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Lula to start unveiling cabinet names on Friday

TBR Newsroom
Dec 08, 2022 14:55 (Updated: Dec 08, 2022 16:44)

Gleisi Hoffmann, chair of the Workers’ Party, said President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will reveal “some of the names” of his future cabinet on Friday. Lula will be certified on December 12, next Monday, the last bureaucratic hoop he must jump before taking office on January 1.

“He wanted to leave it until after the certification, but there has been too much speculation around it,” Ms. Hoffmann told reporters. “Now he wants to take the picks he is certain about to the public.”

Lula is scheduled to speak to the press at 10 am on Friday. The timing is odd, as the country will essentially grind to a halt soon afterward as the Brazilian national team takes the field to play Croatia in the 2022 World Cup quarter-finals.

Granted, making major political announcements while the country’s attention is elsewhere could be a strategy to divert attention, as not all of Lula’s expected cabinet members have been well-received.

No name is more anticipated than Lula’s choice for finance minister. The presumed pick is Fernando Haddad, a former education minister and mayor of São Paulo who ran for governor of São Paulo state in October — losing the runoff to Tarcísio de Freitas, who served as Jair Bolsonaro’s infrastructure minister.

Mr. Haddad has represented the future administration in recent meetings with Febraban, a federation of banks, and with outgoing Economy Minister Paulo Guedes. 

“We need to sit down with each department so that we know their work routine, which agendas are in progress, what has been delivered, what needs to be continued,” Mr. Haddad said earlier this week. 

While he formally met with Mr. Guedes as a member of the transition cabinet, the meeting was interpreted as Mr. Haddad vetting the office he will soon occupy.

Twenty years ago, when Lula won his first election for president, it took him more than a month to announce his first cabinet appointees. “My role is that of a conductor”, he said at the time. “If it were up to me, I’d announce one cabinet minister per day.”

His first picks in 2002 were Antonio Palocci (Finance) and Marina Silva (Environment). The complete cabinet (with 25 ministers and eight secretariats) was only announced two days before Christmas.

Supreme Court suspends mayor who incited anti-democratic protests

Amanda Audi
Dec 08, 2022 11:55

The Supreme Court suspended Carlos Alberto Capeletti, the mayor of Tapurah — a 14,000-people town in the center-western state of Mato Grosso — from his office for his actions inciting supporters of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to stage anti-democratic rallies.

The suspension will last 60 days. Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who signed the order, also slapped a BRL 100,000 (USD 19,150) fine on 177 truck owners who joined protests in Mato Grosso state capital Cuiabá. Most of them already had assets frozen for lending their vehicles to putschist demonstrators, as well as providing them with food and infrastructure. The trucks will be confiscated.

In a video posted on social media, Mayor Capeletti had urged supporters to head to the capital Brasília for a “final battle” on November 15, Brazil’s Republic Day. “If the Army does not take action by then, we will carry out our own Proclamation of the Republic,” he said.

The Supreme Court could be using this case to set a precedent for federal politicians who continue to voice conspiracy theories about Brazil’s electoral system. 

They claim the system can be rigged but offer no evidence to support their claims. Stoking these unfounded claims, President Bolsonaro’s campaign presented a petition to nullify tens of millions of votes cast during the October 30 runoff.

As The Brazilian Report showed this week, far-right lawmakers have used the Senate to incite an insurrection-like movement for December 12, the day President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will be certified by election officials.

A poll by Quaest says 61 percent of Brazilians disapprove of Mr. Bolsonaro’s position questioning the result of the presidential elections.

Political violence in Brazil remains after the elections

Amanda Audi
Dec 01, 2022 15:57

Even after the October election, Brazil continues to register cases of political violence. A survey by researchers at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro tallied 103 violent episodes involving politicians and their families between October and November.

Of those, the survey found 59 threats, 19 assaults, 13 homicides, and two kidnappings.

The most violent period of 2022 remains the election campaign, between July and September, when 212 incidents were recorded. Throughout the year, there were more than 500 cases — a number close to that of 2020, the year of the last municipal elections for mayors and city councilors.

A different study by NGOs, reported on by The Brazilian Report in October, had already pointed out that cases of political violence grew by 400 percent compared to 2018 — when President Jair Bolsonaro was elected. 

Even though they are not running for office this year, city councilors were the most common victims of attacks — 42 in the last two months. One of them occurred when the City Council of Sinop, in Mato Grosso, had to be closed after pro-Bolsonaro demonstrators — defeated in his re-election campaign — harassed a councilor from the party of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who won the national dispute.

Supporters of Mr. Bolsonaro were behind the most emblematic episodes of violence, notably by staging verbal attacks against Supreme Court justices. 

Even House Speaker Arthur Lira, who until the election was one of Mr. Bolsonaro’s most important allies, was called a “traitor of the Fatherland” by militants after hosting President-elect Lula for a meeting. 

Similar vitriol was directed toward the center-left presidential candidate Ciro Gomes, after he (half-heartedly) declared support for Lula during the runoff campaign.

Although the numbers show a radicalized political environment, the worst fears political observers had in the run-up to the election haven’t materialized, with the election proceeding without major episodes of violence.

Mr. Bolsonaro spent his entire term sowing distrust in the electoral system, and has yet to concede the election. His loyalists moved to shut down highways across the country — but their efforts were quelled within a week. In recent days, they have been camped outside of Army garrisons, asking for a military coup.

The president, however, has not publicly supported any of these acts. Following his defeat, he became notoriously reclusive, with few public appearances and statements, as used to be his custom.

Highway police boss charged with malfeasance for illegal campaigning

Cedê Silva
Nov 25, 2022 14:11

The head of Brazil’s Federal Highway Police (PRF), Silvinei Vasques, on Thursday formally became a defendant for malfeasance. He is accused of using his office to promote President Jair Bolsonaro’s failed re-election bid.

On October 29, the day before the runoff election, Mr. Vasques used his Instagram account to request votes for Mr. Bolsonaro. He later deleted the post.

In charging Mr. Vasques, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Rio de Janeiro wrote that between August and October he used the PRF’s image to “demonstrate, in a veiled or overt way, appreciation” for President Jair Bolsonaro, who stood for re-election in October.

As The Brazilian Report showed, on October 30, the PRF defied a ruling by Brazil’s top electoral court prohibiting routine inspections that would affect public transportation. 

The force instead conducted an unusually large number of operations, most notably in states that lean heavily toward Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — now the president-elect. The Lula campaign accused the government of voter suppression.

After President Bolsonaro lost re-election, the highway police worked to clear over 1,200 putschist demonstrations nationwide, several of which imposed full roadblocks on federal highways. They were held by supporters of the president, contesting the election results and calling for a military coup. 

Despite this, the Federal Highway Police said in a press conference earlier this month it was still investigating “possible platforms” by the demonstrators — refusing to identify them as pro-Bolsonaro putschists.

Judge José Arthur Borges did not comply with the prosecutor’s request to suspend Mr. Vasques from office, as he is currently on vacation.

The PRF said in a press statement that the judge turning Mr. Vasques into a defendant is a “normal procedure” following the charge, and that he will provide the requested information through his lawyer.

Bolsonaro campaign maintains putschist push to toss 60 percent of voting machines

Cedê Silva
Nov 23, 2022 17:45 (Updated: Nov 23, 2022 21:15)

President Jair Bolsonaro’s electoral coalition on Wednesday reiterated its challenge to roughly 60 percent of the electronic voting machines used in the October 30 runoff — in defiance of a ruling issued the previous day.

On Tuesday, Brazil’s chief electoral justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered that the campaign must also request the nullification of votes cast in the October 2 first round, given that the machines used were the same, failing which the petition would be rejected immediately.

That would mean challenging not just the presidential race but also the elections for governor, Congress (the Liberal Party obtained the biggest bench in both chambers), and state legislatures.

Lawyer Marcelo Bessa, who represents the defeated Bolsonaro campaign, wrote that extending the petition to the election’s first round would be a “hasty measure,” due to the need to include as plaintiffs “thousands of candidates who ran for political office.”

However, the petition presented on Tuesday is specifically based on the allegation that the problem is with the older electronic voting machines themselves, used in both rounds of the election. In his response to Justice Moraes today, Mr. Bessa wrote that it “would not be possible to certify nor guarantee” the legitimacy of these machines’ results.

As The Brazilian Report has shown, a phony investigation commissioned by Mr. Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party supposedly found that almost 280,000 older electronic voting machines are not properly auditable, making it impossible for electoral authorities to trust their results. 

If the older machines were discarded, Mr. Bolsonaro would have been re-elected with “51.05 percent of the valid votes,” the court filing claims.

In a Wednesday press conference, Valdemar Costa Neto — the chairman of the Liberal Party — did not address a question about the possible individual verification of older voting machines. 

He also denied any involvement of the president in the petition, even though it was signed by the defeated incumbent’s own coalition.

President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is to take office on January 1, 2023. Although the outgoing administration has already set up a transition cabinet, Mr. Bolsonaro himself has not explicitly conceded the election.

Since the president’s October 30 defeat, hundreds of his supporters have blocked roads and are picketing around military garrisons, openly calling for a coup and against Lula taking office as president. Demonstrations continue to take place and have grown more radical — deploying tactics akin to terrorism, according to law enforcement agents.

UPDATE: On Wednesday evening, Justice Moraes dismissed the petition and issued a BRL 22.9 million (USD 4.3 million) fine on the coalition. We will break down his ruling in the November 24 issue of the Brazil Daily newsletter.

Federal Accounts Court member takes medical leave after putschist audio leaks

Cedê Silva
Nov 22, 2022 16:37

Augusto Nardes, a member of Brazil’s Federal Accounts Court, went on medical leave on Tuesday, two days after Brazilian press leaked an audio message of him telling friends of “a very strong movement in the barracks” against the election won last month by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The Federal Accounts Court told The Brazilian Report that the leave of absence is due to “health problems” and will last for five days. The court did not comment on the audio message.

On Sunday, newspaper Folha de S.Paulo broke the story that Mr. Nardes told a group of “friends in agribusiness” that movements within the military would lead to “quite a strong outcome in the nation, [with] unpredictable, unpredictable [sic] consequences.”

In the October 30 presidential runoff, President Jair Bolsonaro won the majority of votes in all Center-Western states, an agricultural powerhouse region. He also won in all southern states and in São Paulo, where Big Agro is also strong.

In a separate audio message, Mr. Nardes said he had talked extensively with the president’s “team.” He added that Mr. Bolsonaro “will certainly be able to face what will happen in the country.”

President-elect Lula is to take office on January 1. Although a transition team was already officially set up by the outgoing administration, Mr. Bolsonaro himself has not explicitly acknowledged his defeat.

A House committee will vote tomorrow on whether to invite Mr. Nardes to explain his audio messages in a public hearing. Left-wing congressman Ivan Valente, the motion’s author, wrote that the audio message is “putschist” and is motivated by dissatisfaction with the result of the election.

On Monday, in a statement to the press, Mr. Nardes said he “regrets the interpretation given to an unpretentious audio message hastily recorded and directed to a group of friends.” He added that he “repudiates demonstrations of an anti-democratic nature and coup plotters.”

Since Mr. Bolsonaro’s defeat on October 30, putschist pro-Bolsonaro demonstrators have been blocking roads and picketing around military installations, calling for a coup and against Lula taking office as president. Demonstrations are still ongoing.

Lula removes larynx lesion, doctors rule out a tumor

Amanda Audi
Nov 21, 2022 14:37

President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Sunday underwent a surgical procedure to remove a leukoplakia, a type of lesion in the larynx. He was discharged from the hospital on Monday. A medical report released by his press office says he is doing well.

The lesion was located on Lula’s left vocal fold and was identified before his trip to Egypt, where he attended the UN Climate Conference (COP27) last week. In addition to the injury, his larynx also presented inflammation points, attributed to the strain of this year’s election campaign.

In 2011, Lula was diagnosed with throat cancer. He underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy and was considered cured the following year. In his most recent checkup, doctors found that the cancer was in complete remission, and there were no signs of new tumors.

At the time, doctors considered that the disease could affect Lula’s voice, which had become hoarser over the years. He was a smoker for 50 years.

After his cancer diagnosis, Lula started to do physical activity daily — a routine he presents on his social media. 

On January 1, 2023, Lula will take office at age 77, the oldest president in Brazilian history on Inauguration Day. But he likes to repeat that he has the “physical vigor of a 20-year-old.”

The swift disclosure of Lula’s condition seems to be a departure from tradition. Throughout history, presidents who have suffered health issues — even in the mass media era — have tended to conceal their condition, thus fueling conspiracy theories.

The most notorious such case took place in 1985. On the eve of his inauguration, president-elect Tancredo Neves was rushed to hospital with severe abdominal pain. He would die without ever taking office. 

Outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro has battled with health issues since being stabbed on the campaign trail in 2018. Early in his administration, the health status of the president was all too transparent, with his son Carlos publishing daily photos of his father eating, signing documents, and even meeting with cabinet ministers while in hospital.

Later, the approach changed, with no photos of hospital visits or presidential medical bulletins. The president even put his own vaccination records under the seal of secrecy, and to this day, it is unknown whether or not Mr. Bolsonaro has taken a Covid vaccine. 

Pro-Bolsonaro protesters try to block roads again

Cedê Silva
Nov 18, 2022 15:37

Brazil’s Federal Highway Police (PRF) on Friday tallied four demonstrations totally blocking traffic on federal roads, as well as 13 other demonstrations partially obstructing roads. They are held by supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro, contesting the election results and calling for a military coup. 

President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who won the presidency with 50.9 percent of the vote, is to take office on January 1.

The full blockades are in the cities of Porto Velho and Presidente Médici, both in the Amazonian state of Rondônia; Caruaru, in the Northeastern state of Pernambuco, and Lucas do Rio Verde, in the Center-Western state of Mato Grosso.

Since President Bolsonaro lost re-election on October 30, the highway police have worked to undo 1,158 such demonstrations nationwide. The force, however, was accused of condoning the anti-democratic protests in the election’s aftermath. 

As The Brazilian Report showed, there were more officers on duty during Election Day (when the PRF were accused of staging road inspections — mostly in Lula-leaning areas — with the purpose of helping Mr. Bolsonaro win) than on the days following the vote. That allowed protesters to disrupt supply chains and create shortages.

Silvinei Vasques, the PRF head, is under investigation for alleged malfeasance.

Over 60 percent of all cargo is transported by trucks in Brazil, making widespread roadblocks a massive economic risk. 

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes on November 12 froze the assets of 43 individuals and companies suspected of sponsoring the putschist demonstrations — both on federal roads and around military facilities. In his decision, Justice Moraes quoted PRF intelligence as saying the business owners in question provide meals, tents, and trucks to the demonstrators. 

Justice Moraes also ordered that the Federal Police interrogate suspects.