Bolsonaro’s PSL: the crumbling of a ruling party

. Oct 09, 2019
bolsonaro party psl social liberal party Bolsonaro at the PSL event that launched his candidacy in 2018

Good morning! Today we are covering the chances of Jair Bolsonaro abandoning his current political party, as well as the admission from WhatsApp that their platform was used to send illegal mass messages during the election. Plus, reports of federal torture in Pará prisons. (This newsletter is for platinum subscribers only. Become one now!)

The crumbling of a ruling party

In a video published to social media yesterday, President Jair Bolsonaro

is pictured alongside a supporter who claims he is running as a candidate for Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s Social Liberal Party (PSL). Taking his fan to one side, the president tells him to &#8220;forget the party&#8221; and suggesting that PSL chairman Luciano Bivar is &#8220;done for.&#8221;</p> <p><strong>Why it matters. </strong>Jair Bolsonaro joined the PSL in mid-2018 and could now be eyeing an exit, with the group mired in dummy candidate and illegal campaign financing scandals in Minas Gerais. Tourism Minister Marcelo Álvaro Antônio is under investigation by the Federal Police for his involvement in corrupt schemes and he has been summoned to a Senate transparency committee later this month. Leaving the PSL could be Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s way of washing his hands of blame.</p> <p>The Social Liberal Party was a political non-event before the 2018 election. From next to no representation in Congress, Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s wave of popularity made the party one of the biggest in the capital overnight, thus bringing with it a goldmine of public electoral funding, which is distributed in accordance with a party&#8217;s size.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/754288"></div><script src=""></script> <p><strong>Loyalty? </strong>If Mr. Bolsonaro were to join a new party, it would be his <em>tenth</em> in 30 years of public life. The Patriots party has already scheduled a meeting later today to align its public message around possibilities that the President could migrate there. Leaving PSL, it is expected Mr. Bolsonaro would bring around 25 members of Congress with him.</p> <p><strong>Brazil&#8217;s Conservatives. </strong>The other option for Jair Bolsonaro is to create his own party, but the process of doing so is far more drawn out and complex than simply joining an existing group. However, work has already been done on creating a manifesto for this new political clan, which would be called the Conservative party.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Right split. </strong>President Jair Bolsonaro is by no means a unanimous favorite of the full ranks of the PSL. A wing of representatives within the party have been planning for weeks on what their strategy will be without Mr. Bolsonaro. The PSL&#8217;s whip in the House, Delegado Waldir, has warned potential defectors that they would be making a mistake by leaving the party which has the biggest slice of public campaign funds.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>WhatsApp admits illegal mass messages were sent during election</h2> <p>For the first time, instant messaging app WhatsApp has admitted that its platform was used during Brazil&#8217;s 2018 elections to send <a href="">illegal mass messages to the electorate</a>, by way of automated systems hired by companies. Speaking at an event in Medellin, Colombia, WhatsApp executive Ben Supple said companies &#8220;violated [the app&#8217;s] terms of use to reach a large number of people&#8221; with automated messages.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters. </strong>President Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s victorious election campaign in 2018 is currently under investigation by electoral courts, under suspicion of being behind the mass sending of WhatsApp messages smearing his Workers&#8217; Party opponent, Fernando Haddad. The case in question could ultimately lead to the election being annulled, but this is an extremely unlikely outcome.</p> <p><strong>Context. </strong>Just three days after the first round of the 2018 election, newspaper <em><a href="">Folha de S. Paulo</a></em> revealed that business owners who were donors of Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s campaign had hired automated systems of mass messaging to spread fake news against the Workers&#8217; Party. News website <em>UOL</em> later reported that the Workers&#8217; Party itself had used the same automated services.</p> <p>Reports suggest that these automation platforms engaged in the illegal use of the taxpayer IDs of senior citizens in order to gather a large number of usable SIM cards for their mass message sending. Roughly 10,000 such IDs of people aged between 65 and 86 were used by one company.</p> <p><strong>Electoral crime.</strong> There are two legal issues with this practice: first, electoral courts forbid the use of automatization tools in campaigns, such as these services to send mass messages on social media; second, reports show that business owners hired these companies without declaring their spending to electoral courts, constituting the crime of illegal campaign financing.</p> <p>&#8220;We always knew that the Brazilian election would be a challenge,&#8221; said Mr. Supple. &#8220;It was a very polarized election with ideal conditions for spreading disinformation. In Brazil, many people use WhatsApp as their primary source of information and do not have the tools to verify the veracity of the content [they receive].&#8221;</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Prison task-force chief removed after torture allegations</h2> <p>Public prosecutors have requested the head of a task-force sent to control prisons in the northern state of Pará be removed from his post, after extensive accusations of torture committed by federal agents.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters. </strong>This task-force was deployed by Justice Minister Sergio Moro at the end of July as a containment measure, in the light of a riot at an Altamira penitentiary which resulted in the deaths of 62 inmates. The prosecutors&#8217; report details cases of impaling, piercing inmates&#8217; feet with nails, and beatings with law enforcement batons.</p> <p>The prosecutor&#8217;s report is part of a case of misconduct in office against federal prison agent Maycon Cesar Rottava, which included the analysis of videos of alleged torture and statements from inmates. While Mr. Rottava himself is not suspected to have committed any acts of torture, he is accused of having overseen the practices.</p> <p><strong>Eye-witness. </strong>One of the inmates&#8217; statements claimed that prisoners were &#8220;sitting in feces, urine, catarrh … being beaten, pepper-sprayed all the time.&#8221; &#8220;No-one is eating, no-one is drinking water … we are being tortured.&#8221;</p> <p><strong>&#8220;Rubbish&#8221;? </strong>When asked to comment on the case yesterday, President Jair Bolsonaro said that journalists should &#8220;stop asking rubbish&#8221; and refused to provide a statement.</p> <script src="" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you should know</h2> <p><strong>Brazil v. France.</strong> After French Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne claimed that the country would not sign the EU-Mercosur free-trade deal under its current terms, Brazil&#8217;s foreign ministry claimed that France was blocking the country&#8217;s entry to the environmental committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Brazil said its refusal for membership was &#8220;due to a veto from one country: France.&#8221;</p> <p><strong>Oil auction. </strong>Representatives and senators have reached a deal to approve a bill establishing the distribution among states and municipalities of resources from Brazil&#8217;s upcoming mega-auction of pre-salt oil fields, scheduled for November 6. Meanwhile, the Federal Accounting Court (TCU) is set to decide on a crucial case later today, determining the rules for the auction and whether it may go ahead in November as planned. The government expects to raise BRL 106 billion from the sale of oil fields.</p> <p><strong>Real estate credit. </strong>Government-owned bank Caixa Econômica Federal has become the latest financial institution to reduce its interest rates on real estate credit lines, dropping its minimum rates one percentage point to 7.5 percent per year. This follows similar moves from Itaú Unibanco and Bradesco, who cut their rates to 7.45 and 7.3 percent, respectively.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Bitcoin.</strong> According to <em><a href="">Cointrader Monitor</a></em>, Brazil has seen over BRL 10 billion in bitcoin negotiations in 2019, breaking the previous record of BRL 8 billion in 2017. Brazil is the biggest market for cryptocurrencies in Latin America, having transferred over 301,000 bitcoins so far in 2019, a figure which is set to surpass 400,000 by the end of the year.</p> <p><strong>Lula &amp; Dilma. </strong>The rapporteur of a parliamentary investigation committee into the dealings of Brazil&#8217;s Development Bank (BNDES) has requested the indictment of former presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff on crimes of conspiracy and corruption. The investigations in question involve loans granted to construction firm Odebrecht for the export of engineering goods and services. The rapporteur also suggested the indictment of a number of other prominent figures, such as ex-Finance Ministers Guido Mantega and Antônio Palocci, former Odebrecht heads Emilio and Marcelo Odebrecht, and ex-BNDES president Luciano Coutinho.

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