Can Latin America’s Economy Rebound? Keep An Eye On Brazil

Capital flows back into Latin America suggest Brazil's economic free fall may have stopped.

Posters advertising jobs in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo
Posters advertising jobs in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo
Darío Epstein

BUENOS AIRES â€" Over the past two years, Latin America has experienced one of its worst drops in economic activity since the "80s. And Brazil, the regional giant, has a lot to do with it.

Brazil has been mired in a recession that's even worse than the one it suffered before the currency devaluation of January 2002. The recession has had a spillover effect, stunting GDP growth throughout the region.

Recession in Argentina this year is complicating matters as well. There's also the crisis in Venezuela, which is something of a case apart. The best performers in 2016 are expected to be Peru and Panama, followed by Colombia, Mexico and Chile.

Brazil's economy shrank 4% in 2015. A similar negative figure is expected this year. In keeping with cyclical theories, things are likely to bottom out soon. Analysts predict that its growth rate could stabilize in the third quarter of 2017 and gain momentum in the fourth. Nothing to celebrate, perhaps, but it will at least signal a turning point for producers and consumers to regain confidence.

Portfolio investors (rather than investors in the real economy) have already had their confidence boosted by stock market returns. Brazilian share prices are encouraging. That's because the markets are always several months ahead of the curve.

After two years of flight, speculative capital returned to the region in December 2015. In the world of currencies, the Brazilian real appreciated most this past year (25%) after its dramatic fall. The rise, in turn, boosted the performance of Brazilian shares, which grew in value by 33% (as measured in reals).

The Argentine peso, at the same time, is losing value due to inflation. It's also despite the massive inflow of hard currency through sovereign, provincial and corporate debt issues that followed the election of the conservative government of Mauricio Macri.

It's difficult to say if the currency appreciation in Brazil is an isolated rebound or a more sustained trend reversal. The political context remains deeply troubling and corrective measures are not providing the expected results.

One thing is clear: Given Brazil's economic clout in the region, it's difficult to imagine any long-term growth in Latin America if the giant remains dormant.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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