazil, the B in BRICS, has gone from boom to basket-case in less than a decade.
The current President, Dilma Rousseff, is a former minister of energy who served as chair of Petrobras from 2003 to 2010. Though under threat of impeachment on a different issue and facing calls to resign, she has not been personally implicated in the scandal. But the judicial investigations into the company have engulfed other members of Brazil’s elite, including a serving senator and one of the country’s best-known financiers.
The latest shocking twist is the criminal investigation launched into former President Lula, or Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The hugely popular Lula, Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor, was head of the Workers’ Party and president from 2003 to 2011. Under his leadership, Brazil introduced the Bolsa Familia, one of the world’s largest conditional cash transfer programmes, which now covers over…