Good morning! A new gold rush threatens the Amazon. With Congress back from vacation, the House is set to hold the second round of votes on the pension reform. Chinese ambassador counters U.S. secretary on the risks of 5G technology.

A new gold rush threatens the Amazon

An illegal gold rush has picked up steam in the Brazilian Amazon. According to reports,

between 10,000 and 15,000 gold diggers are operating in the land of the Yanomami tribe, an area close to the Venezuelan border. Meanwhile, there are about 23,000 members of the Yanomami still on the land. While illegal mining in the region today is far from its peak in the 1980s, when around 40,000 miners flocked to the land, it has grown in recent months.&nbsp;</p> <iframe src="https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m14!1m8!1m3!1d8393752.021759769!2d-67.2215934!3d0.6632092!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x8df03e8c1aef0a7d%3A0x9ac6ef959b486f1d!2sYanomami!5e1!3m2!1sen!2sbr!4v1565002469571!5m2!1sen!2sbr" width="600" height="450" frameborder="0" style="border:0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> Illegal mining is linked to several social problems in indigenous lands, such as spikes in violence and child prostitution rates. It also relies heavily on the use of mercury, which is tossed in the Amazon rivers after its use—contaminating the waters in the region. A couple of weeks ago, President Jair Bolsonaro said his administration will propose the full legalization of individual mining activities. Without getting into much detail, he said the project would &#8220;unite exploitation with the environmental issue.&#8221;</p> <p><strong>Potential.</strong> We still have little detail on the full mineral potential of the Amazon. There are several reserves of diamonds, rare-earth metals (used in electronic parts), phosphate, potassium (essential to agriculture), among others. There are even oil and gas reserves in the state of Amazonas. However, huge portions of land (dominated by a dense forest) remain unassessed.</p> <p><strong>No popular support.</strong> A recent survey by pollster Datafolha shows that 86 percent of Brazilians disapprove of mining activities on indigenous land. Rejection rates are of at least 80 percent across all regions, levels of education, age groups, genders, and income brackets.</p> <ul><li><strong>Go deeper: </strong><a href="https://brazilian.report/society/2019/06/05/amazon-rainforest-at-the-crossroads/">Amazon rainforest at the crossroads</a></li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>House hopes to approve pension reform this week</h2> <p>Congress is back from vacation, and the remaining half of 2019 will kick off with a second House roll call vote on the pension reform expected to happen by Thursday. Both political analysts and party leaders expect a wide margin in favor of the bill, as it was in the first round. For the bill to pass, at least 60 percent of congressmen (308 of 513) must support it. Then, the reform text passes on to the Senate, where it must also pass through two rounds of votes before it may be enacted.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The pension reform is the core point of Economy Minister Paulo Guedes&#8217; economic agenda. If it passes without hiccups, it should send a positive signal to investors. It would also free up the House agenda for other important reforms, such as an overhaul of the tax system and changes to public service.</p> <p><strong>To be monitored.</strong> President Bolsonaro has been at the center of many recent controversies—such as his personal attacks on Felipe Santa Cruz, the president of the Brazilian Bar Association (Mr. Bolsonaro said he knew what happened to Mr. Santa Cruz&#8217;s father, who disappeared in the 1970s after being arrested by the dictatorship&#8217;s political police). It is to be seen whether they will create any additional rift between the president and Congress.</p> <p><strong>Moro v. Guedes.</strong> Since taking office, Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s two &#8220;super ministers,&#8221; Sergio Moro (Justice) and Paulo Guedes (Economy) have lost power—the first has battled the scandal of the Car Wash leaks, while the former has suffered from the president&#8217;s interventionist verve. But Mr. Bolsonaro recently suggested that Mr. Guedes is his favorite, giving him carte blanche to change the head of the money laundering enforcement agency—who was appointed by Mr. Moro.</p> <ul><li><strong>Go deeper: </strong><a href="https://brazilian.report/newsletters/weekly-report/2019/08/03/senate-center-stage-remainder-2019/">Senate set to take center stage in the remainder of 2019</a></li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>China counters U.S. secretary&#8217;s remarks on 5G in Brazil</h2> <p>As trade tensions between the U.S. and China continue to rise, the Chinese Ambassador to Brazil Yang Wanming released a statement on Saturday responding to recent remarks by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.</p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p><em>&#8220;Mr. Wilbur Ross [&#8230;] made absurd comments that the Chinese government forces private companies to cooperate with military and intelligence services, and that China&#8217;s 5G technology is a threat to other nations&#8217; security.&#8221;</em></p></blockquote> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The Trump administration issued a ban forbidding U.S. government contractors from using the components produced by Chinese company Huawei, the world’s leading provider of telecommunication networks, and has urged other governments to do the same. There is a fear—though not yet backed up by hard evidence—that Huawei hardware could have backdoors which would allow the Chinese government to control networks across the globe. Australia and New Zealand have also adopted restrictions on <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/commerce-department-will-extend-huawei-reprieve-ross-says/2019/08/19/82a11436-c275-11e9-9986-1fb3e4397be4_story.html">Huawei</a>. Vice President Hamilton Mourão has already said there is no reason to fear Huawei, but President Bolsonaro recently said he is still evaluating whether the company will be allowed to take part in next year&#8217;s auction of 5G frequencies.</p> <p><strong>Too late? </strong>Huawei already controls much of Brazil&#8217;s telecom infrastructure, having built roughly 70,000 of the country’s 86,000 operational radio antennas. These devices are responsible for transmitting 3G, 4G, and LTE frequencies to smartphones, modems, credit card machines … basically, any device connected to a mobile network.</p> <ul><li><strong>Go deeper:</strong> <a href="https://brazilian.report/money/2019/06/27/huawei-controls-telecom-infrastructure-brazil/">How Huawei controls telecom infrastructure in Brazil</a></li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>You also should know</h2> <p><strong>Impeachment? </strong>Opposition leaders will meet tomorrow to decide whether to present an impeachment request against President Jair Bolsonaro for his recent behavior (such as giving relatives a ride on an Air Force plane to attend his son&#8217;s wedding, or saying he knows what happened to prisoners of the dictatorship who disappeared under the custody of the state). However, few believe the initiative will move forward—for one, because House Speaker Rodrigo Maia doesn&#8217;t seem inclined to accept the request.</p> <p><strong>Cannabidiols. </strong>The fight for the right to use medicinal marijuana in Brazil received an unlikely ally: former Army Commander General Eduardo Villas Bôas. He criticized what he called &#8220;social hypocrisy&#8221; around the matter. The Jair Bolsonaro administration is against legalizing the medical use of the drug however, with Citizenship Minister Osmar Terra saying it is the first step to decriminalizing drugs in Brazil. Gen. Villas Bôas suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative disease, and could benefit from cannabidiol medications.</p> <p><strong>Bolsonaros.</strong> Newspaper <em>O Globo</em> made an investigation into all 286 persons working in the offices of President Bolsonaro and his sons Carlos (a Rio de Janeiro councilman), Flávio (a senator), and Eduardo (a lower house member). The results show that 102 of them are related to each other—and evidence suggests that at least 30 percent don&#8217;t actually show up to work.</p> <p><strong>Car Wash.</strong> In an interview this weekend, Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes called Operation Car Wash a &#8220;criminal organization to investigate people.&#8221; Since June, the press has leaked private messages exchanged by Car Wash members and former judge Sergio Moro, showing several transgressions of the probe. The messages, leaked by a hacker who broke into prosecutors&#8217; cell phones, will be analyzed by the Supreme Court.</p> <p><strong>Lula.</strong> The legality of the evidence will be discussed in September by the court, when justices analyze a habeas corpus request by former President Lula. The politician used messages showing the proximity between the case&#8217;s judge and prosecutors as part of his appeal, saying they prove he was not given a fair trial.&nbsp;

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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.