In The News

New COVID Variant, Black Friday Amazon Strikes, Tiny IKEA Flat

👋 Selamat pagi!*

Welcome to Friday, where a new fast-spreading coronavirus variant has been identified in South Africa, Amazon is hit by global protests on Black Friday and IKEA is renting a tiny apartment for a tiny rent in Japan. Meanwhile, boars, jaguars, pumas and bears invade our newsletter as we look at how wildlife is moving into cities around the world.

[*Indonesian]

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COVID Spikes In EU, Bulgaria Bus Crash, Uber Weed

👋 Tere!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where EU countries face a sharp rise in COVID cases and conflict, at least 25 die in a Bulgarian bus crash, and Uber starts delivering weed. Bogota-based daily El Espectador takes us through the return of gang violence taking over the streets of Medellín, Colombia, which became notorious during the 1970s thanks to drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.

[*Estonian]

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Meet The Trailblazing Female Athletes Competing With Men

Playing to defeat their male opponents — and gender division in sports.

Whenever a sports team composed of women plays a game, it is referred to as a "women's team." Their male counterparts, however, are simply considered a "team," with no explanatory adjective needed.

This argument has long been invoked when discussing women's secondary place in sports, and the battle is ongoing. Earlier this year, American soccer hero Meghan Rapinoe appeared in Congress to testify about the U.S. Soccer Federation's unequal pay between women's and men's teams.

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Latin American Pariah, The Cost Of Brazil's Isolationism

By turning its back on regional integration, the conservative government of Jair Bolsonaro is putting ideology above the country's long-term economic and political interests.

-Analysis-

After two decades of leading the process of Latin American integration, Brazil's absence at the recent summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) underscores a dramatic change, of course, that is costing the regional giant both politically and economically.

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Coronavirus
Bruno Meyerfeld

COVID-19 Lessons From Brazil's ‘’Vaccine Revolt’’ Of 1904

A government health campaign to vaccinate the citizens of Rio de Janeiro provoked a violent insurrection. More than a century later, Brazilians are demanding immunization against COVID-19 from their anti-vax president.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Streetcars overturned and set on fire. Trees ripped from the earth. Roads transformed into battlefields, between barricades and police attacks. Overlooking Rio de Janeiro, in the grip of a deadly epidemic, the city's iconic Sugarloaf Mountain contemplates the scene of lawlessness as thousands of insurgent inhabitants chant through the streets: "Death to the police! Down with the vaccine!"

Fear not: this scene is not taking place in 2021, but more than a century earlier, in November 1904. The "marvelous city" was on fire, in the grip of what is, to this day, one of the most violent popular insurrections in its history: the "Vaccine Revolt." It's an episode of Brazilian history that is little known abroad, but vividly remembered in its home country, especially in the time of COVID-19.

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CLARIN
Leonardo Weller*

The Key To Reelection For Bolsonaro? Lula's Arrogance

Fears of an economic slump under another leftist government led by an 'unrepentant' Lula da Silva may prompt Brazilians to reelect authoritarian President Jair Bolsonaro for a second term next year.

-OpEd-

SAO PAULO — The Brazilian Workers Party refuses to take a critical look at its past. Sticking to a mistaken narrative about the governments their party led under presidents Luis Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff could help reelect the current, arch-conservative President Jair Bolsonaro. And while not as openly absurd as Bolsonaro's obscurantism and paranoia, the continued delusions of the Workers Party (PT) can be just as harmful to Brazil.

The PT will not recognize the mistakes it made, which mired the country in the worst recession in its history in the years after 2010. It is suggesting the party would adopt the same, disastrous economic policies should Lula win a third term as president. This is just the fuel the Bolsonaro camp needs.

The second Lula government and first Dilma presidency produced a veritable disaster that mostly punished the poorest.

And by already labeling anyone who is not with the PT as "coup" supporters and "radical neoliberals," the PT leadership is reducing the chances of drawing them to their side in a second electoral round in 2022. The PT's economic disaster happened gradually. In his first government beginning in 2003, Lula faced major challenges and achieved surprising success thanks to a virtuous and consensual program, which sadly did not last.

His income redistribution policies, like Bolsa Familia, are important, but we can only reverse centuries of social exclusion within a sustained process of economic growth. For that, one needs predictable policies that assure currency stability and balanced public spending, and bolster the business environment.

In Lula's second government, it became clear these were not among the PT's objectives. The aim then was to expand public spending and intervene in the economy through state-sector firms and autarkic entities like the Central Bank, as previously outlined by PT economists.

The change in orientation began with the rise of Rousseff and the economist Guido Mantega at the end of the first Lula presidency. They replaced the team that had laid the bases of growth in the decade after 2000. Spending increased with the 2008 slump and became excessive under Rousseff's presidency, as its poor results began to emerge.

Costly subsidies did not increase investment. Inflation exceeded set targets, but the government forced the Monetary Policy Committee to cut the base rate in 2011. From then on, Rousseff ordered price curbs in a clumsy attempt to control inflation.

It was a blatant turnaround in priorities. Macroeconomic policies are meant to keep stability for the economy, so firms can invest, work and produce more. The president did the opposite, using state firms as tools to obtain macroeconomic goals. It led to stagflation (inflationary recession).

Lula_Brazil_politics

Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva (PT) holding a press conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 2021. — Photo: Vanessa Carvalho/ZUMA Wire

The first Lula government's strength had been its ability to form a team that could combine economic stability with income distribution policies. That was the best thing they did. By moving away from the economic consensus of the early 2000s, the second Lula government and first Dilma presidency produced a veritable disaster that mostly punished the poorest, and reversed the social achievements of the preceding decade.

Yet in spite of its tremendous failures, the PT refuses to criticize its past. On returning to the political arena last month, Lula remained in his usual, parallel reality, qualifying the troubled Petrobras oil giant as a "well managed state firm."

Brazil's biggest firm was not only the victim of corruption, but further undermined by government interference in fuel prices and auctions of oil fields. While corruption is terrible, it is not the worst of our ills. We would probably not become a developed country with honest politicians alone, and must have the right economic policies.

Refusing to accept its past economic policy failures, the PT can only explain its fall through conspiracy theories. Lula's conviction and Dilma's impeachment were, in fact, legitimate. But such institutional atrocities happened in Brazil precisely for the economic crisis their governments had generated. It wasn't just the elite taking their revenge. The PT fell because of its own errors.

But when economic crises are too deep, democracy itself can collapse.

Politics and economics are independent forces that become related in the most complex form. Presidents are more likely not to be reelected when there is stagflation. Thus Dilma Rousseff almost lost in 2014 and Bolsonaro may lose next year.

But when economic crises are too deep, democracy itself can collapse. That happened to Brazil in 1964, and is a process that is again, regrettably underway since 2014. The PT's cherished, and mistaken, vision of recent history is strengthening Bolsonaro's authoritarian project and complementing the harm of his "necropolitics." Its narrative is blocking the possibility of a broad coalition of Brazilians, including PT supporters, who believe in democracy as a force that can free the country from Bolsonaro's autocratic aspirations.

The recession that began in 2010 was primarily the work of the PT, and Bolsonaro's rise to power, its consequence. To prevent history repeating itself, it is imperative for the guilty to recognize their mistakes.

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Geopolitics
Natalie Unterstell

With The Amazon At Stake, Biden And Bolsonaro Eye Green Deal

Would an agreement with the Americans make the Bolsonaro government change course?

RIO DE JANEIRO — Imagine for a moment that the United States declares that it's signed a major environmental agreement with the Brazilian government, as President Joe Biden has recently declared is a top priority. Imagine the U.S. government promises to pay if there is a reduction in deforestation in the Amazon this year. It would be a "carrot" for the government of President Jair Bolsonaro to act around the protection of forests, in addition to the "sticks' that he faces in the form of reduced business and investment. It could be the long-awaited deal that changes the course of Brazil's climate and environmental agenda.

But a "green" agreement without sensible conditions and dialogue could just serve as an early award to a Brazilian government that has so far shown no intention of changing the policies in question — which serve its political base.

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Coronavirus
Alessio Perrone

As COVID Explodes In Brazil, Serrana Becomes World's First Fully Vaccinated City

As part of a medical study, the mid-sized Brazilian city of Serrana is now nearly 100% vaccinated, even as the rest of the country is crumbling under COVID's toll.

As Brazil lost another 3,462 of its citizens to COVID-19 on Wednesday, a little-known city of 45,000 in the center of the country had a very different story to tell: Welcome to Serrana, believed to be the world's first city to be immunized against COVID-19.

Facing a highly contagious variant and poor public management, Brazil is currently the country worst-hit by the pandemic, accounting this month for one of every four COVID-19 deaths and a overall death toll above 360,000. But this town's entire population has been vaccinated against COVID and walks mask-free; its health workers only treating a small number of lingering coronavirus cases.

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Sources
Anne Sophie Goninet

Photo Of The Week: This Happened In Brazil

One year into the coronavirus pandemic, Brazil registered its deadliest month in March. In the 31 days that have just passed, 66,573 people were killed by COVID-19, more than double the previous monthly high. The explosion of cases is largely blamed on the local virus variant, believed to be more contagious, having now pushed Brazil over the 300,000 mark in total coronavirus deaths, second only to the United States with 553,000. Currently, however the U.S. is down to under 1,000 daily deaths while Brazil is more than 3,000.

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Geopolitics
Alessio Perrone

Bolsonaro's Generals: Preparing For A Capitol Hill Moment?

With the sudden departure of Brazil's top generals, Jair Bolsonaro’s government may be weakened. But it may also be setting up the ultimate showdown for the country's democracy ahead of next year's election.

In the last few days, as Brazil's COVID-19 daily death toll reached new heights — with 3,950 on Wednesday — President Jair Bolsonaro sacked his defense minister. Then, after a reportedly tense meeting, the heads of the Brazilian army, navy and air force resigned out of disagreements with the president, who swiftly replaced them with more loyal officials.

The sackings are yet to be fully explained, but the Brazilian press speculated that Bolsonaro tried to involve the military apparatus in an "authoritarian project."

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Green Or Gone
Natalie Unterstell

Brazil, The Price Of Becoming The Saudi Arabia Of South America

Petrobras, the state-owned Brazilian oil and gas company, may post big numbers but it has a backward strategy.

BRASILIA — The year was 2009. On prime-time Brazilian TV, an ad celebrated the country's energy self-sufficiency and the blessing that pre-salt oil had been. Politicians in the National Congress avidly debated how to use the proceeds from offshore oil exploration.

Meanwhile, another critical negotiation was taking place at the UN: the 15th Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. While the conference was widely regarded as a failure, Brazil presented an ambitious proposal to reduce deforestation and cut emissions by 2020. It was the first time that the country had committed to such a goal on the international stage and enshrined it into law. Not a word about the oil, gas or fossil fuel industries.

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Geopolitics
Alessio Perrone

Lula To Sarkozy To Trump: The Toxic Mix Of Justice And Politics

-Analysis-

It was quite a statement about Brazil's justice system: "I have been the victim of the biggest judicial lie in 500 years," Luiz Inácio da Silva declared last week. But the hyperbole from the former president, better known as Lula, was also very much about politics — considered by many to be the opening salvo in his election campaign next year to return to the presidency.

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Geopolitics
Alessio Perrone

As Brazil Hits 250,000 COVID Deaths, Bolsonaro Eases Gun Control

The streets are quiet, the joy is missing, and the guns are out. The eve of Carnival feels different this year in Brazil — and it's not just the pandemic. Even as newspaper headlines report the country's coronavirus death toll nearing 250,000, President Jair Bolsonaro has introduced another element of danger: new looser gun ownership laws.

The move is made of four different presidential decrees signed earlier this month that facilitate purchasing, owning and carrying guns. In short, Bolsonaro relaxed background checks on gun purchases, scrapping rules that required authorization from the Army Command and a psychologist accredited by the Federal Police — now, a report signed by a registered psychologist will be enough. And more importantly, Bolsonaro increased the number of weapons allowed for hunters to 30, for sport shooters to 60, and for ordinary citizens to six, allowing Brazilians to build small private arsenals.

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EL PAIS
Alidad Vassigh

Dying Indigenous Tribe In Brazil Killed Off For Good By COVID

An 86-year-old identified as the last male member of the Juma, a Brazilian tribe on the verge of extinction, died of the coronavirus last week, Rio-based daily O Globo reported.

Amoin Aruká died in a hospital Feb. 18 in Porto Velho, in the northern Brazilian state of Rondonia, where he was receiving treatment since earlier this month. Aruká"s people, the Juma, have plummeted in numbers from 15,000 several decades ago to four this year, having faced killings at the hands of miners and landowners, and disease brought into the area by outsiders. And now COVID-19 has taken a final toll on the Juma, along with other indigenous people. Madrid-based El Pais reports that COVID has killed 567 from Brazil's shrinking population of indigenous tribes.

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CLARIN
Ricardo Arriazu

Like U.S., Brazil May See Strong Economic Bounce After COVID

The price, however, is being paid in lost lives.

-Analysis-

The impact of coronavirus on Brazil's public health and economy is devastating. Here are some statistics to consider: The total number of infections there is approaching eight million (third highest in the world) and the number of deaths attributed to the virus is nearing 200,000 (second highest in the world). The declining mortality rate, while still 2.2% above the world average, is probably overstated as infection numbers were initially underestimated. As testing detects more infections, it also means a fall in the mortality rate. In any case, tests carried out have only covered 12.5% of the population. In Argentina the rate is below 10%.

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Geopolitics
Alessio Perrone

Bolsonaro And Trump: The Limits Of Their Parallel Journey

Brazilian local elections can be fun to watch. Candidates come from every walk of life, and are notably allowed to use nicknames on the campaign trail — and there have been some true gems over the years: a loud man with thick sideburns and bushy hair campaigned as "Geraldo Wolverine"; an elderly man in army uniform and full beard was "Bin Laden for Governor"; and we've also seen a tropical, chubby Spiderman, an old Robin and Jesuses in various shapes and sizes.


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