Patrick Wilcken at the Times Literary Supplement:
As Rio de Janeiro hosts the 2016 Olympics, Brazil continues to defy expectations, sometimes for the better, but more often for the worse. As recently as the late 2000s the country seemed to have finally navigated the last bottleneck, and was set on a path of solid, sustainable economic growth. It had sailed through the financial crash of 2008 relatively unscathed and was steaming ahead, fuelled by what was, as it transpired, the tail-end of the commodities boom. The prospect of oil wealth, with the vast “pre-sal” finds off the coasts of Rio and Espírito Santo states, and two international events, the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games, lay ahead, with the outgoing President Lula da Silva’s approval ratings hitting a barely credible 80 per cent.
As Brazil rode the boom, investments flooded into the country. But even before the collapse, the smart money was heading in the opposite direction. In 2012 an astonishing one in every seven apartments in Miami was sold to Brazilians. The model was faltering. “To power through the financial crisis, Lula had thrown open the spigots of credit and never tightened them”, writes Alex Cuadros in Brazillionaires: The godfathers of modern Brazil. “The bill would come due under Dilma [Rousseff].”