In today’s issue: Brazilian Congress puts consumer data privacy at risk. Is Bolsonaro losing the evangelicals? 

Brazilian Congress puts consumer data privacy at risk

In a 66-5 vote, the Senate approved the automatic inclusion of citizens on a list of “good payers,” a database of people who pay their debts without delays. Today, databases exist only for “bad payers.” The bill now needs to be signed by the president to become a law. Advocates of the proposal say it will “make it possible for companies and individuals who don’t skip a due date to have access to cheaper and better credit.”

The logic behind the argument is that the list will lower banks’ risks when lending money to consumers. And lower risks will lead to lower interest rates. That logic, however, has proven faulty in other industries. In 2017, for example, the government allowed airlines to charge for checking luggage. The argument was that it would push ticket prices down—but they remained stable. Many believe that the “good payers” list will only lead to an increase of interest rates for clients who have raised red flags. 

</p> <p>But that&#8217;s not the biggest concern around the project. Automatically feeding the list will expose consumers&#8217; personal data without their consent or ability to prevent it from happening. It is striking that Brazil is willing to hand over data to private companies at a time when world trends are apparently heading in the opposite direction. Between 2015 and 2017, the number of complaints regarding the inappropriate use of personal data rose by 1,134%, according to the Brazilian Consumer Institute.</p> <p>The bill states that “institutions serving as data sources are forbidden from limiting access to their database.” That includes utility companies, providing water, sewage or electricity. That will lead to the creation of a handful of companies with access to massive amounts of private data. Such a concentration will put consumers in an even more disadvantageous position in relation to banks and services providers.</p> <hr /> <h2>Is Bolsonaro losing the evangelicals?</h2> <p>During the 2018 electoral campaign, Evangelical Christian groups were <a href="">pivotal</a> to Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s victory. They were among the earliest, best-organized supporters of the president. But only two months after the new government has taken office, evangelicals in Congress are announcing a sort or rupture with the administration—or &#8220;independence,&#8221; as they are calling it. They complain about a lack of dialogue with the president, who met with the evangelical caucus for the last time on December 18.</p> <p>The truth is that evangelical politicians have become frustrated by recent cabinet firings of officials they had originally vouched for. &#8220;When an administration wants to run the country alone, it becomes a giant with clay feet. What good it is being big, if the structure is not supported by a strong foundation?,&#8221; said Member of Congress Pastor Feliciano on Twitter. That led evangelicals to decide to support the government only in social and behavioral matters.</p> <p>This latest internal crisis is particularly worrisome for the government due to its need to approve the pension reform. Evangelicals amount to 91 seats in the House—almost one-fifth of Congress. In a meeting yesterday, leaders of the evangelical caucus decided to publish a manifesto affirming their independence and electing a new leadership as soon as possible. Candidates to lead the group must be submitted today.</p> <hr /> <h2>What else you should know</h2> <ul> <li><strong>Crime 1.</strong> Two young men of 17 and 25 years old opened fire at a public school in the Greater São Paulo area yesterday, killing 8 people (including children) before committing suicide. The case reignited discussions about the right to bear arms in Brazil—a debate that has <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">followed the same patterns observed in the U.S.</a>, with conservatives claiming that &#8220;guns don&#8217;t kill people, people kill people.&#8221; President Bolsonaro was criticized for reacting to the shooting 6 hours after it was reported. <a id="nw" name="nw"></a></li> <li><strong>Crime 2.</strong><strong> </strong>Today marks the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Rio City Councilwoman Marielle Franco. A black, bisexual woman from a favela, Ms. Franco had a short but consequential political career, being dedicated to defending the rights of marginalized populations. On Tuesday, the police arrested the first 2 suspects of the crime, but has still not been able to provide answers about who ordered the murder.</li> <li><strong>Venezuela.</strong> According to VP Hamilton Mourão, Brazil is willing to act as a mediator for a negotiated exit from power of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. He has overseen the greatest humanitarian crisis of the Western Hemisphere, which pushed millions of Venezuelans to flee the country, escaping rising violence, food shortages, political persecution, and a crippling 1,370,000% inflation that makes any amount of money people may have worthless.</li> <li><strong>Exports.</strong><strong> </strong>Brazil&#8217;s coffee exports grew 36% in February, amounting to 3.4m 60kg bags within that month. The coffee industry is on pace to register its best year ever, going over 40m 60kg bags exported in 2019.</li> <li><strong>Vale.</strong><strong> </strong>A state court in Minas Gerais once again ordered the arrest of 11 employees at mining giant Vale and 2 of Tüv Süd, a company which audited Vale&#8217;s Brumadinho dam—which collapsed on January 25. They had been arrested last month, but later released thanks to a habeas corpus conceded by a superior court.

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BY Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist with experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets.