Monday, June 1, 2020

Brazilian united front against Bolsonaro (June 1, 2020)

Brazilian luminaries from the left and the right have called for a united front to protect Brazilian democracy and lives. The Movimento Estamos Juntos (We’re In This Together Movement) was launched on Saturday, inspired by  Diretas Já – a historic pro-democracy campaign that helped end two decades of military rule in the 1980s, reports the Guardian. A high-profile manifesto with more than 100,000 signatories -- politicians from the right and left as well as celebrities -- urges Brazilians to mobilize in defence of “life, freedom and democracy”

The move reflects increasing concern in Brazil over President Jair Bolsonaro's erratic pandemic response, shunning of social distancing, his support for anti-democracy protests, and a series of criminal investigations involving Bolsonaro family members that the president seems to have sought to thwart.

As investigations involving Bolsonaro, family members and close associates deepen, Bolsonaro has increasingly lashed out and even raised the specter of a constitutional crisis by suggesting that the federal police should not carry out “absurd orders” of the Supreme Court, reports the New York Times.  

Raids last week by federal police (see last Thursday's briefs), part of a Supreme Court probe into the spread of what it calls fake news and the orchestration of defamation campaigns against its justices, seems to have particularly enraged Bolsonaro's inner circle. The president’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, a federal lawmaker, warned that the country was approaching what he called a “moment of rupture.”

Bolsonaro took part in a rally yesterday that called for the Supreme Court to be shut down in retaliation for its investigation into whether Bolsonaro sought to interfere in other police investigations into associates. His participation in protests, without observing social distancing protocols, has become something of a weekend classic. Yesterday he rode a police horse and mingled with supporters without wearing a face mask, reports Al Jazeera.

Pro-Bolsonaro and anti-Bolsonaro protesters clashed in São Paulo yesterday, and riot police fired tear gas in efforts to keep the groups apart, reports AFP.

Supreme Court Justice Celso de Mello, said the president's supporters were seeking a military dictatorship and referenced Hitler's rise to power in a private message reported by Reuters.

The federal police are increasingly at the center of a potential institutional crisis, reports The Intercept, in a deep dive into raids last week carried out both against Bolsonaro's political rivals and his supporters. Bolsonaro reportedly sought to control the Rio de Janeiro division of the federal police, the same one that last week carried out a high-profile raid on Rio de Janeiro governor Wilson Witzel who has become a high profile conservative rival of Bolsonaro.

More Brazil
  • A separate demonstration in Rio de Janeiro protested crimes committed by the police against black people Brazilian favelas, and also referenced George Floyd's death. The protest in Rio de Janeiro called "Black Lives Matter," was interrupted when police used tear gas to disperse people, reports Voice of America.
News Briefs

Regional Relations
  • The United States has delivered two million doses of hydroxychloroquine to Brazil for use in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The two countries are embarking on a joint research effort tostudy whether the drug is safe and effective for the prevention and early treatment of Covid-19, according to a White House announcement yesterday. The drug's use as a treatment or prophylactic for coronavirus is controversial -- beyond scientific debate, hydroxychloroquine has become politically charged as U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro insist on its use. (New York Times)
  • Coronavirus isn't the only infectious disease afflicting Latin American countries, many of which, like Honduras, are also in pitched battles with dengue. And at least nine countries in the region have paused some of their immunization activities, threatening efforts to control diseases such as polio, tuberculosis and measles, reports the New York Times.
  • There is a trend for high-altitude places -- including parts of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia -- to avoid coronavirus contagion, but the cause of the phenomenon remains unclear, reports the Washington Post.
  • Nicaragua's Ortega government insists Covid-19 is under control, but express burials held throughout the night in the country tell a different story, reports the New York Times. Families are told that their loved ones died of pneumonia and — because of fear of contagion — are urged to bury them as soon as possible. The Citizen Observatory, an anonymous group of 90 doctors, epidemiologists and other public health volunteers who formed an underground organization to track coronavirus cases in Nicaragua, puts the coronavirus death toll in Nicaragua at 805. They have counted 3,725 cases as of Saturday.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador brushed off government statistics showing record numbers of calls to a domestic violence hotline in March, comparing them to prank calls. His dismissal downplays the heightened danger women in Mexico -- and around the world -- face in the midst of coronavirus lockdowns, and continues a tone-deaf response to Mexico's tragic rates of gender violence. (New York Times)
  • AMLO said Covid-19 has been tamed in Mexico and is plotting a gradual reopening, but experts and grave diggers are bracing for an alarming rise in cases, reports the Guardian.
El Salvador
  • Tropical Storm Amanda has killed at least seven people in El Salvador, reports Reuters.
  • Colombia will maintain quarantine measures for its three most coronavirus affected cities, including Bogotá, but will start lifting restrictions in the rest of the country. (Reuters)
  • Six months after Bolivian President Evo Morales' ouster, even his critics agree that his "interim" successor Jeannine Áñez has deepened the country's divisions and appears to be using the coronavirus pandemic to further her political ambitions, reports the Guardian.
  • She's not the only one. "It’s increasingly clear that Venezuela’s regime is using the pandemic to strengthen its hold on power," according to the New Yorker.
  • Distance learning is particularly challenging for poor households, where internet access is non-existent or spotty. Venezuela doesn't project returning to physical classrooms before the end of 2020, and connectivity is a major issue, that adds to what already amounted to an educational crisis before the pandemic, reports the Washington Post.
  • A new Honduran law allows the country's security forces to intercept planes suspected of transporting drugs and to participate in more-comprehensive intelligence-sharing with the United States and countries in Latin America. The new legislation paves the way for greater cooperation with the United States to stop drug trafficking, focusing on deterring private jets that transport cocaine from Venezuela to Honduras, reports the Washington Post.
  • In "Who Killed Berta Cáceres? Dams, Death Squads, and an Indigenous Defender’s Battle for the Planet," journalist Nina Lakhani recounts the events surrounding the murder of the Honduran environmental leader. (Jacobin)
  • Four Surinamese opposition parties have formed an alliance that would allow them to end President Desi Bouterse's longtime grip on the country's government. But electoral authorities still haven't announced results of last week's legislative election, and Bouterse, who faces criminal convictions both at home and in the Netherlands — had not conceded defeat, reports the Associated Press.
  • Uruguay has turned into the regional quarantine exception, and has avoided both Covid-19 contagion and deaths. Advantages include a low poverty rate, lack of population density, and its relatively good healthcare system, reports Global Americans.
  • A clandestine network of abortion "doulas" is willing to break Chilean law and face prison to help women obtain abortions, as long as it's medically safe to do so. They are doing it because restrictive laws make legal abortions difficult to obtain. (NBC)
  • Pussy Riot and the Chilean feminist collective Lastesis released a manifesto against police violence and state repression on Friday. It calls on civilians to set the institutions of the state on fire – "in a figurative sense," reports the Guardian.
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... And in these times of coronavirus, when we're all feeling a little isolated, feel especially free to reach out and share. 


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