November 8th, 2011
03:00 PM ET

Will Brazil become like Venezuela?

Editor's Note: Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, both professors of politics at NYU, are the authors of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics

By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith - Special to CNN

While Brazil ascends economically, Mexico appears mired with slow economic growth, high unemployment and escalating drug violence. Yet, in terms of politics, it is in Mexico that democracy is likely to consolidate, while Brazil is at somewhat greater risk from increased corruption and authoritarianism.

Brazil, the B in BRIC, has become one of the world’s economic powerhouses. Yet, much of this new-found wealth comes from a burgeoning natural resource sector. What is more, this wealth is increasingly concentrated in the semi-public Petrobras Corporation.  Improved extraction techniques for subsalt oil and gas suggest a likely three-fold increase in production by 2020. If combined with an increase in world oil prices, then this would free Dilma Rousseff’s Workers Party, which heads the government, of the need to be conciliatory when confronted with mass protest. Brazilians should be wary of their country becoming the next Venezuela.

In contrast, democracy looks safe in Mexico even through its economy has been hit by a recession induced by its close ties to the U.S.  In 2009, GDP fell by 6.1% and unemployment reached 6.4%. Things have subsequently improved, but the Mexican economy appears lackluster. Drug-related violence continues with over 15,000 drug related deaths last year. Yet this violent confrontation is a sign that the government is determined to tackle the political and economic influence of drug gangs and minimize this black-market portion of its economy. Against its tough economic background and dwindling oil revenues, politics is becoming more competitive.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith. Check out their book: The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics.


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soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Roger Fried

    This article is so stupid and suffers from so many logical flaws that it is difficult to where where to start attacking it. CNN, for goodness sake, why would you publish this drivel? The author needs both remedial education and a long visit to both countries.

    December 3, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Reply
  2. Roger Fried

    I just noticed that the authors are associated with NYU. I would have expected that they would be from some community college in Idaho. They better not be tenure track or I would be really disappointed in NYU.

    December 3, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  3. Elton Ribeiro

    what do i say about it? ZAKARIA doesnt know BRAZIL.

    May 6, 2012 at 10:50 am | Reply
  4. Colin

    Well, it appears that this article was actually correct. Just look at how the Brazilian courts are trying to rob Chevron and Transocean. I suppose all of Brazil's defenders were too quick to defend their beloved homeland.

    August 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Reply
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