Scandal, inflation, and a murder suspect freed: a tough week for Brazil's president
Dilma Rousseff's chief of staff resigned over questions about his personal wealth, and now Italy is furious after Brazil's supreme court released a jailed Italian murder suspect and fugitive.
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Meanwhile, the Supreme Federal Court finally granted amnesty to accused Italian murder suspect and fugitive Cesare Battisti, and freed him after he spent nearly five years in Brazilian jail. The decision came after the court had initally voted to extradite him, and then Lula granted him amnesty right before leaving office. This week's decision was to determine if Lula's decision was legitimate and if Mr. Battisti's extradition was legal. With the 6-3 decision, filled with highly-charged nationalistic sentiment, the court changed its previous decision and even let him go. The trial itself seemed to be a bit surreal; one of the attorney general's arguments against extradition was that to judge extradition or amnesty is "judgement of supposition or hypothetical judgement, which does not need to be based on concrete facts." (I swear, really.) The Italian government is up in arms, and judging by previous tensions with the case, it's likely to cause problems if Dilma or her government fail to find a way to smooth things over.Skip to next paragraph
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Plus, the decision was highly controversial amongst Brazilians, and some are angry that while an alleged murderer was set free, hundreds of Rio firefighters remain in prison for striking. The crisis has the potential to go national, and the Minister of Justice will meet with Rio officials to try to bring an end to the situation.
And finally, there's the economy. The real is still considered by some as the world's most overvalued currency, and inflation is still rising. (In this recent Bloomberg article, the owner of the Fogo de Chão churrascaria chain explained it's now cheaper to eat Brazilian barbecue in the US than in Brazil.) The Central Bank raised interest rates again this week, the fourth time in an effort to rein in inflation, and more increases are expected. Dilma's government is under pressure to keep inflation in check in the midst of nationwide demands for higher salaries and an increased minimum wage.
Now is Dilma's chance to tackle these issues and get her administration back on track, and to prove that she can be both an effective administrator and power broker.