Brazil / by Alistair Galloway

President Dilma Rousseff’s odds of avoiding impeachment improved towards the end of the month. On 30 December, the federal government stated that as of 1 January, the minimum wage would be raised by 11.6 per cent, to BRL 880 per month. A United Nations (UN) official urged the Brazilian government as well as mining companies to step up efforts to improve access to drinking water. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on 15 December that Brazil registered 2,782 cases of babies with microcephaly this year, after only 147 cases were registered in 2014. In December, severe flooding caused by El Niño forced 100,000 people in Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil to evacuate their homes. The Brazilian energy corporation Petrobras denied a report on 11 December that stated that the company was going to sell a 10 per cent stake of its Libra offshore oil prospect. On 16 December, Fitch downgraded Brazil’s investment-grade rating to BB+, making it the second credit agency to do so in three months. Brazilian newspaper Valor Econômico reported that Wal-Mart Stores Inc may close around 30 of its stores in Brazil in 2016. The Brazilian Association of Shopping Mall Store Owners (ALSHOP) said on 28 December that Christmas sales for 2015 were the lowest in a decade.