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Economist speaks on Brazilian president

How will Brazil's new president affect second-largest economy in North America?

A University of California, Riverside expert is available to provide analysis of the economic effects of the recent Brazilian presidential election.

(November 8, 2002)

“Most residents of the United States are not aware that Brazil has the second-largest economy in the Americas, after the U.S., and a third of the population in Latin America,” cautioned University of California, Riverside economics associate professor Steven Helfand. He is an economist who specializes in Brazil and recently commented on its presidential elections.

“Many people throughout Latin America have tired of the neo-liberal model of free trade and free markets,” Helfand said of the previous administration in Brazil. “Brazilians were fed up with the current president and wanted a change. They want to get Brazil's economy growing again, creating jobs, and reducing poverty, things that it has done preciously little of in the past 10 years.

Brazil's currency plummeted in recent months as the workers' party challenger Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva emerged as the hands-down favorite. Lula has a fifth-grade education and has promised to make the eradication of hunger the central focus of his administration.

Leaders in the US are concerned about how Brazil's new leadership will regard NAFTA's expansion to the rest of the Americas. Brazil is one of the most important voices in the region, but has pursued a much more cautious strategy of trade negotiations with the U.S. than many other Latin American countries.

Helfand said: “The political change represents an enormous amount of promise for ordinary Brazilians, as well as some real serious risks in terms of the macroeconomy. It will undoubtedly represent a major shift in economic policy in Brazil.” He is one among a few economists in the United States who are experts on Brazil. His research areas include development economics and agricultural policy in Brazil.

Brazil in a major competitor of the US in products as varied as steel, small airplanes, citrus, poultry, and soybeans. It is a major exporter that is developing ties with European markets as much as US exporters are.

Helfand said that U.S. media outlets, such as the New York Times, are covering Brazilian political events closely: “There is wide-spread concern that Brazil might be going down the drain like Argentina has in the past year.”

For stories regarding these questions, interviews with Helfand may be arranged through UC Riverside's media relations office at (909) 787-2642.

Helfand's Ph.D. is from the University of California, Berkeley, and he was a Fulbright scholar in Brazil. He is fluent in Portuguese and travels to Brazil for research several times a year.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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