OTB Foreign Desk

Today's Foreign Desk includes comments on Brazil's floods, developments in Ivory Coast, and Silvio Berlusconi's sex scandal.

Today’s Foreign Desk includes comments on Brazil’s floods, developments in Ivory Coast, and Silvio Berlusconi’s sex scandal.

Brazil’s Floods

It’s been less than three weeks since she was inaugurated but Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is facing the first major challenge of her presidency. 741 people have been killed and hundreds are missing in severe flooding that has struck some of Brazil’s most populous areas. The death toll is expected to go higher. A mudslide that killed several hundred people is being characterized as the worst one-day natural disaster in Brazil’s history and that was a couple of weeks ago. Sao Paulo is now on flood alert.

The government is coming under attack as being unprepared. Here, for example, is a report from Folha.com, which I take to be the online presence of Brazil’s largest newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo, claiming that the government under the previous president blocked disaster plans which might have saved some lives.

President Rousseff, the first woman to be elected president of Brazil, is the hand-picked successor of the previous president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Like him she came up through the labor movement. She was his chief of staff. There’s a backgrounder on her here.

Cutting Gbagbo Off

Neighboring African states are taking the step of preventing the former leader of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, from accessing the country’s account at the region’s central bank. This continues the process of trying to ease him out.

Gbagbo was defeated in an election on November 28 of last year but so far has refused to vacate the presidency. He continues to hold firm. Most recently he has ordered all UN vehicles to be stopped and searched. It’s unclear what purpose this serves other than harrassment.

Berlusconi’s Sex Scandal

The firestorm of scandal continues to swirl around Italy’s Premier (not to mention financier and media mogul) Silvio Berlusconi. It’s been going on now for more than a week since 18 year old Karima el-Mahroug, a Moroccan-born exotic dancer, revealed that Berlusconi had given her about $10,000 on St. Valentine’s Day when she attended a “soiree” at his villa. el-Mahroug performs under the name “Ruby Rubacuori”, Ruby Heartstealer. Whatever the nature of the relationship between the 74 year old Berlusconi and el-Mahroug it has apparently been going on since she was 17.

Berlusconi claims complete innocence.

The goings on at this party have been described in some detail. The Telegraph, cited above, compares them to the orgies of Caligula, perhaps something of an exaggeration. The Vatican has finally weighed in on the subject, calling for politicians to show “robust morality”. Leading by example might be nice.

Berlusconi is no stranger to scandal. His marriage collapse over allegations of his fondness for young women. He has been indicted for a host of offenses ranging from bribery to accounting fraud and embezzlement to tax evasion. No convictions, hardly a rarity among politicians.

FILED UNDER: The Presidency, World Politics, , , , , , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. André Kenji says:

    Dilma didn´t came from the Labour movement. She came to prominence during the Energy Crisis in the late 1990´s, when she managed the response of the State of Rio Grande do Sul to the energy shortages.

  2. ponce says:

    No mention of the Australian floods?

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    No mention of the Australian floods?

    See the previous Foreign Desk.

    One of the sad things about the floods in Brazil is that there’s been so much loss of life but we’re unlikely to here as much about it up here because the economic impact, i.e. the impact on us, is less.

  4. steve says:

    Politicians staying in office after sex scandals is common here also. Look at our Senate.


  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Look at our Senate.

    Must I? My stomach isn’t as strong as it used to be.

  6. Jack says:

    I lived in France for two years, and one of my good friends there said (regarding President Clinton), “We worry when our President of France does NOT have a mistress.”