Fernando Cardoso: 1931—: Sociologist, Politician
Crumbling World Markets Threatened Brazil
In 1997 Asian stock markets crashed and shook Brazil's economy. In response, Cardoso subjected Brazil to austere financial reforms that included spending cuts and tax increases to reduce the nation's budget deficit and to secure international loans. Unemployment rose, as did inflation. Though his motivation was to secure the economy, the strict reforms were not popular with voters. Then Russia's government defaulted on its foreign debts, which damaged confidence throughout Latin America, and investors began pulling their money out of Brazil. Before the election, Cardoso began negotiations for an economic bailout with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the international agency designed to stabilize the world economy. Despite the downturn, In Cardoso became Brazil's first president to be reelected to a second term.
After the election, Brazil accepted a $41.5-billion aid package from the IMF to secure its economy. The deal required that legislation be introduced in Brazil to restructure Brazil's tax and social security systems and further reduce government spending. Cardoso devalued the real in January of 1999 in hopes of lowering the cost of Brazilian exports, making products more attractive in overseas markets and increasing Brazil's incoming cash flow. Unfortunately, the real's value continued to slide.
For as many issues as he has tackled successfully, Cardoso is often cited for what many consider his shortcomings. "Cardoso may have done too good a job of containing the crisis," suggested one Business Week writer in an article published in October of 1999. In addition to his tenuous hold on Brazil's economy, "critical intellectuals" found his administration too predictable, according to Goertzel. Leftists complained that he had not solved more of the nation's ills, including poverty, destruction of the Amazon rainforests and other environmental damage, murders of street children by police death squads, and displacement and extermination of indigenous tribes. His approval ratings plummeted.
The corruption Brazilians had come to associate with politics before Cardoso once again appeared when scandal involving a number of questionable legislators threatened his administration. It was not suggested that Cardoso himself was involved. In a speech, Cardoso accused his political opponents of "pretending that we're taking away social rights, when we're trying to do away with abuses of privilege," according to Business Week in October of 1999. Because he is prevented from running for a third term, the best Cardoso can hope for is that a candidate of his choosing will carry on his legacy, though voters may opt for a candidate with an entirely different approach.
Business Week, January 25, 1999, p. 38; October 11, 1999, p. 64; May 21, 2001, p. 29.
Economist, October 10, 1998, p. 16; March 27, 1999, p. 3; July 29, 2000, p. 35; January 6, 2001, p. 1; September 15, 2001; September 29, 2001.
Brazzil magazine, http://www.brazzil.com/blaaug99.htm (February 20, 2002).
Christian Science Monitor online, http://www.cs monitor.com/durable/1999/01/04/p7s2.htm (February 20, 2002).
Current Leaders of Nations, Gale Group, 1999. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center, The Gale Group, 2001 http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC (February 20, 2002).
Encyclopedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com (February 27, 2002).
Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Vol. 18, Gale Research, 1998. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center, The Gale Group, 2001 http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC (February 20, 2002).
Ted Goertzel's Homepage, http://www.crab.rutgers.edu/~goertzel/fhcpres.htm (February 21, 2002).
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