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With 2016 About To End, Brazilians Look Forward To A Better Year


We're going to turn our attention now to Brazil because a lot of people there are going to be happy to see the back of 2016. Sure, the Olympics happened in Rio, but there was a whole lot of economic misery in Brazil this year, political instability fed by the biggest corruption scandal in the country's history - also the impeachment of the president, Dilma Rousseff. We're joined now by NPR's Philip Reeves in Rio de Janeiro.

Hi, Phil.


MARTIN: So Brazilians are ready to wash their hands of 2016, huh?

REEVES: Yeah. My impression is that people here begin the new year, you know, in a mood of deep anxiety and uncertainty. Michel Temer, the 76-year-old who replaced the impeached Dilma Rousseff, is deeply unpopular. His government's tainted by the massive Petrobras corruption scandal. More than a hundred politicians and business executives have been arrested or under investigation, and six of his ministers have left office in six months.

So people here believe that he's destined to spend 2017 battling more scandals. That will make it hard for him to make progress with his plans for economic reform. But those who approve of those plans say that he has achieved some successes, notably securing a 20-year freeze on federal spending in real terms.

MARTIN: And he himself is being accused of yet another scandal of campaign finance corruption in a 2014 election, right?

REEVES: Yes. He's facing some quite detailed allegations against him of illegal campaign financing. And that's fueling a lot of speculation that the Electoral Court here could rule that the 2014 election is null and void, which would mean Congress would have to choose a president to replace Temer. However, that doesn't seem that likely. Temer, who denies wrongdoing, says that if the Electoral Court were to go down that path, he had appealed to the Supreme Court. That could drag the process out for months, taking him through to the end of his term in 2018.

MARTIN: All right. Let's turn to the economy, any prospect that the economy in Brazil's going to pick up in 2017?

REEVES: Well, it's been through six straight quarters of economic contraction, and unemployment's just risen again to just under 12 percent. This year's Christmas celebrations here were very subdued, I'm being told, compared to past years. You know, it's hard to imagine the euphoric festive mood here of - that we all saw in the 2014 soccer World Cup, or even during the Olympics a few months ago. Economic data varies. Most predictions here generally say that growth in Brazil will edge sluggishly into the black, and that the economy will begin to expand, albeit only slightly in 2017.

MARTIN: Well, we've talked a lot about some grim news. But it is New Year's weekend, Phil, Brazilians are known for putting on a good party. You going to go to some?

REEVES: Oh, yes, I certainly am. I'm going to join what are estimated to be 2 million people - I don't know whether that figure's accurate or not...

MARTIN: (Laughter) Oh.

REEVES: ...That will gather on Copacabana Beach. And I'm going to do what they do, which is to dress in white (laughter) for the new year and obviously partake in some of the local festivities, liquid included.

MARTIN: Good for you. NPR's Philip Reeves in Rio. Thanks, Phil.

REEVES: You're welcome.


All right. Party on, Phil Reeves. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.