Brazil's minister of Communications, Paulo Bernardo, told in a interview last week that the Brazilian public opinion knows that the president Dilma Rousseff is looking into the charges of misuse of public funds at the Ministry of Transportation and is determined to resolve the crisis.
"People see the president taking measures to make things work right," Bernardo said, referring to the removal of a series of individuals (more than a dozen of them so far) in the ministry and ancillary departments, such as DNIT (transportation infrastructure) and Valec (railroads). The minister of Transportation himself was replaced.
"As soon as charges of misconduct become public, the government has an obligation to go into action," declared Bernardo.
The minister said that due to the amount of money handled by DNIT in its annual budget, some 13 billion reais (US$ 8.49 billion), it is almost impossible not to have some problems. "There will always be problems with that much money," he said.
With regard to the possibility that the removal of so many political appointees would affect the government's relations with the PT and PR (the political parties those removed were connected to), Bernardo said he was not authorized to talk about the subject .However, he added that the political parties were talking in Congress.
Exports to Argentina Up
Alessandro Teixeira, the executive secretary at the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, says that contrary to what the business community says, Brazil has not been soft on Argentina. He adds that many of the complaints by exporters are simply unfounded.
"These are businessman tears. I am not saying that they are totally wrong; it is normal for them to cry about these things. But what they want is a win-win situation and that is not possible. We have never been so hard and demanding on Argentina as we are at this time," said the executive secretary.
He points out that the business community complains about protectionism in Argentina at the same time they call for protection from Chinese imports.
"We cannot be so hypocritical. The government cannot be protectionist at the same time it is liberal."
Teixeira points out that Brazil's trade surplus shows that the country is doing well in foreign commerce, and that includes Argentina where things are very well.
"We have increased our exports to Argentina. Last year our surplus with them was up 40%, double what we grew in the rest of the world." He adds that so far this year exports to Argentina are up 33%, at US$ 10.4 billion (US$ 7.9 billion in 2010).
The executive secretary says that the ministry oversees the situation at the border where, in accordance with World Trade Organization rules, goods must be liberated within 60 days.
"Our oversight is continuous. I exchange emails with the Argentine secretariat of Industry daily. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship. Tension between trade partners is normal and it is natural." According to Teixeira, a certain protectionist attitude on the part of Argentina is understandable.
"They have gone through a brutal process of de-industrialization. They are making an effort to rebuild their industrial park. If they buy everything from Brazil they will never have any industries."
Meanwhile Argentine pork producers plan to block imports from Brazil beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, July 27, at the Rosário-Victoria bridge where most of the truck traffic from Brazil (as well as Chile) passes. The bridge is located some 350 kilometers north of Buenos Aires.
Cristian Roca, a union leader, says that only trucks with pork will be barred. "We are not trying to harm Mercosur trade. We just want to protect our own livelihood. We want the government to protect our producers," he declared.
"Argentina has always imported pork from Brazil. That's a fact. But never as much as now. In the first six months of 2011, more than what was imported in all of 2010 has come in. Small farmers in Argentina want a limit on pork imports."
Roca complains that a spike in imports from Brazil has driven prices down in Argentina where a kilo of pork dropped from 7 pesos (2.66 reais) to 5 pesos (1.87 reais).
Omar Principe, another union leader, says they want to limit imports of pork from Brazil to 2,500 tons per month. "At the moment, Argentina is importing twice that," he says.
"Argentina imports 70% of the pork it consumes, so the importers are making money because Brazil has lower costs. But, Argentine consumers are not paying less for pork and the Argentine farmer gets no protection."
Rio's World Military Games
The goal was to be in the top three. But Brazil turned out to be the champion of the 5th World Military Games in Rio de Janeiro with a grand total of 114 medals (45 gold, 33 silver and 36 bronze), ahead of China with 99 medals (37 gold, 28 silver and 34 bronze). Italy was in third (51 medals), Poland in fourth (43 medals) and France in fifth (17 medals).
Approximately 4,900 athletes from 108 countries competed in 20 sports events. The Games began on July 15 and ended this Sunday, July 24, with a show that featured Brazilian pop singer Jorge Ben Jor.