In less than five months, Brazil is expected to host the Summer Olympics.
If you follow LatAm politics, you know that that is an absolute joke. Last summer, the country descended into political turmoil and the economy sank into what might as well be a depression. Nine months later, inflation is running in the double digits, output is in freefall, and unemployment is soaring. On Wednesday, the government reported its widest primary budget deficit in history and less than 24 hours later, the central bank delivered a dire outlook for growth and inflation.
Meanwhile, VP Michel Temer’s PMDB has split with Dilma Rousseff’s governing coalition, paving the way for her impeachment and casting considerable doubt on the future of the President’s cabinet.
On Thursday, we learn that sports minister George Hilton has become the latest casualty of the political upheaval that will likely drive Rousseff from office in less than two months. “Brazil’s sports minister is resigning four months before the country hosts the Olympics, amid continuing uncertainty over the fate of six other cabinet ministers,” The Guardian wrote this afternoon, before noting that earlier this month, “Hilton left his party in an apparent bid to hold onto his job.”
Hilton had been sports minister for just over a year and although we’re sure any and all Brazilian cabinet positions come with lucrative graft opportunities, we imagine Hilton won’t end up regretting his decision to distance himself from the government and from this year’s Summer Olympics.
After all, there are quite a few very serious questions swirling around the Rio games. For instance: Will the water be clean enough for athletes to compete in? Will there be enough auxiliary power to keep the lights on? And, most importantly, will the games take place at all?
Millions of Brazilian citizens have recently taken to the streets to call for Rousseff’s ouster and to protest the return of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to government. It’s exceedingly possible that if House Speaker Eduardo Cunha can’t manage to get the impeachment job done, the populace will simply march on the Presidential palace.
How any of the above is compatible with hosting the largest sporting event in the history of the world is beyond us and George Hilton apparently has reservations himself. As does Francisco Dornelles, acting governor of Rio de Janeiro. "This is the worst situation I've seen in my political career," Dornelles said this week, referencing the state's finances. "I've never seen anything like it." Here's more from AP:
Dornelles didn't provide numbers, but he said plunging tax income is behind the state's financial crisis.
Much of Rio's tax income comes from the Petrobras oil company, which is embroiled in a big corruption probe that has snared several top politicians and businessmen. Last week, Petrobras reported a record quarterly loss of $10.2 billion due to a large reduction in the value of some assets amid lower oil prices.
Dornelles said that it would take a "large effort" for the state to meet all its obligations and that it was looking for credit and other measures to add to diminishing revenues. He suggested that selling state property was one option.
Yes, it will take "a large effort" for Rio to get back on track. Which probably means it's going to take a similarly "large effort" for Brazil to figure out how to fund the already over budget Olympic Games in August amid an outright economic collapse. Indeed, the country doesn't even have any idea who the President is going to be when the Olympic torch is lit in August.
At this juncture, the only thing we can say is that we hope the lawyers for all of the advertising partners who just spent a total of $1 billion with NBC's executive vice president of advertising sales Seth Winter took a good look at the fine print before signing on the dotted line and cutting the checks.