Brazil: another crisis for Rousseff

Dilma Rousseff

Last September, as we reported on this site a while back, two top members of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff’s posse were sentenced to long prison terms. João Vaccari Neto, treasurer of the ruling Workers’ Party, got more than 15 years for corruption and money-laundering; another party hack, Renato Duque, got 20 years for inflating oil contracts and shoveling the excess profits into the party’s coffers. The convictions of these two men were only part of a large-scale disaster – a blend of scandal and economic crisis – that sent Rousseff’s popularity ratings south, making her, in the words of the Financial Times, “Brazil’s most unpopular president in recent democratic history.”

Joao Santana

Then, on February 23, just as Rousseff’s numbers were starting to recover and she seemed to be emerging from under the cloud of possible impeachment, yet another member of her inner circle was put under arrest. Joao Santana, a journalist and political strategist, was the mastermind behind her two election victories and is one of Rousseff’s more intimate friends and advisers – the James Carville to her Bill Clinton. In addition to engineering her victories, he’s also successfully coordinated campaigns for leftist presidential candidates in the Dominican Republic, Angola, Peru, and – notably – for both Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.

According to the charges leveled against him, Santana knowingly allowed himself to be paid for his services to the Rousseff campaign with several million dollars in funds illegally diverted from Petrobras, the state oil company that is currently at the center of Brazil’s biggest corruption scandal ever. Santana’s homes and offices were raided by 300-odd officers; his wife was also taken into custody. The arrests reportedly came as a shock to Rousseff’s supporters, who fear that Santana may work out a plea bargain with prosecutors in which he throws Rousseff under the bus.

Michel Temer

Even if Santana doesn’t turn state’s evidence, to be sure, the goods the cops have on him may be more than enough to sink Rousseff. If it’s proven that she paid Santana with money pilfered from Petrobras, it could mean the official overturning of her election victory. The Portuguese language has a lovely word for this act of invalidation: cassação. As Americas Quarterly staffer Stephen Kurczy recently explained, impeaching Rousseff would involve action by both houses of Congress – which in early December, in fact, initiated impeachment proceedings, only to see them stall shortly therafter. (The proceedings will supposedly resume soon.) Cassação, by contrast, is a process that only requires a ruling by Brazil’s electoral court, the Tribunal Superior Eleitoral – which, as it happens, is already investigating the funding of Rousseff’s 2014 campaign as part of Operação Lava Jato (“Operation Car Wash”), the probe into corruption at Petrobras. If the court determined that Rousseff and her vice president, Michel Temer, had funded their election campaign with illegal funds, both Rousseff and Temer could be removed from office at once, with Rousseff being temporarily replaced by the Speaker of the House, Eduardo Cunha, until a new election could be arranged.

“We’re on the border of changing eras in Brazil,” political consultant Thiago de Aragão told Kurczy. “Until recently, anyone involved in the PT [the Workers’ Party] was immune. Now people are discovering that it’s not like this. The times are changing.” In fact, they’re changing fast. Only days after Santana’s arrest, another Rousseff intimate suddenly resigned his cabinet position. Tune in tomorrow.  

The 20-year-old scourge of Brazil’s stooges

Dilma Rousseff

In recent days we’ve been observing how Brazil – which, a few years ago, looked as if it was on the verge of becoming a prosperous, developed First World-style nation – has rapidly declined, during the presidency of Dilma Rousseff, into an economic disaster zone. Meanwhile, the most massive corruption scandal in the country’s history has brought down one member of her administration after another. In the months after her re-election in October 2014, Rousseff dropped from an 80% to an 8% approval rating. Millions are now calling for her impeachment.

Among the most prominent of them is Kim Kataguiri, who turns 20 years old today.

Kim Kataguiri, with a laptop reading “Less Marx, More Mises”

Just over two years ago, when he was an obscure college student, Kataguiri attended a history class in which the teacher attributed Brazil’s economic success – which would soon evaporate into nothingness – to the welfare-state policies pursued by Rousseff and her predecessor (and Workers’ Party colleague) Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva.

That just seemed wrong,” Kataguiri said in an October 2015 interview with Time Magazine, which named him one of the year’s most influential teenagers. To Kataguiri – a grandson of Japanese immigrants – it was obvious that Brazil’s growth was a result of “the commodities boom and our relationship with China.” In recent years, China had become Brazil’s #1 trading partner, with the value of trade between the two nations climbing from $2 billion in 2000 to $83 billion in 2013.

The Free Brazil Movement’s logo

Kataguiri responded to his teacher’s sunny socialism with a You Tube video in which he spoke up for the free market. The video went viral. He followed it with other videos, in which, as Yahoo News has reported, he and a group of like-minded friends, who call themselves the Free Brazil Movement, “often don wacky costumes and dress up as political figures such as Fidel Castro.”

The Free Brazil Movement’s positions are clear. It calls for the introduction of a free-market system, with lower taxes, a smaller government bureaucracy, and complete privatization of publicly held companies. It also demands the impeachment of Rousseff, whose Workers’ Party Kataguiri (now a college dropout) views as “the nemesis of freedom and democracy.” His heroes? Politicians Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher, and economists Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Ludwig von Mises.


As Brazil’s economy faltered, and then, with terrifying rapidly, spiraled down into the dustbin, Kataguiri and his movement became increasingly popular. On March 15 of last year, when over a million Brazilians attended anti-Rousseff rallies, Kataguiri spoke to an audience of 200,000 at a protest in São Paulo.

CCbJYzSWgAAfp64Pointing out that he had himself “emerged through the Internet,” Kataguiri told Time that he has

a great hope that the internet can have a serious effect on the political world and can bring change. It can improve knowledge, participation and transparency in politics. Now, politics in Brazil looks very bad. Everyone steals. But I have hope that in 20 years things can be different. I have hope that our generation can change the ways things are done.

Dilma Rousseff: decline and fall?

dilma-rousseff (1)
Dilma Rousseff

Last week we explored the presidency of Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, who in recent months has seen her throne shaken by the Petrobras scandal – described by the Wall Street Journal as “the biggest corruption case ever in a country with a long history of scandals.” Even Rousseff’s predecessor as head of state, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (whose own administration was almost brought down by the 2005 Mensalão scandal), has been under scrutiny in this season of scandal, with authorities looking into shady financial activities involving both Lula and his son as well as into accusations that the former president had lobbied illegally (and profitably) for Odebrecht, a huge Brazilian conglomerate.

In this photo provided by Brazil's Presidency, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, left, and Brazil's newly elected leader Dilma Rousseff, make a sign of victory, at the Alvorada palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Nov. 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Brazil's Presidency, Ricardo Stuckert) NO SALES
Lula and Dilma, 2010

Even as the Petrobras probes were widening and arrests adding up, Brazil’s economy was in free fall. Brazil’s GDP, which had experienced annual growth of over 5% during the century’s first decade, sunk below 3% in 2012 and 2013 and to 0.1% in 2014. On September 9, 2015, Standard and Poor downgraded Brazil’s credit rating to junk status. Over the course of 2015, Brazil’s economy actually shrunk by 2.7%. Meanwhile, Rousseff’s numbers also dived. In December 2014, her approval rating was at 80%; by March 2015, it was at 34%; by August, 8%. In that month, protesters around the country called for her impeachment. By September, she’d become “Brazil’s most unpopular president in recent democratic history.”

João Vaccari Neto

In that same month, party treasurer João Vaccari Neto was sentenced to over 15 years in prison for corruption and money-laundering, the latter of which involved over $4 million. Sentenced to prison alongside Vaccari was Renato Duque, who received a more than 20-year term for “inflating contracts at Petrobras” and funneling the excess profits into the coffers of Rousseff’s Workers’ Party. 

RJ - OPERA«√O LAVA JATO/DUQUE/PRIS√O/ARQ - GERAL - Foto de arquivo de 23/06/2005 do ex- diretor de ServiÁos da Petrobras, Renato Duque, durante entrevista na sede da empresa, no centro do Rio de Janeiro. Ele foi preso esta manh„, pela PolÌcia Federal, em nova fase da OperaÁ„o Lava Jato. … a sÈtima etapa da operaÁ„o que investiga um esquema de lavagem de dinheiro suspeito de movimentar R$ 10 bilhıes. A PF tambÈm prendeu executivos e faz busca e apreens„o em cerca de cinco das maiores empreiteiras do PaÌs, o braÁo financeiro do esquema de corrupÁ„o na estatal. 23/06/2005 - Foto: MARCOS DE PAULA/ESTAD√O CONTE⁄DO
Renato Duque

Not long ago, in response to state employees and business executives who’ve blown the whistle on the massive government corruption on her watch, Rousseff famously said: “I do not respect informants.” She cited with pride her refusal, back in her Marxist guerrilla days, to rat on her comrades under torture. Her remarks, of course, reflect a curious attitude (to put it mildly) toward corruption – and, indeed, toward the very concept of public service and stewardship of the people’s resources. In October 2015, maintaining that the mounting accusations against her in connection with the Petrobras scandal were utterly false, she declared: “I do not intend to leave power.”

dilma_lulaTo be sure, on October 19, a parliamentary commission (consisting mostly of pro-government legislators) issued a report purportedly clearing Rousseff and Lula of personal involvement in Petrobras-related crimes. But that report didn’t end the controversy, and nobody expected it to. Rousseff remains under a cloud, and continues to hold on to power by a thread; in late December, Reuters reported that the lower house of Brazil’s Congress would probably decide by March whether to recommend Rousseff’s impeachment.

Meanwhile her administration’s corruption has dramatically altered Brazil’s image on the world stage. Writing in Forbes on October 22, Kenneth Rapoza summed up  the whole messy situation by noting that while Brazil, according to Transparency International, had been the “least corrupt” of “the big four emerging markets” (not really much of an accomplishment, given that the other three are Russia, China, and India), “2015 has shaped up to be the year that threw all that off a cliff.” The Petrobras scandal, wrote Rapoza, had “made Brazilian politics into Latin America’s Greece.” 

The Petrobras probe

As we’ve seen, Brazil’s current president, Dilma Rousseff, was chief of staff in the administration of her immediate predecessor, the beloved Lula. But at the same time she was also head of the state-owned energy company, Petrobras. Operation Car Wash, a probe into Petrobras’s finances, begun in 2014, has investigated several major firms and dozens of politicians – including Rousseff – and has so far uncovered four separate criminal rings. During Rousseff’s second term, which started in January 2015, Petrobras quickly began shaping up into her Watergate.

Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, RJ. 20/12/2011. Paulo Roberto da Costa, diretor de Abastecimento da Petrobras, durante entrevista coletiva na sede da empresa, no centro do Rio de Janeiro. - Crédito:TASSO MARCELO/ESTADÃO CONTEÚDO/AE/Código imagem:160701
Paulo Roberto Costa

Even before Rousseff’s re-election, several leading figures had been implicated in Petrobras-related corruption. Already in March 2014, for instance, Paulo Roberto Costa, who’d served as Petrobras’s supplies director from 2004 to 2012, was arrested for his role in the bribery and money-laundering scheme. In September 2014, Costa provided authorities with a list of politicians who’d received bribes. He was later sentenced to 12 years in prison (though he’s since been granted house arrest beginning in October 2016). An August 2015 article reported that a couple of politicians had met with Costa in 2009 in a luxury hotel room in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, and handed him a liquor bottle containing $200,000 in cash.

Ricardo Pessoa, owner of UTC, a major construction company, was arrested in November 2014 on charges of bribery and money-laundering, also as part of the Petrobras scandal. In a May 2015 plea-bargain deal, Pessoa acknowledged that he’d handed over large sums to several political campaign, including Lula’s presidential bid in 2006 and Rousseff’s in 2014.

Ricardo Pessoa

In March 2015, the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for Petrobras-related probes into dozens of members of Congress; in April evidence was uncovered of “similar scams at Brazil’s health ministry and at state-owned bank Caixa Econômica Federal.” In that same month, a poll found that 63% of Brazilians wanted to see Rousseff impeached.

Also in April, party treasurer João Vaccari Neto was arrested and charged with accepting “irregular donations” to the Workers’ Party from Petrobras suppliers, who were alleged to have inflated contracts with the oil company and funneled excess proceeds to party members and political campaigns.

Pedro Barusco

A former Petrobras manager, Pedro Barusco, who cooperated with prosecutors, testified that he’d personally received almost $100 million in bribes, that he’d met Vaccari at fancy hotels or restaurants to discuss the sharing of bribes, and that some of the ill-gotten cash had been passed on to Rousseff’s 2010 election campaign. Julio Camargo, one of the businessmen charged with bribing Petrobras officials, also provided authorities with details of what he called the “institutionalized reality” of bribery at Petrobras, stating that he himself had paid the firm $4.5 million in bribes. 

Vaccari denied everything, as did Rousseff. 

José Dirceu

Then there’s José Dirceu, a former militant student Communist who’d preceded Rousseff as Lula’s chief of staff, a job from which he resigned after being charged in the 2005 Mensalão scandal (which we’ll get around to later this month). Found guilty in 2012 of corruption, embezzlement, racketeering, and money- laundering, Dirceu was sentenced to seven years in prison, but was apparently released at some point prior to August 2015, when he was arrested on charges of corruption and money-laundering in connection with the Petrobras scandal.

We’re not yet done with Brazil, with Rousseff, or with Petrobras. More on Monday.

Rousseff: round two

Dilma Rousseff

We’ve been looking this week at Brazil, where, under Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who served as its president from 2003 to 2010, the country’s economy boomed. Then his chief of staff, an apparatchik named Dilma Rousseff, was elected to succeed him – and everything started going down the drain.

Not that Rousseff is fully to blame for this decline. It’s clear that its seeds were sown under Lula, when the president and his ideological allies managed to convince themselves that Brazil owed its new prosperity to their welfare programs, rather than to a massive increase in trade with China. But it was Rousseff who was in charge once growth started to falter. Not understanding how economies worked, she responded to her nation’s calamity by doubling down on taxes, bureaucracy, and tariffs – a disastrous formula that guaranteed increasing stagnation. Nor did it help that the massive government and Workers’ Party corruption set in system under Lula only got worse, if anything, on her watch.  

At a campaign event

Despite the bad choices of her first term, Rousseff was re-elected (by a very close margin) in October 2014. Comments by her supporters left the impression that she’d won despite her handling of the economy, not because of it. (One voter, Natascha Otoya, while admitting that Rousseff’s government had been involved in “corruption,” “embezzlement,” and “white collar crimes,” said that “as a woman, a feminist and a socialist, I am very glad that Dilma has won! 4 more years for the left, I can only be happy about that.”) According to one source, Rousseff was re-elected only because a law requiring Brazilians to vote had guaranteed a big pro-Dilma turnout in poor regions, where people “feared losing their social programs.” 

Ronaldo Caiado

Unsurprisingly, her victory was celebrated in places like the New Yorker, where John Cassidy called it a win “for the world’s financial markets.” Brazil, insisted Cassidy, was “no basket case.”

Not yet, perhaps. But after Election Day, things got a lot worse – and did so very fast. “There is a process of economic, social and moral collapse under way,” said Senator Ronaldo Caiado, an opposition politician, on March 15, a mere two and a half months into Rousseff’s second term.

Then came the Petrobras scandal. Petrobras is Brazil’s national energy company. From 2003 to 2010, Rousseff, in addition to her other positions under Lula, had served as chair of Petrobras. Operation Car Wash, a probe into the firm’s operations from 2004 to 2014, began in 2014. It soon uncovered evidence that about $2 billion in company funds had been stolen during that decade by Petrobras officials, construction companies, and politicians – Rousseff included.

More on that probe – and the results thereof – tomorrow.

Rousseff: the path to power

Dilma Rousseff

The story so far: Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, whom we’ve been discussing this week, was born into wealth, became a domestic guerrilla leader, spent a couple of years in prison, and then spent several more years in college.

And then – along with her husband and fellow guerilla leader, Franklin Paixão de Araújo – Rousseff went into politics, taking part in the founding of the Democratic Labour Party (Partido Democrático Trabalhista, or PDT).

Franklin Paixão de Araújo

In 1985, when a party colleague, Alceu Collares, was elected mayor of Porto Alegre, he made Rousseff city treasurer. Her successor in this job – her first as a political appointee – later said that her administration of municipal funds had been thoroughly incompetent, leaving the city’s finances in utter chaos. But never mind! Thanks to her political connections, she kept on rising. In 1989, she was appointed director-general of Porto Alegre’s city council – only to be fired almost at once because she couldn’t manage to arrive at work on time. But so what? That triumph behind her, she climbed up to the state level, with positions as the Secretary of Energy and Communication for the state of Rio Grande do Sul and as head of the same state’s Foundation of Economics and Statistics (Fundação de Economia e Estatística, or FEE).


Her really big breakthrough, however, came with the election to the Brazilian presidency of Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva, under whom Rousseff served as Minister of Energy (2003–05) and then Chief of Staff (2005–10).

During Lula’s presidency, Brazil’s economy took off. In 2010, it surpassed the U.K. to become the seventh largest economy in the world.

Lula and Obama

“Under Lula,” to quote one source, “Brazil seemed to have reached one of those moments in history when a society enters a new epoch.” Lula is a socialist, and the economic growth that occurred during his presidency is routinely attributed by his fellow socialists in the professoriate and news media to his welfare-state policies; savvier minds have concluded that the chief reason for Brazil’s economic growth under Lula was its role as a supplier of oil, iron, beef, soybeans, and other commodities to China, which became its biggest trading partner.

Lula’s presidency was, in any event, a personal triumph: he left office with approval ratings of more than 80% in public opinion polls, making him the most popular president in the country’s history.

Rousseff and Lula

When Lula finished his second term and was unable to run for a third because of term-limit laws, he selected Rousseff to succeed him. Why her? She was, after all, as one observer pointed out at the time, an “apparatchik” who’d “never before been elected to any political post and who was unknown to most of Brazil’s 192 million people.”


Some critics, noted the Telegraph suggested that Rousseff “was simply the last senior Lula crony standing since one aide after another was forced to quit in scandals over alleged slush funds, bribery or blackmail.” One Brazilian expert told the Telegraph that “Lula chose Dilma because Dilma means a third Lula term and the continuation of his populist-authoritarian project. She’s only doing so well in the polls because his government ignores all the institutional limits on power and manipulates the population through welfare programmes.” Indeed, she was so uncharismatic a figure and so uninspiring a speaker that Lula’s government, prior to the election, actually “made it illegal for television and radio broadcasters to make fun of the candidates.”

In any event, Rousseff won the election – less on of her own merits than because of the electorate’s affection for Lula.

What happened then? How did Rousseff manage to screw things up so quickly?

Tune in tomorrow.

Rousseff: a flashback

Yesterday we started looking into the administration of Brazil’s current president, Dilma Rousseff, who – in the wake of a remarkable rise toward prosperity under her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-10) – has presided over a precipitous economic decline, accompanied by profound corruption and incompetence.

Dilma Rousseff

Rousseff is a socialist, but she’s the kind of socialist upon whom the Western news media tend to look with sympathy – which is to say that she isn’t constantly denouncing capitalism and the U.S. and that she occasionally even says sensible-sounding things about free markets, free trade, and such. Yet she is what she is.  Vladimir Tismaneanu put it this way last March:“Dilma and her crowd may not be Marxists in a traditional, strictly ideological sense…but, when all is said and done, they still share, subliminally, the Marxist anti-capitalist and ‘anti-imperialist’ revolutionary delusions, expectations, and fever,” which explains “their enduring affinities with the continental far left, including Hugo Chavez’s heir, Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.”

How, you may wonder, did this woman end up being president of one of the world’s largest countries? Here’s a flashback.

Régis Debray

Born in Belo Horizonte in 1947, Rousseff is the daughter of a Communist lawyer who fled Bulgaria for France in 1929 and who later moved on to Brazil, where he became a successful businessman. Her upbringing was very privileged – house servants, a fancy boarding school. As a girl, she wanted to be a ballerina. But in 1967, after reading the work of French writer and Castroite Régis Debray, she joined a socialist organization, POLOP (Política Operária, or Workers’ Politics), and became active in COLINA (Comando de Libertação Nacional, or National Liberation Command), a militant Marxist-Leninist faction, in which she met her first husband, Cláudio Galeno de Magalhães Linhares.

As a defendant in a military court, 1970

In 1969 COLINA, which specialized in bank robberies and bombings, killed two police officers, obliging Rousseff and Galena to lay low. While underground, they were sheltered by Carlos Franklin Paixão de Araújo, head of a gang of Communist guerrillas that soon merged with COLINA and other groups to form the VAR Palmares (Vanguarda Armada Revolucionária Palmares, or Revolutionary Armed Vanguard Palmares) – of which Rousseff, after dumping Galeno and hooking up with Araújo, was put in charge.

A mug shot

As head of VAR Palmares, Rousseff reportedly organized strikes, ordered bank robberies, masterminded the theft of a politician’s safe (which contained $2.5 million), planned a kidnapping (which the would-be culprits were never able to pull off), and sequestered weapons. She became known to both supporters and the authorities as the revolutionary movement’s “Joan of Arc.”

After being arrested in 1970, Rousseff was imprisoned and tortured. While she’s repeatedly sought to minimize the importance of her role in VAR Palmares, her description of the extent of her torture has been dismissed by parties familiar with the situation as highly exaggerated. Released from jail in 1972, Rousseff returned to college to study economics. Although her official biography lists master’s and doctoral degrees, she never actually earned either.

And then she went into politics.

We’ll get around to that tomorrow.

Brazil: rejecting utopianism

We’ve spent a good deal of time on this site profiling the chavistas in Venezuela and the Kirchnerites in Argentina, but we’ve devoted little or no attention to their counterparts in the massive land between those two countries – namely, Brazil.

Dilma Rousseff

This isn’t because Brazil is lacking in world-class useful stoogery. On the contrary: under Dilma Rousseff, who became president in 2011, the nation has seen its liberties threatened, its treasury raided by government loyalists, and its economy damaged to a degree no one could have imagined, say, a decade ago.

No, the damage may not yet approach the levels found in Venezuela or Argentina. But the situation is already bad enough to have made life far tougher for Brazilians than many of them expected a few years ago, under Rousseff’s predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, when their country looked as if it was climbing very quickly out of poverty and into the ranks of rich, developed nations.

Olavo de Carvalho

How did this dramatic decline and fall come to pass? We’ll get into the details of it later this week. Suffice it for now to say that last March 15, a massive protest was held demanding Rousseff’s impeachment and an end to rule by her corrupt, autocratic, and marxisant Workers’ Party. It was the largest anti-government demonstration in the country’s history, with as many as three million participants, one of whom held a sign reading We won’t be another Venezuela. Researcher Alessandro Cota called the rally “a new beginning for Brazil and probably the end of the dreams of all those who wanted to turn the largest country of Latin America into a socialist republic.” Philosopher Olavo de Carvalho said:

Never and nowhere has a government been so completely rejected by its own population. But it is more than that. It is not only the rejection of a government, or a President. It is the rejection of the whole system of power that has been created by the Workers’ Party, which includes intellectuals and opinion-makers in the big media. People are no longer afraid of going against the Workers’ Party. 

Vladimir Tismaneanu

And Vladimir Tismaneanu commented that “the house of cards built by revolutionary Dilma Rousseff … is coming down” – because, he maintained, Brazilians are proving to be less susceptible to utopian far-left promises than Venezuelans and Argentinians. “The hyper-corrupt bureaucracy of the Workers’ Party,” argued Tismaneanu, “is coming face to face with a resurgent civil society…millions of Brazilians feel the need to expose twaddle, nonsense, irresponsible foolishness, cynical demagoguery masquerading as a springboard for collective bliss.”

Roma - Itália, 19/03/2013. Presidenta Dilma Rousseff durante encontro com a Presidenta da Argentina, Cristina Kichner. Foto: Roberto Stuckert Filho/PR
Rousseff with Cristina Kirchner, Rome, 2013

If any of this is news to you, don’t worry: you’re not alone. While at least some news media in North America and Europe have been relatively frank about the disaster that is Venezuela’s so-called Bolivarian Revolution and about the nightmare that was Kirchnerism in Argentina, many of those same news media have tended either to ignore or to whitewash the deplorable record of Brazil’s current president – partly because she’s not quite as outrageously outspoken in her ideological extremism as Hugo Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, and partly because, for all her incompetence and corruption, she hasn’t – unlike Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina – yet led her country into sovereign-debt default.

The key word there, of course, is yet.

More tomorrow.