Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Bolsonaro's intolerance and appeal (Aug. 1, 2018)

Right-wing firebrand Jair Bolsonaro is known for violent and disparaging remarks about everybody from the LGBT community, to women, to black Brazilians. In his latest outburst this week, Bolsonaro said there was no need for Brazil to feel guilty for it's past as a slave importing country -- and that there is no historical debt to black Brazilians.

"What historical debt are you talking about? I didn't send anyone into slavery," he said, before going on to insist that Portuguese traders were not responsible for Brazil's trans-Atlantic slave industry, but that black people "themselves handed over the slaves." (Al Jazeera)

Bolsonaro has about 17 percent support for October's presidential elections, and is a frontrunner in polls that exclude former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The laundry list of offensive comments range from telling a congresswoman she did not deserve to be raped by him to praising a military officer who tortured prisoners under the last dictatorship.

Bolsonaro and his followers have been particularly virulent towards gays, and push the notion that "LGBT people are actively attempting to convert Brazilian children to be gay in order to molest them," reports The Intercept.

Nonetheless, the seven-term senator has sought to take a more inclusive tone since officially launching his presidential campaign in July, reports NPR. A former military officer, Bolsonaro has spent most of his political career on the fringe. The piece examines how disenchantment with traditional politicians has pushed support for Bolsonaro into the mainstream. He has proved adept at exploiting social media and changed political codes, writes Carol Pires in a New York Times Español op-ed

In fact, Bolsonaro's candidacy is quite dependent on social media, and will have little access to mainstream media in the campaign, explains El País. Bolsonaro is characterized in several pieces as uncomfortable in face to face interactions with journalists.

But, though he presents himself as an anti-politician, he's a classic populist, according to Pires, who argues his ascendancy is a step back for Brazil. 

Rumor has it that Bolsonaro's potential running mate could be Luiz Philippe de Orléans e Bragança, a direct descendant of Dom Pedro II, Brazil's last emperor. Though he's looking to enter politics democratically, he says Brazil's monarchy was based on liberal principles that could be applied today, reports Americas Quarterly.

More from Brazil
  • Investor favorite Gerardo Alckmin remains third in voter preferences ahead of October's election, trailing behind leftist Ciro Gomes and Bolsonaro, reports Bloomberg.
  • Brazil's largest gang -- the Primeiro Comando da Capital cartel, or PCC -- is looking to boost recruiting with a "big brother" program and waiving a monthly fee for new members. The strategy was revealed by a police wiretap that shows how the group is seeking to grow in order to maintain power against rival gangs, reports the Washington Post.
  • Brazil's Supreme Court will be hearing a case challenging the criminalization of abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Human Rights Watch will speak this week, and said Brazil’s abortion laws are incompatible with its human rights obligations.
  • The case of two graffiti taggers killed by São Paulo police has drawn attention to the city's risky graffiti culture and police lethality, according to the Guardian.
News Briefs

Environmental defenders
  • Environmental activist assassinations have become increasingly frequent, especially in Latin America. Defenders are at risk in the region because of a confluence of abundant natural resources, influence and power of criminal groups, and negligent governments, warns Rubén Albarrán in a New York Times Español op-ed. (See last Wednesday's post on Global Witness' latest report.)
  • Slaughters of Brazilian land activists have been particularly notable, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • Trees have suffered collateral damage as a result of Colombia's peace accord. Record levels of deforestation took place since 2016: a combination of FARC demobilization, eliminating their strict controls aimed at maintaining forest cover in order to hide from authorities, and the power vacuum created that has pushed up coca cultivation and cash crops, reports the Huffington Post. (See Jan. 30's briefs on a suit filed by a group of young Colombians against the government regarding their environmental rights.)
  • Nine people were killed in a gun attack at a billiard hall in Colombia's Norte de Santander province, along the Venezuelan border. (BBC)
  • Nicaragua's implosion was predictable, though the timing was not, argues Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly. And poor prospects for economic growth in the region mean "we can expect similar political crises and protest to emerge elsewhere, particularly where citizens feel open dialogue is no longer an option," he writes, pointing to Honduras and Bolivia as potential examples.
  • "Nicaragua’s institutions have collapsed over the last few years," Amnesty International's Americas Director Erika Guevara-Rosas told Americas Quarterly. "Impunity and corruption are feeding into this crisis as well. Even if they call for elections tomorrow, Daniel Ortega will probably win. Any solution must rebuild institutions and guarantee that Nicaragua can hold elections."
  • Venezuela's fractured opposition is advancing towards a new, united plan of action, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles told the Associated Press.

  • Families who endured forced separation at the U.S. border tell of lasting trauma that adds on to the violence they fled in their home countries. (Guardian)
  • Juan Gabriel Tokatlian analyzes Argentina's move to use military troops in internal security, focused on drug trafficking. The measures are likely to be highly ineffective and shy away from a necessary real reform of the country's military, he writes in Clarín. The changes to the military role are in keeping with internal security in the region, but involvement of the armed forces has not proved effective and is almost always accompanied by human rights violations, note experts cited by Chequeado. (See July 23's briefs.)
  • Chilean prosecutors are examining over a hundred cases of alleged sexual abuse by Catholic Church officials -- half of the victims were underage when the reported offenses took place. Authorities have carried out surprise raids on Church offices, looking for evidence of crimes the Church has not reported to authorities. (New York Times and Reuters)
  • Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador's plan to slash salaries for government officials could cause an exodus in the Central Bank and Finance Ministry, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See July 26's briefs.)
Gender norms
  • Carrefour apologized for an ad campaign urging Argentine buyers to purchase toy trucks for boys and pink kitchens for girls -- under the slogans: "con C de campeón" and "con C de cocinera" respectively. (Página 12)

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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