Brazil Opens Wide

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RIO DE JANEIRO: Congratulate the Brazilian people for their farsightedness: The current global contagion that has pushed Brazil's government to the brink of disaster has visited equal hardship on its people, yet the nation is poised to reelect President Fernando Enrique Cardoso with the full knowledge that he has even deeper hardship in store. Rarely have the IMF and its usual victims -- ordinary citizens -- been in such agreement.

"The U.S. and the IMF feel there's no better leader for Brazil than Cardoso right now," says TIME business reporter Bernard Baumohl. "But after the election, they're counting on deep budget cuts and austerity measures, and the $30 billion bailout that they're trying to put together will be conditional on that." As always, the economic powers that be are pointing to a light at the end of the tunnel -- an optimism that's selling rather poorly in Indonesia and South Korea right now. But Baumohl says that Brazil is healthy enough -- and vital enough to U.S. interests -- to pull through. "If Brazil falls, Latin America falls, and that will hit the U.S. hard. Ultimately, Brazil won't fail because the U.S. won't let it."