In this week’s issue: The most important facts of the week. The 2019 Budget, in detail. 2018 in review: Marielle Franco, João de Deus, Bolsonaro…


The week in review

  • Supreme Court. In a turbulent last day before the court went on its end of year holidays, a war of injunctions very nearly led to the release of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from jail. Without warning, Justice Marco Aurélio Mello issued an injunction demanding all prisoners who have not yet exhausted all of their appeal routes be released from jail. Legally speaking, the order would have allowed Lula’s release. Hours later, Chief Justice Dias Toffoli suspended the injunction after a request from the country’s Prosecutor General, underlining the chaos within Brazil’s highest court.
  • Temer. Prosecutor General Raquel Dodge asked for the indictment of President Michel Temer for corruption and money laundering in an investigation connected to the Port of Santos. Mr. Temer allegedly accepted bribes in return for fashioning decrees to benefit companies working out of the port, which is Brazil’s busiest. This is the third indictment request brought against the president during his 28-month term.
    </li> <li><strong>Judges.</strong><strong> </strong>The National Council of Justice (CNJ) approved the payment of housing allowance to Brazil&#8217;s judges, which had previously been suspended. The removal of the benefit had been a counterpoint in return for Michel Temer&#8217;s sanctioning of a pay rise for Supreme Court Justices, which would cause a trickle-down effect for all other members of the bench. While the new rules for housing allowance are more restrictive, the CNJ opened a loophole allowing the high courts to set their own rules.</li> <li><strong>Embraer.</strong><strong> </strong>The much-feted deal between Brazilian planemaker Embraer and Boeing had a topsy-turvy week in the news. Earlier in the week, it was reported that the terms of the deal had finally been agreed, with Boeing paying USD 4.75bn for 80% stake in a new joint venture, comprising Embraer&#8217;s commercial jet division. However, on Thursday, a São Paulo court issued an injunction suspending the deal.</li> <li><strong>João de Deus.</strong><strong> </strong>Celebrity spiritual healer João de Deus was indicted for the sexual abuse of a woman at his retreat in the state of Goiás. Arrested after prosecutors received over 500 reports of abuse against the medium, João de Deus turned himself in on Sunday.</li> </ul> <hr /> <h2>The 2019 Budget, in detail</h2> <p>It took some time but this week the Congress finally approved the Federal Budget for 2019, the first year of Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s presidency. The delay in passing the budget bill was not out of any particular opposition to the proposal, rather it was due to the sluggish rhythm of the legislature at the end of the year, and the inability of the future government to encourage Congress to take action.</p> <p>The Budget for next year foresees expenses of BRl 3.38tr, ending the year with a deficit of BRL 139bn, which is in line with established fiscal targets. The 2019 budget foresees an increase in the national minimum wage, jumping 5.45% to BRL 1,006 per month (USD 258). This rise is in line with inflation but represents the first time the minimum wage has gone above the BRL 1,000 mark in nominal values.</p> <p><img class="alignnone size-large wp-image-14002" src="http://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/b2e38c8d-f9f2-46c6-86f0-a870c190569a-1024x562.png" alt="" width="1024" height="562" /><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-16897" src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/b2e38c8d-f9f2-46c6-86f0-a870c190569a.png" alt="" width="1158" height="636" srcset="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/b2e38c8d-f9f2-46c6-86f0-a870c190569a.png 1158w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/b2e38c8d-f9f2-46c6-86f0-a870c190569a-300x165.png 300w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/b2e38c8d-f9f2-46c6-86f0-a870c190569a-768x422.png 768w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/b2e38c8d-f9f2-46c6-86f0-a870c190569a-1024x562.png 1024w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/b2e38c8d-f9f2-46c6-86f0-a870c190569a-610x335.png 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1158px) 100vw, 1158px" /></p> <hr /> <h2>2018 in review</h2> <p>2018 will be remembered as a historic one for Brazil. A presidential election shifted the political waves to the extreme right. The country&#8217;s oldest museum caught on fire, losing many pieces of historical significance. A former president was jailed for corruption; a presidential candidate was stabbed. Truckers stopped the country&#8217;s economy with a strike that showed how frail our transportation is. Venezuela&#8217;s crisis spilled over into Brazilian territory and rose tensions in the north. 2018 was truly a defining year. Here are 15 of its most important facts:</p> <h4>Federal intervention in Rio</h4> <p>On February 16, president Michel Temer established a federal intervention in Rio de Janeiro. The military was made responsible for public security in response to a request from governor Luiz Fernando Pezão. Set to end on December 31, the intervention was not able to fulfill its objectives. 2018 was the year with the highest number of deaths caused by the police since 2003, 1,444 deaths as of November. The idea was criticized from the outset, with analysts, human rights organizations and members of the public commenting that it lacked both a short- and long-term strategy. Additionally, the initiative’s projected costs came to BRL 3.1 billion.</p> <h4><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica neue, helvetica, sans-serif;">Marielle Franco&#8217;s assassination</span></h4> <p>Social activist and elected city councilor Marielle Franco, 38, was assassinated while being driven through the streets of Rio on March 14. Her killing came four days after she denounced police violence in Acari, the community in which she lived. According to witnesses, a group of men in a car approached Ms. Franco’s vehicle and opened fire without saying anything. Her driver was also killed, and a third person was injured. A day before her murder, Ms. Franco used Twitter to share some harsh criticism of Rio’s Military Police. “Yet another young man who could be going to college is killed because of the police. How many more will it take for this war to end?” More than nine months have passed and no arrests have been made.</p> <h4>Lula in prison</h4> <p>Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was convicted to 12 years and one month in prison on January 24 for corruption and money laundering charges. But he was only jailed on April 7, after months of legal disputes between his defense, judge Sergio Moro and Brazil&#8217;s Supreme Court. Two days before Lula turned himself in, the Supreme Court ruled that convicts should begin serving their sentence before appeals are exhausted. “I’m going to prove my innocence,” Lula told a large crowd of adoring supporters at the Steelworkers Union building, where he began his political career, on the day he was imprisoned. “Do what you want, the powerful can kill one, two or 100 roses. But they’ll never stop the coming of the spring.”</p> <h4>Truckers&#8217; strike</h4> <p>Brazilian truckers staged nationwide protests by blocking roads and creating fuel and food shortages in nearly every Brazilian urban center in a 10-day strike. The drivers demanded a reduction in diesel prices, a minimum value for freight prices and the lowering of fuel taxes. The strike started on May 21 and drove Brazil to chaos. Nothing was transported in the country and nearly all sectors of the economy faced significant losses. There were fuel, food, and medicine shortages in all regions of the country; hundreds of flights were canceled. The Treasury estimated losses of BRL 15.9bn. The government accepted every single demand presented by the truckers, from lowering diesel prices to giving tax exemptions to transportation companies.</p> <h4><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica neue, helvetica, sans-serif;">Venezuelan migration crisis</span></h4> <p>Fleeing food and medicine shortages, Venezuelans sought refuge in the northern Brazilian state of Roraima. In the city of Pacaraima, hundreds overwhelmed the public services. In August, locals set fire to the barracks and kicked the Venezuelans out, revolted by their presence. Between 2015 and 2018, more than 75,000 Venezuelans sought refuge in Brazil. In December, president Michel Temer announced a federal intervention in the state. Roraima has faced strikes of public security officers, deep financial problems, prison riots, besides the growing tensions caused by the arrival of Venezuelan refugees. This time around, though, the intervention will spread to all government areas and requires prior approval from Congress and the National Defense Council.</p> <h4>Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s stabbing</h4> <p>Jair Bolsonaro, who would become Brazil&#8217;s president-elect, was being carried by his supporters in a campaign rally in Juiz de Fora (Minas Gerais) on September 6. Suddenly, he was stabbed in the lower part of his abdomen. The perpetrator was promptly detained and identified as Adélio Bispo de Oliveira, 40. According to the police report, while being carted away the suspect said he was “fulfilling an order from God.” The president-elect underwent emergency surgery and was only released from the hospital on September 29. He still uses a colostomy bag, which will be surgically removed in January.</p> <h4>The destruction of Rio&#8217;s National Museum</h4> <p>The National Museum in Rio de Janeiro is one of the oldest in Brazil. It held more than 20 million historical and scientific pieces. On Sunday (September 3), the National Museum’s building was consumed—and almost entirely destroyed—by flames. The fire department was called at 7:30 pm, two and a half hours after the museum closed for the day. The flames were only controlled by around 2:00 am, by which time authorities believe almost everything inside had been destroyed. “We lost 200 years of history. It’s not only the building and its objects that we are losing, but part of the effort to create Brazilian civilization,” said Paulo Knauss, director of the National Historic Museum.</p> <h4><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica neue, helvetica, sans-serif;">2018 Presidential campaign</span></h4> <p>On October 18, a few days before the second round of the election, the Brazilian press revealed that a network of companies illegally hired social media companies to send hundreds of millions of messages to voters, attacking Mr. Bolsonaro’s rival, the Workers’ Party’s Fernando Haddad. Each “pack” of messages reportedly cost up to BRL 12 million. The scheme was illegal because it wasn’t on the books and companies are simply not allowed to contribute to political campaigns. Brazil’s Electoral Supreme Court decided to open a formal investigation into the case, which is still pending.</p> <h4><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica neue, helvetica, sans-serif;">Brazil elects Jair Bolsonaro</span></h4> <p>Jair Messias Bolsonaro won the presidential elections on November 28, beating Worker&#8217;s Party candidate. The extreme-right politician got 55 percent of valid votes, approximately 58 million votes, against Fernando Haddad’s 44 percent. Until recently, Mr. Bolsonaro was seen as little more than a radical right-winger who expressed nostalgia for the military dictatorship. Now, he will lead 207 million people, in a country with a fragile democracy and obscene levels of inequality. Throughout this campaign, Mr. Bolsonaro has shattered each and every single postulate in Brazilian politics. Experts said he wouldn’t be able to grow minds due to his sheer lack of television and radio airtime. He did. In December 2017, one pundit called the president-elect’s campaign a “bubble” and said his “rhetoric is too simplistic.” It wasn’t. Another political scientist told AFP in August that Mr. Bolsonaro wouldn’t win because the majority of women widely rejected him. In the end, they didn’t.</p> <h4><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica neue, helvetica, sans-serif;">From Operation Car Wash to the Ministry of Justice</span></h4> <p>Sergio Moro, coordinator of Operation Car Wash in Curitiba, announced on November 1 that he would accept Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s invitation to be the next Minister of Justice. Moro will be in charge of a so-called &#8220;super ministry&#8221; that will encompass public security and the federal police. His popularity led to him being listed as a possible presidential candidate in 2018. Since 2014, he has been in the national spotlight, especially for being the judge who convicted former president Lula to prison in January. Critics say Moro was a ruthless magistrate and ignored the law in order to convict figureheads such as the Workers Party leader.</p> <h4><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica neue, helvetica, sans-serif;">Faith leader accused of rape by over 500 women</span></h4> <p>More than 500 women <a href="https://globoplay.globo.com/v/7761740/">accused</a> João de Deus (also known of John of God), a famous faith healer, of sexual abuse. At the beginning of December, nine women told Globo TV the guru had manipulated them into performing sex acts with him. As the days passed by, hundreds more spoke up with similar accusations. Authorities started investigating the case and ordered John of God&#8217;s imprisonment. After two days, he turned himself in. The case received national attention due to the healer&#8217;s nationwide and international reputation for his alleged miracles. TV host Oprah Winfrey visited the medium in 2013 and did an interview with him. After the uproar the accusations prompted, she deleted the video from her official channels. The medium denies any wrongdoing.</p> <h4>Corruption in Rio de Janeiro</h4> <p>Federal Police arrested Governor Luiz Fernando Pezão on November 26. He is accused of pocketing a monthly stipend of BRL 150,000 during his time as the state’s lieutenant governor. According to investigators, the current governor was part of a scheme to pay monthly payments to local lawmakers in exchange for their support for former Governor Sérgio Cabral (also in jail, for multiple crimes of corruption). Between 2007 and 2015, Pezão is alleged to have received BRL 25 million, prosecutors say. He is another in the long line of Rio officials to have been arrested for corruption. The lineup includes every governor elected since 1998, every State House Speaker between 1995 and 2017, and the state’s former top prosecutor, among others.</p> <h4>COP 25</h4> <p>On November 27, the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it had given up on competing to be the host of COP 25, the United Nations’ annual climate change conference, to be held in November 2019. The alleged reasons were lack of funds and the political transition the country is going through—as President-elect Jair Bolsonaro will be sworn in come January 1st. The announcement provoked reactions within the country. NGO Observatório do Clima said, in an official statement, that “it is not the first and certainly will not be the last piece of bad news from Jair Bolsonaro concerning [environmental issues].”</p> <h4>The first corruption scandal of the Bolsonaro administration?</h4> <p>Even before taking office, president-elect Jair Bolsonaro and his family are involved in a case of suspected corruption. The case surrounds the financial activity of a former advisor and driver of Senator-elect Flávio Bolsonaro, Fabrício Queiroz. Monthly deposits made into the bank account of Mr. Queiroz coincide with the dates of salary payments of public servants at the Rio de Janeiro Legislative Assembly, reinforcing the suspicion that the ex-advisor was responsible for handling part of the paychecks of Flávio Bolsonaro’s office within the state legislature. A report by Coaf, Brazil’s money laundering enforcement council, showed that Mr. Queiroz made a total of 176 cash withdrawals from his bank account in 2016, an average of two per day. On August 10, 2016, for instance, the former advisor made five withdrawals, totaling BRL 18,450. According to the money laundering enforcement agency, transfers in cash are typically used in order to conceal the identities of the source and recipient of the funds. One of the transactions in question involved a BRL 24,000 check to future First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro. The Bolsonaro family denied any wrongdoing and said if the former aide did something wrong, he will pay for it.</p> <h4>More doctors, more problems</h4> <p>Created in 2013 by the Dilma Rousseff administration with the aim of sending healthcare professionals to remote areas of the country, the More Doctors program employed 18,240 professionals—8,332 of them being from Cuba. But they left, as Havana declared it is was withdrawing from the program after President-elect Jair Bolsonaro imposed many conditions for its continuation. The list includes the taking of equivalency tests to attest that the Cuban doctors are indeed capable of working in Brazil and that they receive the entirety of their salaries (75 percent of which currently stays with the Cuban government). Moreover, Mr. Bolsonaro said that the doctors’ must be allowed to bring their families, something that Havana does not accept. Mr. Bolsonaro’s words indicated that his beef with the program is more ideological than human rights-based. Moreover, losing these professionals will deeply affect millions of Brazilians who risk not being covered by the public healthcare system. The Brazilian government offered the spots left by the Cuban doctors to local professionals, but only 5.972 (71%) of the 8.411 Brazilians selected showed up to work.

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BY Gustavo Ribeiro

Gustavo is the founder of The Brazilian Report, and is an award-winning journalist with experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets.