For the first time since 2002 Brazil may be forced to introduce power rationing, as high temperatures and a relentless drought in the Northeast have severely diminished reservoir levels. President Dilma Rousseff has called an emergency meeting to discuss energy shortages on Wednesday in Brasília, reported Folha de São Paulo.
Following power cuts last month that plunged large swathes of the country into darkness, including Rio de Janeiro’s airports, Rousseff sought to allay fears over energy shortages, dismissing the risk of power rationing as “ridiculous.”
Yet surging consumption during a particularly hot and dry December has put extra strain on dwindling resources.
From municipal elections to the mensalão, from dams to deforestation, for the slowing economy and the booming middle class, 2012 was big for Brazil. The year began with devastating building collapses in Rio de Janeiro, and ended with a farewell to world-renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer.
In between, Brazil saw Rio+20, gay marriage in São Paulo, a battle over oil royalties and one enormous corruption trial. Murders were up in São Paulo, deforestation was down in the Amazon, and President Dilma Rousseff was declared the world’s third most powerful woman.
Here are five of the year’s biggest political stories:
BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – President Dilma Rousseff will meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron this Friday morning, as he arrives in Brazil for a trip that will include visits to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. On the table during Friday’s bilateral meeting will likely be science, technology, the Olympics and “an intensification of economic and commercial ties,” a spokesperson for the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, Itamaraty, said by telephone Monday.
Finance Minister Guido Mantega revised Brazil’s economic growth forecast for this year to two percent Thursday, from an earlier estimate of three percent. The downgrade comes as a response to Brazil’s continuing struggle with an economy that has stagnated over the past 18 months, growing just 2.7 percent in 2011, down from 7.5 percent in 2010, as it faces shockwaves from the global economic crisis and China’s economic slowdown.
After accepting the government’s offer of a 15.8-percent pay raise over three years, some 400,000 public-sector employees ended their month-long strike and returned to work on Monday. While the workers may have gotten what they wanted, popular patience with public sector workers and unions may be wearing thin.
A federal appeals court has ordered construction to stop on the controversial Belo Monte dam, citing insufficient consultation with local indigenous communities. Brazil’s Regional Federal Court ruled last Tuesday that the consultation process outlined in Brazil’s constitution and U.N. Treaty 169 on indigenous rights was not properly followed.
There is one story dominating the Brazilian headlines: The mensalão, a huge corruption case that could taint the legacy of former President Lula and the reputation of his Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party—PT) to which his successor Dilma Rousseff belongs.
The senate in Brazil last week passed a bill that requires prestigious federal universities to reserve fifty percent of their places for public school students, and increases the number of spaces allotted to black, mixed-race and indigenous students. It is expected that President Dilma Rousseff will ratify the law next week.
President Hugo Chávez met with the leaders of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay in Brasília Tuesday to formalize Venezuela’s entrance to Mercosur – six years after the oil-rich Caribbean nation’s first attempt to join the trade bloc. The decision to let in Venezuela was taken, controversially, without Paraguay’s approval during that country’s suspension for Former President Fernando Lugo’s impeachment.