Saturday, October 24, 2015

Dilma and the Petrobras scandal's aftermath

Bidding Adiós to Buenos Aires, the Oilholic has landed in the bursting metropolis of Sao Paulo, Brazil, one’s penultimate stop in South America before returning to Bogota and flying back home following a two week trip to South America.

Walking down the city’s vibrant Avenida Paulista, a 1.75 mile thoroughfare that has several businesses, financial and cultural institutions (including the Museu de Arte de São Paulo), glitzy skyscrapers, malls, hotels and shops lining up either side of it, one gets a real buzz of modern Brazil.

However, the country’s President Dilma Rousseff would get a largely unwelcome buzz were she to walk down the avenue. Most in Brazil’s commercial heart lay the blame for the Petrobras corruption scandal, uncovered earlier in February, firmly on Rouseff’s door even tough she has not been directly implicated in anything uncovered by corruption investigators so far.

There have been several mass protests here in Sao Paulo, along with Rio de Janeiro and other major Brazilian cities calling for the President to be impeached. As the Oilholic noted earlier this year in a Forbes column, the scandal has politically scarred Rouseff, a former chairwoman of Petrobras’ board of directors, beyond repair in the unforgiving world of Brazilian politics.

Many of those facing investigations and jail time happen to be from her side of the Brazilian political spectrum – the Workers’ Party. That’s what fuels people’s anger. Mass protests grab headlines, but sporadic smaller protests – like one this blogger witnessed on Avenida Paulista – are commonplace (see above left).

For people who call the Americas third-largest oil producer behind the United States and Canada their home, Petrobras has always held a special place in hearts and minds. So to see it humiliated on the world stage and financially wounded by a corruption scandal plays on peoples minds in a struggling economy.

In global terms, according to BP’s latest statistics on the industry, Brazil is the world’s 9th largest oil and gas producer pumping out some 2.95 million barrels per day, with Petrobras as its custodian.  

Furthermore, as the US Energy Information Administration, notes, “Increasing domestic oil production has been a long term goal of the Brazilian government, and discoveries of large offshore, presalt oil deposits have already transformed Brazil into a top-10 liquid fuels producer.”

However, weak economic growth and the scandal implicating several high profile people at Petrobras has reduced the chances for production growth over the short term; at least of the kind that was hoped for back in 2010 according local sources. 

Clearly, going by the mood in Sao Paulo, not many want to let Rouseff off the hook, whether rightly or wrongly. That’s all from Brazil folks, as one leaves you with a view of the magnificent Catedral da Se de Sao Paulo (above right). Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Photo I: Anti-Dilma Rousseff protests on Avenida Paulista, Sao Paulo, September 23, 2015. Photo II:  Catedral da Se de Sao Paulo, Brazil © Gaurav Sharma, October 2015.

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