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Campaigning in Sao Paulo
Campaigning in Sao Paulo
César Rodríguez Garavito

-OpEd-

BOGOTA — The crucial question in Brazil's presidential elections, set for Sunday, is whether or not the country will remain the political and economic third way it has become. Will this "alternative socialism" – distinct from various offerings from both the traditional political Right and Left – keep its standing in the world established by the independent foreign policy forged by the PT or Workers Party governments since 2003?

At the heart of the Brazilian alternative is social inclusion. The tallying of its success are by now familiar: some 40 million people have come out of poverty through policies to extend public services to marginal zones and direct aid programs like Bolsa Familia (Family Allowance). Extreme poverty is almost a thing of the past, afflicting less than 1.5% of the population now, as is hunger (the World Food Program has just removed Brazil from its hunger map).

As a result, what was formerly the world's most unequal country has seen the rise of a new middle class of some 200 million people who for the first time, have access to decent jobs and salaries, with average income having grown 87% in the past decade.

Understandably, the great majority of these people will be voting for Dilma Rousseff, especially in formerly neglected regions like northeastern Brazil, comparable in its situation to Chocó in Colombia or Chiapas in southern Mexico. The PT also enjoys the ample backing of about 50% of Brazilians who consider themselves descendants of Africans, and who are finally entering universities thanks to affirmative action programs.

In these and other policies like strengthening public education, the PT has gone against conventional economic recipes of the center-right, whose incarnation is Dilma's opponent, Aécio Neves. It has even managed to add to its recipe measures like the conditional transfer of resources to poor families, something the World Bank used to consider unfeasible but is now actually recommending.

Not like other Latin lefties

Brazil has also become an alternative form of left-wing government in Latin America. It has progressed toward social inclusion without weakening civil liberties, in contrast with Venezuela and Ecuador. It has shown that there is no need to keep a leader in power indefinitely, like in Nicaragua and Bolivia. It has avoided the level of macroeconomic imbalance that has shaken Argentina and Venezuela.

Yet the alternative is showing signs of profound wear and tear, which explains the bitter tone of the campaign. The endemic corruption of the country's fragmented political system, which the PT has fed, requires constitutional reforms.

As elsewhere in the region, the economic model of exporting minerals and raw materials, and the blatant social and environmental damage it causes, are facing rising criticisms. It will soon be time to pay for the debts and inflation derived from a decade's unchecked consumer habits. And the same, empowered middle class has mobilized itself against the state's inefficiency, evident to anyone using the public health service or trying to connect to the Internet.

The Brazilian alternative is half-way to its goals. Let us hope it has time to mature and adjust its course.

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Economy

In Uganda, Having A "Rolex" Is About Not Going Hungry

Experts fear the higher food prices resulting from the conflict in Ukraine could jeopardize the health of many Ugandans. Take a look at this ritzy-named simple dish.

Zziwa Fred, a street vendor who runs two fast-food businesses in central Uganda, rolls a freshly prepared chapati known as a Rolex.

Nakisanze Segawa

WAKISO — Godfrey Kizito takes a break from his busy shoe repair shop every day so he can enjoy his favorite snack, a vegetable and egg omelet rolled in a freshly prepared chapati known as a Rolex. But for the past few weeks, this daily ritual has given him neither the satisfaction nor the sustenance he is used to consuming. Kizito says this much-needed staple has shrunk in size.

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Most streets and markets in Uganda have at least one vendor firing up a hot plate ready to cook the Rolex, short for rolled eggs — which usually comes with tomatoes, cabbage and onion and is priced anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 Ugandan shillings (28 to 57 cents). Street vendor Farouk Kiyaga says many of his customers share Kizito’s disappointment over the dwindling size of Uganda’s most popular street food, but Kiyaga is struggling with the rising cost of wheat and cooking oil.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has halted exports out of the two countries, which account for about 26% of wheat exports globally and about 80% of the world’s exports of sunflower oil, pushing prices to an all-time high, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, a United Nations agency. Not only oil and wheat are affected. Prices of the most consumed foods worldwide, such as meat, grains and dairy products, hit their highest levels ever in March, making a nutritious meal even harder to buy for those who already struggle to feed themselves and their families. The U.N. organization warns the conflict could lead to as many as 13.1 million more people going hungry between 2022 and 2026.

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