Brazil’s Lost Decade: The Invisible Costs of an Epic Recession

BloombergThe rise in street beggars and decaying infrastructure are perhaps the most obvious symptoms of Brazil’s economic and political meltdown. But it’s the less visible fallout — like the cancellation of school lunches and the cuts to life-saving medical research — that may leave its most devastating legacy.

Years of belt-tightening following the end of the commodities boom have squeezed government funding of education, health, research and policing. Fewer cops on the beat have led to more crime and more deforestation of the Amazon — longstanding Brazilian problems that are back with a vengeance.

The fallout from austerity is exacerbating near-universal contempt for the country’s political elite after three years of scandal and, in a phenomenon that mirrors a growing trend across the world, risks propelling outsiders into power in next year’s national elections. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.