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World

Recession Inspires Brazilians To Protest Against President Rousseff

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're about to hear what happens when two of the world's great emerging economies run into trouble. One of them is China where the stock market is falling along with the currency. And then there's Brazil believed be moving into recession, as almost any Brazilian will tell you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in foreign language).

INSKEEP: Those are protesters - many thousands of them - last weekend demanding the ouster of President Dilma Rouseff. We're going to start our coverage with NPR's Latin America correspondent, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro. Good morning.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: You know, I'm remembering a moment in the U.S. economic crisis when you just felt it. It even seemed like there was less traffic on the streets. You could just sense something going massively wrong, even if you had a job. What's it feel like to be where you are right now?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Incredibly gloomy, Steve. I mean, right now people just feel like they had all these hopes and dreams. Brazil had this period of massive expansion of their economy where millions of people were lifted out of abject poverty. You have to remember that this is a country that is still developing, and there is a great deal of economic inequality. And they really felt they were turning a corner, and now people just feel like all those dreams have been dashed. You have the economy really going into a kind of freefall. The currency is the worst-performing major currency in the world right now. Inflation is surging. Unemployment is surging. And people just aren't going to the shops as much. They're not buying cars as much. You do feel it in many different ways here in Brazil, but mostly in just the attitudes that people have right now.

INSKEEP: In the United States, people blame the president for their economic troubles, whether it's fair or not. Is that true in Brazil?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, is it true in Brazil? Absolutely. As you heard there, people absolutely blame the president, Dilma Rousseff, and it's very personal. They feel that she really is behind a lot of what has happened here. They feel that she has mismanaged the economy and that even though she was narrowly re-elected just, you know, a year ago, she now has the lowest approval rating historically here in Brazil. It's about 8 percent, so people really are incredibly unhappy with her leadership.

INSKEEP: Did you say 8 percent is her approval rating in some surveys?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Eight percent is her approval rating. I went out at that protest and I was talking obviously to a lot of different protesters, and let's listen to one of the protesters marching on Sunday.

ELEN PORTALLO: (Through interpreter) Things are really hard. I have many friends whose businesses are going bust, shutting down, doing into debt; many people are unemployed. It's very sad.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Ellen Portallo (ph). She's a shopkeeper. And, you know, all the while we have this bad economic news, there is a major corruption scandal that has politically paralyzed this country. Senior politicians, businessmen, were found to be part of a major kickback scheme at the state oil company to the tune of possibly billions of dollars. So, you know, that really is also having just an incredible dampening effect.

INSKEEP: You know, of course, we're talking here about a global economy where so many things are interconnected. We're about to talk about China's economic troubles, and I'm curious, Lourdes, if China's trouble bleeds over into Brazil or the other way around.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: China's trouble bleeds over, I think, to every single country in the world. And that is definitely having an impact in Brazil. China is Brazil's biggest trading partner. It sucks up Brazilian commodities like soybeans and iron ore. So if the economy slows down there so will trade with Brazil, goes the word. But beyond that, the price of commodities has plummeted. And oil is a huge one for Brazil, but also sugar and coffee are down 20 to 30 percent from a year ago; soybeans, too. All that stuff is sold to China. So it has a huge effect here on the country, and it's a very big worry as Brazil is facing all of these difficulties that China also is going to be facing at a rough time.

INSKEEP: The risks of being an emerging economy. That's NPR's Latin America correspondent, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro. She's in Rio de Janeiro. Thanks very much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.