Geopolitics

The Brazilian Sexism That Ensured Dilma’s Impeachment

A clearer picture is emerging of the socio-political profile of those who recently voted to oust Dilma Rousseff from the Brazilian presidency: right-wing males with a penchant for more "traditional," submissive women.

Rousseff supporters during a protest against her impeachment in Sao Paulo
Rousseff supporters during a protest against her impeachment in Sao Paulo
Arlene B. Tickner

-OpEd-

Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's now departed president, was sacked by the Senate for having patched up the country's fiscal shortfalls by some unusual means that were inappropriate certainly, but hardly criminal nor deserving of impeachment.

Beyond whether or not we too perceive the Senate vote as effectively a coup, clearly its protagonists were not moved in their vote by a desire to protect democracy so much as their own interests. And foremost among these were the need to assure their immunity against investigations into the suspected corruption of most Brazilian politicians.

But while many have denounced Dilma's ouster as the work of an alliance of neo-liberal and capitalist interests against the party of the poor, many of the latter actually backed the move in a setting of extensive public anger against recession, job losses and corruption. Congress could thus shield itself behind the popular will, not to mention the Constitution, to justify its unpopular decision.

This selective and discriminatory use of the law has become common among both the Left and the Right in Latin America, to retain or block access to power as cases have shown in Paraguay and Honduras (ousted presidents), and Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela (holding onto power).

Vulgar jokes

Yet in Brazil, the overthrow of the country's first female president also had clear overtones of misogyny. This rowdy chapter was the last of a long history of discrimination that included vulgar jokes against her "unfeminine" style and criticisms of her supposed harshness, hysteria and emotional instability. It had even arrived at the point that prompted the women's rights office of the United Nations to publicly condemn the "sexist political violence" against her.

In contrast with the somewhat "tough" figure presented by Dilma, a former leftist guerrilla, the Brazilian magazine Veja introduced the new First Lady Marcela Temer, a 43-year-old former model, as "pretty, discreet and homey."

The entire maneuver smacks of a parliamentary coup, not for the reaction shown by Rousseff's regional allies â€" the "Bolivarian" states â€" but for those of other countries. The United States and Canada expressed concern over the impeachment, while regional countries have greeted the new government cautiously.

Efforts by newly confirmed President Michel Temer and his colleagues to present the situation as routine clash with the picture of a new cabinet that is white, male, elitist and corrupt. Another sign that something is amiss is the type of people you now hear about as possible presidential candidates in 2018 â€" one is congressman Jair Bolsonar, known for his misogynistic, anti-gay and militaristic comments, who dedicated his vote against Rousseff to Brilhante Ustra, one of the torturers of the last military regime.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.


Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ