Numbers of the week: Sep. 28, 2019

. Sep 28, 2019
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This is Brazil by the Numbers, a weekly digest of the most interesting figures tucked inside the latest news about Brazil. Random numbers that help explain what is going on in Brazil. This week: Children shot in Rio, Congress investigating fake news, Bolsonaro lies to the UN, oil stains in the Northeast, sexual harassment, president’s approval ratings, GDP growth expectations.

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17 children

Brazilians were left shocked and outraged by the death of 8-year-old Ágatha Félix in Rio de Janeiro.

Hit by a rifle bullet in the back during a police operation, Ágatha was taken to hospital but died shortly after. So far this year, 17 children have been shot in Rio de Janeiro—with Ághata being the fifth infant death of the year. Governor Wilson Witzel was heavily criticized for saying that his security policy—which encourages police officers to shoot to kill—was on the right track, despite the girl&#8217;s death. He blamed drug consumers for the case, and said the left shouldn&#8217;t &#8220;use a corpse as a political platform.&#8221; Meanwhile, President Jair Bolsonaro—who relies on the support of police forces—has remained silent.</p> <p>(It is worth remembering, however, that such a display of moral laxity for political purposes is not unseen in Brazil. In 2011, a 14-year-old girl was kept for four days in a prison cell with five male inmates—and described gruesome abuses she suffered. Then-President Dilma Rousseff, as well as her Secretary of Women&#8217;s Rights at the time, chose not to speak about the case, in order not to vex their political allies.)</p> <h2>86 motions</h2> <p>Congress has <a href="">launched a probe</a> into how political campaigns used false information—spread through social media and messaging apps such as WhatsApp—to tamper with the 2018 elections. This week, a parliamentary investigation committee (CPI) approved 86 motions triggering a series of probes. These requests include summoning telecoms companies, big tech firms (through which the information was spread), and representatives of companies charged with spreading political messages to millions of WhatsApp users during the election period. The move was fiercely opposed by President Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s Social Liberal Party—as Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s campaign is under investigation by electoral courts for benefiting from illegal marketing campaigns based on <a href="">sending millions of messages</a> tarnishing the reputation of his political adversaries. The committee&#8217;s chairman, Senator Angelo Coronel, defended the investigation as &#8220;pivotal&#8221; for the proper functioning of Brazilian democracy.</p> <h2>11 false statements</h2> <p>Fact-checking agency <em><a href="">Aos Fatos</a> </em>analyzed President Jair Bolsonaro’s speech at the <a href="">UN General Assembly</a>. His words were poorly received by foreign leaders and Brazilian analysts alike for his overly aggressive tone but, as <em>Aos Fatos</em> showed, Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s speech was also filled with falsehoods. In his <a href="">speech of a little over 30 minutes</a>, he lied 11 times, mostly about environmental issues. Following an international crisis sparked by a hike in Amazon fires, Mr. Bolsonaro said the Brazilian rainforest is &#8220;practically untouched,&#8221; which would be &#8220;proof that [Brazil is] one of the countries that protect the environment the most.&#8221; Between 1985 and 2017, however, the Amazon lost 18 percent of its forest coverage. And while that destruction predates Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s stint as president, official data shows that monthly deforestation alerts flagged an increase in wildfires when compared to previous years.</p> <h2>99 beaches with oil stains</h2> <p>Since September 2, oil stains were <a href="">found in at least 99 locations</a> along the Brazilian Northeast coast, spread across eight states. According to Petrobras, Brazil&#8217;s state-owned oil and gas company, the substance is crude oil—which is not produced in Brazil. Its origins, however, have not been identified, though authorities believe that the likeliest explanation is that a vessel cleaned up its tanks in the ocean, and the oil was taken to the shores by the current. Brazil&#8217;s environmental agency has not confirmed if fish and crustaceans have been affected, but agents have found nine dead sea turtles and one dead shearwater. <a href="">Petrobras</a> will send at least 100 employees to help clean up locations where oil has been found. Local hotels and restaurants identified a drop in customers of up to 70 percent since the first stains were spotted.</p> <h2>3,090 sexual harassment cases</h2> <p>The law establishing clear ground rules for the crime of <a href="">sexual harassment</a> has completed one year of existence. In that span, the state of São Paulo has registered 3,090 such cases, among which 31 percent happened in public places, 26 percent in victims&#8217; homes, and 12 percent in public transportation. Over the same period, the police registered 2,890 rape cases—actual numbers are much higher, however, as rape is a highly underreported crime. According to Brazilian legislation, sexual harassment is defined as &#8220;lewd acts against someone without consent; touching someone else&#8217;s private parts or touching genitals, masturbating or ejaculating on someone.&#8221; Perpetrators can get up to five years in prison.</p> <h2>16 percentage points</h2> <p>A recent opinion poll shows that President Jair Bolsonaro has stopped hemorrhaging support. While his overall <a href="">poll</a> numbers are stable—with the Brazilian population almost equally divided between haters, lovers, and those still on the fence. What is telling, however, is that Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s approval ratings in his most secure stronghold, the Brazilian South, observed a huge dip of 16 percentage points, with 36 percent of voters in the region considering his government as either &#8220;good&#8221; or &#8220;great,&#8221; down from 52 percent three months ago. The percentage of Southern voters who consider Mr. Bolsonaro to be doing a &#8220;bad&#8221; or &#8220;terrible&#8221; job has jumped from 18 to 28 percent. Pollster Ibope interviewed 2,000 people between September 19–22 for the survey.</p> <h2>0.9 percent</h2> <p>After Labor Ministry data showed that Brazil created 121,387 net jobs in August (the best result for the month in six years), the Central Bank grew (slightly) more optimistic about the Brazilian economy this year, elevating its GDP growth forecast from 0.8 to 0.9 percent. The bank&#8217;s forecast is more positive than the median of top-rated investment firms, which believe Brazil&#8217;s GDP growth rate for this year will be of 0.87 percent. Even if the Central Bank&#8217;s more optimistic prediction is correct, it nonetheless confirms the country has lost steam in 2019, after growing just 1.1 percent in 2018.

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Lucas Berti

Lucas Berti covers international affairs — specialized in Latin American politics and markets. He has been published by Opera Mundi, Revista VIP, and The Intercept Brasil, among others.

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