From today's Financial Times ("Brazil president blames white people for crisis"):
Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva yesterday blamed the global economic crisis on "white people with blue eyes" and said it was wrong that black and indigenous people should pay for white people's mistakes, writes Jonathan Wheatley .
Speaking in Brasília at a joint press conference with Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, Mr Lula da Silva told reporters: "This crisis was caused by the irrational behaviour of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything and now demonstrate that they know nothing."
He added: "I do not know any black or indigenous bankers so I can only say [it is wrong] that this part of mankind which is victimised more than any other should pay for the crisis."
Lula ought to know about the victimization of black and indigenous people. After all, Brazil was the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish black slavery, and as recently as five years ago, Brazil acknowledged that tens of thousands of its indigenous citizens were working as slave laborers. It's interesting that Lula says he doesn't know of any black or indigenous bankers though. Perhaps all the bankers in Brazil are white, but this isn't the case in the United States. We've had African Americans at the highest levels of the financial industry -- for example, Stan O'Neal as CEO of Merrill Lynch, and Don Parsons as a director (and soon to be chairman) of Citigroup. We've also had people of all races and backgrounds involved in originating toxic mortgages -- including Brazilians. In fact, two years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported on a "mostly Brazilian ring that allegedly conspired to defraud people by persuading them to buy homes they couldn't afford" ("How the Subprime Mess Hit Poor Immigrant Groups"). Here's an excerpt from that article:
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Naira Costa, a 27-year-old housekeeper, met her husband at Message of Peace, an evangelical church that is a spiritual and social haven for Brazilians in the Bay Area. When the couple considered buying a house a few years ago, the church's head deacon, Soario Santos, ministered to that need, too.
Mr. Santos, a fellow Brazilian, served the Pentecostal church on nights and weekends. During the day, he worked as a loan officer at a mortgage brokerage owned by a Brazilian immigrant. Mr. Santos and other church officers also working at the same real-estate business routinely approached churchgoers to encourage them to buy homes.
Weak credit and low wages weren't barriers, Ms. Costa recalls. "He told us that a house easily would appreciate $100,000 in a year," enabling the owner to refinance, says Ms. Costa. "We trusted him implicitly. Everyone at the church was buying houses from him."
Today, Ms. Costa and other former Message of Peace parishioners claim that Mr. Santos was a key part of a mostly Brazilian ring that allegedly conspired to defraud people by persuading them to buy homes they couldn't afford. Ms. Costa, the housekeeper, secured a $713,000 sub-prime mortgage. In another instance, a Brazilian baby sitter borrowed $495,000. Now, the home buyers are beset by foreclosures and additional stains on their already-tainted credit.
The graphic above, from a Knight-Ridder article on modern slavery in Brazil, comes from a website called Mongabay.com