The “looking back” on the past 12 months has begun. In Brazil’s case, 2016 may be the worst year in recent memory — and perhaps wins last place for good news of all countries at peace. Sadly, it’s hard to imagine how 2017 could be much better.
In southeastern Brazil, 2016 started in toxic mud, weeks after the rupture of a mining dam that provoked the worst ecological disaster in the country’s history, leaving entire towns, lives and the environment destroyed. Despite a year of hard work, there’s still much to be done and the consequences on both locals’ health and the economy will be felt for years to come.
Three mosquito-borne viruses spread on a massive scale: dengue fever, zika and chikungunya. The latest figures, released earlier this week, showed that a record-high 1.47 million people had been infected with the dengue virus in 2016. The authorities also registered close to 260,000 of chikungunya and more than 210,000 cases of zika, which has affected black and mixed race families the most.
Even the Olympics did a poor job at concealing the terrible state Brazil finds itself in. Worse, the many reports of widespread violence confirmed what many already knew, despite Ryan Lochte’s fake mugging.
And of course, the year was marked most of all by a spiraling series of political scandals, as the anti-graft probe “Lava Jato” continued to expose a vastly corrupt political class. At the top was the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Though her legacy is far from brilliant, her political demise has marked a new particularly bitter era in Brazil.
Now, Rousseff’s successor, the unelected president Michel Temer, has decided to face down the country’s dismal economic situation with a harsh austerity policy. By amending the Constitution to enforce a two-decade freeze on public spending, Temer has made a clear statement: Brazil’s welfare state is a thing of the past. But this policy risks deepening the country’s growing wealth divide in both the short and long term. No doubt, more tough years to come.