In this week’s issue: The most important facts of the week. 30m Brazilians live in “news deserts.” Brazilian state of Roraima under federal intervention.

The week in review

  • Investigation. COAF, Brazil’s money laundering enforcement council, has detected “atypical” transactions totaling BRL 1.2m from accounts belonging to a former aide of Senator-elect Flávio Bolsonaro, son of the president-elect. The list of transactions under scrutiny includes a BRL 24,000 check made out to the future first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro, and numerous withdrawals of less than BRL 10,000, the cut-off limit for banks to be required to notify COAF. Mr. Bolsonaro said that the check to his wife was for paying off a debt. 
  • Lower house. Leaked WhatsApp messages between congressmen-elect from Mr. Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party (PSL) show a group which is divided against itself. Besides verbal spats between members of the future legislature, the party is split when it comes to the election of the next House Speaker—one group wants to support incumbent Rodrigo Maia, a conservative from Rio, while another group, led by Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of the president-elect, is against that alliance. The president-elect called for a meeting on Wednesday to calm things down.
    </li> <li><strong>Privatizations.</strong><strong> </strong>President Michel Temer has signed a decree giving the Ministry of Planning the power to execute measures to sell off state-owned companies. The decree will make it much easier for future economic tsar Paulo Guedes to implement his wish of privatizing 30% of the 138 state-run firms in 2019. The decree also simplifies the process for firing civil servants.</li> <li><strong>Truckers.</strong><strong> </strong>Supreme Court Justice Luiz Fux ruled to suspend fines against companies which do not follow the minimum freight pricing table (created in June in order to put an end to a 10-day truckers&#8217; strike that paralyzed the country), at least until the court decides if the table is constitutional. After the decision, groups of truckers began trying to organize a new strike for Monday. There are also plans for a strike on Jan. 22. The future minister of Infrastructure promised to &#8220;review&#8221; and enforce the table in January.</li> <li><strong>Human Rights.</strong><strong> </strong>Jair Bolsonaro picked lawyer and evangelical preacher Damares Alves for the Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights. The move displeased activists, due to Ms. Alves&#8217; long track record of bigotry against indigenous populations. But it also made members of the Evangelical Caucus in Congress angry. They wanted outgoing Senator Magno Malta, one of Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s first high-profile supporters for the cabinet. Ms. Alves is currently working as Mr. Malta&#8217;s aide in the Senate.</li> <li><strong>Deflation.</strong><strong> </strong>According to the IPCA price index, Brazil experienced a deflation of 0.21% in November. Costs of fuels (-0.74%) and housing (-0.71%) had the biggest impact on the inflation rate. On the other hand, food &amp; beverages became 0.39% more expensive. Since the beginning of the year, the accumulated inflation rate is at 3.59%, comfortably below the 4.5% target established by the Central Bank.</li> </ul> <hr /> <h2>30m Brazilians live in &#8220;news deserts&#8221;</h2> <p>A recent study by Projor (Brazil&#8217;s Institute for the Development of Journalism) found that 51% of Brazilian municipalities don&#8217;t have a single local news organization. These places are called &#8220;news deserts,&#8221; and affect 30m people. In 30% of cities, where another 34m people live, there are only one or two outlets, making these areas considered &#8220;almost deserts for news.&#8221;</p> <p>According to Projor Chairwoman Angela Pimenta, &#8220;the universal human right of access to information of public interest is compromised by the absence of a local press in those areas. So are the checks and balances on local powers.&#8221;</p> <p><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-16889" src="" alt="" width="1494" height="1448" srcset=" 1494w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1494px) 100vw, 1494px" /></p> <hr /> <h2>Another Brazilian state under federal intervention</h2> <p>On Friday, President Michel Temer announced the launching of a federal intervention in the state of Roraima. Brazil&#8217;s northernmost state faces strikes of public security officers, deep financial problems, prison riots, and a growing tension caused by the arrival of Venezuelan refugees. Last month, Mr. Temer declared an intervention on Roraima&#8217;s security apparatus, similar to what has occurred in Rio de Janeiro since February. This time around, though, the intervention will reach all government areas and requires approval from Congress and the National Defense Council.</p> <p>The interventor will be Governor-elect Antonio Denarium, who takes office on January 1st but will act as <em>de facto</em> governor from now on. Mr. Denarium has pledged to submit a plan on Tuesday to recover state finances. Civil servants have not been able to cash in their salaries since October, which has caused students to miss their school year and families of cops to hold protests in front of police stations, in order to prevent them from working while they are not being paid.</p> <p>The Roraima state government has engaged in a legal battle against the federal administration since April, when it requested the border with Venezuela be closed. Since 2017, almost 128,000 Venezuelans, fleeing crisis in their home country, have entered Brazil through Roraima, though most have already left. Local authorities want to get BRL 168m to reimburse what they have spent on dealing with the migration crisis. They also want the federal government to give monthly reimbursements for costs with healthcare for Venezuelans.</p> <p>A settlement will not happen soon, as the federal administration&#8217;s lawyers asked for 30 days to analyze the terms proposed by Roraima.

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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.