November 5, 2018
There is an old saying: Brazil is a country of the future; and it will always be a country of the future.
I just returned from a long weekend in Sao Paulo. It was a family reunion – the golden wedding anniversary of my cousin. It was an emotional occasion as I had not met many of my first cousins. My mother and her sister were sent out of Germany in 1939. My mother stayed in England, and her sister was sent to Brazil. Two families raised on different continents almost completely oblivious to the existence of the other. I had been to Sao Paulo one time before in 2004 on a trip with an international business organization ( SIBF – www.sibf.org ). On that occasion I met several of my nearest relatives for the first time. I have now met most of the rest after a lifetime of being apart.
By chance, I witnessed the latest Brazilian Presidential election. Jair Bolsonaro (sometimes referred to as the “Trump of the Tropics”) was elected with around 81% of the population voting. I was unaware that voting in Brazil is mandatory. There are even fines if you do not vote without a valid exception, such as illness. The sentiment among all my cousins was that they wanted Bolsonaro to win. They are fed up with the corruption and incompetence of previous governments. The main rival to Bolsonaro, Haddad, was believed to represent more of the same.
As the election results came in you could hear and see firework displays all over Sao Paulo. The atmosphere was jubilant in the 22nd floor home of a highly guarded and protected building where I watched events unfold. I had been picked up earlier in a car with an armor-plated body and bullet proof glass windows. This type of precaution is common in a city where gangs constantly hold up their victims at gunpoint with no fear of the law.
The election results came in around 7:30pm shortly after the polls closed across the different time zones. Since it is all electronic the results were tabulated swiftly. I asked whether the new right-wing president would be good for the country and the economy. The answers were varied. Most were hopeful that a sense of law and order would be restored by this former military officer. One retort on the economy: it was going be like encouraging a chicken to fly – a lot of flapping, some initial success in the air and then a clumsy fall to the ground! I heard a lot of hope but not much real confidence.
I returned to my home country where we have our own shortcomings, but the law is respected and protected, property rights are not abused, and we can walk the streets in the daytime without the fear of being held up at gunpoint.
As for my cousins, they are optimistic that some positive change will come to Brazil, but they are still happily moving assets out of the country!