Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Brazil's foreign ministry requested Weintraub's U.S. visa (July 29, 2020)

Brazil's foreign ministry requested a U.S. visa for Abraham Weintraub, on the same day that he resigned from the Brazilian education ministry. (O Globo, Folha de S. Paulo) The timing is key, as the request was made using information from Weintraub's diplomatic passport, granted to members of the cabinet, and at a time when travelers from Brazil were banned from entering the U.S. due to coronavirus contagion concerns. The information was gleaned from responses to two Access to Information requests, which also showed the Weintraub never returned his diplomatic passport, adding to previous suspicions that he used it to subsequently enter the U.S. 

Weintraub left the government in disgrace in June -- after he was caught on tape at a cabinet meeting screaming that Supreme Court justices should be arrested. Some commentators linked his quick exit from the country to an ongoing Supreme Court investigation into online defamation and disinformation campaigns involving Bolsonaro allies and relatives. Weintraub retains President Jair Bolsonaro's firm support -- Bolsonaro has nominated him to an executive director position in the World Bank. (See June 22's post.) The association representing staff at the World Bank opposed the appointment due to Weintraub's past racial comments and other concerns. (See June 26's briefs.)

More Brazil
  • Brazilian music legend Caetano Veloso perturbed by Bolsonaro supporters' embrace of military dictatorship, reports the Guardian.
News Briefs

  • The coronavirus pandemic is undermining democratic norms that were already under strain in Latin America, according to the New York Times, which cites Bolivia, El Salvador, St. Kitts and Nevis, alongside Venezuela and Nicaragua. "Leaders ranging from the center-right to the far left have used the crisis as justification to extend their time in office, weaken oversight of government actions and silence critics — actions that under different circumstances would be described as authoritarian and antidemocratic but that now are being billed as lifesaving measures to curb the spread of the disease."
  • Across the region, governments are turning to pensions as a lifeline to deal with current economic pain, in the midst of recession and pandemic. "But experts caution that loosening pension withdrawal rules could carry significant long-term risks – and may be more a sign of increased political instability than a sound economic response to the crisis," writes Emilie Sweigart at Americas Quarterly.
  • A record number of land defenders were killed around the world last year -- and Colombia and the Philippines accounted for half of the 212 people murdered, according to this year's Global Witness Report. In addition, campaigners expressed concerns that slow or deliberate inaction from governments and corporations to protect vulnerable communities from Covid-19 has led to higher infection rates, raising fears of opportunistic attacks on defenders, reports the Guardian. Deaths more than doubled in Colombia, where 64 land defenders were killed last year. Though violence in Colombian overall has fallen since a 2016 peace deal between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels and the government, so-called "social leaders" continue to be threatened, attacked and killed - many in cases which remain unsolved, notes Reuters.
  • Colombian President Iván Duque rejected a call for Cuban medical aid by Medellín's mayor. Duque said Colombia is prepared to deal with the coronavirus pandemic with its own doctors, and said foreign doctors should only be called on in case of "extreme need." (Infobae)
  • "The Maduro regime has the opposition in a familiar bind: divided over next steps, with support for the leadership flagging," Geoff Ramsey told NPR. "While it’s in Maduro’s interest to weaken the opposition, he is also aware of the benefit of maintaining limited spaces for political participation. This stokes natural divisions among opposition parties, while also allowing Maduro to claim a veneer of democratic legitimacy." (Venezuela Politics and Human Rights)
  • Venezuelan opposition parties, judicially intervened and run by Maduro allies, are scrambling to find candidates to run in December’s congressional election, according to opposition leaders and activists, reports Reuters.
  • The U.S. warned yesterday that elections planned in Venezuela later this year would be deeply fraudulent, reports Reuters.
  • The U.S. imposed sanctions on two former Maduro government officials, barring them from traveling to the United States over accusations they were involved in significant corruption, reports Reuters.
  • At least 21 Nicaraguan doctors were purged from their jobs at public hospitals -- apparently in retaliation for calling attention to the coronavirus pandemic in the country. Nearly all of the fired doctors signed public letters asking the government to confront the coronavirus threat and calling for protective equipment for health-care workers, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Mexico's Supreme Court will begin hearing a potentially landmark case today that could lead to national decriminalization of abortion. The case involves an injunction granted in the eastern state of Veracruz, which ordered the local legislature to remove articles from its criminal code pertaining to abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, reports the Guardian. Pro-choice activists say the court’s ruling could set a precedent which would enable further injunctions ordering other state legislatures to take action on abortion.
  • The Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) head --  Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias "El Mencho" -- reportedly built himself a private hospital, reports the Guardian. The cartel has been flexing its muscles recently, with a brazen Mexico City attack on the capital's security chief and  a viral social media video purportedly showing scores of heavily armed gang members. (See July 14's post.)
  • Covid-19 has disrupted global food supplies -- rice particularly. The resulting volatility has created market opportunities for smaller producers, such as Guyana, to increase production to meet the growing demand, reports Forbes.
  • Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has reshuffled key parts of his cabinet, replacing his interior chief and five other ministers, yesterday. It's the second reshuffle in nine months, as the president faces the combined negative effects of massive social protests and the coronavirus pandemic, reports Reuters.
  • More than 1 million Santiago residents emerged from lockdown yesterday, reports EFE.
  • Ecuador is on alert due to the appearance of a huge fleet of mostly Chinese-flagged fishing vessels off its Galapagos Islands, reports the BBC. Their presence has already raised the prospect of serious damage to the delicate marine ecosystem, reports the Guardian.

I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always.


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