Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Electoral authority to investigate Bolsonaro (Aug. 3, 2021)

Brazil's Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) opened an investigation into President Jair Bolsonaro for his statements claiming there will be fraud in next year's elections, yesterday. It is the latest in an escalating faceoff between Bolsonaro and Brazil's judiciary.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly insisted that the country's electronic voting system is vulnerable to irregularities, and that he will accept the results of 2022's presidential election only if printed receipts are incorporated into the process. Electoral authorities have noted that the electronic voting system has been in place for 20 years without accusations of significant irregularities. Instead experts say Bolsonaro is setting the scene to reject a potential electoral loss next year, following former U.S. President Donald Trump's playbook. (See yesterday's briefs.)

Bolsonaro promised last week he would present evidence of the alleged electoral fraud, but failed to so in time for yesterday's TSE deadline. In fact, his administration’s order for the Federal Police to find evidence of election fraud from the past 25 years didn’t identify any such examples, reports the Associated Press.

Bolsonaro's call for paper ballots would actually be more vulnerable to fraud, said a group of 18 active and former Supreme Court justices yesterday. "Brazil has eliminated a history of election fraud," they said yesterday, noting that all the steps in the electronic voting system are monitored by political parties, prosecutors, federal police, universities, and the Brazilian Bar Association. (Al Jazeera)

But Bolsonaro's allegations of fraud have resonated among his supporters -- thousands of whom protested in Rio de Janeiro this weekend in support of the president's demand. And yesterday the leaders of the army, navy and air force clubs -- widely seen as voices for former service members -- published a joint statement in support of printed vote receipts and criticizing the current system’s lack of transparency.

A congressional committee will vote Thursday on a proposal pushed by Bolsonaro to introduce paper ballots, reports Reuters.

The TSE also decided to ask Brazil's Supreme Court to investigate whether Bolsonaro committed a crime by attacking the electoral system on social media and threatening Brazil's democracy.

More Brazil
  • Brazil's pandemic policy failures, particularly those related to vaccine purchases, are not just ideological. A steady stream of revelations from a Senate inquiry commission is showing how vaccine shortages are linked to corruption that implicates top Bolsonaro allies, reports The Intercept.
News Briefs

  • A national strike last week in Guatemala, protesting the ouster of a top anti-corruption prosecutor, marked "the most turbulent anti-government protests since the 2015 Guatemalan Spring that ousted then-President Otto Perez Molina from office," reports El Faro. (And more in this piece.)
  • Former prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, who fled the country after his ouster, filed an injunction against his removal yesterday, calling on the Supreme Court to reverse the decision. Opposition parties in Congress filed a separate injunction against the removal last week, as well as articles of impeachment against Porras. (El Faro)
  • And yet, even with an approval rating hovering around 20%, President Alejandro Giammattei seems pretty secure in his job right now, reports Americas Quarterly. Sandoval's departure leaves few independent figures in the country's judicial system. Sandoval told AQ he had information indicating that his removal “was a request from the president himself.”
  • The firing "spells the end of anti-corruption efforts in that country," wrote Stephen G. McFarland in Plaza P├║blica. "But the move also reflects broader resistance by Central American elites to United States support for democracy and rule of law."
  • Guatemala's food crisis has people choosing between migration or death, reports National Geographic. Guatemala has the highest rate of malnutrition in Central America and the sixth-highest in the world. Economic devastation from the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated poverty and hunger, particularly among the Indigenous population.
  • Social media played a pivotal role in catalyzing widely dispersed demonstrations in Cuba last month. There is evidence it was not all spontaneous: "The hashtag #SOSCuba, which served as a major focal point for spreading the word on July 11, appears to have been driven to an extraordinary level of activity from bots and automated accounts based outside of Cuba, retweeting multiple times per second while disguising their footprints to appear as if the posts originated on the island," writes William LeoGrande in World Politics Review, while still emphasizing that this "does not change the irreducible reality of July 11: Thousands of Cubans were discontented enough to come out on the streets and join the protests."
  • After the government temporarily shut down internet access following the protests, U.S. President Joe Biden said his government was assessing how to improve Cuban connectivity. But experts say it’s unclear how internet access could be increased at scale if the host nation is unwilling to cooperate, reports the Guardian.
  • Peruvian President Pedro Castillo's appointment of Guido Bellido as prime minister "has been interpreted by Peruvians in two ways: Castillo has decided to ally himself with the more radical elements of his party, and he is betting on a strategy of confrontation against Congress, which is largely made up of the opposition", writes Andrea Moncada in Americas Quarterly.
  • Violent repression practises used by police in Cali against anti-government protesters, including the use of lethal weapons against protesters, excessive and unlawful use of less lethal weapons such as tear gas, unlawful detentions and torture – are representative of hundreds of reports by protesters and human rights defenders and organizations and illustrate the modus operandi implemented throughout the country, Amnesty International said in a new report.
  • The residents of Fresnillo lead a fearful existence: 96 percent say they feel unsafe, the highest percentage of any city in Mexico, reports the New York Times.
  • A small-scale yerba mate farming association in Paraguay shows how a resurgence in the traditional drink is offering rural communities independence and a sustainable alternative to industrial soy and cattle farming, reports the Guardian.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing

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