Post by Cassiano dos Santos ’18
The Brazilian Undergraduate Student Conference, held at the University of Chicago between April 8th and 9th, was a fantastic opportunity to reflect on Brazil’s present and future. Throughout the two days of the conference, I had the pleasure to listen to some of the most prominent Brazilian voices from different areas, including Sergio Moro (the Federal Justice behind the Petrobras Scandal), Persio Arida (former president of the Central Bank of Brazil, and current chairman of BTG Pactual), João Dionísio (Founder of Partido Novo, a recently created political platform), Joaquim Levy (former finance minister, and current CFO of the World Bank), Vicente Falconi (Founder of FALCONI Consultants for Results, the biggest management consulting firm in Brazil), and Marina Silva (who has run for president twice, and is now appointed as the leading presidential candidate in the next election). Besides hearing from those stellar speakers, I also had the chance to network with some of the three hundred Brazilians who are students at universities all over the United States and who will undoubtedly lead Brazil in the future.
From the lectures and discussions, I was profoundly impacted by Moro’s talk on the existence of a corruption system that has become the rule with almost all negotiations involving public infrastructure works in Brazil; and how his case, which initially was focused on a relatively unknown black market dealer engaged with construction companies, ended up becoming the biggest government scandal in Brazil’s history—and has been shaken the country ever since. Justice Moro gave me the confidence to believe that there is still hope to combat the unbelievable level of corruption in the public sphere in Brazil, which suffers from a very defective monitoring system related to public spending.
I also loved hearing Persio Arida discuss the root causes of the economic crisis in Brazil. According to him, we have seen an inadmissible expansion of the State due to populist economic policies that the budget could not afford—which is also one of the reasons why President Dilma Rousseff is currently facing an impeachment process in Congress. Arida discussed many economic instruments which are unique to Brazil, such as a mandatory saving account which collects a percentage of each person’s salary and is not accessible unless the person is fired, and their contributions to the current economic scenario.
Finally, Marina Silva, who received 20 million votes in the last presidential election, discussed what she called a “civilization crisis”, which encompasses five distinguishable crises: political, environmental, economic, social, and ethical. Silva, who was a senator until not long ago and is a historian by degree, defended her argument eloquently and how she believed her government program was realistic enough for Brazil. Despite the fact that her speech relied on many ideological ideals, she received a standing ovation from all attendants in the conference. I personally hope that Brazil will soon be ready to elect a leader such as Marina Silva to put the nation back on track as one of the leading emerging economies.
The conference was definitely a memorable experience, and I thank the Undergraduate Professional Accelerator Fund for providing me with the grant to attend the event. It was great to connect to some of my counterparts studying here in the United States, and to listen to such prominent speakers from Brazil.