The Temer government
Mr Temer’s interim government has been marked by aggressive contention measures, polemic decrees, an over homogeneous team of (arguably honest) ministers and an unexpected hesitation in choosing the political leaders in the parliament and planning its next moves.
When it first came to forming an economic team with their origins in the market, the interim president was highly praised and gathered a lot of experts led by Mr Henrique Meirelles, former president of the Central Bank of Brazil. Their first actions were sharp and oriented towards a solution for the economic scenario (or, at least, an insight into a situation of stability) – they redefined the budget bills, assuming a gap of 170 billion reais (Ms Rousseff’s staff had agreed on R$96 billion right before she was ousted) and determined that the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) would return R$100 billion for public debts, which should also generate savings of R$7 billion.
Nonetheless, there seemed to be still great confusion regarding the general directions and the ministers. So far, there were situations in which the president needed to publicly state a different opinion from his own staff: one can recall, for example, when the Health minister claimed that health could not be a facility to every Brazilian and the Finance minister seemed unsure about the return of the Provisional Contribution on Financial Transactions – CPMF, abolished in 2007, as an extra revenue to help cover the huge fiscal gap in the economy.
Taking out what is left(-wing)
The desperate measures of what had once been called a mandate to solve the financial crisis, in turn, were far more unpopular than that and fomented some extra tension in an already politically divided country.
First, a ministry composed only by white males seriously worried those who defend or represent minorities – and there is a legit reason for that. The interim president has alleged that no woman would accept his invitation for ruling the ministries, but it is the first time in 37 years, therefore, since the military dictatorship in Brazil, that minorities were not represented. Besides, local policies for those minorities are not strong nor effective (Brazil is one of the countries with the highest rates of crimes against homosexuals, for example) , so yes, even though some might argue that the ministers were chosen based on their competence (with which one can only partly agree, since many of the positions meant for a ‘government of notables’, as Mr Temer used to refer to a team that included congressmen investigated in Operation Car Wash, were promised to allies in a pre-impeachment scenario), there is the need for representation, as a matter of defining how minorities might properly be governed. Once more politicians from different origins take the power together, it becomes way easier for the government, centered in the person of the president, to approve or create accurate and meaningful policies for those groups.
What seems somehow aggressive to Dilma’s defenders and leftists in general is that most of the ‘new’ government’s measures are, at the same time, liberal and cost-oriented (which means that, at least for the spotlight, this will not be known as a government that prioritizes social policies, even though Temer said there weren’t going to be any cuts in Health and Education budgets).
The interim president is proud to compare his short, aggressive economic goals to Juscelino Kubitschek’s (Brazilian president from 1956-1961, whose economic targets were under the motto ‘50 years of development in 5’), but his foes would rather link him to our years of military dictatorship. If it is to say that his attitudes are authoritarian – which could be more accurately defined as precipitate and vague -, since they don’t follow the populist vein that 51,64% of the Brazilian voters chose in 2014, hopefully this will be a time for a ‘Brazilian miracle’. But that is hugely unlikely.
The Game of Brasilia
Among all those sensitive measures, one of the most memorable (and rejected) was the mergence of some ministries and the instauration of other two. Mr. Temer temporarily abolished the Ministry of Culture, placing it as a subpart of the Ministry of Education. He did the same to the Ministry of Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights, incorporated to the Ministry of Justice, under the argument that it would save money.
Indeed, it would, but the savings were not significant compared to the debt of the country and didn’t pay off the general burst of indignation caused in the artistic class, that occupied public buildings in many capitals in Brazil for more than one week, until the president finally stepped back and restructured the Ministry of Culture.
This first month of government has been marked by ethical incongruences, too. Besides the Car Wash investigated ministers, the leader of the government in the Lower House, André Moura, is facing lawsuits regarding corruption, embezzlement of public funds and even homicide attempts. Furthermore, as I previously wrote here, ministers Romero Jucá and Henrique Alves had audios leaked in which they expressed how convenient it was for the end of the Operation Car Wash that Dilma lost her mandate (the first had to resign, whereas the latter was kept by the president for the ‘lack of evidences’ to point him as an obstacle to the investigation).
The president’s attitudes aiming at strengthening alliances are also questionable. A summary raise of the public employees’ salaries was recently approved, which will cause debts to escalate up to 6.9 billion reais until 2019, due to the cascade effect (salaries that are calculated based on other salaries, causing the adjustments in the lawmakers’ paycheck to be followed by a raise to a whole lot of other public employees), and seems to be only justified, in times of contention, by another of the president’s attempt to monetize his support and stability. This is believed to be especially necessary in a moment when popular demonstrations, like the one that happened on June 10th in at least 24 states and the Federal District, show that not only does Mr Temer not have support from many voters, but he is also rejected by them.
Now, it is for us to wait and see how an already so unpopular government will, within 180 days (until it is decided whether president Dilma will permanently be impeached or not), create measures to improve a forecast of a 3,81% shrinking in the GDP, cause a contraction of SELIC (Special System for Settlement and Custody, a rate that nowadays reaches 14,25%, showing an effort from the Central Bank to control inflation and consumption) and fight to diminish the frightening unemployment rates of 11,2% (in the first trimester of this year) without confronting nor outraging specific and non-specific groups of Brazilians who eagerly await this economic and political turbulence to pass.
The Disturbing Discourses of the COVID 19 Pandemic
George Takei is not usually petrified by statements coming from the likes of Donald Trump; the Star Wars legend called for an offensive labelling against Chinese people for spreading the Corona virus, claiming that President Trump’s version of the Chinese virus could cause serious racist repercussions in the United States. The pandemic has claimed thousands of lives in a span of months, yet international response in terms of circulating consistent information and manufacturing a genuine vaccine is lacking pace. George Takei is talking from experience; his family were victims of a similar trouble during the second world war. The discourse of a Chinese virus is dangerous; especially coming from an American president that is himself unsure about policies to limit infections. Afterall, there is a difference between a virus that originated from China and a virus that can be labelled as “Chinese”. As a matter of fact, Covid-19 cases soared quickly in Italy than in China itself-the virus’s origin.
Donald Trump’s irritation at China’s irresponsibility can however not be understated. The world lost more than two months before it could verify that the virus’s family was transmitting via human hosts. The World Health Organization was kept in dark for most of the times; while China retorted to stubbornness in order to save international embarrassment; air travel aided in an unprecedented transfer of the virus across continents. Here lies the danger again. The unsung discourse of lacking access to inadequate knowledge about the virus and how it could possibly spread in all forms of hosts. President Trump lives on the tip of knife; the anti-Trump media club keep looking for reasons to ridicule the billionaire turned administrator. Despite the risks of another stereotypical discourse taking turns, it will be equally foolish to not examine all forms of cover-ups that has brought the world to a stand-still. Le Winliang will be remembered as the first whistle-blowing doctor who died after months of contracting the infection.
Here lies the danger again. Unlike Donald Trump, governments around the world are keeping mute over the virus, another discourse that could infiltrate great amount of mistrust and anxiety over the reality of the pandemic. By all fairness, the world is used to political transparency while it fits the need of specific interests; world leaders arrive with exceptional expressions against each other, mostly in inappropriate occasions. In such circumstances, the pandemic is no lesser than a cover up. People all over the world will spend weeks inside their homes; washing hands and keeping social distance is stressed among other precautionary measures; a discourse that can successfully distract curious eyes away from the phenomenon.
A global epidemic was never out of the question. Never out of possibilities, a global health disaster was more opportune than diffused wars taking place across different regions. After global markets crashed in the face of growing uncertainties, it was quoted that the global order would never be the same again. Here lies the greatest danger of living on manufactured discourses. For the sake of all honesty, the Covid pandemic would have been arrested with some help from technological reach and information transparency. A strategic contingency plan would have saved half the lives that have been lost. Actor Takei is feeling the tension, but the world will need to act quickly, act away from distractions of Trump’s hysteria. The World Health Organization is an international agency for a reason; it would be unsurprising if the pandemic at last rests on the most vulnerable of nations, kindling with the burden of additional aid and the politics that would follow next. Takei needs to calm, wash his hands and keep himself safe from possible transmission. That is enough for a response to his complaints like it is for Trump’s immaturity.
Why the Justice Department Dropped Charges Over “Russian Interference”
When Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel dropped indictments against 13 Russian individuals and three companies for using social media “to interfere with the U.S. political system, including the 2016 presidential election,” the American mainstream media class treated this as groundbreaking, indisputable evidence that Russia had indeed meaningfully interfered in the 2016 election. Headline after headline from then on accused Russian trolls of everything from suppressing the African American vote, to promoting Green Party Candidate Jill Stein, to recruiting “assets,” and ultimately “sowing discord” in the heart of American democracy.
Now that the smoke has cleared after two-plus years of unrestrained sensationalism, it seems that the evidence was never really groundbreaking nor indisputable. This is evidenced by the fact that last week, a federal judge allowed the Department of Justice to drop charges on Concord Catering and Concord Management & Consulting, two Russian companies previously accused of being the well-oiled machines that funded, in the words of Jonathan Alter, an attack “as bad as Pearl Harbor.”
Prosecutors described the rationale for this move to drop charges as being motivated by an interest to protect national security, but given the circumstances surrounding this case — it seems there are more than a few reasons to doubt this explanation. The fact is prosecutors had more than two years to come to this ad-hoc realization that this court case might threaten national security, that it would likely require them to provide evidence that would reveal their sources and methods. Why then did prosecutors spend two years of time and resources in pre-trial court proceedings just to abandon the litigation two weeks before the trial was set to start?
The more plausible answer is that the prosecution knew it was on route to losing at trial and that loss would come as a major embarrassment. Robert Mueller’s team never envisioned that this case would go to trial. It was obvious that the defendants would never step foot in the United States, and so the original indictments were never intended to deliver any striking form of justice. Instead, those indictments were meant to do two things: (1) justify the Special Counsel’s existence and (2) perpetuate the narrative of Russian interference by giving the media formal allegations that it could grab onto and treat as incontrovertible proof.
To this extent, the media played its role obediently. Personalities like Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times, and hundreds of other gatekeepers abandoned the American principle of “innocent until proven guilty” and automatically accepted the allegations as a verdict.
Unfortunately for the prosecution, not all the defendants played the assigned roles given to them in the original indictment. Shortly after the charges were announced, Concord Management & Consulting flipped the script. The company hired Reed Smith LLP, a high-powered American law firm that would go on to challenge the prosecution tooth and nail over what it argued was a “make-believe crime” that had no basis in existing law. Prosecutors from that point on did everything they could to avoid the inevitable fate of forfeiting.
First, the prosecution team attempted to postpone the case and the pretrial discovery by claiming Concord had not been properly served with the indictment. This precarious strategy didn’t work. There was no need for the company to be properly served the indictment because serving an indictment is a procedure meant to draw a defendant into court. In this case, Concord was already in court and ready to call the government’s bluff.
Then after that, when it finally came time for discovery, Mueller’s team moved to block the defense from accessing the relevant evidence that the law requires prosecutors to disclose, citing that it would be harmful to national security. This move predictably failed because that’s not how justice works in the United States. The government cannot simply allege a crime and then bar defendants from accessing the evidence needed to mount a credible defense. The United States, to its credit, has a well-functioning court system that largely respects the rule of law and places a high burden of proof on prosecutors, which is why the prosecution repeatedly failed to stymie the slow march to an eventual trial date.
Ultimately, the prosecution’s case was dead on arrival because of their own dereliction of duty. The original indictment wasn’t really an indictment at all. It was a press release dressed like an indictment intended to manufacture consent surrounding Russia’s role in the 2016 election. The crime it alleged was based on a warped theory that the defendants had “defrauded the United States” by failing to disclose their Russian identities and affiliations to government agencies in charge of enforcing a registry of foreign agents and campaign-finance laws. The problem with that theory is that there are no federal election laws or statutes that would possibly apply to Concord. They did not operate in the United States and they did not directly purchase any advertisements, which means they weren’t legally obligated to report that information.
The prosecution knew they had a weak case — that they were grasping at straws by applying this fragile legal theory that was really just a fill-in for the fact that nothing the troll farm did was inherently illegal. There is no federal election law or regulation prohibiting any person or group of persons, whether American or foreign, from conveying political speech on social media. There is likewise no law requiring a person online to be truthful or accurate about their identity. Prosecutors were well aware of this. Had they expected a fight in court, they wouldn’t have pursued charges on these grounds. But given that they were challenged in court, they knew that if they litigated this case to its conclusion, they weren’t just poised to lose — they were on a highway to humiliation.
As the pre-trial saga unfolded, it became clear that the Justice Department had wildly overstated its case. For example, there was no underlying evidence that Concord or the Internet Research Agency (IRA) were ever directed by the Russian government. And although the Mueller Report described the IRA campaign as “sweeping and systematic,” it turns out the troll farm’s social media activity was “small, amateurish, and mostly unrelated to the 2016 election.” The IRA spent $46,000 on Facebook ads before the election, or to put it another way, five-1,000ths-of 1 percent of the $81 million spent on Facebook ads by the Clinton and Trump campaigns combined. Of that $46,000, only $3,102 was spent across the three states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) that swung Donald Trump the election. All the while, only 11% of that IRA content was related to the election.
Had a trial taken place, these facts about the alleged “Russian interference” would’ve come to light and the narrative that Russia meaningfully “sowed discord” or molded the outcome in the 2016 election would have fallen apart like a house of cards, shambolically and without a kernel of grace.
The most egregious aspect of this chapter in American history is the extent to which so much of the self-incurred pandemonium was nothing more than selective outrage that placed a singular focus on Russia, while willfully ignoring other, arguably more effectual examples of foreign interference and election meddling. If one is outraged over Russian interference, then logically, one should be outraged over Ukrainian interference or the influx of Israeli money into the American political system. The problem is the average American is either not outraged or not informed that these other examples exist, which speaks to a broader failure within the American media class to approach new stories with objectivity and journalistic integrity. That selective outrage is what led to this selective prosecution. New stories are no longer meant to inform. They’re meant to be weaponized unscrupulously against political rivals. The borderline neurosis that obsessed over Russian interference was never really driven by substance. It was always driven by a desire to tear down domestic opponents in the name of party politics.
This episode was no different.
From our partner RIAC
The US-Iran Blame Game and Outbreak of Covid-19
After emerging in Wuhan, China last December, the coronavirus (sometimes called COVID-19) has spread to at least 169 countries and regions around the globe, claiming over 16,500 lives as of Tuesday, while confirmed cases nearing 384,000. A total of 122 people in Iran have died of coronavirus over the last 24 hours, pushing the death toll up to 1,934, said an Iranian health official on Tuesday. According to Iranian state TV, Health Ministry spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour 1,762 new virus cases. In Iran, where most Middle Eastern coronavirus cases have originated, official statistics report that one citizen is dying from the virus every 10 minutes, with research warning that up to 3.5 million Iranians could die.
Despite so many deaths in Iran, the US and Iran are blaming each other for the spread of covid-19. According to the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Iranian authorities had contributed to the spread of the virus: by lying about the true scale of Iran’s coronavirus crisis, by continuing flights to China as covid-19 was spreading, by stealing money intended for medical supplies and by hoarding medical equipment such as masks and gloves to sell on the black market. Whereas, according to the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif the United States is “impeding” the global fight to contain the spreading covid-19 disease by sustaining its sanctions. The fight over responsibility for the coronavirus’s spread came as Iran and America both battle escalating rates of infection among their populations. Over the weekend, the United States overtook Iran and other nations to become the country with the third-largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, with more than 40,000 reported as of Monday.
According to the Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s healthcare has been compromised due to the sanctions imposed by the US. Mr Zarif says they have “drained Iran’s economic resources.” While the US has denied that its sanctions are restricting Iran’s ability to import medical supplies, pointing to an exemption for humanitarian goods. But Iran says companies find it difficult to process payments with banks unwilling to risk breaking the US rules and risk sanctions themselves. The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali, Khamenei, acknowledged that the US had offered to help Iran fight the virus, but added that “experience shows the US can’t be trusted.”The government is now approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency assistance amounting to $5bn.
In a nutshell, Iran is the most affected state with coronavirus in Middle East hence it should accept medical help from any state in the world because it is the time to protect its people from the deadly virus. The number of new daily cases in Iran is still increasing. Nevertheless, the US is not looking interested to eliminate economic restrictions against Iran If, it does not lift it should reduce economic sanctions. Since Iran is facing hurdles to import medical equipment to cope with covid-19 owing to these prohibitions. Pakistan is also requesting to the US to lift economic ban against Iran on humanitarian grounds. Unfortunately, Pakistan is not economically strong like China and Russia to help Iran in medical equipment and medicine. Consequently, the world big powers like Russia, China, Japan and UK should send food, medicine, medical equipment and doctors to Iran on immediate basis. They should enhance their help for human security in Iran. Russia has provided Iran with tens of thousands of testing kits for covid-19 but it should increase medical help for Iran.
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