Bolsonaro makes political crusade against Chinese vaccine

. Oct 22, 2020
Bolsonaro makes political crusade against Chinese vaccine President Bolsonaro. Photo: Marcos Corrêa/PR

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A defender of unproven treatments for Covid-19, Bolsonaro slams Chinese vaccine. Petrobras’ recovery is already in motion. And the latest beef between Brazil and Bolivia.

Bolsonaro says hard ‘no’ to Chinese vaccine

President Jair Bolsonaro slammed the idea of having the federal government purchase

46 million doses of the potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by Chinese lab Sinovac Biotech and the São Paulo-based Butantan Biological Institute. Earlier this week, the state government of São Paulo announced promising results of late-stage clinical trials. </p> <ul><li>A deal brokered by the Health Ministry had been announced, but Mr. Bolsonaro pulled rank on his Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, canceling the agreement and saying &#8220;the Brazilian people will not be anyone’s guinea pig.&#8221;</li><li>This argument seems curious coming from someone who has consistently touted unproven treatments for the coronavirus — such as antimalarial drug <a href="">hydroxychloroquine</a>.</li></ul> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The president&#8217;s decision is less about health and more about electoral politics.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>As we explained on <a href="">Tuesday&#8217;s Daily Briefing</a>, Mr. Bolsonaro fears that a successful vaccine brought to Brazil by the state of São Paulo would boost Governor João Doria&#8217;s electoral stock for the 2022 presidential race. In fairness, the governor has politicized the pandemic just as much as the president, trying to make himself known nationwide as a great statesman.</li></ul> <p><strong>Reaction.</strong> Mr. Doria suggested that his administration —&nbsp;or a group of several state governors —&nbsp;could ask the Supreme Court to force the government to distribute the Chinese vaccine nationwide if it passes all regulatory hoops. &#8220;Let&#8217;s wait 48 hours. If by Friday there is no retreat […] we will know what to do,&#8221; he told reporters.</p> <ul><li>If Mr. Bolsonaro interferes with the National Health Surveillance Agency to prevent the Chinese vaccine from being approved in the country, governors will try to circumvent that through Congress, passing new legislation to allow for the purchase of unlicensed vaccines, as long as they have been approved by foreign regulators.</li></ul> <p><strong>Anti-vax.</strong> For many weeks, President Bolsonaro has spoken against making vaccines mandatory — saying that to do so would be a violation of individual freedoms. Data from consultancy .MAP suggests that his strategy is working: support for vaccines on social media dropped to 26 percent between October 12 and 19, after hitting an average of 89 percent between April and September.</p> <ul><li>The Supreme Court is expected to rule this year on whether parents will be allowed not to vaccinate their children based on moral and religious grounds. The decision — which could base future discussions on coronavirus vaccination — concerns a São Paulo couple being sued by state prosecutors for not giving their child shots, as it opposes the parents&#8217; vegan principles. In Brazil, people cannot access a variety of public services if their children do not have up-to-date vaccination certificates, and parents risk losing custody of their kids.</li></ul> <iframe src="" width="100%" height="232" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Petrobras shows a pulse</h2> <p>Brazil&#8217;s state-controlled oil and gas firm Petrobras is showing signs that the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is being slowly overcome. As isolation measures are lifted around the country, demand for fuel has gone way up —&nbsp;Petrobras oil refineries are operating at 80 percent capacity, a rate which was as low as 55 percent back in April.</p> <ul><li>In its latest production report, the company rated its performance as &#8220;very good, considering the challenging scenario imposed by the pandemic.&#8221; Oil production was up 5.4 percent in Q3 2020. Year-to-date figures of oil extracted from deepwater pre-salt reserves show 32 percent growth from the same period in 2019.</li></ul> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> As Petrobras monopolizes oil refinement in Brazil, the firm&#8217;s production rates offer a glimpse of how the economy as a whole is behaving. Recent forecasts suggest the GDP slump this year will be much lower than initially expected, with the Central Bank projecting a contraction of just 4.5 percent.</p> <p><strong>Future.</strong> The Brazilian government believes the country will become, by 2030, the world&#8217;s fifth-largest oil producer (5.5 million barrels per day) — and fourth-largest oil exporter (3 million barrels). Still, Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque says the country has no intention of joining the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the 13-country body which holds significant influence over global oil prices.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Gas sparks disagreements between Brazil, Bolivia</h2> <p>Bolivia&#8217;s President-elect Luis Arce has declared that his administration will renegotiate gas contracts with Brazil&nbsp;— saying that the current engagements were inked by an illegitimate administration that followed the <a href="">2019 coup against former President Evo Morales</a>. The statement could be an omen for troubled relations between Bolivia and Brazil, as current President Jeanine Áñez — who proclaimed herself head of state after the Army pushed Mr. Morales out of office — is supported by Brasília.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Bolivia is responsible for 65 percent of the gas consumed in Brazil —&nbsp;and it makes up 96 percent of all imports from the country.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/4096726" data-url="" aria-label=""><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>History.</strong> When the <a href="">Gasbol pipeline</a> between the two countries was opened in 1999, a 20-year contract between Bolivia and Brazil ended up as a win-win, with the latter agreeing to pay for a minimum supply of 24 million cubic meters of gas per day.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>After the deal expired, much lower deals were signed —&nbsp;with minimum supplies at 18 million and 8 million cubic meters for 2020 and 2021, respectively. Mr. Arce believes these terms are detrimental to the Bolivian economy.</li><li>Bolivia had shown much pragmatism around discussions of a new deal, with Mr. Morales attending Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s inauguration in January 2019, despite their ideological differences. But Brazil&#8217;s support for the 2019 coup could sour negotiations. The Brazilian president has shown no disposition to maintain dialogue with leaders he doesn&#8217;t agree with — as has been the case in Argentina and China, Brazil&#8217;s third-largest and largest trading partners, respectively.</li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <ul><li><strong>Against Chinese 5G. </strong>Robert O&#8217;Brien, the U.S. National Security Advisor, announced on Twitter that his country has invited Brazil to be a part of the <a href=";">Artemis space program</a>, which has the goal of landing &#8220;the first woman and the next man&#8221; on the moon by 2024. The move is part of efforts by the White House to convince Brazil to ban Chinese firm Huawei from its 5G market. But, of course, all deals proposed by Mr. O&#8217;Brien (including <a href="">offering to finance purchases</a> by Brazilian telecom operators of equipment, providing it is bought from Huawei’s competitors) depends on Mr. Trump winning re-election on November 3.</li><li><strong>Supreme Court.</strong> In a 57-10 vote, the Senate confirmed federal judge Kassio Nunes Marques as <a href="">Brazil&#8217;s new Supreme Court Justice</a>. During his 10-hour confirmation hearing, he positioned himself against the expansion of abortion rights and defended &#8220;adjustments&#8221; to the Operation Car Wash anti-corruption probe, as a way to prevent excesses — which pleased senators. Unlike in the U.S., Brazil&#8217;s civil law legal structure does not allow for courts to make interpretations beyond what is written in law — with the sole responsibility for altering legislation falling to Congress.  </li><li><strong>Economy.</strong> A <a href="">study</a> by the National Confederation of Commerce (CNC) suggests that the 2020 holiday season will be the worst in terms of hirings since 2015 — when Brazil faced what was then its steepest recession on record. CNC estimates that just 70,700 temp jobs will be opened during the end of the year period, 19 percent below 2019&#8217;s levels. Still, revenue is forecast to reach BRL 37.5 billion, up 2.2 percent from last year.</li><li><strong>Congress.</strong> Brazilian Senator Arolde de Oliveira of Rio de Janeiro died of complications resulting from Covid-19. He was 83 and had been in a hospital since September 11. Mr. Oliveira — the first coronavirus death among federal lawmakers — served for nine terms in the lower house before winning a Senate seat in 2018. He was a Covid-19 denier, often <a href="">speaking out</a> against social isolation. </li><li><strong>Crypto. </strong>The number of Brazilian investors in cryptocurrencies has grown elevenfold in Brazil in less than a year. In December 2019, there were just five investment funds dedicated to this type of asset — combining for 1,300 clients and BRL 26 million in assets under custody. In September, this hit BRL 230.7 million, with a total of 14,300 investors.</li><li><strong>Coronavirus 1.</strong> Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday and has gone into self-isolation.</li><li><strong>Coronavirus 2.</strong> A study by the United Nations shows that access to medical supplies during the pandemic was 100 times higher in developed nations, when compared to poor countries. As the <a href="">coronavirus</a> storms back in Europe, Brazilian scientists have advised the authorities not to waste any time in closing borders to European citizens and stockpiling medical supplies such as ventilators, masks, and personal protective equipment.

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