Numbers of the week: Jan. 18, 2020

. Jan 18, 2020
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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: copycat Nazi propaganda by Brazil’s government, GDP projections, record in rifles seizing, troops on social service, the new Brazilian base in Antarctica and two chapters of a water crisis.

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1 sentence from the Nazi propaganda minister

Theater director Roberto Alvim

was fired as Brazil&#8217;s culture secretary after posting a video on social media to promote a new government prize to fund cultural productions. The presentation was filled with Nazi aesthetics—from the set design, Wagner&#8217;s opera <em>Lohengrin</em> playing softly in the background, to the content of his actual speech. <a href="">Mr. Alvim actually paraphrased none other than Joseph Goebbels</a>, Hitler&#8217;s Propaganda Minister. The now dismissed secretary said “Brazilian art in the next decade will be heroic and will be nationalistic; it will be endowed with great depth for emotional involvement and will be equally binding, as it is profoundly united with the urgent aspirations of our people, or it will cease to exist.” </p> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img class="wp-image-30398" src="" alt="alvim goebbels nazi" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1086w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /> <figcaption>Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels (L) and Roberto Alvim.</figcaption> </figure> <p>In Peter Longerich&#8217;s &#8220;<a href="">Goebbels: A Biography</a>,&#8221; the Nazi media guru is quoted as telling theater directors that “German art in the next decade will be heroic, steely but romantic, factual without sentimentality; it will be nationalistic, with great depth of feeling; it will be binding and it will unite, or it will cease to exist.”</p> <p>After huge backlash, Mr. Alvim called the incident a “rhetorical coincidence,” suggesting he did not know the words were credited to Goebbels, but that the “the passage itself is perfect: heroism and the aspirations of the people is [sic] what we want to see in Brazilian art.”</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator" /> <h2>2.4 percent</h2> <p>The Economy Ministry released its GDP growth forecast on January 14—showing even more optimism than last year. For 2020, the government expects the economy to grow 2.4 percent; one year ago, the ministry predicted 2.32-percent growth for 2019, but the actual result will hover around 1.1 percent. If this year&#8217;s predictions are correct, this will be the best annual performance by the Brazilian economy since 2013, when it recorded a 3-percent growth rate. On its Macro Fiscal Bulletin, the government’s economic team justified its optimism, saying that “employment and activity indexes suggest a consistent economic recovery in 2020,” but highlighted that “it is essential to continue on the path to fiscal adjustment, to keep interest rates low and foster growth.”</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator" /> <h2>505 rifles </h2> <p>Data from Rio de Janeiro&#8217;s military police shows that <a href="">505 rifles were seized</a> in the state last year. However, the police estimate <a href="">local gangsters</a> own 3,000 to 3,500 rifles, making Rio de Janeiro the city with the biggest number of assault weapons in Brazil. Rio’s conflicts, propelled by <a href="">Brazil’s failed war on drugs</a>, have hit the population hardest of all, with <a href="">six youngsters being killed by stray bullets</a> in 2019—and one already in 2020. But Rio is not the only area where the apprehension of rifles has been on the rise: according to data obtained by cable news channel <a href=""><em>GloboNews</em></a>, seizures of assault rifles in São Paulo grew 22 percent, to 200 last year.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator" /> <h2>7,000 troops</h2> <p>Caught between high demand and a shortage of staff, the Brazilian Social Security Institute (INSS) has called in 7,000 members of the military reserve to help the institution deal with its backlog—more than 2 million social security cases are stalled within the institute. The reserve troops will allow the INSS to relocate up to 2,500 employees to analyze cases, which range from paid sick leave to retirements, among others. Meanwhile, the INSS will expedite medical evaluations for roughly 1,500 of their own employees who have been on sick leave and civil servants from other government bodies, &#8220;borrowing&#8221; employees from state-owned airport manager Infraero. The measure will cost an extra BRL 14.5 million per month—including a 30-percent bump in the military officers’ monthly paychecks. The government opted to not hire new civil servants, amid Economy Minister Paulo Guedes’ plan to reduce the size of the government.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator" /> <h2>20 neighborhoods</h2> <p>Residents of at least 20 neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro have complained about discolored, earthy-tasting water coming out of their taps. As we explained in our <a href="">January 15 Daily Briefing</a>, cases of diarrhea, stomach flu, and vomiting have spiked, but state water company Cedae ensures there has been no contamination, and that the health cases can’t be linked to water consumption. At one point, Cedae said the strange color and flavor of the water were due to organic compound geosmin, which has been contested by the scientific community. Evidence indicates that the water has been contaminated by industrial sewage. The police are currently investigating the case and Cedae’s sanitation director, Marcos Chimelli, was <a href="">fired</a> by Governor Wilson Witzel—who was on vacation in Florida during the water crisis.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator" /> <h2>21 percent </h2> <p>Water reservoirs in the Southeast and Center-West regions of Brazil are at their lowest since 2015, when São Paulo faced one of the worst water crises in its history. As we reported in our <a href="">January 17 Daily Briefing</a>, hydropower plants from those regions are responsible for the bulk of power generation in Brazil. Any disruption in their production capacity forces the government to use high-polluting coal plants, which also happens to be more expensive for consumers.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/1246536"> </div> <p><script src=""></script></p> <hr class="wp-block-separator" /> <h2>USD 100 billion </h2> <p>Brazil has inaugurated its new research base at Antarctica, eight years after a massive fire destroyed the former facilities. The state-of-the-art base cost USD 100 billion and is twice the size of the previous headquarters. It can host 64 people at one time and has 17 labs to support 18 ongoing studies in fields such as oceanography, glaciology, meteorology, and microbiology, as reporter Iara Lemos explained, straight from King’s George Island, on <a href="">January 14</a>. Although the frozen lands of Antarctica couldn’t be more different than Brazil’s tropical landscape, Jefferson Simões, Vice President of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, said to our <a href="">Explaining Brazil podcast</a> that studies in the South Pole are just as important as the Amazon rainforest to understanding Brazil’s climate.

Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

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