Photo: Defense Ministry

Good morning! The Brazilian Army began operations to control Amazon fires. A change in paradigm for government-sponsored infrastructure projects. Jair Bolsonaro condones a sexist comment about Brigitte Macron on social media. (This newsletter is for platinum subscribers only. Become one now!)


Brazilian Army begins operations against Amazon fires

On Saturday, the Brazilian Air Force began an operation to

fight Amazon fires with warplanes. For now, roughly 400 troops will carry out the first operations to put out blazes, assist local populations, and curb illegal deforestation and mining activities. On Friday, President Jair Bolsonaro promised a &#8220;zero-tolerance stance&#8221; on environmental crimes—a major U-turn from everything he has done previously as an elected official.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> In recent weeks, international pressure began mounting against Brazil, with France and Ireland threatening to vote against the Mercosur-EU trade deal, and Finland calling for a <a href="https://www.france24.com/en/20190823-finnish-minister-proposes-brazil-beef-ban-over-amazon-fires">boycott of Brazilian beef</a>. That movement raised local pressure on the government, including from agricultural producers who fear restrictions on their products.</p> <p><strong>G7.</strong> French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that the world&#8217;s wealthiest economies were close to a deal on how to provide financial aid to countries affected by Amazon fires. Mr. Macron was careful enough to say that any action would &#8220;respect [national] sovereignty.&#8221;</p> <p><strong>Irreparable. </strong>It is wrong to see the Amazon as a homogeneous biome. The rainforest spans over 5.5m square kilometers—with much fauna and flora being specific to certain areas. This means that deforestation in some parts of the region may already have caused irreparable damage to the several micro-biomes that make up the Amazon. Experts warn of the risk of the rainforest turning into a savannah should forest coverage continue to be cut down.</p> <ul><li><strong><em>Go deeper:</em></strong><em> </em><a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/08/21/amazon-rainforest-slowly-dying-images/"><em>How the Amazon rainforest is slowly dying (in images)</em></a></li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>More far-right protests ask for Supreme Court shutdown</h2> <p>Right-wing protesters took to the streets in 22 states yesterday to oppose a law approved by Congress that punishes excesses committed by prosecutors and investigators. Demonstrators asked for President Jair Bolsonaro to veto the law—and to name Operation Car Wash lead prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol as the new Prosecutor General. In many cities, such as São Paulo, they also asked for the shutdown of the Supreme Court.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> President Jair Bolsonaro has publicly undermined Justice Minister Sergio Moro in recent weeks—trying to interfere with the Federal Police and saying on multiple occasions that he is the boss, not Mr. Moro. Without the support of the Bolsonaro clan, yesterday&#8217;s acts were less impressive—which shows that the president has much more mobilization power than his ministers. In Brasília, most observers believe a rupture between Mr. Moro and the president is only a matter of time.</p> <p><strong>Political ambitions?</strong> In order to join the presidential cabinet, Mr. Moro resigned from his position as a federal judge. If he chooses to leave the government, he is expected to make a push for elected office—as governor of his home state of Paraná, or even aim at the presidency, in 2022. A recent poll shows he would lead the race with 27% of voting intentions in a scenario that didn&#8217;t include Jair Bolsonaro.</p> <ul><li><strong><em>Go deeper:</em></strong><em> </em><a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/08/23/abuse-of-office-act-the-end-of-car-wash-or-necessary-oversight/"><em>Abuse of Office Act: the end of Car Wash, or necessary oversight?</em></a></li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Government wants to change criteria for selecting infrastructure projects</h2> <p>The Economy Ministry has proposed a change in how the government decides on its priority infrastructure projects. The Department of Infrastructure Development says the government wants to implement the so-called &#8220;economic return rate,&#8221; which is already used by several countries. It takes into account the pros (such as job creation or pollution reduction) and cons (deforestation or increase in traffic) to decide which projects will be financed ahead of others.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters. </strong>Unlike popular perception might suggest, the biggest problem with Brazil&#8217;s federal budget is not corruption or bureaucracy—but rather incompetence. Multiple administrations have carried out projects thinking of short-term goals to the detriment of long-term consequences, or they have interrupted others due to poorly-executed studies. If the economic return rate is calculated seriously, it could be a boost for government efficiency.</p> <p><strong>Secular flaw.</strong> The government says that for centuries, Brazil has evaluated projects looking at the &#8220;internal return rate,&#8221; which estimates how much of a financial return developers would receive from the investment made on the project. That should be the last thing to be considered by public officials.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>You should also know</h2> <p><strong>Recession? </strong>Official GDP data for Q2 2019 will be published on Thursday and, should it be negative, it will confirm that Brazil is in a technical recession, after -0.2% growth in Q1 2019. The Central Bank&#8217;s economic activity index (considered a GDP predictor) came out negative, at -0.13%. However, economists are still betting on slim positives: Bradesco has predicted +0.2% growth, and Itaú, +0.5%.</p> <p><strong>Debts.</strong> As part of a deal to push the pension reform over the finish line in the Senate, Congress will approve a moratory of registered warrants—a form of government I.O.U for debts created by way of court orders. The decision will be the sixth moratory since 1988, and affects over 1m creditors of public institutions. Per estimates of the National Justice Council, the total debt of registered warrants amounts to BRL 141bn.</p> <p><strong>Emigration.</strong> Between January and July, a total of 21,873 Brazilians declared residence abroad—which is almost as much as in the entire year of 2018. This kind of wave is common in Brazil during times of economic hardship, as Brazilians seek better employment conditions and public safety. Canada is one of the most sought-after destinations: permanent visas for Brazilians jumped 88% between 2017 and 2018.</p> <p><strong>Social media diplomacy.</strong> Members of the Jair Bolsonaro administration have lashed out at Emmanuel Macron. Education Minister Abraham Weintraub called him an &#8220;opportunistic scoundrel&#8221; and the president himself condoned a Facebook comment saying the French president is jealous of Mr. Bolsonaro, implying that it is because French First Lady Brigitte Macron isn&#8217;t as good-looking as Michelle Bolsonaro.

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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.