Despite no cases, Brazil to declare coronavirus “emergency”

. Feb 04, 2020
Despite no cases, Brazil to declare coronavirus "emergency" Photo: William Perugini/Shutterstock

We’re covering today Brazil’s latest moves to prevent the coronavirus from reaching the country. The government’s non-committal approach to its supposed priority. And a possible change in how Supreme Court justices are chosen.

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Brazil to declare coronavirus “emergency”

Despite having no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus within its borders

—though having 14 suspected cases—the Brazilian government will move to declare a state of &#8220;public health emergency.&#8221; The last time this happened was in 2015 during the Zika virus outbreak. Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said the status will help the government to fast-track the purchase of sanitary equipment and to create quarantine facilities.</p> <p>A bill establishing a mandatory 18-day quarantine for infected people is also being drafted.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The coronavirus is &#8220;almost certainly going to be a pandemic,&#8221; said Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to <em>The New York Times</em> on Sunday. Last week, the World Health Organisation classified the outbreak as a &#8220;public health emergency of international concern.&#8221;</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/1292761"></div><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script> <p><strong>Brazilians in Wuhan.</strong> Between 40 and 50 Brazilian nationals are in Wuhan, a city in Central China considered to be the epicenter of the outbreak. The government has promised to bring them back to Brazil, sending a military plane by Friday—but the Chinese government <a href="https://g1.globo.com/mundo/noticia/2020/02/03/governo-chines-apoiara-retirada-de-brasileiros-de-wuhan-diz-consul-geral-da-china.ghtml">says</a> it has not been made aware of the operation. These citizens are expected to be put in quarantine in a military base at a so-far undecided location.</p> <p><strong>Economic impacts.</strong> With China halting many economic activities to contain the spread of the coronavirus, fears of a global economic downturn loom. On Monday, Chinese stocks sank 8 percent on their first trading session after the Lunar New Year break—the worst daily dip since 2015. Brazilian exporting companies have felt the blow—five big commodities firms have lost BRL 54.4 billion in market value since the outbreak was detected. In 2019, China accounted for 28 percent of Brazilian exports—more than double the U.S. share (13 percent).</p> <p>The coronavirus has also clobbered prices of iron ore—which are down 13 percent this year—and oil, which fell below USD 50/barrel for the first time in a year.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/1334744"></div><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Bolsonaro&#8217;s agenda for 2020 comes with a notable absence</h2> <p>As Congress opened the legislative calendar for 2020, the president&#8217;s office presented its priorities for the year. The 150-page document was summarized by Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni to a near-empty Congress floor, with only 80 out of 594 members in attendance. This summary, however, did not contain the administrative reform—highlighted by Economy Minister Paulo Guedes as pivotal to cut public spending and increase public service efficiency.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Reforms always clash with organized interests. By not publicly backing the proposal, the president weakens it. In 2019, Congress pushed forward the pension reform <em>despite</em> Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s non-commital approach at times. But 2020 is an electoral year—and congressmen could opt for dodging controversial issues.</p> <p><strong>What&#8217;s the issue?</strong> The government faces internal struggles about the scope of the reform. While the economic team wants it to encompass current servants, the president fears political backlash from one of the best-organized lobbies in Brasília. House Speaker Rodrigo Maia said lawmakers won&#8217;t fall on the grenade: &#8220;We will vote what the government presents us with. It can&#8217;t transfer its own responsibility to Congress.&#8221;</p> <p><strong>What made the cut.</strong> Here are the main issues listed as the government&#8217;s priorities for 2020: tax reform, the privatization of electricity distributor Eletrobras, the independence of the Central Bank, opening the market of basic sanitation services to private players, and <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/11/06/paulo-guedes-wants-completely-reform-brazilian-state/">Economy Minister Paulo Guedes’ new “federative pact.”</a></p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Senate wants to change how Supreme Court justices are picked</h2> <p>On the return of the legislative branch from vacation, Senate President Davi Alcolumbre elected as his priority a constitutional amendment bill to change how presidents can pick Supreme Court justices. Instead of choosing any &#8220;notorious legal mind,&#8221; the bill would limit the choice to a three-person list elaborated by a committee made up of seven institutions, among which would include the Supreme Court itself and the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB). The bill would also set a 10-year term for justices, instead of the current lifetime tenure.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters. </strong>By 2022, <a href="https://brazilian.report/newsletters/brazil-daily/2020/01/07/brazil-plans-avoid-oil-crisis/">Jair Bolsonaro is set to choose</a> at least two Supreme Court justices and three other seats in superior courts. Allies of the president see the bill as an attempt to curb his powers.</p> <p><strong>Criteria.</strong> The first vacancy in the Supreme Court will come this year, as Justice Celso de Mello reaches the compulsory retirement age of 75 in November. Mr. Bolsonaro said he wants to choose someone who is &#8220;extremely evangelical&#8221; for the seat.</p> <p><strong>Rubber-stamping.</strong> In theory, the Senate already has checks-and-balances in place when it comes to Supreme Court nominations, as the upper house must confirm any pick the president makes. However, of the 300+ names chosen in Brazil&#8217;s republican history, only five were barred—all coming during the Floriano Peixoto presidency in the 1890s.</p> <p><strong>Not a priority.</strong> Senator Simone Tebet, chair of the Senate&#8217;s Constitution and Justice Committee—through which all bills must pass—said she would only put the matter up for a vote <em>after</em> all economic reforms are approved.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <p><strong>2020 elections. </strong>Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s Alliance for Brazil party has until April 4 to comply with all rules imposed by electoral courts if it is to participate in the 2020 municipal elections. Meanwhile, other parties have begun courting the president&#8217;s allies, banking on the Alliance&#8217;s endeavor failing. They hope to improve their electoral performance by cashing in on the president&#8217;s image with right-wing voters.</p> <p><strong>Advertising.</strong> Eletromidia and Elemidia, Brazil&#8217;s second- and third-biggest outdoor advertising companies in Brazil respectively, have announced a merger. The move creates a behemoth with revenue of BRL 700 million per year and a footprint in 68,000 locations. The new company becomes the sector&#8217;s leader, ahead of France&#8217;s JCDecaux and America&#8217;s Clear Channel. Out-of-home ads, such as billboards or street displays, account for 11 percent of Brazil&#8217;s total advertising sector—behind only TV commercials (53 percent) and internet ads (21 percent).</p> <p><strong>Israel.</strong> In a December recorded interview, published yesterday, President Jair Bolsonaro reaffirmed to pentecostal church leader Silas Malafaia that he will move the Brazilian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by 2021. <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2017/12/08/trump-jerusalem-temer/">Brazilian evangelical Protestants argue</a> that the Bible specifies that Jewish people are the chosen ones, and therefore Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. For them, Israel’s claim over Jerusalem must be recognized for the new messiah to emerge.</p> <p><strong>Poland.</strong> To celebrate 100 years of diplomatic relations with Poland, the Brazilian government will welcome Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz this afternoon. The two countries will discuss cooperation in areas such as technology, religious freedoms, migration, and foreign policy. The Brazilian Foreign Minister said Poland represents &#8220;a unique opportunity to increase trade and investments&#8221; as &#8220;the fifth-biggest economy in post-Brexit Europe.&#8221; 

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