Thursday, September 9, 2021

Brazil's political crisis in stalemate (Sept. 9, 2021)

For several analysts, the massive Brazilian rallies in support of President Jair Bolsonaro this week demonstrate a dangerous stalemate in the country's political crisis: the president is politically unpopular and unlikely to win an election, but he is also politically protected from impeachment. (See yesterday's post.) Bolsonaro's ongoing attacks against the country's democratic institutions, from the voting system to the Supreme Court have troubled observers who say he could seek to stay in power in the event of an electoral loss. (Vox, Guardian)

"Whatever his motivations, Bolsonaro’s decision to embrace an all-or-nothing strategy shows there is no easy way out of what looks like the most severe constitutional crisis in decades," writes Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly.

"The question now is less one of whether Bolsonaro will further ramp up tensions, but of how he will do so," writes Matthew Taylor at the Aula Blog.

Bolsonaro focused his ire on the Brazilian Supreme Court in his speeches at the rallies on Tuesday, particularly Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who has led investigations against Bolsonaro allies, some of whom have been detained. “Any decision from Mr. Alexandre de Moraes, this president will no longer comply with. The patience of our people has run out,” Bolsonaro said. “For us, he no longer exists.” 

Later in the day he said “I want to tell those who want to make me unelectable in Brazil: Only God removes me from there … There are three options for me: be jailed, killed or victorious. I’m letting the scoundrels know: I’ll never be imprisoned!”

Brazilian Supreme Court Chief Justice Luiz Fux said Bolsonaro’s speeches this week encouraging people to disregard court decisions were an attack on democracy and a crime for Congress to deal with, reports Reuters

Increasingly Bolsonaro has targeted the Supreme Court discursively, a trend that has resonated among his supporters. A qualitative poll among Bolsonaristas at Tuesday's rallies in São Paulo found that the majority consider the country's Supreme Court to be their main enemy, rather than the political opposition. (Globo)

Protesting truckers have blocked highways in more than half of Brazil's states, a move that could potentially cause food and fuel shortages. They initially came out in support of Tuesday's rallies, but have refused to stand down,raising concern that Bolsonaro may have lost control of his supporters after firing them up with incendiary rhetoric, reports the Associated Press.

The trucker protest is in part an answer to Bolsonaro's discourse against the Supreme Court and the country's electronic voting system, reports Reuters, which puts the president in a delicate situation as he tries to defuse the protests without delegitimizing supporters.

More Brazil
  • Bolsonaro temporarily banned social media companies from moderating content this week -- a move that limits their ability to remove his claims that the only way he’ll lose next year’s elections is if the vote is rigged. (See yesterday's briefs.) It is one of the most significant steps by a democratically elected leader to control what can be said on the internet, according to the New York Times.

  • Lost in all of Brazil's scandals and controversies? The Latin America Risk Report has a cheat sheet that covers everything from rachadinha to CPI.
News Briefs

El Salvador
  • El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele has put the country on the brink of an authoritarian abyss, warns Human Rights Watch's José Miguel Vivanco in a New York Times Español essay. Maneuvers carried out by Bukele against the country's judicial power (see Monday's post) resemble those implemented in Venezuela and Nicaragua in recent years, part of a trend of governments that achieve power democratically but then undermine the country's institutions, he writes. 
  • "El Salvador isn't a democracy anymore," Santiago Cantón, former executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, told El Faro. Cantón, who is now director of the Rule of Law program at The Inter-American Dialogue, compares Bukele’s methods with Peru’s Alberto Fujimori and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. The international community must be strict with El Salvador and Nicaragua, he says, or risk a crisis of democracy that could affect the entire continent.

  • El Salvador's official digital wallet, the Chivo, belongs to a private company financed with public funds, reports El Faro. (See Tuesday's post on El Salvador's cryptocurrency experiment)
  • Nicaraguan prosecutors ordered the arrest of Sergio Ramírez, an award-winning novelist who used to be an aide to President Daniel Ortega. Ramírez is the latest victim of a broad crackdown on Ortega critics ahead of November's presidential election. (AFP)
Regional Relations
  • Honduras' November presidential election presents a diplomatic difficulty for the U.S. Biden administration, which must choose between protecting U.S. business interests and condemning the corruption, drug trafficking, and violence that increase migration, argues John Perry in Nacla.
  • Haiti's recent earthquake has created a whole new generation of orphans, who are vulnerable to street gangs and sexual violence. Complicating the response for vulnerable children is the damage sustained by so many of the region’s schools, reports the Guardian.
  • Former Bolivian police chief Rodolfo Montero was arrested for the crimes of genocide, homicide, and serious injuries in relation to the 2019 Senkata massacre. (Telesur)
  • The Mexican Supreme Court decision decriminalizing abortion this week is is likely to bring about a change in legal culture and fewer criminal investigationsm say activists and lawyers. (Guardian, see yesterday's post.)
  • Cuban authorities will reopen the country’s borders starting in mid-November, saying that the country will have vaccinated 90 percent of its population by the beginning of the high season for tourism, reports the Miami Herald.

  • Cuba has begun to inoculate children as young as two years old for Covid-19, using the country's nationally developed vaccines in a bid to get kids back in classrooms, reports CNN.
  • Colombia's Cordoba region is largely under the de facto rule of the Gulf Clan (AGC), which has dominated the area's illicit economies in the wake of the FARC peace accord, writes International Crisis Group's Elizabeth Dickinson in a Twitter thread. "Everything appears quiet in Sur de Cordoba because one bloc has essentially “won” lucrative territorial control."
  • Efforts to open up Colombia’s economy have caused displacement, poverty and violence for Afro-Colombian communities, reports Al Jazeera in a piece that focuses on Buenaventura.
  • Ecuador has reached a new staff-level agreement with the IMF that could result in $1.5 billion in new disbursements this year following promises by President Guillermo Lasso's government to cut spending, reports Reuters.
  • Telenovelas are a unique Latinamerican product that has retained high popularity despite its negative reputation, writes Alberto Barrera Tyszka in New York Times Español.

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

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