Breaking down Jair Bolsonaro’s pick for prosecutor general

. Sep 06, 2019
prosecutor general augusto aras Augusto Aras. Photo: Antonio Cruz/ABr

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Good morning! Who is Augusto Aras, Brazil’s soon-to-be prosecutor general. The government launches a stimulus package to lower unemployment rates. Brazil and Argentina renew deal for auto industry—postponing free trade. One year of the stabbing attack against Jair Bolsonaro. (This newsletter is for platinum subscribers only. Become one now!)

Augusto Aras, Jair Bolsonaro’s pick for prosecutor general

President Jair Bolsonaro

has finally made his choice for prosecutor general, picking electoral law expert Augusto Aras for the job. If he is confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Aras will be in office for the next two years (he could be nominated for multiple terms, though).</p> <p><strong>Why it matters. </strong>The prosecutor general is responsible for ensuring the rule of law and defending the “diffuse interests” of Brazilian society (in areas such as the environment, public property, cultural heritage, human rights, and the protection of children, senior citizens, and indigenous communities). He is also the only one who can carry out investigations against (and propose the indictment of) the president.</p> <p><strong>Criteria.</strong> Over the past few months, Mr. Aras&#8217; public demeanor has seemed to sway in accordance with signs given by the president. When Mr. Bolsonaro said he wouldn&#8217;t pick an &#8220;environmentalist radical,&#8221; Mr. Aras said that he wouldn&#8217;t be an obstacle to development. He also incorporated parts of the president&#8217;s rhetoric, going against the so-called &#8220;gender ideology&#8221; (a dog-whistle term for LGBT-phobia), and linked the protection of minorities to foreign interests. Moreover, he defends parliamentary immunity as a “sacred prerogative,” which was lambasted by candidate Bolsonaro, but praised by President Bolsonaro.</p> <p><strong>U-turn?</strong> Despite presenting himself as a hard conservative now, Mr. Aras was associated with more left-leaning positions in the past—calling out right-wing groups for their &#8220;fear-mongering strategies.&#8221;</p> <p><strong>Independence.</strong> The prosecutor general is supposed to be independent. But Mr. Aras&#8217; campaigning style raised questions—even within the Bolsonaro camp—that he would use his position to help the first family. Senator Flávio Bolsonaro, the president&#8217;s eldest son, is involved in a money-laundering investigation.</p> <p><strong>Three-person list.</strong> Since 2001, an association of prosecutors holds an internal election for the job—presenting the president with a list of the three best-voted candidates. Since 2003, this is the first time the president&#8217;s pick for Prosecutor General has not come from this list—a move criticized by many. But that system isn&#8217;t without its flaws—as it inspires candidates for the position to act almost as union leaders, instead of focusing on their role as prosecutors.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Government studies BRL 65bn job-creation program</h2> <p>The Economy Ministry is drafting a stimulus program to lower Brazil&#8217;s unemployment rate, which is currently at 11.8%. The package has ten axes, including: using BRL 65bn lying unused in a labor justice fund to increase companies&#8217; working capital; creating a network of job agencies to improve changes of repositioning; giving out tax breaks for companies that invest in employee qualification; increasing transparency of small companies&#8217; earnings (which could end up reducing interest rates on loans), and expanding micro-credit initiatives, among others.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Brazil&#8217;s GDP is highly dependent on family consumption. But, as unemployment rates remain high, families reduce their exposure—which has a ripple effect on the Brazilian economy as a whole. Consumer confidence has recovered significantly since the end of the 2014–2016 crisis, but remains way below pre-recession levels.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Youngsters.</strong> One of the main proposals is to reduce taxes on companies that give young professionals their first employment in the job market. The unemployment rate among 18–24 year-olds is 26%. They are hindered by a lack of experience. Among teenagers between 14 and 17 years old (who are allowed to work as apprentices under specific rules), the rate reaches 42%.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/651613"></div><script src=""></script> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Before election, Brazil and Argentina extend trade deal</h2> <p>Brazil and Argentina will sign a new trade deal today, related to the auto industry. The current agreement expires in June 2020, when Brazilian companies hoped that free trade rules would finally apply to the commerce of vehicles and auto parts between the two neighbors. But that has been postponed for at least nine more years, and the current system will remain in place. For every USD 1 Brazil imports from Argentina, it gets USD 1.50 free of tariffs. That rate will go up gradually to USD 1: USD 3, eventually giving room to free trade in 2029.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The auto sector is pivotal to Brazil-Argentina trade relations, representing 49% of Brazil&#8217;s exports to the country. Even with the creation of Mercosur, a system of administered trade was put in place. With Argentina facing another severe financial crisis, exports have slowed down by 34% in August when compared to one year ago.</p> <p><strong>Good enough.</strong> Despite defending free trade rules, the Brazilian government said the deal will give more predictability to business and could help attract investments in the neighboring country, regardless of who wins next month&#8217;s presidential election (barring an unforeseen upheaval, Kirchnerist candidate Alberto Fernández should be elected).</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s stabbing: one year later</h2> <div class="wp-block-image"><figure class="aligncenter"><img loading="lazy" width="624" height="351" src="" alt="Jair Bolsonaro stabbed attack election uncertainty" class="wp-image-8396" srcset=" 624w, 300w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 624px) 100vw, 624px" /><figcaption>Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed on Sep 6, 2018</figcaption></figure></div> <p>Exactly one year ago, Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed in the stomach during a campaign rally in Juiz de Fora (Minas Gerais). With severe perforations to his intestines, Mr. Bolsonaro lost 2.5 liters of blood, underwent two emergency surgeries—and risked losing his life.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The incident was one of the most violent episodes in recent Brazilian political history and helped shape the 2018 presidential campaign. Sidelined due to the severe injuries, Mr. Bolsonaro campaigned from his hospital bed, relying on social media and intense press coverage to enhance his campaign profile—also escaping the scrutiny of debates with other candidates. The episode helped fuel his low-budget campaign, but at that point, Mr. Bolsonaro already led all polls. It is impossible to determine how much the event propelled his candidacy.</p> <p><strong>The attacker.</strong> Adélio Bispo de Oliveira, 41, said he received an &#8220;order from God&#8221; telling him to kill Jair Bolsonaro. Mr. Oliveira was declared mentally ill and is serving time in Campo Grande (Mato Grosso do Sul). The police say he acted alone—something Mr. Bolsonaro has repeatedly questioned.</p> <p><strong>Health.</strong> The episode has brought serious health complications to the president, who, on Sunday, will undergo a fourth surgery—this time to remove a hernia caused by the previous three interventions.</p> <p><strong>Political influence.</strong> The stabbing continues to influence public debate in Brazil, with the president hardly ever missing an opportunity to bring it up—calling his survival &#8220;a miracle of God,&#8221; and his election a &#8220;work of the Almighty.&#8221; One of his allies proposed a bill instituting a day to remember the attack.</p> <ul><li><strong><em>Remember: </em></strong><a href=""><em>Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro stabbed during rally</em></a></li><li><strong><em>And:</em></strong><em> </em><a href=""><em>Unprecedented level of political radicalism in Brazil</em></a></li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you should know today</h2> <p><strong>Amazon.</strong> The government and the Federal Prosecution Service struck a deal to make use of the BRL 2.6bn &#8220;Car Wash fund&#8221;—a sum that was paid by Petrobras as compensation for corruption schemes uncovered by Operation Car Wash. Anti-deforestation initiatives will get BRL 1bn, while the remaining BRL 1.6bn will be used to fund education. The deal must now be ratified by the Supreme Court.</p> <p><strong>Banks.</strong> Former Central Bank President Ilan Goldfajn was named chairman of Credit Suisse&#8217;s board of directors, helping to develop the areas of wealth management and investment banking. Mr. Goldfajn will effectively join Credit Suisse on September 16, after the end of the six-month quarantine former Central Bank executives must adhere to before going back to financial institutions.</p> <p><strong>Corruption.</strong> Prosecutors obtained conversations showing that Senator Flávio Bolsonaro&#8217;s former aide Fabricio Queiroz tried to shield the politician from being associated with urban militia groups acting in Rio. After an investigation into dummy employees hired by Mr. Bolsonaro became public, Mr. Queiroz fired the ex-wife of a militia member on the president&#8217;s son&#8217;s payroll.</p> <p><strong>Abuse of office.</strong> President Bolsonaro vetoed 36 new rules in the &#8220;Abuse of Office Act,&#8221; a law to punish excesses from law enforcement. It was enough to disfigure the bill—&#8221;offering cover&#8221; to police abuse, as one penal law expert <a href="">said</a> to weekly magazine <em>Veja</em>. Many parties want to strike down the vetoes in Congress next week.</p> <p><strong>France.</strong> Known for his quick temper, Economy Minister Paulo Guedes won&#8217;t be the one to appease Brazil–France relations, fraught by a war of words between Presidents Jair Bolsonaro and Emmanuel Macron on environmental protections in the Amazon. He minimized comments on French First Lady Brigitte Macron&#8217;s looks endorsed by Mr. Bolsonaro on social media. &#8220;I read in the newspapers that he said [Emmanuel] Macron&#8217;s wife is ugly. She really is ugly, he didn&#8217;t lie.&#8221; Mr. Guedes later apologized.</p> <p><strong>Tourism.</strong> Embratur, the Brazilian Tourism Company, named former footballer Ronaldinho Gaúcho the country&#8217;s newest tourism ambassador. Despite being wildly famous abroad, Ronaldinho can&#8217;t leave the country, as police detained his passport over an unpaid fine for an environmental infraction.

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