Ceará police back to work after controversial strike

. Mar 02, 2020
Officers on strike slashed the tires of police cars. Photo: Fabiane de Paula/SVM Officers on strike slashed the tires of police cars. Photo: Fabiane de Paula/SVM

We’re covering today the end of the illegal police strike in Ceará. How transparency in Brazil survives under Jair Bolsonaro. The cities that are completely dependent on pension benefits. 

Police strike in Ceará comes to an end after over 200 deaths

After 13 days,

police officers in Ceará agreed to end their illegal strike. In a deal between unions and the local administration, law enforcement agents return to work at 8 am today. On Tuesday, state lawmakers will vote on a bill to restructure law enforcement&#8217;s career charts, raising officers&#8217; base salary from BRL 3,400 to 4,500 (USD 1,005).</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The 13 days of strike marked the most violent period in Ceará over the past few years, with roughly 200 violent deaths in the first six days of the mutiny. After that, the government stopped releasing updated figures.</p> <p><strong>Deal. </strong>While the policemen on strike didn&#8217;t get assurance of total amnesty from the state administration, Governor Camilo Santana did yield on a few points: no officer will be transferred to rural areas as punishment for at least 60 days, and all will be granted the right to due process in how their conduct will be evaluated—with legal support from the state&#8217;s chapter of the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB).</p> <p><strong>Bottom line.</strong> How the Ceará Police crisis is handled will send a message to other state forces that have threatened similar moves. In recent years, Brazil has seen a boom of police strikes, making local administrations hostages to the military police barracks—especially in states ruled by opposition parties.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/1429329"><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></div> <p><strong>Federal government. </strong>Negotiations were particularly tense due to President Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s veiled support for the police uprising. After sending national troops to remedy the situation, Mr. Bolsonaro declared in a live Facebook broadcast that the aid would be temporary and that it was up to the Ceará governor to negotiate with the striking cops—giving the officers more leverage against the state government.</p> <p><strong>History.</strong> Mr. Bolsonaro has historically sided with army and police officers asking for better wages. His <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2018/10/14/jair-bolsonaro-military-career/">military career actually came to an end in 1988</a> after his vocal demands for salary raises for Army recruits. That included publishing an op-ed in weekly magazine <em>Veja</em> and even a botched plan to cause small explosions at the Agulhas Negras Military Academy (Aman) and other Army buildings.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Government transparency under Jair Bolsonaro</h2> <p>Research by Fundação Getulio Vargas professors Gregory Michener and Michael Mohallem shows that despite public perception, government transparency did not decrease during Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s first year in office. A survey by the think tank&#8217;s Public Transparency Program reveals that in 2019 the government kept consistent patterns of information disclosure.</p> <p><strong>Methodology.</strong> The duo analyzed data concerning information requests made by way of the 2011 Access to Information Act. Once an inquiry is submitted to a government body it may be questioned by a first and then a second internal appeal. In addition to the internal reviews, a third may be filed with the Comptroller General&#8217;s Office and a fourth may be submitted to the Information Review Committee.</p> <p>In all instances, the Bolsonaro government has granted requests at similar speeds to those of the 2013–2018 period. Moreover, granted requests have consistently increased in recent years.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/1489889"><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></div> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The Access to Information Act is one of Brazil&#8217;s main tools for holding governments accountable. The Bolsonaro administration has tried to curb its powers—and has constantly attacked the traditional media. But data suggests it hasn&#8217;t concealed information from the press.</p> <p><strong>Track record. </strong>The Bolsonaro administration has favored privacy over transparency on numerous occasions:</p> <ul><li>In one of this administration&#8217;s first acts, the government tried to significantly increase the number of authorities that could classify documents as &#8220;ultra-secret&#8221;—which could keep them from public scrutiny for up to 25 years. The decree was short-lived, being revoked before the Senate had the chance to repeal it;</li><li>When the Economy Ministry presented its pension reform plan, it concealed the studies that served as base for the government&#8217;s proposal;</li><li>Justice Minister Sergio Moro refused to disclose what he discussed with senior officials at firearm manufacturer Taurus—known for trying to replicate the NRA model of lobbying and campaign funding in Brazil.</li></ul> <p><strong>Bottom line.</strong> The researchers concluded that the continuing progress of transparency measures <em>despite</em> the presidential will in the opposite direction can be explained by the fact that members of the state bureaucracy have internalized the principles of the 2011 Access to Information Act, which is extremely positive for the country.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Markets</h2> <p>Reinsurance company IRB Brasil has been in the spotlight as of late. Asset manager Squadra is short selling IRB Brasil stock, due to discrepancies in &#8220;accounting profit and normalized earnings.&#8221; And while Squadra and IRB are public foes, that helped the reinsurer&#8217;s stock plummet 28 percent in February. The tale saw further twists after rumors surfaced that Warren Buffett&#8217;s Berkshire Hathaway had tripled its stake in the company and former Petrobras CEO Ivan Monteiro resigned as chairman of the board. For Levante Investimentos, the asset still represents “higher-than-usual risk” for investors.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align:center"><strong><em>Natália Scalzaretto</em></strong></p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Municipalities dominated by pensions</h2> <p>In 12 percent of Brazil&#8217;s municipalities, pensions and social security payments represent over one-quarter of the local GDP—a testament to these cities&#8217; lack of economic dynamism. The problem is worse in the Northeast, where <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2020/02/20/brazilian-municipalities-enter-election-season-cash-strapped/">local administrations are the biggest employers</a>. In such municipalities, there are little-to-no quality jobs, industries, or high-end service companies. With a growing informality in the labor force and stricter retirement rules following the pension reform approved last year, these regions are economic ticking time bombs.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/1489578"><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></div> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Looking ahead</h2> <ul><li><strong>Crisis. </strong>President Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s relationship with Congress reached new lows after the Carnival holidays, after he shared a video on WhatsApp calling people to join an anti-Congress, anti-Supreme Court demonstration scheduled for March 15. Investors will look closely to monitor the relationship between lawmakers and the president. The progress of one particular bill could indicate whether Congress is set to retaliate: this week, the Senate&#8217;s Economic Affairs Committee will oversee a proposal to increase the minimum wage every year until 2023. If passed, it could have a huge impact on an already-cash-strapped administration.&nbsp;</li><li><strong>Conciliation? </strong>Meanwhile, Senate President Davi Alcolumbre is trying to reach a deal with the government over a bill that would give lawmakers more power over the federal budget—trying to deflate the mood of protest and avoid even more turmoil. At the same time, however, congressional leaders want Mr. Alcolumbre and House Speaker Rodrigo Maia to approve a bill to reduce the deadline for presidential decrees to expire if not ratified by Congress, which would give lawmakers even more power over the country&#8217;s political agenda.&nbsp;&nbsp;</li><li><strong>GDP.</strong> On Wednesday, the government will publish the official GDP figures for Q4 2019, and consequently the result for the whole of last year. Analysts expect 1.1-percent growth, which would be the third consecutive year that the GDP increases around the 1 percent level. The Brumadinho dam disaster, U.S.-China trade war, Argentinian recession, and delays in the pension reform process are considered the main culprits for the lackluster performance.</li><li><strong>2020 election.</strong> Between March 5 (Thursday) and April 3, city councilors eyeing the 2020 municipal elections are allowed to switch parties without losing their current terms. Who goes where will be key to projecting the main alliances in key races.</li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>In case you missed it</h2> <ul><li><strong>Coronavirus 1. </strong>On Saturday, the Health Ministry confirmed a second Covid-19 infection in Brazil: a 32-year-old man who lives in São Paulo and recently traveled to Milan. Italy is the country with third-most cases after China and South Korea, with 1,700 infections. The patient and his wife (who has shown no symptoms) are currently isolated at home. Meanwhile, health authorities are monitoring another 252 suspected infections—136 of them in São Paulo.</li><li><strong>Coronavirus 2. </strong>The outbreak is deeply affecting economies and financial markets around the world, with economist Nouriel Roubini—known as &#8220;Dr. Doom&#8221; for his apocalyptic financial predictions, such as the 2008 crisis—saying a global recession &#8220;doesn&#8217;t look totally farfetched.&#8221;</li><li><strong>Climate change.</strong> The Environment Ministry has <a href="http://noticias.uol.com.br/ultimas-noticias/reuters/2020/02/27/ministerio-do-meio-ambiente-demite-principais-autoridades-de-combate-a-mudanca-climatica.htm?utm_campaign=resumo-do-dia-edicao-da-noite&amp;utm_content=conteudo-relacionado&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=newsletter">fired</a> two senior officials that were responsible for anti-climate change policies. They will be replaced by Marcus Paranaguá, who served as an advisor at the Brazilian Embassy in Buenos Aires. &#8220;Shocking, but not surprising. There is no federal policy to deal with climate issues,&#8221; says Claudio Angelo, a spokesman for the Climate Observatory in Brazil. Despite the government&#8217;s skepticism over climate change, Brazil has been suffering from more <a href="https://brazilian.report/podcast/2020/02/12/explaining-brazil-podcast-95-brazil-climate-crisis-already-begun/">constant extreme weather effects</a>—resulting from the combination of poor urban planning and climate change.</li><li><strong>Agriculture.</strong> Brazil&#8217;s Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea) projects a positive 2020 for the country&#8217;s agricultural sector. Revenue should increase between 3.4 and 4.1 percent, depending on the next harvest. Previous projections were less optimistic, ranging between 3.2 and 3.7 percent. Soybeans and coffee will be the driving forces of the sector. It remains to be seen, however, how the slowdown of China&#8217;s economy will impact the final results.&nbsp;</li><li><strong>Uruguay.</strong> Luis Lacalle Pou took office as the new Uruguayan president this weekend. With Jair Bolsonaro in attendance, Mr. Pou—a moderate conservative—was careful when talking about Brazil. &#8220;We must leave internal ideological aspects of each country outside of our countries&#8217; relations so the region can advance,&#8221; said the new head of state. Among the key bilateral issues between Brazil and Uruguay is how to curb <a href="https://brazilian.report/latin-america/2019/12/07/legal-marijuana-cannabis-uruguay-example-cautionary-tale/">drug-related violence at the border</a>.

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