Drought, clientalism, fatalism and fear in northeast Brazil

Ethics, Place and Environment 5 (2):123 – 134 (2002)

Northeast Brazil has been targeted for remedial projects to combat drought for more than 100 years, although drought mitigation policies have been mostly ineffective in reducing vulnerability for the majority of the population. In this paper I review some of the historical and contemporary approaches to drought mitigation and examine the efficacy of mitigation through the aperture of contemporary clientalism and the persistence of asymmetric power relations in democratic Brazil. Although the abertura , political opening, and end of a 20-year military dictatorship allowed for improved civil and political rights and public demonstrations, this 'low-intensity' democracy has had few social and economic reforms that have hampered elite interests, minimized inequity, or empowered the poor. Patronage continues to be the dominant tool for survival, especially in the drought-ridden Northeast, where access to scarce state services is extremely competitive and personal connections determine or facilitate access.
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DOI 10.1080/1366879022000020194
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