Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Brazilian military's controversial parade (Aug. 11, 2021)

Brazil's armed forces staged a parade of troops and armored vehicles through Brasilia's streets yesterday. The convoy was announced just one day earlier, and coincided with a scheduled vote in Congress on a constitutional reform by President Jair Bolsonaro. Critics called the move a “banana republic-style," and said the decision was reminiscent of Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship, for which Bolsonaro, a former army captain, is openly nostalgic. Soldiers arrested a group of protesters who tried to block the convoy.

Experts said the parade had no precedent in the years since the restoration of democracy in 1985. Many lawmakers said the march appeared like  an attempt to intimidate the president's opponents, though government allies said the timing was just an unfortunate coincidence. (Associated Press, AFPGlobo, Guardian, Al Jazeera)

Later yesterday, lawmakers rejected Bolsonaro's proposal to require printed receipts from some electronic ballot boxes in the country's elections -- a major defeat for the president, who has insisted on unsubstantiated claims that the country's 25-year-old electronic voting system is vulnerable to fraud. (Associated Press)

Experts emphasize that the system is robust, and that there have been no credible allegations of irregularities. Nonetheless Bolsonaro has threatened to suspend elections unless paper records of votes are created in parallel, a change experts say could, in fact, weaken the system. Critics believe Bolsonaro is setting the stage to delegitimize next year's presidential elections in the event of a loss, similar to former U.S. President Donald Trump's claims of fraud. (New York Times)

Brazil's electoral tribunal president, Supreme Court Justice Luís Barroso, said the printout idea is “a risky solution to a problem that does not exist.” The electoral court is investigating Bolsonaro for his allegations against the electronic voting system, after the president failed to back his claims with evidence. (See Aug. 3's post.)

"Even if his demands to overhaul the voting system fail, as it seems they will, they are already accomplishing their goal," writes Frida Ghitis in the Washington Post. "By making the accusations, and doing it repeatedly, dozens of times, Bolsonaro is eroding trust in Brazilian democracy."

The military parade is the latest in a series of events in which the government is involving the Armed Forces, Pedro Abramovay, director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Open Society Foundations, told Globo. "There is only one reason why the Armed Forces can be interested in the issue of the printed vote: it is to carry out a coup and threaten democracy."

More Brazil
  • "The parade, beyond the smoke screen, forces us to think about the role of the Armed Forces in times of peace," writes Abramovay in El País. "The militarized Bolsonaro Government is a consequence of the ill-fated experience of the military with democracy. Unable to look in the mirror except to admire their uniforms, tanks or fighter jets and submarines bought from civilian-led governments. Unable to learn from mistakes , as recognizing them goes against military honor, this group of soldiers enters the Government occupying civilian spaces in the middle of a pandemic. And, once again, they act with the expected incompetent arrogance with which they have acted when called upon to matters that, of course, should not compete with the military."
  • Brazil has become a paradigmatic example of poor governance, write Breno Bringel and Jerónimo Giorgi in the New York Times Español. They argue that "opposition to Bolsonaro is now broader and more heterogeneous," as is rejection of the idea of "another period of government whose discourse exalts authoritarianism, genocide and the negation of science, while it destroys life, the environment and even the country's self-esteem."
News Briefs

  • Hundreds of Central American migrants expelled from the U.S. to Mexico have been forced by Mexican authorities into a remote part of Guatemala. Last week the Biden administration began expulsion flights to Mexico, aimed at deterring repeat border crossers, Mexico agreed to accept those flights and said it would allow people to apply for asylum, but migrants say they were instead bused to El Ceibo in Guatemala, a remote region where they now have no place to stay and no way to return to their countries of origin, reports the Washington Post.
  • "U.S. refugee and asylum laws remain woefully inadequate to protect those displaced by climate-related events," writes Marcela García in the Boston Globe. (See yesterday's briefs on climate migrants.)
  • The Darién Gap, a 500,000-hectare section of jungle dividing Panama and Colombia, is a graveyard for migrants (many of them Haitian) attempting to travel to the United States, reports El País. "Here, migration is a WhatsApp message with a single tick, which may or may not ever be answered."
  • UK deportations to Jamaica, including many people who have lived in the UK for most of their lives, have been questioned by human rights campaigners and Jamaican authorities concerned about Covid-19 spread, reports the Guardian.
  • Climate change is widespread, rapid, and intensifying, and some trends are now irreversible, at least during the present time frame, according to the latest much-anticipated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the Working Group's report was nothing less than "a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable."
  • Nicaraguan diplomat Mauricio Diaz was arrested Monday, the latest of 32 people detained in a crackdown against government opponents, reports AFP.
  • The psychologies of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega -- revolutionary leader turned dictator -- and that of his wife -- a ruthless and obsessive operator -- are not enough to explain what has happened in the country. "In order for a dictatorship to grow, there has to be a level of instability and some people besides the dictator who benefit," writes Linda Mannheim in The Nation.
  • Talks between Venezuela's Maduro government and the political opposition, slated to start in Mexico on Friday, are a “narrow” opportunity to agree on an agenda and election timetable for dealing with Venezuela’s humanitarian emergency, opposition leader Leopoldo López told the Financial Times. Opposition parties still haven't agreed on a stance regarding whether they should participate in Congressional elections scheduled for November.
  • A former army lieutenant allegedly recruited Venezuelan soldiers to provide firepower for a gang's bid to take over illegal gold mining operations in southern Venezuela, "revealing the ever more complex web of collaboration between the military and criminal gangs," reports InSight Crime.
Regional Relations
  • Nicaragua has recalled its ambassadors to Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and Costa Rica for "consultations," in retaliation for those countries' withdrawal of their own ambassadors to Nicaragua in response to the crackdown against opponents. (Reuters)
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador came out in support of a journalist threatened by a drug cartel. AMLO is known for his conflictive relationship with the press, but he said death threats that circulated on social media against a television host were unacceptable. Nonetheless, in reality, the government has done little to protect journalists in a country that is one of the most dangerous in the world for the profession, reports the New York Times.
  • In a video that circulated Monday, masked and heavily armed men surround a man seated at a small desk who delivered a message he said was from Rubén Oseguera Cervantes, aka “El Mencho,” leader of the Jalisco New Generation cartel. The message complained that Milenio Television, a national cable news channel associated with a major newspaper chain, was favoring so-called self-defense groups that are battling the Jalisco cartel in Michoacán state, reports the Associated Press.
  • 280 former FARC fighters have been killed since the 2016 peace accords were signed, most assassinated by hitmen in territories disputed by illegal armed groups, reports Gatopardo.
Guadeloupe and Martinique
  • The coronavirus situation is worsening in the French overseas territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe, where hospitals are over capacity with Covid-19 patients, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's Just Caribbean Updates.)
Latin America Daily Briefing

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