Breakfast Discussion with President of Brazil's Chamber of Deputies Arlindo Chinaglia

January 24, 2008 // 7:30am9:00am
Event Co-sponsors: 
Latin American Program

In an effort to provide Brazilian leaders with greater exposure to the Washington policy community and advance understanding of Brazilian issues in the United States, the Brazil Institute held the second of its ongoing leadership discussion series with a high-level meeting with Arlindo Chinaglia, Speaker of Brazil's House of Deputies. His visit was aimed at improving relations with the United States and included a meeting with his American counterpart, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Wilson Center discussion focused on Brazil's future potential as a significant oil exporter, the dynamics of Brazil's bureaucratic system, and pending and upcoming legislative initiatives.

Speaker Chinaglia dismissed concerns that Brazil's recent discovery of the Tupi oil field—located in the offshore Santos Basin—will "poison" the country's maturing democracy and provoke political instability. Unlike Venezuela and other OPEC countries, where oil revenue is used to achieve political ends, Chinaglia asserted that because Petrobras operates independently, the oil company is better equipped to manage the political pressures associated with windfall profits. Addressing the challenges of Brazil's political system, Chinaglia raised concern regarding the executive branch's exercise of power. The Lula administration, he asserted, has overused "provisional measures," a type of legislative decree that allows the executive branch to create laws while circumventing congressional approval for "relevant and urgent matters."

Notwithstanding the frequency of political scandals in Brazil, Chinaglia asserted that the congressional agenda has not been disrupted. In fact, the Chamber of Deputies has held more special sessions than regular ones; it has, along with the Senate, approved funding bills for primary education; and amended the Constitution to require municipal, state and federal governments to contribute to the universal healthcare system.

In contrast to the foreign policy oversight the U.S. Constitution affords the Congress, the Brazilian Congress is given little control over the country's foreign relations. Nonetheless, Chinaglia maintained, his Congress will hold a plenary session to vote on Venezuela's ascension to Mercosur—a move he favors because it will increase Brazilian access to Venezuela's oil, natural gas, and water supplies.


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