Posts Tagged ‘Brazil’

Accused of corruption, Temer is still Brazil’s president with approval ratings near zero…

October 19, 2017

Michel Temer may escape impeachment, but the ongoing political crisis undermines democracy and opens the door to authoritarian hardliners

Brazilian President Michel Temer attends a celebration of small enterprise at Planalto Palace in Brasilia on 4 October, 2017. He faces charges of corruption, racketeering and obstruction of justice.
 President Michel Temer attends a celebration of small business at Planalto Palace in Brasília earlier this month. He faces charges of corruption, racketeering and obstruction of justice. Photograph: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

If Brazil’s recent decline could be plotted in the falling popularity of its presidents, Michel Temer represents the bottom of the curve.

In 2010, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ended his second term with an 80% approval rating. In March 2016 – four months before she was impeached – his protege and successor Dilma Rousseff’s administration had a 10% rating.

Last month, the government of Temer, Rousseff’s former vice-president, plunged to 3% in one poll. Among under 24-year-olds, Temer’s approval hit zero.

Temer has been charged with corruption, racketeering and obstruction of justice. Yet there have been none of the huge, anti-corruption street protests that helped drive Rousseff’s impeachment on charges of breaking budget rules.

And unlike Rousseff, Temer has retained the support of financial markets who like the austerity measures he has introduced, such as privatising government services, a 20-year cap on expenditure and a planned pensions overhaul.

There are signs of economic recovery. But spending has been so pared to the bone that some basic functions of the state are now at risk.

Critics say Temer’s austerity drive hurts the poor more than the rich. According to a survey by Oxfam Brasil, richer Brazilians pay proportionally less tax than the poor and middle classes and the richest 5% earn the same as the rest of the population put together. Yet the highest rate of income tax is just 27.5% .

Markets don’t care much about inequality, but the damaging graft allegations against the president and his allies also threaten to inflict further damage on the country’s institutions.

Temer seems likely to survive this latest crisis – he is expected to win a second vote in the lower house of congress this week on whether to suspend him for a trial – but trust in Brazil’s political leaders has been drastically undermined.

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That lack of trust is feeding support for an authoritarian solution to the crisis – which could have serious consequences in next year’s presidential elections.

The lower house of congress first voted not to suspend the president for a trial after Temer was charged with corruption, shortly after his government agreed to spend $1.33bn on projects in the states of lawmakers who were due to vote, according to independent watchdog Open Accounts.

Many of those lawmakers are allied with powerful agribusiness and evangelical Christian lobbies, and face their own graft investigations. Environmentalists say Temer’s administration is reducing Amazon protection in return for their support.

“Our country has been kidnapped by a band of unscrupulous politicians,” former supreme court justice Joaquim Barbosa said afterwards.

Temer has since been charged with obstruction of justice; along with six leading figures from his party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, he was charged with racketeering.

Janot has also filed charges against Lula, Rousseff and leading members of their Workers’ party – former allies of Temer’s PMDB – and said both parties were part of a criminal organisation that for 15 years had accepted bribes for decisions relating to ports, airports, droughts, oil rigs, tax breaks and hydroelectric plants in the Amazon.

Former prosecutor general Rodrigo Janot – who unveiled the charges against the three former presidents – said Temer’s party abandoned Rousseff’s governing coalition because it had failed to stop the graft investigation, which in turn led to the lower house of congress approving impeachment proceedings.

“All the members of his criminal organisation, independent of the nucleus they belonged to, had a common interest that united them,” Janot wrote. “The maximum, undue economic advantage for themselves and the others, independent of whether such business attended the public interest or not.”

All of the accused have denied the accusations. Temer has said he is the victim of a conspiracy.

As supreme court justice Luís Barroso told foreign journalists recently in Rio, formidable interests are protecting themselves.

“These people are powerful, they have allies, partners and accomplices everywhere, at the highest echelons, in the powers of the Republic, in the press and where one would least imagine,” he said.

But 78% of Brazilians support the graft investigation. And their disillusionment over the way it is playing out at the highest levels opens a dangerous gap for populists and extremists in next year’s presidential elections.

Lula is seeking a return to the presidency in 2018 – and currently leads polling, but he has been handed nearly a sentence of nearly 10 years in prison for corruption and money laundering, and may well be ruled ineligible to stand.

A likely rightwing candidate is João Doria, the flamboyant, multimillionaire mayor of São Paulo. Like Donald Trump, he is a former host of Brazil’s version of the TV show The Apprentice, only assumed power last January, and has no prior administrative experience.

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/17/accused-of-graft-popularity-near-zero-so-why-is-brazils-president-still-in-office

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Amazon’s Move in Brazil Rattles Some Online Retail Stocks

October 13, 2017

Bloomberg

By Julie Verhage

  • Companies exposed to tech giant’s threat taking a hit
  • Online trader MercadoLibre declines as much as 8 percent

The “Amazon effect” on retailers reaches across borders.

Shares of a several e-commerce companies listed in the U.S. and Brazil are falling on speculation Amazon.com Inc. may soon expand into the South American country. An earlier report by Bloomberg said the tech giant is recruiting for a number of positions in Brazil, leading some to believe it has its sights set on Latin America’s largest market.

The Amazon-led surge in online shopping has been blamed for everything from tepid inflation to a wave of retail bankruptcies in the U.S.

Online trading site Mercadolibre Inc. dropped as much as 9 percent Thursday. Brazil accounted for 54 percent of its total revenue in 2016. Magazine Luiza and online sporting goods retailer Netshoes Ltd. also fell.

Before it’s here, it’s on the Bloomberg Terminal.
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 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-12/amazon-competitor-stocks-in-brazil-fall-on-expansion-rumors

Trump administration rejects Theresa May’s post-Brexit agriculture deal with EU — One of Theresa May’s key plans for a smooth Brexit

October 7, 2017

Proposal was key part of Prime Minister’s plans for a smooth Brexit

By Lydia Smith

The Independent

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The US has objected to a deal between the UK and EU to divide agricultural import quotas, one of Theresa May’s key plans for a smooth Brexit.

British and European negotiators had been working on an agreement to split tariff rate quotas, which would allow some agricultural produce to enter the EU from countries outside of the union.

A preliminary deal was drawn up between London and Brussels over how to split the EU’s existing tariff rate quotas (TRQs) – agreed under the World Trade Organisation – but it was rejected by the US, Canada, New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Thailand in a co-signed letter.

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Brexit talks: European Parliament says sufficient progress not made

The news is setback for the Prime Minister, who presented the deal as a breakthrough for a successful Brexit, particularly as Donald Trump was a proponent of Britain exiting the EU.

The argument put forward for the deal by Britain and the EU is that the rest of the world will not be left “worse off” if the bloc’s quotas are reduced and Britain takes a share of them.

The letter from the objectors states they were not consulted and the deal would disrupt “the delicate balance of concessions and entitlements that is fundamental to the global trade architecture today.”

“We are aware of media reports suggesting the possibility of a bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union 27 countries about splitting TRQs based on historical averages,” the letter read.

“We would like to record that such an outcome would not be consistent with the principle of leaving other WTO members no worse off, nor fully honour the existing TRQ access commitments.

“Thus, we cannot accept such an agreement.”

New Zealand deputy trade secretary Vangelis Vitalis tweeted other states “have ideas” do not want to have a “solution” imposed on them.

“Sorry that key partners assume a deal they strike between them will suit RoW. Didn’t need to be this way,” he wrote.

The objectors said the deal  say it will indeed leave them “worse off” as a separate quota for Britain would mean exporters could not compensate for low British demand by selling to another EU country, which they currently can.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/brexit-agriculture-deal-uk-eu-donald-trump-us-reject-trade-quotas-plan-theresa-may-a7986221.html

Philippines is Worst in Global Impunity Index (Weak capacity to prosecute crimes and bring perpetrators to justice)

September 23, 2017

EDITORIAL

Violence related to organized crime and terrorist activities by groups linked to the Islamic State placed the Philippines in the worst spot in the Global Impunity Index or GII drawn up by the Mexico-based University of the Americas Puebla or UDLAP and its Center of Studies on Impunity and Justice.

This GII is different from an index of the same name that focuses on violent attacks on journalists. The UDLAP study also covers only 69 out of the 124 United Nations members because information on security and justice was insufficient in the other states. But both studies ranked the Philippines among the worst because of the weak capacity to prosecute crimes and bring perpetrators to justice.

The UDLAP index stresses that impunity can lead to socioeconomic and legal inequality, rule-of-law problems and more human rights violations. It can aggravate corruption and violence, retard economic development and the ability to attract foreign investment and tourism.

The UDLAP index covers structural, functional and human rights dimensions of impunity. The human rights dimension is based on cases of torture, “homicides perpetrated by public officials, political imprisonment, extrajudicial killings, massive homicides, and disappearances.”

Ranked behind the Philippines were India, Cameroon, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua and the Russian Federation. Surely there are countries where impunity is just as bad or worse among the 124 UN member states that were excluded from the study. But regardless of the Philippines’ ranking if all UN states were included, no one will dispute the observation that the country suffers from institutional weaknesses in every aspect of the criminal justice system, from law enforcement to prosecution and corrections. The country received the worst rating in terms of the delivery of justice.

Frustration with the justice system has led to public tolerance of brutal methods of fighting criminality including the drug menace. This public support has emboldened the police, leading to abuses and impunity. Unless the nation moves decisively to boost the state’s capacity to deliver justice, law enforcement short cuts will continue to enjoy a measure of public support, and impunity will become worse.

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2017/09/23/1741718/editorial-worst-impunity

 

Corruption-plagued Brazil gets new chief prosecutor

September 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Raquel Dodge, seen here at commission hearings in July, vowed to defend democracy as Brazil’s new chief prosecutor

BRASÍLIA (AFP) – A new chief prosecutor took over Monday in Brazil to oversee an avalanche of corruption investigations, including against President Michel Temer, and promised that no one would be “above the law.”Raquel Dodge replaced the hard hitting Rodrigo Janot who last week rounded off his dramatic term in office by charging Temer with racketeering and obstruction of justice.

Dodge, 56, was nominated by Temer and some analysts see the changeover as heralding a slowdown of Brazil’s huge “Car Wash” anti-graft operation. Temer has railed repeatedly against what he calls an out of control judiciary, a theme echoed by many in Congress who also have been accused of corruption.

At her swearing in ceremony in Brasilia, attended by Temer, Dodge vowed to “defend democracy” and said that her office would make sure that “no one is above the law and that no one is below the law.”

But indicating at the very least a less abrasive approach than Janot, she stressed the need for “harmony” between the different branches of government “as a requirement for the stability of the nation.”

She barely mentioned her predecessor and never referred specifically to “Car Wash.”

One of Dodge’s first big tasks as prosecutor general will be to oversee the latest charges brought against Temer by Janot last Thursday. The charges will soon be sent to the lower house of Congress for debate and, if approved, sent back to the Supreme Court which would open a trial, resulting in Temer’s suspension for 180 days.

A first criminal charge of bribe-taking filed by Janot in June was handily rejected by Temer’s allies in Congress. And analysts agree overwhelmingly that legislators will likewise toss out the latest charges.

Beyond the Temer charges, Dodge inherits the enormous case load of Janot’s probes and prosecutions targeting scores of other politicians and executives.

About a third of Temer’s cabinet is under investigation. Another high profile target is former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been convicted of taking bribes and faces five more graft trials.

The switch in head prosecutor also comes at a crucial time in domestic politics.

Temer is attempting to steer through far-reaching pension reform to strip back what his government says is an unsustainably generous system. While he has strong market support for this and other austerity reforms aimed at ending Brazil’s economic slump, the measures are unpopular and the president has been forced to spend much of his political capital to shore up support against the corruption charges.

However, Temer is now seen as stronger than he has been for months and Janot’s departure will boost his position further.

Although the scandals have been severely embarrassing, leading politicians are seen as unwilling to rock the boat by sending Temer to trial ahead of presidential elections in October of next year. Temer, who is deeply unpopular, is not expected to seek a new term.

Brazil Police Raid Agricultural Minister’s Home

September 14, 2017

SAO PAULO — Brazil’s federal police conducted a raid and search operation at the house of Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi in Brasilia, related to an ongoing bribery and graft scandal, TV Globo reported on Thursday.

Image result for Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi i, photos

It said the raid is linked to a plea deal by former Mato Grosso state governor Silval Barbosa, who accuses Maggi of participating in a corruption scheme that lasted between 2007 and 2010. Maggi is also a former governor of Mato Grosso – a major producer of soybeans, grains and cattle.

Efforts to contact Maggi’s press representatives in Brasilia were unsuccessful.

(Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by W Simon)

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Brazil’s top court to consider Temer prosecutor’s recusal

September 13, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP/File | Lawyers for Brazil’s President Michel Temer, who could face new criminal charges, say the country’s chief prosecutor is mounting an “obsessive persecution”

BRASÍLIA (AFP) – Brazil’s Supreme Court was scheduled Wednesday to start considering a demand by President Michel Temer for the recusal of the chief prosecutor leading a corruption case against him.

Temer’s lawyers argue that the prosecutor general, Rodrigo Janot, is mounting an “obsessive persecution” and that he is “greatly exceeding the constitutional and legal limits.”

This comes as Janot is expected to file criminal charges against Temer before he leaves his post and hands over to a new chief prosecutor on Monday. Janot is expected to charge Temer with obstruction of justice.

Congress has to approve any trial of the president and in August voted overwhelmingly to toss out a first charge, which accused Temer of taking bribes. Temer is believed to retain sufficient support to ride out a second charge.

The obstruction of justice charge would depend in part on a secret recording made by meatpacking billionaire Joesley Batista in which Temer allegedly is heard calling for payments to a jailed politician to prevent him testifying.

Batista and his brother Wesley signed plea deals with prosecutors after admitting they had run a huge bribery network to benefit their company JBS.

However the leniency accord has been torn up after Joesley Batista was accused of withholding information from prosecutors.

In another motion, Temer’s lawyers are asking the Supreme Court to block any new criminal charges by Janot until clarification of what they say are irregularities in the way the Batista plea bargain evidence was collected.

The court was due to meet at about 1700 GMT but it was not clear whether the Janot-related items would be considered quickly, with delays potentially pushing the matter to another day.

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Police In Brazil Arrest Meat Executive in Corruption Probe that Includes President Michel Temer

September 13, 2017

SAO PAULO — Police have arrested the CEO of the world’s largest meatpacker on suspicion of manipulating financial markets.

Police and a representative of meatpacking giant JBS say Wesley Batista was taken into custody on Wednesday in Sao Paulo.

Batista and his brother Joesley, the former chairman of JBS, have both entered plea bargain agreements in which they testified that JBS paid bribes to scores of politicians, including President Michel Temer. Temer denies wrongdoing.

But Wesley’s arrest Wednesday related to suspicious trading in JBS shares and an unusual purchase of dollars by the company that resulted in large gains.

A warrant for Joesley’s arrest was also issued, but the executive has been in custody since Sunday. He turned himself in after questions arose about whether he had withheld information during his plea testimony.

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China Plans Nationwide Ethanol Use by 2020

September 13, 2017

BEIJING — China plans to expand use of ethanol in gasoline nationwide by 2020 to curb smog and fossil fuel demand, the government said Wednesday, joining United States, Brazil and other nations that use blended fuel.

The announcement adds to a series of initiatives to clean up smog-choked Chinese cities and control surging demand for imported oil. The government is spending heavily to develop an electric car industry and has raised sales taxes on vehicles with larger engines.

Plans call for China to develop a demonstration facility by 2020 that can make 50,000 tons of ethanol a year from cellulose, according to the Cabinet’s National Energy Administration. It said that would expand to commercial scale by 2025.

“It is an ideal alternative to fossil fuel,” said an unidentified NEA official quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency.

China is the world’s biggest energy consumer and auto market. It started producing ethanol from corn in 2004 but banned use of food crops in 2007, prompting suppliers to switch to straw stalks and other materials. About one-fifth of gasoline produced in China has added ethanol, according to Xinhua.

Regulators later eased the ban on use of food crops in some areas. Xinhua said the latest plan is intended in part to use up aging stockpiles of corn.

Other governments including Brazil and the United States require gasoline to contain from 10 percent to as much as 85 percent ethanol to curb emissions and reduce petroleum demand.

The NEA gave no indication what level of ethanol would be required, but Xinhua said it would be 10 percent.

On Saturday, a deputy industry minister said Beijing is developing a timetable to phase out production and sales of traditional fuel cars. France and Britain announced similar plans in July.

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National Energy Administration (in Chinese): http://www.nea.gov.cn

Brazil corruption scandal: President Temer slams judiciary

September 13, 2017

BBC News

    • 12 September 2017

Brazil"s President Michel Temer attends a ceremony at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil September 12, 2017

Michel Temer has the lowest approval ratings of any Brazilian president in decades. Reuters photo

Brazil’s President Michel Temer has accused his country’s judiciary of using allegations of corruption to destroy reputations.

Mr Temer’s statement came just hours before a Supreme Court justice authorised a new corruption investigation into the president.

The president, like dozens of other Brazilian politicians, is already implicated in Operation Car Wash.

Mr Temer has denied all accusations of corruption.

In a statement released ahead of the anticipated announcement of the new charges, Mr Temer’s office slammed those investigating alleged corruption.

The biggest investigation of all is known as Operation Car Wash, said to involve bribes at the highest level. Among those implicated in the three-year investigation are two former presidents.

“We have reached the point where they try to convict people without even hearing them – without ending the investigation, without uncovering the truth, without verifying the existence of real proof,” Mr Temer’s office said.

“Individual rights are being violated every day without the slightest reaction.”

The statement went on to question prosecutors’ methods, which favoured the use of wire taps and statements from those who make plea deals.

The latest investigation is hinged on a recording of one of Mr Temer’s former aides, according to news agency Reuters.

“Reputations are shattered in conversations founded on clandestine actions,” the president’s statement said. “Bandits concoct versions based on hearsay in exchange for impunity or to obtain a pardon, even partial, for their innumerable crimes.”

Supreme Court justice Roberto Barroso decided on Tuesday investigators could probe Mr Temer’s link to corruption allegations surrounding a decree regulating ports that the president signed.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-41248075

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