Tag Archive | "brazil"

Health Ministry on Alert as Dengue ‘Epidemic’ Reaches Buenos Aires

MosquitoThe first cases of dengue fever in 2016 have been reported in the City of Buenos Aires as the virus continues to spread around Argentina.

Over 1,100 cases have been reported around the country, with the northeastern provinces of Misiones and Formosa most affected.

While the Buenos Aires Health Ministry originally reported four cases within the city – all of which were infected outside of the city, with the patients now discharged – the total was raised to seven yesterday afternoon with three new cases confirmed by Buenos Aires Health Minister Ana Maria Perez Bou.

“The entire city is at risk. The contagion can occur anywhere,” said Perez Bou, announcing a city-wide plan targeting standing freshwater and highly-vegetated zones to prevent the spread of the virus.

While National Health Minister Jorge Lemus has referred to the situation in the provinces of Formosa and Misiones as an ‘epidemic’, no national emergency has been issued so far.

Alternately, National Director of Epidemiology Jorge San Juan insists that the situation be treated as an outbreak rather than an epidemic.

The reason, San Juan explained in an interview with Radio 10, is that the virus maintains the same serotype as that of previous years. As there are no new forms of the virus, for now, he says there is “no gravity” to the situation.

The surge in reported cases is the most serious outbreak of the dengue virus in Argentina since 2009 in which nearly 8,000 people were reportedly infected with the virus, including 150 cases in the City of Buenos Aires itself.

Concern in neighbouring countries has reached significantly higher levels. The Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) estimate places Brazil at 1.6 million cases of the mosquito-borne virus in 2015, and in Paraguay, five of the country’s 17 departments, including the capital, have reported infections. Experts believe recent El Niño flooding resulting in greater quantities of standing freshwater to be the main cause of the problem.

A dengue vaccine, already adopted by Brazil, Mexico, and the Philippines, is currently under review by the National Administration of Drugs, Food, and Medical Technology (ANMAT). Despite delays, health officials estimate that the vaccine will be approved this year.

The World Health Organisation considers the dengue vaccine a major factor in the control and prevention of the virus.

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Brazil: Police Raid Homes of House Speaker in Corruption Probe

Federal police officers in Brazil have raided homes belonging to the speaker of the lower house of congress, Eduardo Cunha, following judicial orders to confiscate documents that could be used in a corruption investigation against the opposition leader.

Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha faces charges of corruption (Photo: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha faces charges of corruption (Photo: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

Officers also raided Cunha’s home in the early morning, as well as houses belonging to two other lawmakers and two ministers. Police said that a total of 53 search warrants were being executed.

Brazil’s public prosecutor, Luis Inacio Adams, has accused Cunha of taking USD$5mn in bribes between 2006 and 2012 in connection with the construction of two Petrobras drilling ships. Cunha could face charges of corruption and money laundering.

Prosecutors allege that the Petrobras scandal spanned over ten years and involved huge bribes as well as politically-charged appointments in return for inflated contracts. Petrobras is a state-run oil company and one of the largest energy companies in the world.

Dozens of other politicians, businessmen and civil servants have also been charged over the past year in connection with the Petrobras scheme, notably ex-president and current senator Fernando Collor de Mello. Brazil’s Supreme Court has taken on the case and leads proceedings.

Cunha has denied all accusations brought against him. When charges first surfaced months ago in August he vowed that he would remain in his post as speaker of the Chamber of Deputies even if he were indicted.

“I am not going to stand down in any way. I am going to carry on doing the job I was elected to do by the majority of the House,” he said.

However, hours after the raid yesterday, a congressional ethics panel voted to open an internal corruption probe against Cunha for allegedly lying about Swiss bank accounts that could be tied to the Petrobras scandal.

Cunha now has 10 days to present a written defence to the ethics panel. The panel then has three months to vote on whether the charges warrant Cunha’s removal, which would be brought before the full house for a vote.

Cunha is part of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) – a party split between allies and opponents of President Dilma Rousseff. He is leading the charge to impeach Rousseff and claims that the corruption accusations are politically motivated.

“Fifty-three warrants were executed—that is normal in an investigation,” he told reporters yesterday. “But it is very odd for that to happen the same day that the ethics committee was to rule on me. It is revenge. I am totally innocent.”

The impeachment process came to a halt last week on the 9th December after the Supreme Court suspended the impeachment commission for one week, citing irregularities. The court is expected to rule today whether to allow impeachment proceedings to move forward.

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Brazil: Supreme Court Halts Impeachment Proceedings Against Rousseff

Impeachment proceedings against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff have been temporarily suspended after head of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) Luiz Fachin put the brakes on the formation of a special congressional commission to analyse the case against the president.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil)

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil)

Rousseff, one year into her second term, is facing widespread impeachment requests from opposition politicians and members of her own ruling coalition who claim that she infringed the country’s tax laws and manipulated public finances in order to seek reelection in 2014.

Impeachment proceedings were authorised last week by Eduardo Cunha, president of the Chamber of Deputies and member of the centre-right Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), who have formed an uneasy coalition with Rousseff’s centre-left Workers’ Party (PT) since 2003.

The outcome for the incumbent president looked bleak yesterday as 39 of the 65 seats on the special commission were taken by deputies who openly favour impeachment, during a secret voting process which culminated in chaotic shouting and shoving between deputies.

A list of commission members proposed by opposition politicians and dissident members of the PMDB won 272 votes against 199 votes for the government’s proposed list.

Brazil’s Communist Party (PCdoB), an ally of Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT), asked that the STF review the validity of the commission.

In his decision, released late Tuesday night, Fachin asked Cunha to shed more light on the process in which it was formed, saying, “I request information, to be given within 24 hours […] on the formation and election of the special commission”.

The impeachment proceedings will remain on hold until the eleven judges who make up the STF can rule on the matter on 16th December.

If the commission is ruled valid, it would need to produce a two-thirds vote to put Rousseff on trial in the upper house, possibly resulting in her removal from office.

Rousseff is facing a political crisis aggravated by Brazil’s prolonged economic recession and a prominent government corruption scandal involving state-run oil giant Petrobras. Her approval rating stands at just 10%.

Rallies by opposition groups have been planned across Brazil for this Sunday, while hundreds of trade union activists marched in support of the president in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday night.

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Has Latin America’s Pink Tide Turned Muddy?

In Oliver Stone’s documentary, South of the border from 2009, the director describes the previous ten years as if Simón Bolívar´s dream had been realised. By 2009, left-wing leaders had been democratically elected across Latin America, the populations were behind them, and the economies were doing well. But in 2015, this no longer seems to be the case.

In Brazil, Dilma Rousseff’s approval ratings are at a record-low, the lowest since the re-establishment of democracy in Brazil in 1985, and she is facing impeachment. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavéz’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, is massively unpopular, with approval ratings at about 20% and a recent loss in the legislative elections. In Argentina, the recent election of Mauricio Macri could mean a significant warning for the Latin American left.

Until a couple of years ago, the latter scenario was wishful thinking for the liberals of Latin America, but times have changed.

Mauricio Macri celebrates his victory (photo: Reilly Ryan)

Mauricio Macri celebrates his victory (photo: Reilly Ryan)

The ‘Pink Tide’

Ten to 15 years ago, a so-called ‘pink tide’ broke on the coasts of Latin America. The political left consolidated its power in the region. Hugo Chávez in Venezuela (the first to be elected, in 1999), Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, José Mujica in Uruguay, Nestor Kirchner in Argentina, and Luiz Inácio da Silva, better known as Lula, in Brazil. Progressive parties were in power in Latin America and were implementing their policies.

Professor in Latin American politics at Oxford University in the UK, Diego Sánchez-Ancochea, believes there were two specific reasons for the success of the left. “First, major discontent with the poor economic results of the neoliberal reforms in the late 1990s. Second, the consolidation of democracy, which naturally results in alternation of power,” he says to The Argentina Independent.

Steven Levitsky, professor in Latin American history at Harvard University in the US, also identifies the consolidation of democracy as one of the causes of the left wing’s success. “It was a combination of unprecedented stable democracy, the first time the left wing could consistently compete for power everywhere, except Cuba, for multiple decades. There was also a context of extreme social inequality, which favours the left a bit over the right. And three, there was the economic downturn of 1998-2002, which hurt right-of-centre incumbents and eroded support for neoliberal policies,” Levitsky says.

Professor Ancochea explains that what tied the movements across Latin America together was a common goal of fighting inequality and neoliberal economical policies, as well as moving the trade streams away from the US, towards China, Russia, Iran, and other Asian economies.

The Chinese market in particular was a reason for prosperity in Latin America for years -Brazil especially- adds Levitsky. Now, however, the Chinese economy is slowing down, and, the academic says, that puts the Latin American economies under pressure.

The three most powerful men in South America: Chavez, Kirchner and Lula in 2006

The three most powerful men in South America: Chavez, Kirchner and Lula in 2006

With the Tide Came Change

Professor Ancochea emphasises that the overall process has been a victory for the left. “Most countries spent more on social policy than in the past, and also introduced new social programmes and reformed old ones. Some of the reforms, such as the unification of the health system in Uruguay or the creation of a universal non-contributory pension in Bolivia were particularly exciting. At the same time, they were able to do this without increasing their levels of debt,” Ancochea says.

Political consultant Carlos Fara agrees. “The continent has a noticeable stance supporting state intervention in the economy, and an ever longer agenda of greater wealth distribution. In the last 15 years the global market allowed better prices for exportable commodities. This revived the issue of wealth distribution in the political agenda, which obviously favoured the current centre-left in the ten most important countries, except in the case of Colombia. On the other hand, in addition to the improved global conditions for exporting, there was the reminder of the social consequences, derived from the economic reforms of the ’90s, known as the Washington consensus,” Fara says.

Levitsky says that since then, the economy has turned in the Latin American countries. He points out that the governments of these countries are not necessarily to blame, but that the circumstances have changed. “With the exception of Venezuela, which is a disaster, it really hasn’t ‘gone wrong’. In part, the left wing is suffering from an economic slowdown. A worsened economy brings popular discontent.,” says Levitsky.

Cynthia Arson from the Wilson Center does not believe the left has failed either. “The left-wing parties have maybe revealed that they are as vulnerable to certain things as the right-wing, like commodity prices.. Latin America is also less dependent on the continent’s surroundings than it used to be. But a lot of countries are still too dependent on other economies. And they are increasingly met with higher and higher demands of better quality in social services, due to the growth of the middle class, like in Brazil, to name one example,” she says.

Although Rousseff has lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty, she is now struggling with a faltering economy hit by recession, massive corruption scandals and as a result, the mistrust of her own people and voters.

According to professor in macro economics at the Pontifical University of Rio de Janeiro, Monica de Bolle, the recession could be the worst the country has experienced in 25 years. “The unemployment rate is going up, and the people’s incomes are eroding as inflation is running wild,” she says.

The Brazilian people have lost confidence in the former guerrilla soldier Rousseff, and her key issue, the fight against inequality. Brazilian journalist Christiane Lebelem, from Brazil News, thinks the population has abandoned Rousseff’s project. “She has lost the people’s trust. They are disappointed and tired,” she says.

Perhaps the biggest defeat Rousseff has had to suffer, has been the need to turn to more orthodox policies.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil)

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is facing impeachment (Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil)

A Long Way to Fall

De Bolle believes both Brazil and Argentina have benefitted from Russian investments, but the cash flow from China is decreasing. However, that is not the only thing causing problems. “The recession is a result of a host of factors: policy mismanagement, the commodity price reversal, and the paralysis that has gripped the country following the eruption of the Petrobras bribery scheme. Although the government has frequently referred to hostile external conditions —the Chinese slowdown, the fall in commodity prices— policy mismanagement is the crux of the problem. Brazil’s fiscal deficit currently stands at over 6% of GDP, and is likely to rise to about 8% by year-end. The lack of a coherent fiscal strategy was the key reason for the country’s recent ratings downgrade by S&P.”

Rousseff recently announced a number of austerity measures, and according to De Bolle, those measures will hit her key voters in full force. “Taxes will rise along with the reintroduction of a financial transactions tax (CPMF) which falls on all bank transactions. They have also announced cuts to social programmes and public investment programmes, as well as a rescheduling of salaries and wages of civil servants. The objective is to reach a primary surplus target of 0.7% of GDP,” De Bolle says.

According to the academic, the poor and the vulnerable middle class will suffer the most. “These groups have been the hardest hit by the recession and the rise in inflation and unemployment. There’s an increasing chance that some of the recent social gains over the last decade will be reversed.”

The Surrounding Challenges

According to Fara, the problem does not only lie in the economic difficulties, but in the solutions as well. “The global conditions that no longer seem to be promising mean that everyone has to make some kind of adjustment. This solution doesn’t sit well with the left parties,” he says.

Levitsky agrees with Fara. According to the Harvard proffesor, several conditions challenge the left wing. “Weak economies, declining commodity prices, and the fact that the left has become the establishment, the ‘oficialismo‘, which often erodes what the left stands for,“ he says.

According to the experts, the surroundings are causing the unprecedented pressure. “The conditions have changed and we have two models: A social-democrat one, as in the case of Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Brazil, and a more leftist one, such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. The shift in the economic global cycle, together with more qualified social demands, force an update in the political parties’ agendas to keep these parties as advocates of change,” says Fara.

In Argentina, this cycle came to and with the defeat of Peronism in the November election. With a campaign built around the idea of a need for change, Mauricio Macri ended 12 years of Peronist government and defeated the establishment —the progressive forces within in.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet with Argentine president Cristina Fernández (left) and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff (right) at her inauguration (photo: Presidencia/Télam/ddc)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet with Argentine president Cristina Fernández (left) and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff (right) at her inauguration (photo: Presidencia/Télam/ddc)

The New Democratic Right

The victory of Mauricio Macri in Argentina opened up a window of hope for the right, and was closely followed by a victory of the Venezuelan opposition in legislative elections. Analysts have compared the two, and highlighted the transformation that the South American right-wing has undergone over the last few years. One thing the established progressive leaders will have to learn, is how to deal with this ‘new right’ which claims to be democratic, moderate, and aiming for a centrist consensus.

Despite this peaceful rhetoric, the new right has a great potential to destabilise the progressive consensus achieved over the last decade and a half. Macri’s main announcement in terms of international policy was his intention to expel Venezuela from Mercosur —though the recent legislative defeat of the Venezuelan government has prompted him to backtrack on this measure which had been met with opposition by Uruguay and Brazil. A realignment towards the Pacific Alliance and the US could also weaken the South American institutions built and supported by the progressive governments, and with them, revert some of the progress made in terms of continental integration.

As they prepare for the backlash, left-wing leaders will have to learn to be in opposition if they want a chance to revive their golden years in the future. They have been learning from each other how to win in recent years, but they might want to start looking to Argentina and Venezuela to learn how not to lose. With Mauricio Macri’s change-focused campaign, they cannot say they were not warned.


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Brazil: Congress Authorises Impeachment Against President

On Wednesday evening, the President of the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil Eduardo Cunha, authorised the initiation of impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil)

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil)

During a press conference held at Congress, Cunha stated that his decision was not politically motivated. “It’s a challenging decision that requires a deep reflection,” he stated, adding “Never in the duration of my mandate have I received so many impeachment requests.”

Opposition parties had petitioned the proceedings back in September, arguing that the incumbent president has infringed the country’s tax laws and manipulated public finances in order to seek reelection in 2014.

President Rousseff, who was taking part in the COP21 climate change talks in Paris, gave a public address in which she is quoted as saying, “I have received with outrage the decision by the [Chamber of Deputies] to launch an impeachment process. There is no wrongful act committed by me, nor are there any suspicions I have misused public money.”

Political analysts say Rousseff has long butted heads with Cunha, who has also been embroiled in the Petrobras scandal and accused of accepting bribes. Some have suggested his act was performed in “self-defence”, as members of the congress’ ethics committee had just announced their plan to seek his dismissal based on these accounts.

The future of President Rousseff is now in the hands of a special committee composed by members of all the political parties in Brazil. They will analyse the merit of the impeachment request, which will need at least two-thirds of the Chamber of Deputies’ votes to successfully issue a suspension of Rousseff’s presidential duties while a 90-day-long trial is held at the Senate. Michel Tenel, the vice-President, would take over her mandate.

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Brazil: PT Senate Leader Arrested in Connection With Petrobras Scandal

Delcídio do Amaral, PT Senator (Photo via Wikipedia)

Delcídio do Amaral, PT Senator (Photo via Wikipedia)

Senator Delcídio do Amaral, leader of Dilma Rousseff’s Worker’s Party (PT) in the Brazilian senate, was arrested today on charges of obstructing operation ‘Lava Jato’ (car wash), the Supreme Court (STF) investigation into a multibillion dollar corruption scheme at state-owned oil giant Petrobras.

Petrobras is considered Brazil’s largest ever corruption scandal. More than 40 people have been charged so far, with dozens of senior politicians and businessman under investigation, accused of colluding with Petrobras executives to receive illicit payments of over US$2bn.

Amaral became the first sitting senator to be arrested in the country as federal police, under orders from the STF, took him into custody at the Golden Tulip Hotel.

Also arrested today was multi-billionaire banker André Esteves, chief executive of the country’s largest investment bank, Banco BTG Pactual.

“[Mr Esteves] was arrested because he was allegedly involved in irregularities in operation Lava Jato,” said an STF spokesperson. “[Mr Amaral] was arrested because he was allegedly obstructing the investigations,” adding that Amaral’s arrest was “preventative”.

The minister in charge of the STF operation, Teori Zavascki, said he ordered the arrest to prevent Amaral from influencing Néstor Cervero, an ex-director of Petrobras who is currently negotiating a reduced sentence with court in exchange for his cooperation.

Zavascki said that the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) has evidence that Amaral offered Cerveró’s family 50,000 reais (around US$13,000) a month if he chose not to make a deal with the court.

According to the MPF, these payments were due to be financed by Esteves.

Financial markets reacted badly to the arrests, with the real weakening 1.9% against the US dollar to R$3.77 as fears spread of an aggravation to Brazil’s political and economic difficulties. Share prices in BTG fell 19.33% after news of Esteves’ arrest.

Amaral’s implication in the scandal is the latest in a string of Petrobras-related accusations against members of the PT, including former president Lula da Silva’s cabinet chief José Dirceu, which have contributed to the political crisis faced by President Dilma Rousseff.

Re-elected in October 2014, Rousseff ends the first year of her second term amid impeachment threats and approval ratings of just 10% while the Brazilian economy continues to flounder.

Senate president Renan Calheiros, from the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) said that this Wednesday’s senate session, in which new budget laws and fiscal targets for 2016 were due to be discussed, has been suspended.

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Brazil: Mining Waste Reaches Coast After Dam Collapse

Rio Doce river mouth (photo: Fred Loureiro/Secom ES via Agencia Brasil)

Rio Doce river mouth (photo: Fred Loureiro/Secom ES via Agencia Brasil)

Contaminated mudflow from a catastrophic dam collapse in the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais is spreading along the Brazilian coast, with Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira warning of “the worst environmental disaster Brazil has ever faced”.

The mud has travelled 650 kilometres down the Rio Doce river from the Fundão iron mine where a tailing dam, designed to hold waste from iron mining, burst on 5th November. Sixty-two million cubic metres of mud were released, destroying the nearby town of Bento Rodrigues and leaving at least 12 people dead and a further 11 missing.

The mine is operated by Samarco, a joint venture between Brazilian company Vale and Anglo-Australian mining giants BHP Billiton.

Images showing a massive area of reddish-brown mud off the coast of Espírito Santo state went viral yesterday on social media as local authorities cut off access to the Regência and Povoação beaches.

A 10km stretch of the Brazilian coast is currently affected, but it is predicted that this will grow to 40km as the mud moves up the coast. Biologists warn that it could take 30 years to clean up the river basin.

Over 280,00 people remain dependent on bottled water, after the national water agency banned the use of water from the Rio Doce following contamination fears from mud, which contains toxic levels of mercury, arsenic, and chromium.

The mud could also severely reduce oxygen levels and alter the water’s pH, threatening aquatic life including fish, turtles, whales, and dolphins. Fears have been raised over the risks to the Comboios nature reserve, which for 35 years has been a protected-nesting ground for the endangered leather-back turtle and which lies in the path of the mudflow.

“I don’t know what to say,” Joca Thome, coordinator of the turtle protection agency TAMAR, told local media yesterday after flying over the mudflow in a helicopter. “It’s terrible. It’s a calamity. It looks like brown gelatine spreading into the sea”

Minister Texeira highlighted the risks to local economies, saying, “We have to attend to the workers whose livelihoods are based on the river, like the fishermen. They need help and we are giving it to them.”

Dead fish began washing up on the coast on Sunday, and the State Institute for the Environment (Iema) has warned that the few fish who have survived are too weakened by pollution to repopulate the river.

Samarco has erected 9km of floating barriers to protect the river bank and is contracting local fishermen to bury dead fish and diggers to widen the mouth of the river, allowing the mud to disperse into the sea as quickly as possible.

The company has been fined US$66m by Brazil’s Federal environmental agency and will contribute US$250m in cleanup costs.

Fears have been raised that the rain season, which lasts until March, may aggravate the situation as more mud which remains lodged near the site of the collapse and could be washed into the river by rain.

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Brazil: Impeachment Threat for Rousseff as Auditors Reject Budget

A unanimous vote by the Brazilian federal accounts court rejected President Dilma Rousseff’s 2014 budget accounts on Wednesday, giving opponents a cause to impeach her.

Rousseff was accused of manipulating the budget to hide a growing deficit during the 2014 election, which she won by a 3.2% margin.

Brasília - A presidenta Dilma Rousseff  anuncia mudanças em seu ministério , durante  declaração à imprensa no Palácio do Planalto (Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil)

Brasília – A presidenta Dilma Rousseff anuncia mudanças em seu ministério , durante declaração à imprensa no Palácio do Planalto (Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil)

A report by the auditors suggested the financial juggling was done by delaying payments to fund social programs and instead keeping the money in public banks. In doing so, it looked as if there was more money than there actually was in the public coffers.

This is the first time in close to 80 years that the fiscal auditors have ruled against a president.

The government said it will appeal the federal accounts court’s decision, which is not legally binding.

In the meantime it will be sent to Congress to vote on the ruling. If it is supported, the president could be charged with a “crime of responsibility.”

“This establishes that they doctored fiscal accounts, which is an administrative crime and President Rousseff should face an impeachment vote,” said the leader of the opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), Carlos Sampaio in an interview with Reuters.

PSDB senator Aécio Neves, who ran against Rousseff in the 2014 election, also said that his party would vote to impeach the president.

Rousseff accused segments of the opposition of trying to provoke a ‘democratic coup’, and of using impeachment as a political tool.

The ruling represents another blow to Rousseff’s popularity. The president is already facing growing criticism because of the ongoing Petrobras scandal and a poor economic situation, which has seen her approval rating plummet.

In another setback for the president this week, a separate investigation by the state’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal has begun looking into allegations that Rousseff received illegal campaign financing from the state-owned oil company Petrobras.

If Rousseff is found guilty of this she would be implicated in the Petrobras scandal. The scandal cost billions of dollars and involved executives from the oil company allegedly offering benefits in exchange for overpriced contracts.

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Brazil: Rousseff Announces Major Cabinet Reshuffle

Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, has announced sweeping changes to the government’s administrative structure, including eliminating eight cabinet positions and replacing her chief of staff.

The move comes in the wake of Brazil’s continuing economic and political crisis that has left Rousseff’s popularity at an all time low.

Brasília - A presidenta Dilma Rousseff  anuncia mudanças em seu ministério , durante  declaração à imprensa no Palácio do Planalto (Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil)

Brasília – A presidenta Dilma Rousseff anuncia mudanças em seu ministério , durante declaração à imprensa no Palácio do Planalto (Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil)

Rousseff’s announcement proposes a multifaceted attempt to tackle the government’s fiscal woes. On the one hand, it seeks to lower the government’s overall expenditures on employee salaries. In addition to eliminating eight cabinet positions, Rousseff announced a 10% cut to minister’s wages, the dismissal of 30 secretariats, and the elimination of over 3,000 government jobs. She also announced that she and the vice-president would reduce their salaries by 10%.

“Other countries have built and are building modern states. Those modern states are efficient,” Rousseff said in her address. “The Brazilian state needs to be prepared to assume a double function: assuring the equality of opportunity and elevating the competitiveness of the state.”

She continued, stressing that: “We need to place the State’s interests above individual interests…These are the foundations of a new growth cycle.”

Aside from relieving pressure on public finances, Rousseff’s plan hopes to mend divisions between her party, Partido de los Trabajadores (PT), and centrist ally, Partido del Movimiento Democrático Brasileño (PMDB).

The PMDB is centrist umbrella party that currently holds power in most regional and provincial governments. The PMDB also maintains the largest minorities in both houses of Congress.

Rousseff said that PMDB representatives would take over as heads of the Health Ministry and the Science & Technology Ministry. This means that PMDB representatives now control 9 of the 31 remaining ministries.

Rousseff also replaced her chief of staff with defence minister, Jaques Wagner.

The president remains highly dependent on the backing of the PMDB to garner greater support in Congress, especially as rumours of a possible impeachment circle in the nation’s legislative body.

Notably, Rousseff did not announce any changes to her financial team, leaving Joaquim Levy on as Finance Minister to deal with one of Brazil’s worst economic crises in decades.

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Brazil: Guaraní Communities Suffer String of Violent Attacks

Guaraní tribes in central Brazil have been hit by a wave of attacks from armed militias after reclaiming parts of their ancestral land.

Guaraní-Kaiowa communities in the state of Matto Grosso do Sul have denounced a lack of aid from security forces after weeks of violence and threats from landowners who claim they are occupying the territories illegally.

Leaders of several indigenous tribes protest the killing of Guarani-kaiowá leader Simeão Vilhalva (Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil)

Leaders of several indigenous tribes protest the killing of Guarani-kaiowá leader Simeão Vilhalva (Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil)

An attack on the Nanderu Marangatu community on 29th August culminated in the killing of leader Simião Vilhalva and the injuring of many others, including a one-year-old baby. Less than a week later, 30 vehicles carrying gunmen and ranchers surrounded the Guyra Kambi’y community in the state’s Dourados region and opened fire on the group of around 20 families.

“They came and started to shoot with fire arms,” said leader Ezequiel Guyra Kambi’y. “Our warriors began to pull back, but they kept pushing, driving some of their vans towards us and shooting […] We had to run away and hide in the forest.” According to the Guyra Kambi’y, the militia then set fire to their homes and possessions, destroying everything.

Several other Guaraní communities in the region have been threatened with further attacks.

Though the Justice Ministry has held meetings with both indigenous and landowner groups in an attempt to resolve the issue, Cléber Buzatto, executive secretary of the indigenous council Cimi, has criticised a lack of government intervention in the conflict.

Buzatto told Rádio Brasil Atual, “What worries us a great deal is that the National Public Security Force [Força Nacional] is not there. It’s worrying because we will continue to see similar cases – the communities remain at the mercy of these attacks.”

Attention was drawn to the current wave of intimidation and violence in mid-August when the UN presented an urgent appeal to the Brazilian government to aid indigenous communities under threat of forced eviction.

Plans to mark out ancestral lands for indigenous communities’ exclusive use by 1993, under Article 67 of the Brazilian Constitution’s Act of Transitional Dispositions, have been stalled and much of this territory remains occupied by agricultural processes such as cattle raising and sugarcane, soya, and corn plantations.

Buzatto maintains that the successful demarcation of these lands is essential to put a stop to the “violence and violation of rights” that the Guaranís are suffering.

Many indigenous leaders and activists have been killed in attempts to reclaim and protect lands which have historically belonged to their communities. In December 2013 Ambrósio Vilhalva, a Guaraní leader and film star, was murdered after decades of activism on behalf of the Guyra Roká community. Last year Brazil came top of a list of the most dangerous countries for environmental activists produced by Global Witness.

Several organisations, including Survival International and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders have launched campaigns calling for the Brazilian government to address the attacks on Guaranís and move forward in their restoration of indigenous lands.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

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