Laura Carvalho on the Rise and Fall of the Brazilian Economy

Feb. 27, 2019

On February 20, the Brazil LAB welcomed Laura Carvalho (University of São Paulo) to discuss her best-selling and provocative book Valsa Brasileira: Do Boom ao Caos Econômico (2018). Carvalho set out to uncover the genealogy of the current economic crisis that has led to the erosion of Brazilian democracy.

“Recessions just don’t happen because of political reasons,” Carvalho manifested to the audience “they just don’t happen because of corruption.” Marcelo Medeiros (Visiting Fellow at the Brazil LAB) emphasized in his introduction of Carvalho about the prominence of her work: “It’s a book that has already sold over 25,000 copies, which is uncommon in a Brazilian market where an economics book sells only 5,000 copies.” Though the book’s success is largely attributed to the ubiquitous sense of urgency regarding the national economy, it was clear in Carvalho’s talk that her meticulous research on the policies of the governments of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff is in fact what charms audiences.

To close the discussion, João Biehl (co-director of the Brazil LAB) raised an important question about how the corruption scandals of the Worker’s Party (PT) impacted the voting tendencies of the lower classes and helped propel Jair Bolsonaro into Brazil’s highest office. Carvalho stated that, although the demographics who were most benefitted by social programs promoted by the Worker’s Party were not swayed by the corruption scandals, the fact that the scandals were portrayed by the media as the main catalysts of the crisis poses an immense threat for the futures of Brazil. Carvalho believes that the misleading association between the corruption scandals and the economic crisis not only conceals the roots of the crisis, but will crumble the pillars of Brazilian democracy.

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