Geopolitics

Brazil's World Cup Humiliation Threatens Dilma's Reelection

A Brazil fan watching the 7-1 defeat against Germany
A Brazil fan watching the 7-1 defeat against Germany
Natuza Nery and Valdo Cruz

BRASILIA — What will be the political and economic reverberations of Tuesday's historic humiliation of Brazil’s soccer team?

The government of President Dilma Rousseff is already on alert, fearing that the national bad mood left by the 7-1 defeat at the hands of Germany may deepen the already rather bleak Brazilian economic forecast, and have an impact on the upcoming presidential election slated for October.

Up until this week, Rousseff had been riding the wave of a successful World Cup, both on and off the pitch, as Brazil's team kept advancing, sometimes with difficulty, towards the final. She attacked “pessimists” and “vultures,” lumping together critics of the World Cup organization and those who voiced their low expectations regarding Brazil’s sporting performance.

A prompt public reaction to the defeat came from the President herself. She wrote on Twitter, “Like all Brazilians, I’m very, very sad about the defeat. I am immensely sorry for us all, the fans and our players.” She then urged, “But we won’t be broken. Brazil, "get up, shake off the dust and come out on top’.”

On Monday, she had announced she would be at the Maracanã stadium for the final to hand the trophy to the winner. At the moment of writing, the plan was still on, despite the general mood described by a government official: “We’re all stunned.”

Not all defeats are created equal

But despite the initial display of solidarity, some officials were, a few minutes after the game, already defending the idea of changing the strategy of associating successes on and off the pitch. “Detach ourselves from the Copa was one of the phrases heard in the aftermath of the result.

Until then, the government had been preparing for spinning a potential defeat in this semifinal as something not unexpected. Germany was after all a powerful opponent and Brazil was going to be playing without injured striker Neymar, its best player, or its captain, Thiago Silva, who was suspended for the game.

Nobody however foresaw a 7-1 hammering at the Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte. As the game unfolded, conversations among government officials went from anticipating how people would interpret the defeat to a genuine concern about the repercussions of the on-field disaster.

Beyond such “detachment” from officials, the government’s line of defense must be its responsibility to support the World Cup as an event until the final whistle, both inside and outside the stadium. To this end, security checks will be reinforced. If a setback on that front in the last week of the competition would be added on top of Brazil’s defeat, it could be fatal for the government, giving the image of a double fiasco.

What’s more, there is growing concern that criticism about the money spent for the event, estimated at this point at $12 billion, might return to center stage.

The possibility of facing Argentina, who will battle tonight against the Netherlands for the other spot in the final, in the match for third place is also regarded with fear. Another humiliation on Saturday against Brazil’s soccer arch enemies could magnify the impact of the defeat to Germany.

Until Tuesday's match, the Planalto (Brazil’s presidential palace) felt satisfied that it had done its part. Last week’s polls showed that Rousseff was benefitting from the increasing support for Brazil's World Cup squad, moving up four points in voting intentions to 38%.

Over the past month, the plan had been for her to mix the role of presidential fan for the Brazilian side, with public satisfaction over the functioning of airports and movement of tourists. Meanwhile, she would leave it to others in her party PT (Worker’s Party) to respond in the media and on social networks to any inflammatory criticism from the opposition.

Such a humiliating defeat on the field forces Rousseff to come up with a whole new plan off the field.

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.

[*Danish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

98

For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.

🇮🇷🎓  IN OTHER NEWS

Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Thoughts on Facebook's new name? Zuckerverse? Tell us how the news look in your corner of the world: Drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

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