Bolsonaro’s plan for next week’s United Nations General Assembly

. Sep 16, 2020
unga united nations general assembly Empty UNGA Hall. Photo: Songquan Deng/Shutterstock

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Today, we predict what Jair Bolsonaro will say in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Plus, a visit from the U.S. Secretary of State. And Bolsonaro’s botched attempt to launch his own cash-transfer program.

Bolsonaro’s United Nations General Assembly playbook

The United Nations General Assembly opened yesterday for what will be a historic socially-distanced 75th session.

General debates begin on September 22 and, as customary, <a href="">Brazil will deliver the opening speech</a>. Brasília correspondent Débora Álvares reports that the president has already zeroed in on his talking points — and his pre-recorded address should be ready by the weekend. </p> <p><strong>All hands on deck.</strong> Multiple advisers were tasked with drafting the speech, and the president has ordered them, according to a cabinet minister, to &#8220;dig up all the data that can put Brazil under a positive light before other countries.&#8221; Here&#8217;s what Mr. Bolsonaro will present to the world:</p> <ul><li><strong>Coronavirus.</strong> The Brazilian president has endured harsh criticism for his Covid-19 denialism, but Mr. Bolsonaro plans to ignore the 133,000-plus deaths and &#8220;focus on the positive numbers,&#8221; by pointing out that 3.6 million Brazilians have recovered from the coronavirus. He will also talk about the emergency aid introduced in April that has helped tens of millions of Brazilians and lowered poverty rates to all-time lows.</li><li><strong>Environment 1.</strong> In what has become a pattern, Mr. Bolsonaro will address the United Nations General Assembly as Brazil battles massive wildfires again. In 2019, the Amazon was burning; now, the Pantanal wetlands are being engulfed by fires. Still, Mr. Bolsonaro will try to spin the narrative by presenting the latest initiatives by the Environment Ministry to contain the flames, highlighting the government&#8217;s efforts to protect at-risk Amazon jaguars.</li><li><strong>Environment 2.</strong> Mr. Bolsonaro is gathering data from the Legal Amazon Council, an anti-deforestation body headed by Vice President Hamilton Mourão. &#8220;That is how he plans to regain credibility on the issue,&#8221; a senior government official told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>. Rampant deforestation has been bad for Brazilian businesses and a major roadblock to the ratification of the free-trade deal between Mercosur and the European Union.</li></ul> <p><strong>Remembering.</strong> In 2019, <a href="">Jair Bolsonaro shocked the world</a> by introducing the United Nations to Brazil’s culture wars, in a speech that only really resonated with Brazilians. And not even all Brazilians.</p> <iframe src="" width="100%" height="232" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Pompeo to meet Venezuelan migrants in Brazil</h2> <p>U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit the city of Boa Vista, capital of Brazil&#8217;s northernmost state of Roraima, to meet with Venezuelan migrants. The visit is part of a plan to turn up the heat for Venezuela&#8217;s increasingly authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro.</p> <ul><li>The meeting comes months after a botched attempt by mercenaries to overthrow Mr. Maduro. A rag-tag group of Venezuelan dissidents and security contractors from U.S. company Silvercorp <a href="">tried to abduct Mr. Maduro</a> and collect a USD 15-million bounty from the U.S. government —&nbsp;but their adventure ended in pathetic failure.</li></ul> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> With the U.S. elections fast approaching, Washington is expected to toughen its stance on Venezuela, with more sanctions expected for a country that has, for years, been facing a full-scale socioeconomic collapse.</p> <p><strong>Sticks and no carrots.</strong> Mr. Maduro will face enormous pressure from the U.S., regardless of the outcome in the November election. Juan González, a special advisor on Latin America for former Vice President Joe Biden, who leads all presidential polls, said a potential Biden White House would give Mr. Maduro one option: elections observed by some form of independent body forcing him to leave office.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Bolsonaro gives up on cash-transfer program</h2> <p>President Jair Bolsonaro threw a tantrum on social media on Tuesday,&nbsp; ending the plan to launch his own cash-transfer policy that would expand and replace the widely popular Bolsa Família.</p> <p><strong>Context.</strong> On Monday, a special aid to Economy Minister Paulo Guedes revealed to the press that the government planned to fund the initiative by cutting unemployment benefits and freezing retirement pensions — reportedly before things were ironed out with the president.</p> <ul><li>Mr. Guedes was summoned by President Jair Bolsonaro to a meeting on Tuesday morning, “during which the president yelled a lot, and the minister just stood in silence.” Another source said they had “never seen the president so pissed off.”</li><li>Then, on social media, he said Renda Brasil (what his beefed-up Bolsa Família would be called) was now a forbidden subject — and threatened to fire anyone who proposes the idea of slashing aid benefits.</li></ul> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Renda Brasil was Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s strategy to win over low-income, poorly-educated voters —&nbsp;who remain the primary base of the Workers&#8217; Party, a party recognized for expanding social protections during its administrations.</p> <p><strong>Yes, but … </strong>The policy which must not be named might have been tossed aside for now. But government officials said it could make a comeback — keep an eye out for it closer to the 2022 election.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <ul><li><strong>&#8220;Super&#8221; Wednesday. </strong>The Central bank is expected to keep benchmark interest rate Selic at 2 percent a year. Analysts, however, will scrutinize the minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee&#8217;s meeting for indications of how the bank will proceed in the future. Today, financial markets will pay close attention to the U.S. Federal Reserve, which will release its <a href="">economic projections for 2023</a>. </li><li><strong>WTO.</strong> Brazilian diplomat Roberto Azevêdo contested U.S. President Donald Trump&#8217;s version about why he <a href="">resigned</a> as head of the World Trade Organization in May. In Bob Woodward&#8217;s new book &#8220;Rage,&#8221; Mr. Trump said he muscled Mr. Azevêdo out of the WTO, threatening to pull the U.S. from the body unless the diplomat left. To O Globo, Mr. Azevêdo said: &#8220;This is Trump being Trump. That telephone call never happened. I never spoke to him on the phone.&#8221;</li><li><strong>Environment. </strong>In the first 14 days of September, the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) registered almost 20,500 fires — already more than in the whole month of September 2019 (19,925). In response to the numbers, Vice President Hamilton said there is an &#8220;opposition member&#8221; infiltrated in the institute. Meanwhile, the capital of the Mato Grosso state, Cuiabá, has been engulfed by smoke coming from the <a href="">fires that have destroyed</a> 10 percent of the Pantanal wetland biome this year. See <a href="">photos</a>.</li><li><strong>Supreme Court.</strong> The number of people who tested positive for the coronavirus after attending Supreme Court Chief Justice Luiz Fux&#8217;s <a href="">inauguration ceremony</a> last week is up to three. Besides the chief justice himself, two members of the Superior Court of Justice (Brazil&#8217;s second-highest judicial body) also contracted the coronavirus and are self-isolating.  </li><li><strong>Business. </strong>Sony has decided to shut down its electronics plant in the Manaus Free-Trade Zone in March 2021. The move is not necessarily a shock, as the company had been planning to reduce its plant&#8217;s output since 2018 and was operating with low stocks. Sony, however, will keep an <a href="">office in Brazil</a> dedicated to importing video game console PlayStation — its best-selling product in Brazil.</li><li><strong>Elections.</strong> The Supreme Court ruled that adopting printed ballots is unconstitutional — arguing that it hurts vote secrecy and makes it easier to commit election fraud. Since the late 1990s, Brazil has adopted a state-of-the-art electronic voting system (recently scrutinized by hackers who found no vulnerabilities in it). But in 2015, Congress passed a bill proposed by then-Congressman Jair Bolsonaro saying that voters should also cast printed ballots as a way to audit the machines.

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