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Financial crisis: Brazilian despair bursts into the open

Bankers sign up to open letter decrying the government’s handling of the crisis.

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Jose Olympio Pereira, CEO of Credit Suisse Brazil, is one of the most upbeat bankers I have ever met. Over the decade I have spent in the country, his outlook on the Brazilian economy has consistently been an outlier to the upside.

Olympio has gone through Brazil’s many challenges – its deepest ever recession, popular protests and impeachments – with a view that the glass, while perhaps not quite half full, is at least one-third full and sure to be topped up soon.

So, when I read that Olympio had told a local newspaper that he had “lost hope” with the country’s president Jair Bolsonaro and his response to the pandemic, it was significant.

It was hardly a shock that he had lost hope, given the gravity of the public health situation in the country, but the fact that he said it – publicly – is striking.

And he’s not alone.

In March, he was one of the more than 200 signatories to an open letter decrying the Brazilian government’s handling of the health crisis – and the economy.

Olympio was joined by many heavyweight names from banking, economics and business: Roberto Setubal and Pedro Moreira Salles – Itaú’s co-chairmen – both signed, as did ex-central bank presidents Ilan Goldfajn, Arminio Fraga, Gustavo Loyola and Persio Arida.

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