Brazil 2016 – 18

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These 5 Facts Explain Brazil’s Crippling Scandals
(TIME) 24 July 2015
See also Brazil 2013-2015
Rio 2016 Olympics

Accused of corruption, popularity near zero – why is Temer still Brazil’s president?
Michel Temer may escape impeachment, but the ongoing political crisis undermines democracy and opens the door to authoritarian hardliners
(The Guardian) If Brazil’s recent decline could be plotted in the falling popularity of its presidents, Michel Temer represents the bottom of the curve.In 2010, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ended his second term with an 80% approval rating. In March 2016 – four months before she was impeached – his protege and successor Dilma Rousseff’s administration had a 10% rating.
Last month, the government of Temer, Rousseff’s former vice-president, plunged to 3% in one poll. Among under 24-year-olds, Temer’s approval hit zero.
Temer has been charged with corruption, racketeering and obstruction of justice. Yet there have been none of the huge, anti-corruption street protests that helped drive Rousseff’s impeachment on charges of breaking budget rules. (17 October 2017)

9 October
Brazil’s far-right frontrunner Bolsonaro says he will rule with ‘authority not authoritarianism’
After his first round victory, Jair Bolsonaro tries to allay fears that Brazil could lurch back towards dictatorship under his command
(The Guardian) Bolsonaro – who has pledged to scrap Brazil’s environment ministry, open indigenous reserves to mining and ditch the Paris climate accord – also prevailed in the Amazon states of Roraima, Acre and Rondônia, with more than 62%, and in Mato Grosso, with 60%.
During a visit to the Amazon region in April, Bolsonaro praised Donald Trump’s approval of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines (“No messing around with the environment or the indigenous. Problem sorted!”) and told the Guardian he would take similar steps and target environmental groups operating in Brazil.
“This cowardly business of international NGOs like WWF and so many others from England sticking their noses into Brazil is going to end! This tomfoolery stops right here!” Bolsonaro said. “We’re in Brazil here: Great Brazil just like the Great America of our dear Trump.”

7 October
Brazil election: Jair Bolsonaro makes Trumpian pledge as poll shows big lead
Rightwinger 15 points ahead as he rallies supporters with ‘make Brazil great again’ slogan
(The Guardian) The far-right frontrunner to become the next president of Latin America’s largest democracy has vowed to make Brazil great again, as election-eve polls gave him a commanding lead in what many view as the most important election in its history.
“Let’s make Brazil Great! Let’s be proud of our homeland once again!” Jair Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former paratrooper notorious for his hostility to black and gay people, the environment and the left, proclaimed in a Trumpian live broadcast to his seven million Facebook followers on Saturday night.
“Together we are going to change Brazil!”
With just hours to go until 147 million Brazilians choose their next leader on Sunday, polls gave Bolsonaro a 15-point lead over his closest rival, the Workers’ party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad, with about 40% of intended votes.
That would not be enough to avoid a second-round showdown with the leftist on 28 October, since an outright majority is required for a win. “It is unlikely that this election will be decided in the first-round,” said Glauco Peres, a political scientist from the University of São Paulo.

5 October
Brazilian Democracy on the Brink
By Robert Muggah, co-founder and research director of Instituto Igarapé and a co-founder and principal of the SecDev Group.
(Project Syndicate) After years of corruption scandals, economic malaise, and deepening political polarization, Brazilians have lost faith in the promise of democracy, and could soon elect a dangerous authoritarian to the presidency. Before going to the polls on October 7, Brazilians should understand exactly what a vote for Jair Bolsonaro would mean for the future of their country.
Not since the restoration of democracy in 1985 has a Brazilian election been so contentious and unpredictable. At stake is the presidency, but also positions for 27 state governors, 54 senators and nearly 1,600 elected officials. Although 69% of Brazilians have faith in democracy, more than half admit they would “go along” with a non-democratic government so long as it “solved problems.” Despite efforts by a new generation of young leaders working to restore faith in democracy, Brazilians are ranked as the least trusting and most pessimistic people in Latin America today. And now, the rise of digital propaganda and fake news is making a bad situation much worse.
Among the crop of presidential candidates in this cycle, a few thrive on division, while most – including Marina Silva, the only woman in the race – advocate a middle ground. Unfortunately, the populists are ascendant, and the pragmatists have struggled to break through.

1 October
The Decline and Fall of Brazil’s Political Establishment
Whether or Not Bolsonaro Wins the Presidency, a Transformation Is Underway
(Foreign Affairs) This October, Brazilians will go to the polls to elect a new president, and the country could become the next democracy to fall in the populist wave that has been sweeping the globe. Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right nationalist member of Congress known for making racist and chauvinistic comments, is currently leading in many polls and may very well win a second-round runoff.
At first glance, it may seem strange that a country once hailed as one of the most inclusive democracies in the developing world could elect a president who has openly attacked the rights of gay people, women, and Afro-Brazilians and who has been an apologist for military dictatorship and torture. Yet Bolsonaro’s rise makes sense when one considers the backdrop of Brazil’s culture of political corruption.

7 September
Brazil presidential election thrown into chaos after front-runner stabbed
(Reuters) – Brazil’s presidential race was thrown into chaos on Friday with the far-right front-runner Jair Bolsonaro in serious but stable condition in an intensive care unit after being stabbed at a rally. … The attack further clouds Brazil’s most unpredictable election in three decades. …
Running as the law-and-order candidate, Bolsonaro has positioned himself as the anti-politician, though he has spent nearly three decades in Congress.
He has long espoused taking a radical stance on public security in Brazil, which has more homicides than any other country, according to U.N. statistics, and has openly praised Brazil’s military dictatorship, which he has said should have killed more people.
Bolsonaro has stirred controversy with comments denigrating women, gay, black and indigenous people.

3-4 September
What Was Lost in Brazil’s Devastating Museum Fire
Two hundred years of work—and millions of priceless specimens—have been destroyed in a preventable tragedy.
(The Atlantic) the museum’s ruins could be seen as a testament to neglect. The burned building was the largest natural-history museum in Latin America, but it had never been completely renovated in its 200-year history. It had long suffered from obvious infrastructure problems including leaks, termite infestations, and—crucially—no working sprinkler system. Recognizing these problems in the 1990s, museum staff began planning to move the collection into a different site, but without stable funding, those plans proceeded in fits and starts.
Brazil National Museum blaze in Rio blamed on austerity
(The Guardian) While the cause of the blaze is still under investigation, government cuts and inadequate fire protection systems have been cited as key factors. Rio’s fire chief, Roberto Robaday, said the two hydrants nearest the museum were dry, delaying efforts to douse the flames.
In recent years, the government has spent billions on the Olympics and major construction projects that generated kickbacks for politicians, but slashed spending on culture and education in the name of austerity.

“It was a foretold tragedy”–Fire destroys Brazil’s National Museum and its prized science collections
(Science) A fire at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro has destroyed one of country’s most important scientific collections. No one was injured in the fire, which broke out after the museum had closed on Sunday evening. But the blaze ravaged the museum’s massive archives and collections, numbering around 20 million items by some estimates. The museum had no sprinkler system, and only limited water was available from fire hydrants when fire fighters arrived.
In recent years budget woes had plagued the museum, and scientists had warned as early as 2004 of dangerous wiring and a lack of fire protection.
“It’s an irreparable loss, not only for Brazilian science but for the world. The building can be reconstructed, restored and everything else, but the collections can never be replaced. Two centuries of science and culture are lost forever”, said Sergio Alex Azevedo, a paleozoologist and former director at the museum.
The full extent of the damage isn’t yet clear. Some vertebrate specimens and some of the botany collection were housed in a separate building that was not affected by the fire. But millions of specimens, including the museum’s globally important invertebrate collection, were destroyed. Aerial images showed collapsed roofs, with piles of ashes and rubble inside the exterior walls that were left standing. The interior of the building was mostly wood, and safety upgrades were difficult to make because of federal rules governing historically protected sites. (The building was built in 1808 as the official residence of the Portuguese royal family in Brazil.)
The Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) managed the museum with funds from the federal government, and many scientists blamed chronic underfunding for the disaster. “We all knew something like this was going to happen sooner or later; it was just a matter of time,” said anthropologist Walter Neves, a retired professor at the University of Sao Paulo, who described the Luzia skull. “The museum was completely abandoned, left to rot by the disdain and carelessness of public authorities. I am in complete grief,” he said. (The Luzia skull was collected in the 1970s, but remained forgotten at the museum until Neves found it 20 years later. It was kept in a metal case, so researchers say there’s a possibility it may have survived the fire.)

Gwynne Dyer: Bye-bye Lula
On Sunday, Brazil’s top electoral court ruled that “Lula”, former president Luiz Inácio da Silva, cannot run in the presidential election this October.
He served two terms as president (2003-2011), he dutifully waited out the following two terms, and his Workers’ Party (PT) has nominated him for the presidency again. Opinion polls give him 39 per cent support, more than twice as much as any other candidate. However, Lula is in jail in the southern city of Curitiba, serving a twelve-year sentence for corruption, and he is not getting out any time soon.
The bad news is that he is probably guilty, perhaps not of the specific offence he has already been convicted for, but of four other charges of money laundering, influence peddling and obstruction of justice that are still pending. ..there is plenty of evidence that Lula engaged in other kinds of dodgy fund-raising, not to benefit himself, but to buy the cooperation of other parties in Brazil’s congress, where there was a plethora of small parties and his PT never had a majority. This was illegal, but it was perfectly normal political practice when he became president in 2003.
That’s how Lula pushed through radical measures like the ‘bolsa familial’, a regular payment to poor Brazilians (provided that their children had an 85 percent attendance record at school and had received all their vaccinations) that lifted 35 million people out of poverty. Brazil’s economy boomed, and when he left office in 2011 with an 83% approval rating, Brazilians were both richer and more equal than ever before.

4 April
Brazil’s top court ruled that former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva can be sent to prison while he continues to appeal his corruption conviction.
It’s an explosive decision that appears to quash Mr. da Silva’s bid to return to power. The 72-year-old is a towering and divisive figure in his country’s politics — with a considerable lead in the polls for October’s presidential election. Mr. da Silva has called his prosecution a ploy to keep him off the ballot.

24 January
Upending Brazil’s Presidential Race, Court Upholds Ex-Leader’s Conviction
A Brazilian appeals court on Wednesday upheld a corruption conviction against former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, jeopardizing his quest to win a third term in office and raising the prospect that Mr. da Silva, Brazil’s most popular politician, could be behind bars when ballots are cast in October.
The ruling was a major victory for prosecutors in what may be the highest-stakes case in the yearslong showdown between Brazil’s judiciary and the political elite. Prosecutors have portrayed Mr. da Silva, who has also been charged in six other corruption cases, as a linchpin of Brazil’s endemically corrupt political system.

2017

27 June
(The Economist) Scandal in Brazil: Temer tantrum Michel Temer was charged with bribe-taking this week. It is the first such charge against a sitting Brazilian president. The administration of Mr Temer, who protests his innocence, was already the most unpopular on record. But for the case against him to proceed, the charges must be approved by two-thirds of lower-house deputies. The president is still backed by enough congressmen to make that improbable, writes our Brazil correspondent
The Corruption Charges Against Brazil’s President
Michel Temer is accused of accepting bribes, but the country’s Congress will decide if he ultimately faces trial.
(The Atlantic) The charges come a month after the release of an audio recording of a conversation between Temer and Joesley Batista, the chairman of JBS, Brazil’s largest meatpacker, in which Temer can apparently be heard approving bribes. Batista, who presented the recording to prosecutors as part of a plea deal, accused Temer of negotiating millions of dollars in illegal campaign donations for his ruling party, Brazilian Democratic Movement. Though Temer is the latest Brazilian leader to face corruption allegations, he is hardly the first. The country’s massive corruption scandal has implicated virtually every member of its political class, including dozens of lawmakers and a third of Temer’s cabinet. More than 90 people have been convicted.As I previously reported, if Temer is forced to step down, then House Speaker Rodrigo Maia, a Temer ally who is also implicated in the country’s scandal, would become president in the interim.

8 June
Brazil’s Argentina Moment
By Filipe Campante and Dani Rodrik
(Project Syndicate) Brazil’s economy has been in free fall, a casualty of years of economic mismanagement and the vast corruption scandal that has engulfed the country’s political and business establishment – and which now threatens to bring down the second president in as many years. It may seem hard to focus on policy developments amid the political and economic turmoil, but the fact remains that Brazil must overcome fundamental challenges if it is to lay the groundwork for sustainable growth. Few loom as large as the country’s fiscal woes.

29 May
The Genocide of Brazil’s Indians
Unless there is a public outcry in defense of Brazil’s indigenous people, they will continue to die — cut off from their lands, officially silenced, murdered, ravaged by malnutrition and disease — and the genocide will be complete.
(NYT Op-ed) Every week seems to bring reports of a new atrocity committed against indigenous people in some remote part of the country. But nothing seems to shock our society anymore. Not even when, a few weeks ago, a 1-year-old from the Manchineri tribe was shot in the head.
These attacks are part of a larger pattern of abuse, marginalization and neglect. Since 2007, 833 Indians have been murdered and 351 have committed suicide, according to the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health — rates far above the national average. Among children, the mortality rate is two times higher than in the rest of the Brazilian population.

27 May
Brazil’s Crisis: How Fighting Corruption Could Imperil Political Stability
(NYT) On Wednesday, Mr. Temer deployed the military in the streets of the capital, Brasília, after thousands of protesters clashed with the police. Although the defense minister said the troops had been sent merely to “restore order,” many saw the move as a sign of profound insecurity from an already weak government.
Political science suggests this is an example of how the “islands of honesty” in corrupt systems — like independent prosecutors and courts with the willingness and authority to enforce the rule of law — can clash with networks of entrenched corruption, both provoking and spoiling efforts by political elites to protect themselves.
The politicians who pushed for Ms. Rousseff’s impeachment appear to have wrongly assumed that the powerful prosecutor’s office and judiciary would fall in line, and that a Temer government would be able to shut down or limit the corruption investigation.
That has not happened. The corruption prosecutions have continued under Mr. Temer’s presidency, and have focused on some of the most powerful people in the country.

22 May
Brazil president retreats from attempts to suspend investigation
(BBC) Brazil’s President Michel Temer has asked the Supreme Court to proceed with an investigation against him for obstruction of justice and corruption.
His lawyers say that a secret recording that appears to incriminate him has been edited 70 times.
On Saturday Mr Temer filed a petition at the Supreme Court to have the investigation suspended.
But his lawyers now say they want the investigation to go ahead to have the president’s name cleared.
How Brazil’s New Political Crisis Might Play Out: QuickTake Q&A
(Bloomberg) Brazil plunged back into crisis when the Supreme Court authorized an investigation into President Michel Temer on accusations of passive corruption and obstruction of justice. The allegations are the latest development in Operation Carwash, a sprawling corruption probe that has implicated many of the country’s business and political elite and helped bring down Temer’s predecessor, Dilma Rousseff. Temer has repeatedly denied the allegations, but several opposition legislators have called for impeachment, as has Brazil’s influential bar association, the OAB

11 May
Brazil’s ex-president Lula decries persecution as he faces corruption charges in court
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the most popular president in Brazilian history, was questioned by Sérgio Moro, a national hero for jailing the rich and powerful

10 May
Brazil’s archaeologists join fight to preserve country’s ancient lands
The plan, to be debated by Congress on Wednesday, would roll back licensing rules for infrastructure projects, making it easier for construction companies to bulldoze sites of ancient Amazonian civilisations before they have been excavated.
Critics argue this is a new front in a battle for the country’s identity, since it could literally bury irreplaceable records of indigenous civilisations and reinforce the widely held but incorrect view that Brazil’s history began with settlement by Europeans.
“We draw upon the past to build our identity as a pluralist nation. This identity is now at risk, being sidelined by the image of a white and racist country,” archaeology lecturers from the Federal University of Western Pará wrote in a letter to congressmen.
Historians believe more than six million people lived in the Amazon forest before the arrival of predominantly Portuguese and Spanish explorers, gold miners and slavers, whose guns and viruses wiped out the vast majority of the native population over the following centuries.
Studies of pot fragments, black earth and contours of moats and walls suggest some of these communities were far more advanced than the later Victorian-era stereotype of “jungle savages” suggested.
[Stone age etchings found in Amazon basin as river levels fall — Drought in Brazil reveals engravings up to 7,000 years old – evidence of ancient civilisation]

23 April
Stadium deals, corruption and bribery: the questions at the heart of Brazil’s Olympic and World Cup ‘miracle’
The two mega-events were framed as a reason for Brazilians to be proud of a modern and forward-looking country; instead the economy has been shattered and a supreme court investigation keeps unearthing unsavoury allegations
Beyond the debate about the use of the stadiums, legacy and the projection of a young nation, it was the police that took centre stage as soon as athletes from all over the world left the country. Over the seven months that followed, politicians would be arrested and formally accused, while sports officials, judges and many of the venues would be the target of police operations.
What began as an investigation into the former state oil company Petrobras in 2014 soon also became a criminal process about the organisation of the two mega-events, paid for mostly with public funds and presented to citizens as a reason to be proud. The latest release of official documents by the Brazilian federal supreme court, seen by the Observer, shows that the venues were not only cathedrals of new world records but are alleged to have channelled millions of dollars worth of bribes. Brazil’s supreme court opened investigations into around 100 politicians, based on hundreds of hours of testimonies by past and present executives at the construction and chemicals conglomerate Odebrecht.

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