For years, Brazil’s future looked very bright. A rapidly growing economy was moving millions of poor people into Brazil’s middle class.
What has happened has taught Brazilians a lesson and when the economy becomes stable again, they will spend more cautiously, because this could happen again. There could be another economic crisis, and if there is we will be ready to face it. But I am hoping that, God willing, the economy will improve. Brazilians never give up.
Like Russia, India, China, and South Africa, the country seemed destined to become a new and important player in the global marketplace.
And then, suddenly and surprisingly, it all came to an end. Rising unemployment and high inflation has descended across the country with a rapid slowdown in economic growth.
The country’s economic growth, tied to the oil industry and the state oil company Petrobras, Brazil’s largest corporation, has slumped as oil prices have fallen by almost 50 percent in the past 12 months.
Millions of people are now afraid that they will become poor once again.
Adding fuel to the fire was a corruption scandal bigger than anything anybody has ever seen – it was revealed that billions and billions of dollars were secretly transferred from Petrobras to senior politicians – and the oil giant lost half its value.
Before she became president, Dilma Rousseff was chairman of the board of Petrobras. She denies any involvement – and she has not been charged with any wrongdoing – but her connection to the company has not served her well. She has become the symbol of what has gone wrong in the country.
The reaction among the people in Brazil was severe. Thousands demanded the impeachment of the country’s president.
Others are more quiet but just as angry, as they look ahead at a future more uncertain than they thought just a few months ago.
“They say that the dictatorship was bad, but name me one president from the dictatorship period who died rich or who got rich from politics or by being the president. You won’t be able to name even one. The dictatorship was bad, but not that bad, I think that things now are worse, far worse,” says Junior, a barber.
So what went wrong in Brazil? How are Brazilians coping? And how do they feel about the economic and political future of their country?
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid meets Adriana, a taxi driver; Renata, a wedding planner; and Junior, a barber, to find out what Brazil’s everyday citizens have to say about their country’s economic decline and the recent corruption scandal after years of change and growth.
Editor’s note: The names of the three interviewees have been changed for security reasons.