[Marxism] Fidel Castro: "The Powerless Powers"

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue Jul 15 08:18:53 MDT 2008

Fidel is right. Optimism will always be the best option.
We don't need Marxist nattering nabobs of negativism.

Defense of the rights of Third World nations and peoples,
and their ability to develop their economies and societies
even in the face of imperialist hostility? Yes. That is why 
the Fidel has so many admirers across the planet nowadays.

But a Walter Lippmann fan club? I'm afraid that's beyond
even my ability to fantasize, nor even to conceptualize.


Elvitz Pretzel
Disneylandia, California

Optimism will always be the best option. There is no other alternative. 
That's the reason why I once spoke about a species in danger of becoming extinct.
I understand that Walter is a huge fan of "economic development" in 
Brazil and China over the bodies of enslaved sugar cane workers and dead 
miners, but let's not draft Fidel Castro into his fan club so quickly.

Brazil bucks global economic downturn

The high food and commodity prices hurting most countries are buoying
Brazil, a top exporter of minerals, soy, beef, chicken, and grains.

By Andrew Downie | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

from the July 15, 2008 edition

São Paulo, Brazil - When Carl's Jr. looked at expanding its
international fast-food franchise operation earlier this year,
several emerging markets were muted. But after a trip to São Paulo
and Rio de Janeiro in June, company officials made sure Brazil was on
the list.

Why? The country's young, meat-eating population is growing, which is
important to the American chain, says Mike Stout, director of
international franchise sales.

But Carl's Jr. also had other motives that speak to Brazil's newfound
economic robustness.

"Disposable incomes are increasing and more and more people are
moving into the middle class," Mr. Stout said in a telephone
interview from St. Louis, shortly after a two-week visit here. "The
economy is growing and inflation is stable. From a business
perspective, we love the market."

Add to that lower interest rates and easier credit, and you have the
reasons Brazil is emerging as an investment magnet. Direct foreign
investment to Brazil doubled last year as companies as diverse as
real-estate developer Tishman Speyer and agricultural machinery
producer John Deere looked to the Southern Hemisphere as a place to
do business.

It is a remarkable turnaround for a nation accustomed to boom and
bust and strengthens Brazil's place as Latin America's economic
powerhouse. Although many countries in the region are doing well –
Latin America is enjoying one of its best periods of economic growth
in 40 years, the United Nations reported last month – Brazil is
outpacing its neighbors. Moreover, the good times seem set to roll:
As the rest of the world tightens its belt in fear of a downturn,
Brazilians are putting their hands in their pockets and pulling out

"I've definitely been spending more, on clothes, shoes, books,
travel," says Neusa Neves, a retired teacher who was poring over
coffee-table books in a store window on São Paulo's main street
recently. "Things are much better and we are going through a good

Enjoying steady growth

There are several factors behind the nationwide spending spree,
economists say. High food and commodity prices – Brazil is one of the
world's leading producers and exporters of minerals, soy, beef,
chicken, and grains – have brought in cash and created jobs.

Prudent economic policies have kept inflation to below 5 percent and
annual growth at about the same rate. The currency is at its
strongest level against the dollar since 1999 and investors are so
sure Brazil is on the right track that it was recently given
"investor grade," a Wall St. qualification that confirms its status
as a good place to invest.

Perhaps most important, rising wages, falling unemployment, and a
government-assistance program that has put money in the pockets of
the poorest families, have helped lift as many as 20 million people
into the middle class, economists and researchers say.

Car, home sales on the rise

Those people have money to spend and they are flaunting their
newfound liquidity. Sales of domestic appliances rose 17 percent last
year, the number of cellphones in use went up 21 percent, and sales
of notebook computers and plasma and LCD televisions almost tripled.

For major purchases such as cars and houses, the figures are even
more revealing. The number of home mortgages rose 72 percent last
year to its highest number ever, and the amount of money being
borrowed to buy vehicles jumped 45 percent. Car production last year
hit a record high of almost 3 million and rose 21 percent in the
first five months of 2008.

"We always knew that there was a very significant portion of the
population who were excluded," says Humberto Barbato, president of
the Brazilian Electrical and Electronics Industry Association. "There
is a whole new group of people coming into the consumer market."

Much of the spending has been made possible by falling interest rates
and easier credit. Until recently, interest rates were so high and
Brazil's economy so unpredictable that banks would not lend for any
extended period.

But President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has proved a careful steward
of Brazil's economy. Although many believed the former leftist would
abandon Brazil's conservative fiscal policies, he has kept monetary
policy tight, especially during his first few years in office. Since
then, he has gradually overseen a fall in interest rates from 25
percent when he took over to 11.25 percent last year. The Central
Bank has since increased the rate to 12.25 percent in a bid to combat

Even though the rate is still among the highest in the world, it is
low by Brazilian standards and interest payments are more manageable
than at any time in years.

Lenders are thus more inclined to give credit, and consumers can
reduce their payments over longer periods. Mortgages once available
for only a five-year term are now available for over 30, automobiles
can be paid up over seven years, and even domestic appliances are on
offer for 24 monthly payments.

Millions more could join the spree

Experts agree that while consumers are taking advantage of the
favorable credit conditions, interest rates are still, in the words
of Mr. Barbato, "at money-grabbing levels." Millions are holding off
until the rates fall further.

"We're tempted [to buy a car on credit], but we'd rather save our
money and buy something outright," said Fernanda São Paulo, a
merchant out shopping on a recent Sunday with her husband. "It's
easier today, but we haven't taken advantage because of the interest
rates. You could buy two cars for what you end up paying."

That sentiment is still widespread, especially among the better
educated. It sends a clear signal to bankers and economists that if
rates drop further, millions more people could start spending.

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     Los Angeles, California
     Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
     "Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"

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