Coronavirus forces Brazil to postpone October elections

. Jul 02, 2020
elections Senate drafts proposal to delay municipal elections by a month Photo: FoxPictures/Shutterstock

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We’re covering the postponement of Brazil’s 2020 elections. The expected effect of a rushed reopening. And why the Facebook boycott is slow to catch on in Brazil.


Federal prosecutors in eight states are carrying out an operation to investigate

alleged fraud in the purchase of rapid Covid-19 tests. Deals were allegedly overpriced and tests were of poor quality, says law enforcement. Due to the pandemic, the purchase of essential health materials was fast-tracked and didn&#8217;t need to observe the strict laws of public procurement that are normally enforced. Operation &#8220;False Negative&#8221; is carrying out 81 search and seizure warrants in over 20 cities —&nbsp;and targets roughly 65 people.</p> <p>Law enforcement estimates that at least BRL 30 million were lost due to overpricing.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> This is not only a case of corruption, but rather a public health scandal. The poor-quality tests, prosecutors say, often give false-negative results —&nbsp;giving many people who might carry the coronavirus a mistaken sensation of security.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Congress pushes 2020 elections from October to November</h2> <p>The House passed a constitutional amendment on Wednesday night postponing Brazil&#8217;s 2020 municipal elections from October to November. Rent-seeking centrist parties — which have major local strength and control thousands of mayorships — opposed the move at first, fearing it would hurt incumbents, but were persuaded that it would not be a good look to so openly put their own interests ahead of voters&#8217; health amid a deadly pandemic.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Holding the elections in October was, according to all experts, a health hazard. There is no indication the coronavirus&#8217; spread will be fully contained by then —&nbsp;and Brazil&#8217;s voting system, with long lines of people and touch-based electronic voting machines, is unfit for pandemic times.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>Using hand sanitizer to clean voting machines is not an option, according to Supreme Court Justice Luís Roberto Barroso — who presides over the electoral court system. The product can damage the equipment.</li></ul> <p><strong>But, but, but … </strong>While not holding the elections in October is a smart move, holding it in November might only mean pushing the problem back an extra month. The spread is as strong as ever in Brazil —&nbsp;with Covid-19 deaths doubling during the month of June, surpassing the 60,000 mark. Meanwhile, new cases almost <em>tripled</em> over the same span — from 526,000 on June 1 to 1.4 million on July 1. And that doesn&#8217;t even count the massive underreporting.</p> <p><strong>Sophie&#8217;s choice. </strong>It is clear that holding the elections this year is a major risk, but postponing the vote brings its own huge problems. Should terms be extended until the general elections in 2022, handing incumbents two extra years in office without consulting voters? House Speaker Rodrigo Maia fears that could set a dangerous precedent, giving authoritarian politicians a blueprint to perpetuate their stints in power.</p> <p><strong>Bottom line.</strong> Only the 2 million voters registered in Brasília (the case of yours truly) are free from risk. The federal capital enjoys a state-like status and is run by a governor, not a mayor.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Reopening packs ICUs across Brazil</h2> <p>As predicted by almost every infectious disease expert in Brazil, the reopening of states&#8217; economies has resulted in an explosion of coronavirus cases. In 13 state capitals, occupancy rates of intensive care units are over 80 percent; in Natal, the capital city in northeastern state Rio Grande do Norte, occupancy is at 100 percent. While these numbers fluctuate significantly, the trends are neither inspiring nor surprising.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-map" data-src="visualisation/3050532" data-url=""><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Brazil could soon follow the U.S., where new daily case numbers surpassed 50,000 for the first time on Wednesday —&nbsp;following a rushed reopening. Over the past ten days alone, Brazil recorded 10,000 new deaths and over 400,000 new infections.</p> <p><strong>Meanwhile … </strong>Bars, restaurants, and gyms in Rio de Janeiro will resume operations after four months today —&nbsp;under some restrictions.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>What a botched reopening means.</strong> Not properly reopening means that Brazil will be stuck in the worst of two worlds: the spread will not be contained, while the economy will not function properly.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>In São Paulo, even the reopening process is causing money losses. Many establishments were preparing for a green light to open up shop this week — which never came — and provisioned themselves with food that is now going to waste.&nbsp;</li><li>When the reopening is authorized, establishments won&#8217;t be able to function after 5 pm. For the association of restaurant owners, the restrictions that will be imposed means that it will be cheaper to remain closed.&nbsp;</li></ul> <p><strong>Positive example.</strong> Reactions to the pandemic have been more efficient in precarious neighborhoods with strong community leadership, according to findings by NGO Pólis Institute. In São Paulo&#8217;s Paraisópolis favela, where residents banded together to hire their own health officials — and even hired ambulances — death rates per 100,000 inhabitants are lower than São Paulo&#8217;s overall numbers.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/2641109" data-url=""><script src=""></script></div> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/2641192" data-url=""><script src=""></script></div> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Facebook boycott doesn&#8217;t catch on in Brazil</h2> <p>More and more big companies are joining the Facebook advertising boycott — a campaign led by U.S. civil rights groups Anti-Defamation League and NAACP urging companies to &#8220;Stop Hate for Profit.&#8221; The movement was ignited by the tech giant&#8217;s <a href="">reluctance to fact-check</a> a post by U.S. President Donald Trump —&nbsp;and activists want to hit Facebook where it hurts. At least five groups —&nbsp;Microsoft, Volkswagen, Coca-Cola (which halted <em>all</em> social media advertising for a month), Beiersdorf, and Heineken — have also halted ads in Brazil.</p> <ul><li>Brazilian brands, however, are still monitoring the situation before deciding whether or not it is worth joining the movement. Some have said that the boycott is related to problems specific to the U.S., despite glaring evidence that social media is a vehicle for hate speech and fake news in Brazil, too.</li><li>Cosmetics giant Natura will reportedly hold a board meeting over the next few days to decide where the company will stand.</li></ul> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Companies allow themselves to be outraged as long as it doesn&#8217;t impact their bottom lines. And in no region do people spend more time on social media than Latin America.</p> <ul><li>Brazilians spend 225 minutes per day on social networks —&nbsp;that&#8217;s the second-highest in the world. While time spent using social media went down in most places between 2018 and 2019, in Brazil it went <em>up</em>.</li></ul> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-bar-chart-race" data-src="visualisation/3045222" data-url=""><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Facebook will be fine.</strong> Even if big players decide to mark their position in Latin America, Mark Zuckerberg&#8217;s companies will hardly be facing dire straits. The behemoth increased its advertiser list by 25 percent recently —&nbsp;the <a href="">bulk</a> of that comprising small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from Latin America. Moreover, only 6 percent of Facebook&#8217;s 2010 ad revenue came from its top 100 advertisers.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <ul><li><strong>Gig economy.</strong> Delivery app workers staged a major protest on Wednesday, demanding better pay and working conditions. While the pandemic has boosted the use of delivery services, the sharp rise in unemployment has also increased the number of delivery app workers —&nbsp; meaning that each worker gets <em>fewer</em> calls than before. Reporter Natália Scalzaretto explained in our <a href="">Tech Roundup last week</a> that, in order to make 20 deliveries in São Paulo, workers must ride for an average of 15 hours — earning less than BRL 1 (USD 0.19) per kilometer. Companies minimized the impacts of the stoppage and didn&#8217;t confirm whether they will accept couriers&#8217; demands.</li><li><strong>Oil &amp; gas.</strong> Petrobras plans to trim its workforce from 45,500 to 30,000 staff by next year. The company already has 10,000 workers joining its voluntary redundancy program. The remaining 5,000 jobs may be cut with the sale of the oil giant&#8217;s eight refineries.</li><li><strong>Amazon.</strong> In June, Brazil recorded the highest number of fires in the Amazon for the month over the past 13 years. Official data shows that fires increased 20 percent over the past month, rising to 2,248. And as the government&#8217;s laissez-faire environmental stance comes under scrutiny, Environment Minister Ricardo Salles prepares a package of actions — including paying landowners for reforestation efforts on their properties.&nbsp;</li><li><strong>Climate.</strong> A cyclone that has hit southern Brazil — killing ten people and leaving millions without power —&nbsp;may actually have saved a wealth of crops in the region, by diverting a <a href="">locust swarm </a>crossing Argentina and reaching Brazil. Swarms, however, could become less of a rarity. They form after climate alterations — changes in temperature, humidity, or rainfall can create the ideal conditions for a population boom — and extreme climate events are becoming more frequent in the world.

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