Posts Tagged ‘Brazil’

Women accuse Brazilian spiritual healer of sexual abuse

December 9, 2018

Ten women in Brazil have accused a self-styled spiritual healer of sexually abusing them at a clinic in the central-western state of Goias.

The charges against Joao Teixeira de Faria, known as John of God, were made Saturday night on the Globo TV network.

Image result for Joao Teixeira de Faria, Brazil, photos

In a statement to the G1 news portal, Faria’s press office said: “John of God vehemently denies having committed any inappropriate behavior during his treatments.”

Faria’s faith-based healing skills drew the attention of TV host Oprah Winfrey, who said on her website that she interviewed him at his clinic in 2013 and saw him performing psychic surgeries.

Faria’s website says he has treated former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Brazil’s ex-President Luiz Inacio da Silva.

Associated Press



Image result for godman, india, photos

Godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is now in prison


Did Trump “Cave In” to China at G20?

December 2, 2018

Image result for trump, Xi Jinping, G20, photos

China’s state-run Global Times quoted Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, as telling a G20 press conference: “China is willing to expand imports on the basis of its own needs, agrees to open its market and satisfy the legitimate concerns of the United States as part of the process of reform and opening up.”

Mr Trump and Mr Xi entered the critical summit at the Park Hyatt hotel — where the US president was based — on an upbeat tone, suggesting a truce in trade tensions between the two countries was within striking distance. Afterwards, once he was in flight back to Washington on Air Force One, Mr Trump issued a positive statement.

“This was an amazing and productive meeting with unlimited possibilities for both the United States and China,” he said. G20 summit – five things to watch out for Mr Xi, in opening remarks at the dinner, said it was a “great pleasure” to see Mr Trump.

“A lot of things have taken place in the world,” he said.

“Only with co-operation between us can we serve the interest of both peace and prosperity.”

The delegations were arranged around a long rectangular table, with a crystal chandelier hung above it and a row of flowers down the middle. The main course was grilled Sirloin with red onions, goat ricotta, and dates. The wine was a malbec.

The agreement pauses a trade conflict that was already showing signs of inflicting serious damage to the economies of both the US and China, denting global growth forecasts and causing turmoil and volatility in financial markets. Mr Trump entered the dinner facing trouble at home, following the loss of the House of Representatives for the Republican party in midterm elections, and new activity in the probe by special prosecutor Robert Mueller into his 2016 election campaign.

But despite these pressures, there are no guarantees that the ceasefire will last — so the possibility of a new escalation is likely to hang over Washington and Beijing until there is a more solid resolution. Abigail Grace, a China expert at the Center for New American Security said the agreement was a “time out” for both countries.

“Expect a public cooling period for the next three months, with tough discussions between two bureaucracies taking place behind the scenes. The trade war is far from over yet,” she said. Mr Trump has shifted between bluster and compromise on trade depending on his impulse and the political priorities of the moment.

Within the space of two months he struck agreements to ease trade tensions with the EU and Japan and revamp the North American Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Above from Financial Times


US and China agree 90-day trade tariff ceasefire — “China gives up nothing”

December 2, 2018
  • Donald Trump agreed to hold off on raising the tariff rate on US$200 billion of Chinese imports for 90 days to allow for additional negotiations to address US concerns on Chinese trade practises, the White House said
  • China agrees to buy “very substantial” amount of US goods to reduce bilateral trade imbalance
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 December, 2018, 10:40am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 December, 2018, 3:22pm

South China Morning Post

US President Donald Trump, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a working dinner after the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1 December

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to a 90-day trade truce to allow for additional negotiations to address US concerns after China agreed to buy a “very substantial” amount of American exports, the White House said in a statement released late on Saturday.

Chinese officials agreed that the country would buy more US products in an effort to reduce the large bilateral trade imbalance.

Trump agreed to postpone for 90 days a scheduled increase in tariffs on US$200 billion in Chinese imports while talks to address American concerns about China’s trade practices take place.

If there is no deal at the end of the 90-day grace period, the US will increase the tariffs on the US$200 billion of goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent. The negotiations, and therefore the 90-day timeline, start immediately.

“President Trump and President Xi have agreed to immediately begin negotiations on structural changes with respect to forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, services and agriculture,” according to the White House statement.

“Both parties agree that they will endeavour to have this transaction completed within the next 90 days. If at the end of this period of time, the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the 10 per cent tariffs will be raised to 25 per cent.”

As part of the ceasefire deal, China agreed to purchase a “very substantial amount of agricultural, energy, industrial, and other product from the United States to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries. China has agreed to start purchasing agricultural product from our farmers immediately”.

However, the exact value of the purchases has not yet been agreed, the White House said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters that China had agreed to import more US goods “according to its domestic market and people’s demands”, which will include “buying more products from the US to gradually address the trade imbalance”.

Wang also said that China would gradually solve the “legitimate concerns” of the US side, but did not elaborate.

Wang said the two sides would continue negotiations with the goal of “removing of all additional tariffs”.

Xi and Trump had “friendly and candid” talks over dinner and reached an “important consensus,” with China agreeing to buy more from the US to address the bilateral trade imbalance, the Chinese foreign minister said.

Dinner discussions about de-escalating tensions between the world’s two largest economies lasted an hour longer than expected.

Both sides appeared satisfied at the end of the gathering, and applause was heard in the room as the dinner drew a close.

Before he sat with Trump, Xi said he was “very happy” to be meeting his US counterpart and saw the dinner as an “opportunity to exchange views”, according to the state news agency Xinhua. The White House described the meetings as “highly successful.”

In addition to trade, Trump and Xi discussed other issues, including the US opioid crisis and Taiwan. Xi agreed to designate fentanyl as a controlled substance, following complaints that inadequate regulations on pharmaceutical and chemical production were hampering America’s efforts to stem the flow of synthetic opioids from China.

The decision, which the US described as a “wonderful humanitarian gesture” and listed as the first item on the White House statement, means that those selling the drug to the US “will be subject to China’s maximum penalty under the law”.

Meanwhile, Wang said the US had agreed to stick to the one-China policy regarding Taiwan, although the White House’s statement did not mention the island.

The US has in the past acknowledged the one-China position without recognising Beijing’s sovereignty over Taiwan.

Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province, views the island as a core interest and has warned the US against supporting pro-independence forces and demanded that it cut off military exchanges.

China also expressed support for Trump meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for a second time, with Wang adding that the US had expressed its appreciation of China’s role in help to push the North towards denuclearisation.

See also:

China agrees to make fentanyl a controlled substance after talks with US at G20 summit



Stephen McDonell, BBC China correspondent in Beijing

China has pretty much given up nothing in this deal because the future tariffs threatened from the Beijing side were retaliatory in nature and only to be applied if the United State escalated.

For this it has gained a 90-day reprieve, during which time both sides have pledged to ramp up talks.

When China’s Foreign Minster Wang Yi spoke to reporters after the meeting he said the two leaders had agreed to open up each other’s markets and that this process could lead to the resolution of “legitimate” US concerns.

This was either an acknowledgment that Washington does have legitimate concerns or a way of differentiating those American concerns which are reasonable from those which are not actually “legitimate”.

This is not a suspension of the trade war but a suspension of the escalation of the trade war.

Big questions remain about the preparedness of Beijing to allow international access to this enormous market to a level that would satisfy the Trump administration prompting a complete halt in the trade war.

Trump’s Dinner Date With Xi May Give Soybean Market Bullish Jolt

December 2, 2018

Soybeans weren’t on menu, but it looks like President Donald Trump’s dinner date in Buenos Aires with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping could give the market the jolt it’s been desperately looking for.

China will start buying U.S. agriculture products “immediately,” the White House said in a statement Saturday after the highly anticipated dinner on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Argentina. This marks a significant development in the trade war that has beleaguered American farmers.

As tit-for-tat tariffs ratcheted up between the countries, soybeans became the poster child of the trade dispute. China, the world’s dominant importer, started shunning U.S. supplies and Chicago futures tumbled as a result. Across the Midwest, the 2018 harvest had been piling up, unsold, in silos, bins and bags.

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at a dinner meeting in Buenos Aires on Dec. 1. Photographer: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The White House called the Trump-Xi meeting “highly successful.” The Trump administration had previously said it planned to push China to resume imports of U.S. soybeans.

Trump, Xi Agree to Halt New Tariffs in Bid to Contain Trade War

It’s hard to overstate how important China is for the soybean world. It’s the biggest consumer by far, using the oilseed as a protein in livestock feed. Chinese tariffs on U.S. shipments have turned usual trade flows on their head. Major exporters like Argentina are now buying dirt-cheap U.S. supplies, while domestic premiums in soy king Brazil surged earlier this year.

Many traders and farmers are hoping an eventual China-U.S. pact can help bring things back to normal, or at least make them more predictable.

Ahead of the meeting, traders had been hanging on Trump’s every word (and tweet), trying to parse out the future for soybean demand. As the talk last week moved from the possibility of more tariffs on China to optimism about a deal, the back and forth left some investors cross-eyed.

A measure of implied volatility jumped to the highest since August and futures volume rose. Underscoring the apprehension, hedge funds got more bearish on the oilseed just days before prices posted the best weekly rally in five weeks.

“The sentiment has changed multiple times over the last two weeks,” Matt Gallik, a market analyst for CHS Hedging LLC, said on Friday.

In Chicago, January soybean futures pin-balled between gains and losses for several days before finally settling up 1.6 percent in the week ended Friday. Just three days earlier, hedge funds boosted their net-short position to 63,862 futures and options, according to data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The holding, which measures the difference between bets on a price increase and wagers on a decline, was the most bearish in about a month.

Long-only positions and short-only holdings climbed simultaneously as investors grew divided over the market outlook.

As the Trump-Xi meeting concluded late Saturday, U.S. markets were still shut and won’t reopen until Sunday night.

It could be “wild” when trading starts up again, Jim McCormick, a soybean analyst for Allendale Inc. in McHenry, Illinois, said in an emailed report on Friday.

Opinion: G20 teetering on the edge of the abyss

December 2, 2018

Leaders of the world’s top economies have agreed on a joint statement after marathon talks and staunch resistance from the United States. The G20 has long been in trouble, writes Bernd Riegert from Buenos Aires.

World leaders at the G20 summit

Ten years after its founding at the level of heads of state and government, the Group of 20 is clearly on the wane as a forum for solving global problems. Set up in 2008 to regulate spiraling financial markets in the midst of a striking crisis, the G20 format has managed to survive. It’s not that the idea of finding global solutions to global problems is a bad one, the difficulty is that many of those at the negotiating table have lost the political will to find such answers. Isolation, nationalism and protectionism have increased following the financial crisis as the alleged consequences of globalization that has widely been perceived as unbridled.

The leader of this movement is undoubtedly the haphazard US president, Donald Trump. He is an avowed deconstructivist — someone who wants to tear down the existing order because he doesn’t think it works in his favor. He simply makes new rules for himself that only apply to him. All that counts is quick, popular success at home, nevermind the rest of the world.

Bernd Riegert


By Europe correspondent Bernd Riegert

But Donald Trump — and here’s the crucial point — is not alone.

Read moreOpinion: G20 — go back to the roots

It gets worse

The Russian president, the Saudi crown prince, the Turkish autocrat and the Chinese president at the G20 table don’t have much respect for law and justice. And there are more and more representatives joining the “My country first” club. In Mexico, a populist has just taken office. In Brazil, a professed right-wing radical will be moving into the presidential palace come January. These changes don’t bode well for the next G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

It’s gradually becoming a lonely struggle for the German chancellor, the Canadian prime minister, the French president and EU representatives — those who held up the flag of multilateralism in Buenos Aires.

Even within the EU, populism and isolationism are spreading. After Brexit, the most recent example of this shift is the populist government in Italy.

Read moreG20 summit opens as leaders give Saudi prince mixed reception

Reading the thin communique adopted by G20 members, it appears that this assembly representing two thirds of humanity is little more than an empty shell. Admittedly, the leaders did commit to reforming the international trade system. But in the meantime, members of the G20 impose punitive tariffs on each other in an attempt to get a bigger piece of the global economic pie. There’s certainly a wide gulf between theory and practice.

Is the end nigh?

Trump may soon be the death of the G20, a summit whose plenary meetings he only occasionally took part in. As far as his obsessive security adviser is concerned, the forum is redundant, despite it being the only economically relevant steering committee at the global level. It’s difficult to explain to the public and voters at home, if there are any, what the G20 is good for when there is a growing number of insolent lone fighters sitting around the table.

Read moreAngela Merkel to miss start of G20 summit after plane’s technical difficulties

To date, the G20 hasn’t even managed to do its quintessential job — namely, to regulate the global taxation of digital companies. In Buenos Aires, fair taxation was once again postponed, at the insistence of the United States, until the summit after Osaka, should it still take place. Downgrading the G20 to the ministerial level, like it was before 2008, or getting rid of it altogether, would be handing a victory to the nationalists that should not be granted. Perhaps the summit will continue in the coming years, but the G20 could easily become a “dead man walking,” condemned to political execution.

Rifts laid bare as world leaders meet at G20

December 1, 2018

World leaders have held the opening session of their annual G20 summit, with any number of disputes and disagreements on the table.

Host president, Argentina’s Mauricio Macri, said the solution was “dialogue, dialogue and dialogue” and called for a clear message of shared responsibility.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. (Photo | PMO/ Twitter)

But US President Donald Trump has already cancelled meeting Russia’s Vladimir Putin over Ukraine.

And huge differences remain on climate change, trade and the Khashoggi affair.

The G20, made up of 19 of the world’s most industrialised nations plus the EU, accounts for 85% of the world’s economic output and two-thirds of the world’s population.

Its meetings, which began in 2008, are an opportunity for members to develop global policies tackling major issues – but many of the key decisions will be made in one-on-one encounters.

There is massive security for the summit in Buenos Aires, with a bank holiday declared for Friday and the city’s main business district shut down.

Protesters angry at the money spent on the summit while Argentina struggles through tough austerity demonstrated outside the meeting.

Presentational grey line

Snub test

Analysis by James Landale, BBC diplomatic correspondent

Meeting world leaders at the G20 summit was a test for Mohammed bin Salman to see who would snub him.

He is the only Arab leader in the G20 and already stood out in his traditional dress amid a sea of suits. And at times he looked uncertain, even nervous. Some of his counterparts shared a word or two but few went out of their way to shake his hand.

So the optics of the summit, to use the diplomatic jargon, were not that great for MBS.

Read on

Presentational grey line

What have the opening exchanges told us?

The world leaders were all called on to the stage and assumed their position for the traditional family photograph.

G20 leaders in Buenos Aires
The G20 photo ahead of Friday’s plenary session. Getty Images

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stood on the outside of the photo, far away from Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

This is the crown prince’s first major diplomatic test since the murder in Turkey of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a key critic of the government. Saudi Arabia has blamed “rogue agents” but suspicion has fallen on the prince for ordering the killing.

After the photo was taken, the crown prince did manage a hearty exchange with Mr Putin.

French President Emmanuel Macron held a five-minute exchange with the crown prince during which, a French official said, Mr Macron had conveyed “very firm” messages over the Khashoggi affair.

Mr Trump had a “friendly meeting” with the crown prince, Saudi media said, although the president later said there had been “no discussion”.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May also met the crown prince. A Downing Street spokesman said the PM had “stressed the importance of ensuring that those responsible for the appalling murder of Jamal Khashoggi are held to account” and that “such a deplorable incident” should not happen again.

In addition Mrs May held a 15-minute meeting to discuss trade with Mr Macri. Their two nations have long disputed sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.

Mr Macri’s opening address to the summit admitted there would be issues of disagreement that needed to be managed.

So how does a G20 summit work?

He called for consensus on sustainable development, the future of work, food supply, climate change and international trade, adding: “I am an optimist”.

What will go on on the sidelines?

There are certain to be plenty of bilateral, trilateral or even larger get-togethers, although the one that will not be taking place is the highest-profile.

Mr Trump said he would not meet Mr Putin because three Ukrainian vessels and 24 sailors seized by Russia in the Black Sea near Crimea had not been returned.

“We don’t like what happened. Nobody does,” he said on Friday.

Why tensions between Russia and Ukraine are so high

Mr Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Moscow regretted the decision. But he said: “If this is so, the president will have a couple of extra hours in the programme for useful meetings on the sidelines of the summit.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has blamed the crisis “entirely” on Russia and said she would raise the issue with Mr Putin.

The second-highest profile meeting will also involve Mr Trump. He will have dinner on Saturday with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

The key issue there will be the nations’ trade tariffs dispute.

The US has hit a total of $250bn (£196bn) of Chinese goods with tariffs since July, and China has retaliated by imposing duties on $110bn of US products.

China said consensus was increasing on a deal but that differences remained.

After earlier indicating pessimism on an agreement, Mr Trump said: “They want to and we’d like to. There are some good signs. We’ll see what happens.”

Mr Putin has also weighed in, with a thinly veiled attack on Mr Trump’s America First policy. The Russian president condemned “dishonest competition” along with “vicious” sanctions and protectionist measures.

The Brics group, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, issued a statement saying protectionism ran counter to the “spirit and rules of the World Trade Organization”.

What has been achieved so far?

Ahead of the summit’s official start Mr Trump signed a trade deal with the Mexican and Canadian leaders.

Mr Trump described the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) – which replaces the Nafta free trade deal – as “probably the greatest trade deal ever”.

“All of our countries will benefit greatly,” he said.

Will there be a joint G20 communiqué?

European diplomats told Associated Press there has been tough haggling over a final statement.

Argentine officials indicated differences on trade could be overcome.

However, that will still leave the obstacle of climate change.

Why have thousands of demonstrators been marching against the G20 summit in Buenos Aires?

Mr Trump has not hidden his objection to collective action on the issue.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said in Buenos Aires that “this is a make-it-or-break-it moment” on the issue.

President Macron was quoted by AFP news agency as saying he would refuse to sign a trade deal with South America’s Mercosur bloc if Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro withdrew from the Paris climate accord.

Includes videos:

Perceptible improvement in India-China relations, say PM Modi and Xi on G20 sidelines

G20 opens under assault from Trump on collective action

November 30, 2018

G20 powers open two days of summit talks in crisis-hit Argentina on Friday after a stormy buildup dominated by US President Donald Trump’s consensus-bucking campaign to realign world trade.

Shortly before the summit kicks off, Trump’s “America First” charge will bear fruit with the signing in Buenos Aires of a successor to the North American free trade pact NAFTA.

French President Emmanuel Macron

The revamped accord, called the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), looks a lot like the one it replaces. But enough has been tweaked for Trump to declare victory on behalf of the US workers he claims were cheated by NAFTA.

Yet, underlining that the new deal may not be quite the game-changer he professes, the signing will be executed by senior trade negotiators from the three countries rather than their leaders attending the G20.

After imposing punishing tariffs on Chinese goods and threatening more to come in January, Trump also has China in his sights as he prepares to meet President Xi Jinping on the G20 margins.

Following the USMCA signing, and once Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri has opened the first of the summit’s two days, a mass protest is planned for central Buenos Aires Friday afternoon.

Argentines are grappling with soaring inflation and unemployment caused by an economic crisis, which has led to a deeply unpopular bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t have houses and don’t have work. They are not focusing on the people who have needs,” barber Ariel Villegas, 47, said at one protest Thursday outside the Argentine Congress building.

The government is vowing zero tolerance of violence as it hosts its biggest ever international gathering, and says it has won promises from the protest organizers to keep the streets calm.

The G20 summit will be accompanied by an array of diplomatic initiatives with several bilateral meetings by the leaders attending, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of the leaders due to sit down with Trump on Friday. But she will miss the summit’s opening after her plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Cologne due to a technical problem.

Her temporary absence could complicate French President Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to build a European front against Trump at a meeting of EU leaders attending the G20 on Friday morning.

But late on Thursday, Macron was defiant as he rejected those who wish to confront economic challenges by being “bellicose, isolationist and closing down borders,” praising instead the poverty-slashing benefits accrued under the globalization of recent decades.

The French leader also defended the Paris Agreement on climate change, which is under assault by Trump and by Jair Bolsonaro, the incoming, far-right president of G20 member Brazil.

G20 sources said climate change was emerging as the biggest stumbling block to agreement on a joint communique in Buenos Aires when the summit concludes on Saturday.

Trump has yanked the United States out of the Paris pact, and his opposition to collective action stands in defiance of scientists’ increasingly urgent warnings that the planetary threat needs policy redress now.

But with a major UN meeting on climate change starting next week in Poland straight after the G20, UN chief Antonio Guterres said in Buenos Aires that “this is a make-it-or-break-it moment.”

Two major summits this year, of the Group of Seven democracies and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, ended without the once-routine statements, with Trump refusing to go along with the G7 due to a feud with his host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Will we even have a communique? It really is an open question,” said former Canadian negotiator Thomas Bernes, a senior fellow at the Ontario-based Center for International Governance Innovation.


López Obrador is bigger threat to liberal democracy than Bolsonaro

November 27, 2018
Newly elected Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador greets his supporters in Mexico City on July 1, 2018. (Photo credit PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)

By John Paul Rathbone, Latin American editor 31 MINUTES AGO Print this page0

On Saturday, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a maverick leftist, will become president of Mexico and launch what he has called the country’s “fourth transformation”. How this progressive nationalist matches up against Donald Trump, his equally nationalistic neighbour, is anybody’s guess — although the US president is said to refer to him fondly in private as “Juan Trump”.

A month later, Jair Bolsonaro, a maverick conservative, will become president of Brazil and begin what he claims will be a radical reforging of society and the economy. With his crudely misogynistic and racist comments, divisive nationalism and praise of the dictatorship, the former army captain is often labelled a “Tropical Trump”.

The two leaders are part of the epochal changes that is sweeping Latin America’s two biggest economies.

Although from opposite ends of the political spectrum, both are also throwbacks to an age of caudillos, or populist strong men, that the region had seemingly left behind. Who though is the bigger threat to liberal democracy? Almost certainly “peace and love” Mr López Obrador rather than “lock ‘em up” Mr Bolsonaro.

That may sound provocative but it is only empirical. Mr López Obrador will enjoy almost unconstrained power when he takes office. His party has majorities in the Senate and the Chamber. He has vast popular support, dominates his cabinet, inherits a relatively healthy macroeconomy thereby freeing him from immediate market pressures, and faces a feeble judiciary.

Furthermore, he wants even more power. He plans to create federal “super delegates”, answerable to the executive, to monitor all state programmes and their budgets. At the same time, public sector wage cuts have prompted an exodus of technocrats from the civil service, weakening Mexico’s few independent institutions that could check his power.

Mr Bolsonaro faces the exact opposite. He is hemmed in. His party has a minority in both houses of Congress. He does not control state budgets. He faces an aggressive press, a fiercely independent judiciary, is subject to more market discipline given Brazil’s weak economy, and has appointed heavyweight technocrats to his cabinet.

Unlike Mr López Obrador, his instincts seem to be to decentralise power, including independence for the central bank. Mr Bolsonaro has also shown flexibility on his more outrageous campaign pledges.

He has changed his mind on withdrawing Brazil from the Paris accord on climate change, reconsidered moving the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and welcomed Venezuelan refugees.

Recommended The Big Read Mexico: López Obrador versus the markets

By contrast, Mr López Obrador has dug in. Following a “people’s consultation”, he cancelled construction of Mexico City’s new airport, even though billions of dollars of compensation costs now mock his claims of a “government of austerity”.

Other pet projects endorsed by similar referendums, such as a billion-dollar refinery in his home state of Tabasco, will provide potentially lucrative sources of patronage and political support. He has also said Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro is “welcome” at his inauguration, despite his regime’s record of human rights abuses and theft.

None of this is to gloss over the potential for reactionary illiberalism from Mr Bolsonaro. How he responds should protests erupt over painful economic reforms is vital.

Yet if Mr Bolsonaro goes too far astray, Brazilian institutions such as markets, media and the military will hold him to account. His problem is a lack of political power, not a surfeit. Mr López Obrador, by contrast, will be able to implement his vision of change. Arguably, he also needs to concentrate power in order to improve policy co-ordination and so rid Mexico of corruption and improve the lot of the poor.

Yet success is only likely if this concentration is part of a new institutional approach of due process and increased transparency, rather than personalised discretion. Worryingly, it has been more of the latter, so far.

Facebook policy VP Richard Allan to face the international ‘fake news’ grilling that Zuckerberg won’t

November 24, 2018

An unprecedented international grand committee comprising 22 representatives from seven parliaments will meet in London next week to put questions to Facebook  about the online fake news crisis and the social network’s own string of data misuse scandals.

But Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg  won’t be providing any answers. The company has repeatedly refused requests for him to answer parliamentarians’ questions.

Instead it’s sending a veteran EMEA policy guy, Richard Allan,  now its London-based VP of policy solutions, to face a roomful of irate MPs.

Related image


Allan will give evidence next week to elected members from the parliaments of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Latvia, Singapore, along with members of the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) parliamentary committee.

At the last call the international initiative had a full eight parliaments behind it but it’s down to seven — with Australia being unable to attend on account of the travel involved in getting to London.

A spokeswoman for the DCMS committee confirmed Facebook declined its last request for Zuckerberg to give evidence, telling TechCrunch: “The Committee offered the opportunity for him to give evidence over video link, which was also refused. Facebook has offered Richard Allan, vice president of policy solutions, which the Committee has accepted.

“The Committee still believes that Mark Zuckerberg is the appropriate person to answer important questions about data privacy, safety, security and sharing,” she added. “The recent New York Times  investigation raises further questions about how recent data breaches were allegedly dealt with within Facebook, and when the senior leadership team became aware of the breaches and the spread of Russian disinformation.”

The DCMS committee has spearheaded the international effort to hold Facebook to account for its role in a string of major data scandals, joining forces with similarly concerned committees across the world, as part of an already wide-ranging enquiry into the democratic impacts of online disinformation that’s been keeping it busy for the best part of this year.

And especially busy since the Cambridge Analytica story blew up into a major global scandal this April, although Facebook’s 2018 run of bad news hasn’t stopped there.

The evidence session with Allan is scheduled to take place at 11:30am (GMT) on November 27 in Westminster. (It will also be streamed live on the UK’s website.)

Afterwards a press conference has been scheduled during which DCMS says a representative from each of the seven parliaments will sign a set of ‘International Principles for the Law Governing the Internet’.

It bills this as “a declaration on future action from the parliaments involved” — suggesting the intent is to generate international momentum and consensus for regulating social media.

The DCMS’s preliminary report on the fake news crisis, which it put out this summer, called for urgent action from government on a number of fronts — including floating the idea of a levy on social media to defence democracy.

However, UK ministers failed to leap into action, merely putting out a tepid ‘wait and see’ response. Marshalling international action appears to be DCMS’s alternative action plan.

At next week’s press conference, grand committee members will take questions following Allan’s evidence, so expect swift condemnation of any fresh equivocation, misdirection or question-dodging from Facebook (which has already been accused by DCMS members of a pattern of evasive behavior).

Last week’s NYT report also characterized the company’s strategy since 2016, vis-a-vis the fake news crisis, as ‘delay, deny, deflect’.

The grand committee will hear from other witnesses, too, including the UK’s information commissioner Elizabeth Denham  who was before the DCMS committee recently to report on a wide-ranging ecosystem investigation it instigated in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica  scandal.

She told it then that Facebook needs to take “much greater responsibility” for how its platform is being used, and warning that unless the company overhauls its privacy-hostile business model it risks burning user trust for good.

Also giving evidence next week: Deputy information commissioner Steve Wood; the former Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Rt Hon Dr Denzil L Douglas (on account of Cambridge Analytica/SCL Elections having done work in the region); and the co-founder of PersonalData.IO, Paul-Olivier Dehaye.

Dehaye has also given evidence to the committee before — detailing his experience of making Subject Access Requests to Facebook — and trying and failing to obtain all the data it holds on him.


This is what we should do about the migrant caravan: By George P. Shultz and Pedro Aspe

November 23, 2018

Start by improving economic conditions in the Central American countries.

George P. Shultz is a former secretary of state, labor and treasury and a former director of the Office of Management and Budget. He is a distinguished fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Pedro Aspe is a former treasury secretary in Mexico and is a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The highly publicized progress by a “caravan” of approximately 5,000 migrants from Central America to the United States underlines a persistent trend. The reason for the trend is obvious. Economic conditions in Central America are grim, and the many young people there have poor prospects for advancement. The countries these migrants are fleeing are also plagued by violence.

Net migration of Mexicans to the United States has been negative in recent years, but the number of immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — countries that are part of the Northern Triangle of Central America, or NTCA — rose by 25 percent from 2007 to 2015, according to the Pew Research Center. The demographic picture suggests that the migration is going to continue in the medium term: While fertility rates in those countries have declined substantially in recent years, the high rates of the two previous decades mean many young people are still in the pipeline. Guatemala’s working-age population will double by midcentury, and Honduras’s will rise by three-fifths.

What should be done about the impetuses driving them north?

Thousands of people in a migrant caravan after crossing the Guatemalan border on Oct. 21. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Start by improving economic conditions in the NTCA countries, an effort that can be achieved without any direct budgetary outlay from the United States. The election of a new Inter-American Development Bank president is scheduled for 2020, an opportunity for new leadership to redirect the bank’s finance focus from bankable countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru) to its poorest member countries. We suggest a 70 percent resource allocation to projects in the neediest countries, independent of how much these countries contribute to the IADB.

The principal emphasis should be on financing a sizable infrastructure and public-health plan that puts in place the basis for economic expansion and offers immediate job opportunities to citizens in their home countries. Redirected lending could be tied to governance improvements in the region such as rule-of-law and anti-corruption measures. And Central American countries should be encouraged to enter a free-trade agreement, establishing a unified market with common standards. Perhaps Mexico could join the agreement, with Canada and the United States eventually signing up as well.

The advantages of participating in a larger market would expand the economies of these Central American countries, creating more jobs with decent wages.

Violence, the other main driver of the migration north, stems largely from the fight among drug lords in Central America for access to and dominance in the U.S. market. The United States’ failed war on drugs is thus a principal contributor to violence in Central America.

The goal of the war on drugs, which began during the Nixon administration, was to educate the public about their dangers and to do everything possible to make them difficult to obtain — to attack them on the supply side. However, as became apparent long ago, when there is a big, profitable demand for drugs in the United States, there will be a supply, and that supply has come predominantly from south of the U.S. border. The profits are used by drug cartels and gangs to buy weapons, use them to create an atmosphere of violence and, in many cases, to pay off local authorities.

Curbing violence in Central America will require addressing the U.S. war on drugs. The supply-side approach’s failure can be seen in the fact that the United States has the highest use of cocaine among major economies. The United States should instead focus more on reducing the demand for illegal drugs.

The United States would do well to study the example of Portugal, which has found success by taking a demand-oriented approach to drug control. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized drug use and small-scale (for personal use) possession of drugs; punishments remain but are distinct from the prison system, and addicts can seek treatment without fear of arrest. The Portuguese experience suggests that real progress is possible, particularly among young people, in preventing and treating addiction. If the United States were to adopt this approach, people would increasingly go to free, well-vetted drug treatment centers, and the illegal drug market in this country would gradually disappear, as would profits going south to the drug lords.

Some say the answer is legalization, especially for drugs such as marijuana, and many states have been moving in this direction. But this misses the point. The goal should be to reduce drug use, not to encourage its recreational consumption. Resources spent on disrupting supply and paying for the costly domestic incarceration of drug users could be used instead to support drug demand reduction and treatment efforts.

Instead of blaming the migrants who are fleeing violence and corruption in Central America, we should recognize why they are leaving and do something about it. If we succeed in improving economic conditions and reducing drug-related violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, then we can expect that the citizens of those countries will choose to stay home.