Thousands have taken to the streets of Rio de Janeiro to mourn Marielle Franco, a 38 year old City Councilor who campaigned against police brutality. She was shot dead returning from a black women’s empowerment event Wednesday. A former resident of Favela de Mare, one of Rio’s most violent slums, Ms. Franco was known for heavily criticizing President Michel Temer’s decision to deploy military forces to Brazil’s favelas to decrease violent crimes. His policy was announced in February after it was revealed the country experienced 2,125 violent deaths in the past year.
On Thursday, Brazilian Supreme Court Judge Teori Zavascki, who was in charge of overseeing the corruption investigation against state-run oil giant Petrobras, died in a plane crash off the coast of Partay where he was vacationing. Prosecutors involved in the case previously stated that politicians were handsomely bribed to award government contracts to private companies while overcharging Petrobras. The plane crash comes as Zavascki was set to analyze the plea bargains of 77 Odebrecht executives, a construction firm that has admitted to paying over $1 billion in bribes to obtain contracts.
The Lavo Jato corruption investigations, also known as Operation Car Wash, into Petrobras, Brazil’s oil giant, shocked the energy sector and helped fuel one of the country’s worst recessions. Nonetheless, some analysts are optimistic that the industry can open itself up to foreign investors and domestic competition to once again generate prosperity.
“The energy industry in Brazil is on the verge of its biggest transformation in decades,” wrote Décio Oddone, former CEO of Petrobras, in his latest report for the Atlantic Council—Oil & Gas in Brazil: A New Silver Lining?
“Petrobras has never experienced such a profound transformation. In fact, this is the first time the energy landscape has significantly changed since Brazil became an industrial economy,” he noted in the briefing.
Amid political uncertainty and a deepening recession, economic growth is seen as the “key” to reform and prosperity in Brazil.
“If we fail economic growth, all the other scenarios would be a disaster,” said Ricardo Sennes, a nonresident senior Brazil fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. “Not just disaster in the economic sense, but also political disaster with strong social disorder etc.”
Sennes spoke at an event at the Atlantic Council on June 6. He is the co-author of a new issue brief, “The Path to Power in Brazil,” along with Andrea Murta, an associate director in the Council’s Latin America Center. Sennes was joined in a panel discussion by Ciro Gomes, a former Brazilian presidential candidate, and Mauricio Moura, a pollster with Ideia Inteligencia. Peter Schechter, director of the Council’s Latin America Center, moderated the discussion.
Brazil’s recent political and economic instability, while bringing uncertainty to the region, is also seen as creating an opportunity for the country to refocus its development efforts internationally.
“Times of crisis are times of opportunities,” Daniel Godinho, Brazil’s secretary for trade, said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on June 28.
“There’s a growing consensus in Brazil that in order to guarantee the future, we have to add foreign trade to our strategy,” he added.