Brazilian President Lula da Silva today announced a $550 billion long-term infrastructure investment plan called the PAC II, which is the second installment of the government’s accelerated growth program. When combined with the $504 billion in budget allocations outlined by PAC I in 2007, Brazil’s targeted infrastructural investments should eventually total more than $1 trillion over a 10-year period.
The timing of today’s announcement was likely intended to coincide with the resignation of Dilma Rousseff—chief minister to President Lula da Silva and his chosen successor to the presidency—so that she can begin preparations to kick off her presidential campaign in July. Ms. Rousseff is expected to tout the PAC II investments as evidence that Lula's center-left government is rapidly improving Brazil’s dilapidated infrastructure and promoting robust economic growth.
The most probable centrist opposition candidate in Brazil’s October presidential elections, former health minister José Serra, who has been leading in local opinion polls, dismisses the program as government propaganda and points to widespread delays during the first phase of the program as evidence of its shortcomings.
President Barack Obama has a 61 percent approval rating in Latin America, a December Gallup Poll finds. The poll, reflecting public opinion in 17 countries between July and September 2009, also showed that support for U.S. Leadership in Latin America increased from 39 percent in 2008 to 51 percent this year. Meanwhile, Obama’s domestic approval rating dropped to 47 percent on Dec. 9.
Support for Obama was strongest in Chile, where 72 percent of respondents had a favorable image of the U.S. President, and in Colombia (68 percent) and Uruguay (64 percent). Obama’s approval rating was lowest in Paraguay (40 percent), Nicaragua (42 percent), Bolivia (46 percent), and Venezuela (48 percent).
The poll is released as Latin American leaders, notably Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, have stepped up criticism for U.S. policy in the hemisphere. Obama has been criticized for recognizing the election of Porfirio Lobo in Honduras, failing to quickly close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and moving forward with plans to expand U.S. presence in military bases in Colombia.
Beginning this week, companies may begin submitting preliminary bids on an estimated $20 to 30 billion project to build a high-speed rail line linking Brazil’s two biggest cities. The project, which is the first of its kind in Latin America, will provide rapid transportation in a region inhabited by some 40 million people—a full 20 percent of Brazil’s population.
According to reports, 60 percent of the cost of the project will be financed by Brazil’s development bank, and the remaining 40 percent from the winning bidder who, upon completion, will be permitted to operate the line for up to 40 years.
Work on the new rail link should be completed in 2015—in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The new train will travel a total of 510 kilometers (317 miles) at a maximum speed of 347 kilometers (217 miles) per hour. Sources say the total travel time on the line will be just over and 1.5 hours, and that the train will connect Brazil’s three largest international airports.