In one day, Bolsonaro hits out at both China and Biden

. Nov 11, 2020
bolsonaro china huawei biden Bolsonaro: "When the saliva runs out, there has to be gunpowder." Photo: Marcos Corrêa/PR

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Today, we talk about how Bolsonaro has tackled — in just one day — China and U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. The coronavirus vaccine debacle continues. And what you need to know about the upcoming election.

Brazil hints at Huawei ban with support for U.S. Clear Network proposal

The Jair Bolsonaro administration showed on Tuesday that the possibility of banning

Chinese firm Huawei from next year&#8217;s 5G network auction is very much on the table. While hosting the U.S. Under Secretary of State for economic growth, Keith Krach, Brazil&#8217;s Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that the country supports the U.S. Clean Network proposal to build a global digital alliance to &#8220;free the world from authoritarian malignant actors.&#8221;</p> <ul><li>The <a href="">Clean Network proposal</a> is a blatantly anti-China program put forward by the Trump White House. The U.S. Department of State describes its goals as safeguarding networks &#8220;from aggressive intrusions by malignant actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party.&#8221;</li></ul> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-map" data-src="visualisation/3335585"><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Huawei already has a massive presence in the country&#8217;s telecom infrastructure, and sector representatives believe that a ban could set Brazil&#8217;s 5G implementation back by several years.</p> <ul><li>Additionally, it could <a href="">sour relations</a> with China. Key sectors of the Brazilian economy — such as agribusiness, mining, and oil — have China as their <a href="">main trading partner</a> and leading investor.</li></ul> <p><strong>Carrot and stick.</strong> The Trump White House has <a href="">pressured Brazil into banning Huawei</a> for months, using carrots (the promise of a USD 1-billion investment in local telecoms) and sticks (threats of &#8220;economic consequences&#8221; for Brazil).&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Back to the old ways.</strong> Anti-China views are nothing new for Mr. Bolsonaro. In 2018, during his presidential campaign, he visited Taiwan and recognized it as a country, though Brazil does not acknowledge Taiwan as a sovereign state.</p> <ul><li>As president, Mr. Bolsonaro had adopted a more pragmatic approach to the Asian giant, even <a href="">visiting Xi Jinping</a> as a gesture of good will to iron out relations. Now, the president seems to have reverted back to his old persona.</li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Bolsonaro taunts Biden with gunpowder threats</h2> <p>After publicly <a href="">cheering</a> for Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro has yet to congratulate Joe Biden for his win in the U.S. presidential race, which was <a href="">called on Saturday</a>. On Tuesday, however, he referred to the president-elect for the first time since the vote — using a less-than-diplomatic tone. Without naming Mr. Biden — referring to him as a &#8220;major candidate for head of state&#8221; — Mr. Bolsonaro pushed back against Mr. Biden&#8217;s vague remarks about pressuring Brazil into acting against Amazon deforestation.</p> <ul><li>&#8220;Brazil is a very rich country […] We&#8217;ve just seen a major candidate for head of state say that if I don&#8217;t put down Amazon fires he&#8217;ll enact trade barriers against Brazil. How can we face all this? Just diplomacy won&#8217;t work [&#8230;] when the saliva runs out, there has to be gunpowder. Otherwise, it won&#8217;t work.&#8221;</li><li>&#8220;You don&#8217;t even have to use gunpowder, but you&#8217;ve got to know you have it. That&#8217;s the world. Nobody has what we have,&#8221; Mr. Bolsonaro continued.</li><li>Hours later, U.S. Ambassador Todd Chapman used his <a href="">official Twitter account</a> to praise the U.S. Marine Corps. While many read the move as a direct response to Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s words, it is likely that the embassy had already planned the tweet to celebrate the Marines&#8217; 245th anniversary.</li></ul> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> After adopting an increasingly conflict-based approach to China, its number one trading partner, the president is also <a href="">looking for trouble</a> with the future leader of its second-largest partner.</p> <p><strong>Say what?</strong> Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s gunpowder threats were met with ridicule in Brazil. Opponents in Congress even shared <a href="">social media memes</a> saying that an outcome of a Brazil-U.S. war would be annexation and the renaming of the country to &#8220;South Hawaii.&#8221;</p> <p><strong>Misinformation.</strong> A <a href="">survey</a> by fact-checking agency Aos Fatos showed that one-third of Brazilian tweets related to the U.S. election published over the past week contained misinformation. They largely consisted of carbon copies of Trump supporters&#8217; arguments that the election was rigged to favor Joe Biden.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Election Roundup: four days to go</h2> <p>Here are the main pieces of news regarding the upcoming municipal elections in Brazil:</p> <ul><li><strong>Security.</strong> As <a href="">political violence</a> becomes more present ahead of the November 15 vote, the Superior Electoral Court approved 600 requests from municipal administrations to deploy federal troops to help local law enforcement during the election. These areas — spread across 11 states, mostly in the North, Northeast, and Center-West regions —&nbsp;have a history of partisan-based violence and small police forces. Brazilian law prohibits citizens from being arrested between five days prior to Election Day and 48 hours after polls are closed — except when individuals are caught in the act of committing a crime.</li><li><strong>Censorship.</strong> Conservative Congressman Celso Russomano managed to get an opinion poll (expected to be published this morning) censored by an electoral court, arguing that the survey does not follow Brazil&#8217;s strict poll regulations. Mr. Russomano has been hemorrhaging support in recent weeks, and surveys are expected to show him drop into 3rd or 4th position, out of a potential runoff against incumbent and frontrunner Bruno Covas.</li><li><strong>Kingmaker?</strong> President Bolsonaro has turned his live Facebook broadcasts into political ad reels — asking voters to support his allies. But polls have shown that <a href="">the president&#8217;s kingmaking abilities are reduced</a>, and experts say the fact that he doesn&#8217;t belong to a political party makes it difficult for voters to associate him with local candidates. In important constituencies, Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s rejection rates also make him a less valuable asset. A similar thing is happening in the state of São Paulo, with mayoral candidates doing the impossible to hide their connection with the polarizing Governor João Doria.&nbsp;</li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Vaccine from China at the Supreme Court</h2> <p>The Supreme Court has stepped into the controversy around the suspension of clinical trials of Chinese-made CoronaVac vaccine. National regulators cited a &#8220;severe adverse event&#8221; when announcing their decision — but the &#8220;event&#8221; in question was the suicide of a study volunteer, unconnected to the trial.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>Courts have given regulators 48 hours to explain themselves, after suspicions of <a href="">political interference</a> by the Bolsonaro administration were raised. The president has bashed the vaccine made in China on multiple occasions, and after the suspension was announced, he gloated on social media that &#8220;Jair Bolsonaro wins again.&#8221;</li></ul> <p><strong>War of versions.</strong> The National Health Surveillance Agency and the São Paulo-based Butantan Biological Institute (which runs the trials in São Paulo) have traded accusations of lack of transparency and foul play.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The state of São Paulo is preparing for what it sees as an inevitable path towards litigation around making the CoronaVac available.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <ul><li><strong>Jobs. </strong>A <a href="">study</a> published today by Brazil&#8217;s Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea) shows that the country has recovered only 10 to 11 percent of the formal jobs closed due to the pandemic. Even with a better-than-expected Q3 recovery, only 1.5 million net jobs were created between August and September. Meanwhile, almost 13 million people lost their jobs between February and July — <a href="">domestic work</a> and services firms were the worst-affected sectors.</li><li><strong>Outage. </strong>It has now been eight days since the energy supply in the northern state of Amapá has been disrupted in all but two municipalities. Besides additional problems with water supplies and telecommunications networks, residents now face a sharp increase in food prices. The federal government authorized the transfer of BRL 21.6 million (USD 4 million) to the state, which will be primarily used for buying new power generators. The crisis casts doubt over the feasibility of Sunday&#8217;s municipal elections in Amapá.</li><li><strong>Privatizations.</strong> As the power cut in Amapá resulted from issues with a private energy provider, <a href="">congressional support</a> for the privatization of Brazil&#8217;s state-owned electricity company Eletrobras has waned. Still, Economy Minister Paulo Guedes announced a bold privatization agenda for 2021, adding that it is &#8220;quite frustrating&#8221; to reach the halfway point of President Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s term without a single consequential successful privatization. He said shrinking the state is necessary to reduce the public deficit, suggesting that the ghost of hyperinflation has never been nearer since the <a href="">creation of the Brazilian Real</a>, in 1994.</li><li><strong>Coronavirus.</strong> After <a href="">multiple government systems were hacked</a> last week, some states have reported difficulty in accessing the federal coronavirus database to input local tallies. Brazil currently totals 5.59 million infections and 161,106 deaths, but the figures have not been updated since last Wednesday and do not include the most recent data of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Rio de Janeiro —&nbsp;the three most populated states in the country.</li><li><strong>Crisis.</strong> Brazilian planemaker Embraer reported a Q3 net loss of BRL 649 million, almost twice as much as in Q3 2019. Meanwhile, net revenue dropped 13 percent — deepening the company&#8217;s crisis, fueled by the pandemic as well as the failure to conclude a <a href="">merger deal with Boeing</a>, which <a href="">fell through</a> in April.

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