Brazil is a true cautionary tale for investors in emerging markets. Brazil has been “emerging” for the past 50 years. I remember clearly going to the Brazilian Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair (designed by the staunch Stalinist architect Oscar Niemeyer, one of the creators of Brasilia). The pavilion had a diorama in which a sleek, huge, mechanized vehicle sliced down trees and cut vast swaths through the green hell of the Amazonian forest, while at the same time building roads and bringing civilization to one of the last frontiers.

This ecologically unfriendly view of the future of Brazil did not proceed, at least not in the ...

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