Vice President Joe Biden kicked off 2015 leading a presidential delegation to Brazil for the inauguration of Dilma Rousseff as president of that country. The vice president was only in the country on New Year's Day, for the inauguration and an hour-long meeting with Rousseff before returning to St. Croix where he rejoined his family for vacation. However, documents show that vehicles for the vice president and the rest of the delegation and entourage for the duration of their stay cost an estimated $229,358:
Although contracts for foreign VIP trips are routinely posted at the government's contracting website, the documents for this particular trip provide a rare look at the breakdown of the cost. Contained within the Justification and Approval document for the Brazil trip is a listing of the types of vehicles needed, the quantity, and the cumulative number of days the vehicles were expected to be utilized. The list includes twenty-two sedans, twenty-seven 15-passenger vans, three "box" trucks, a cargo van, a 44-passenger bus, and an SUV. The prices for all the vehicles (listed in Brazilian currency) include drivers, as well.
The White House and State Department typically do not release details of the number of persons on such trips, nor the exact duration of the stay. Advance security teams and other staff who coordinate the trips arrive early and may stay after the principals have left. However, based on a daily use of twenty-two sedans and twenty-seven 15-passenger vans, the number seems likely to be in the hundreds. Since the cargo van was estimated to be in use for thirteen days, it seems likely some U.S. personnel were in the country for about two weeks surrounding the vice president's visit on New Year's Day.Details on the hotel contract for lodging for the Brazil trip were also posted. In another rarity, the vehicle cost exceeded that of the lodging. The estimated cost for lodging at the Royal Tulip in Brasilia was $191,689.The documents do not include the number of rooms required or the duration of the stay.
Call it a tale of two countries. Two would-be Latin American powerhouses, both with populations surpassing 100 million people – and both with weak presidents who are beset by corruption problems. Both, in other words, are severely underperforming countries, whose chronic inability to live up to their potential continues to undermine growth, stability, and hope for the future.
It’s official: Dilma Rousseff is no Lula. The left-wing Brazilian president may have been reelected late last month, but she enjoys nowhere near the popularity that Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva – better known simply as “Lula” – once did. Rousseff managed to squeak by with only 51.6 percent of the vote in a runoff – a far cry from the 61 percent that Lula garnered when he stood for reelection in 2006. And Rousseff’s close shave came despite the fact that Lula came out and campaigned hard for her.
Vice President Biden and his entourage visited Brazil in mid-June to attend the USA versus Ghana World Cup game, a trip that also included meetings with both the president and vice president of Brazil.
When Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff canceled her October 23 White House state dinner, she created yet another foreign-policy embarrassment for the Obama administration. Rousseff’s visit, which was announced back in May, was supposed to be an opportunity for highlighting a new era of strategic cooperation between the Western Hemisphere’s two largest countries. It would have been the first state visit by a Brazilian leader since Bill Clinton hosted Fernando Henrique Cardoso in April 1995.
The State Department today announced a basketball exchange program with Brazil, according to a press release from the federal agency. The program is, at least in part, coordinated with the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Based on last week’s debate, both President Obama and Governor Romney believe that squeezing the Iranians economically is the best way—and perhaps the only way—to end their nuclear-weapons program without resorting to a military strike. Of course, nobody knows if sanctions will actually work. But if the United States is truly serious about crushing Iran’s economy, it must pursue a more aggressive strategy, and it must put more pressure on Iranian trading partners.
Last month in London, Mexico’s Olympic soccer team won gold by defeating its Brazilian counterpart, 2-1. The victory gave Mexico its first-ever trophy in a major international soccer tournament (apart from the 1999 Confederations Cup), and it proved that the soccer gap between Latin America’s two largest countries is shrinking, with Mexico catching up on the region’s traditional powerhouse. The Olympic final also became a metaphor for the recent performance of the Mexican and Brazilian economies.
In 2001, Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill famously coined the acronym “BRIC” to describe four of the world’s most populous countries—Brazil, Russia, India, and China—each of which boasted great economic potential. Since then, China has enjoyed breakneck GDP growth while making very little progress on economic or political reform, and Russia has devolved into a petro-autocracy dangerously reliant on global oil prices. As for Brazil and India, they have reaped consistent accolades for their commitment to democracy and economic stability.
As Lula da Silva’s handpicked successor, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff was widely expected to embrace his policies both at home and abroad. Domestically, she has mostly fulfilled those expectations. In foreign affairs, the story is a bit more complicated.
On June 2, the convicted Italian terrorist Cesare Battisti walked out of a Brazilian prison a free man. He did so after Brazil’s supreme court upheld the decision of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to refuse to extradite Battisti to Italy. A member of the left-wing terror group Armed Proletarians for Communism (PAC) during Italy’s blood-ridden “years of lead” in the 1970s, Battisti had been on the run from Italian justice for nearly thirty years, since escaping from a prison near Rome in October 1981.
The Brazilian magazine Veja is reporting that al Qaeda members have established an active presence in South America’s largest country, as have militants associated with Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups. They are apparently engaged in fundraising, recruitment, and strategic planning.