Big cities call out Bolsonaro in spontaneous protest

. Mar 18, 2020
coronavirus bolsonaro cacerolazo protest Cacerolazo in São Paulo

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We’re covering the spontaneous protests against Jair Bolsonaro. The government’s decision to declare a state of public calamity after Brazil’s first Covid-19 death. And a case for UBI as a palliative measure for the looming crisis.

their windows, voters begin shouts of &#8220;Bolsonaro out&#8221;</h2> <p>Several labor unions were scheduled to protest on the streets today against the austerity measures enforced by the Jair Bolsonaro administration. But, due to Covid-19, the organizers opted instead to schedule a <em>cacerolazo</em> for today, at 8 pm.</p> <ul><li><em>Cacerolazo</em> is a form of protest which consists of banging pots and pans in order to make noise and draw attention. It has its roots around Latin America and has made its way to Brazil in recent years. The word <em>cacerolazo</em> comes from Spanish <em>cacerola</em>, or &#8220;stew pot.&#8221;</li></ul> <p>In at least <a href="">six state capitals</a>, however, voters couldn&#8217;t wait to voice their displeasure with the government. In São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, and Recife, voters spontaneously took to their windows and balconies with their pots and pans, screaming &#8220;Bolsonaro out.&#8221;</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed-twitter wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-twitter"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="550" data-dnt="true"><p lang="pt" dir="ltr">&quot;Bolsonaro out!&quot; says downtown São Paulo. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Euan Marshall (@euanmarshall) <a href="">March 18, 2020</a></blockquote><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script> </div></figure> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Except for Recife, Jair Bolsonaro won big in all of these cities back in 2018. The fact that such spontaneous movements are happening in regions where Bolsonaro was once popular should set off alarm bells within the administration—especially since the upcoming Covid-19-motivated economic crisis can only harm public trust in the government.</p> <ul><li>The current political kerfuffle is beginning to resemble more and more the downfall of Dilma Rousseff. <em>Cacerolazos</em>, public confrontation with Congress, and economic hardship. Unless the president pivots fast, he could enter the same spiral that cost Ms. Rousseff her term: a political deadlock that hampers the economy—draining even more of his support.</li></ul> <p><strong>Removal?</strong> The first impeachment request against Mr. Bolsonaro was presented to Congress on Tuesday by Brasilia state lawmaker Leandro Grass. He said the president committed &#8220;<a href="">numerous crimes against the public administration</a>,&#8221; including inciting public demonstrations amid a pandemic and celebrating the 1964 military coup. Congressman Alexandre Frota had promised to present his own request, but postponed the move.</p> <ul><li>The House Speaker has the power to move these requests forward or shelve them. In all likelihood, Rodrigo Maia won&#8217;t lift a finger—keeping impeachment as an ace up his sleeve to force Jair Bolsonaro to <a href="">cooperate with Congress during the Covid-19 crisis</a>.</li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>It&#8217;s time for a state of public calamity</h2> <p>The president&#8217;s press secretary informed on Tuesday night that the government will ask Congress to approve a declaration of a state of public calamity. That would allow the federal administration to ignore its primary deficit goals for the year—set at BRL 124 billion—and spend money on stimulus measures to attempt to ward off a near inescapable recession.</p> <ul><li>The move comes after Brazil recorded its first Covid-19 death in the country. Another patient with Covid-19 symptoms died last night outside of Rio de Janeiro, and four other deaths are being investigated. <a href="">The number is set to go way up</a>.</li></ul> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The world is entering a crisis with no modern precedents and no safe harbor. The Covid-19 calamity will hit everyone, everywhere, for a long time. Without serious government action, no economy will be able to avoid a full-scale collapse.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/1607905"><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Reality check.</strong> In Brazil, <a href="">the president has called the pandemic a &#8220;fantasy,&#8221;</a> and the Economy Minister took too long to intervene. Apparently, the administration is waking up to reality.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>The government made sure to &#8220;reiterate its commitment to the necessary structural reforms to the state, and believes that keeping the federal spending cap will anchor a fiscal regimen that will ensure trust and investments leading to sustainable growth.&#8221;</li></ul> <p><strong>Grim scenario.</strong> The Economy Minister reduced growth expectations from 2.4 to 2.1 percent. On Monday, officials already talked about a mere 1.68-percent growth.</p> <ul><li>Today, the Central Bank publishes its decision on the benchmark interest rate—it is expected to be cut by 0.25 to 1 percentage point.</li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>A case for UBI in the Covid-19 Brazil</h2> <p>According to economist Daniel Duque, who does research on inequality, the labor market, and education, 75 percent of Brazil&#8217;s lowest-income workers have no income record whatsoever. That puts them out of the reach of the government&#8217;s recently-announced economic measures to cushion the blow caused by the Covid-19 outbreak which have been based on advancing certain benefits for needy populations and postponing tax payments</p> <p>Mr. Duque believes that the government&#8217;s plan is a step in the right direction, but that it is not enough. For him, a temporary universal basic income is the best answer for the moment. He spoke with Brasília correspondent Brenno Grillo:</p> <p><strong>Why should Brazil create a basic income against Covid-19?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>It is the way to reach the people who will be impacted the most by the upcoming crisis—that is, informal workers with per capita income of up to BRL 692. In the coming weeks, we will see a very dramatic situation, and it will not be possible to help them if we focus only on those who are losing income. The government does not know who these people are, as they are not registered in social security systems, nor are they Bolsa Família beneficiaries.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>How much should people get—and what would be the cost?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>Brazil has a monthly GDP per capita of BRL 3,600 (USD 718.41). Giving people a minimum monthly income of BRL 300, for six months, would cost 3 percent of GDP. It is a significant amount, but it is the type of necessary measure at the moment, a type of policy that does not consider a person&#8217;s income and distributes a value that can help to cover the daily expenses of populations in need. It would be the fastest way to reach informal workers.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>Other economists defend spurring investments …&nbsp;</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>At this point, this would not help. People should not interact socially, so making investments could make things worse. And reducing economic activity would be desirable, as it would show that people are not interacting. What the government must do is wait for the economic activity to drop and help people to maintain themselves until this situation is over.</p></blockquote> <div id="buzzsprout-player-2981242"></div> <script src=";player=small" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <ul><li><strong>Stock market.</strong> The São Paulo stock exchange benchmark index was up 4.85 percent on Tuesday, following a circuit-breaker session on Monday. The Brazilian currency regained some ground against the U.S. Dollar, but the foreign exchange rate still closed the day above USD 1 : BRL 5.</li><li><strong>Aviation.</strong> Gol Airlines—Brazil&#8217;s biggest air carrier—will suspend all international flights as of March 23. The company says it must &#8220;adapt to the new scenario of air transportation demand, amid the global coronavirus spread.&#8221;</li><li><strong>2020 elections. </strong>Covid-19 could alter the <a href="">Brazilian electoral calendar</a>. Municipal elections are set to occur in October—but self-isolation measures could hamper parties&#8217; processes to choose their candidates. April 4 is the deadline for those who want to be on the ballot to join a party, and conventions must happen between July 20 and August 5—in the middle of the Brazilian winter. So far, the Superior Electoral Court says the timetable will be maintained. On Tuesday, the court&#8217;s Chief Justice Rosa Weber suspended an April 26 by-election to fill a Senate vacancy.</li><li><strong>Back to basics.</strong> With benchmark interest rates at their lowest ever, fixed-income investments became much less attractive in Brazil. That is, until the coronavirus crisis. Now, brokerage firm XP expects retail investors to go back to these safe assets amid a <a href="">highly volatile market</a>. Since Monday of last week, the São Paulo stock exchange has triggered five circuit breakers and its benchmark stock index has lost 24 percent.</li><li><strong>&#8220;War effort&#8221;.</strong> Drinks giant Ambev will use one of its factories to produce at least 500,000 bottles of <a href="">hand sanitizer</a> for public hospitals. The product has been in shortage in many urban centers in Brazil due to a lack of packaging, but Ambev will use plastic bottles that would otherwise be used for soft drinks. The move follows what luxury group LVMH did in France and beverage producer Arcus in Norway.</li><li><strong>Lines stopped. </strong>Volkswagen Brazil could shut down four of its factories—in the states of São Paulo and Paraná—for at least ten days, starting on March 31. The decision is expected to be made this week, and it will affect 15,000 workers. The automakers&#8217; association has met daily to find a joint solution for the Covid-19 outbreak and is discussing the possibility (which is not consensual) of a collective shutdown of production lines. More than the risk of in-company infections the sector—which employs over 125,000 people—is facing an imminent <a href="">shortage of components from China</a>.

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