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Correio Braziliense is a daily newspaper from Brazil that was created in 1960 and is headquartered in Brasília.
Poverty and inequality are on the rise in Brazil where the pandemic only accentuated an already massive wealth divide.
Alessio Perrone

COVID In Brazil, Cause And Effects Of Wealth Inequality

Rafaela Dutra was working in Rio de Janeiro's tourism industry and studying to become a nurse when the coronavirus arrived. A resident of the sprawling low-income favelas in the city's Zona Norte, she had worked in one of Copacabana's shiny, high-rise hotels, earning up to twice the region's minimum monthly wage of 1,200 reais ($220). But after six years on the job, Dutra told Brazilian daily O Globo, she was laid off in April after the city had dried up of tourists. The only work she could find was selling clothes on the street at a time when most people started working from home or had also lost their jobs. "Some days I sell less than 50 reais ($8.80) worth of stuff," she said.

Dutra's story is a case in point: poverty and inequality are on the rise in Brazil, a country of 210 million people, where a massive wealth divide has long plagued society. With COVID-19, the economy has begun to unravel and policymakers are warning of a backslide into entrenched poverty of dangerous proportions after temporary government support winds down.

A poorer Rio: Poverty is rising fast in Rio de Janeiro state, around the iconic coastal city, according to a study by Marcelo Neri of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a research institute:

• In August alone, Neri found that more than 270,000 Rio residents fell into poverty.

• Autonomous and informal workers suffered the most during the country's lockdown and lost their livelihoods from one day to the next.

• Rio de Janeiro is Brazil's second-biggest economy after São Paulo — but more than five million residents are either unemployed or informal workers.

An isolated case? Researchers caution that Rio is performing worse than the rest of Brazil:

• Unemployment is on the rise throughout the country, where more than 14 million people are out of work, reports the Correio Braziliense, as unemployment has risen from 10% to 14.4%.

• But at the same time, many other Brazilians are being lifted out of poverty at a historic rate. Largely due to a government emergency support scheme that hands vulnerable Brazilians 600 reais per month ($106), the number of destitute Brazilians has fallen by more than 20% during the pandemic (from close to 9 million in May to 6.9 million now). This is the best result Brazil has posted in 40 years.

• The policy can help explain Bolsonaro's spike in popularity even though more than 150,000 deaths are blamed on the coronavirus.

Photo: Fabio Teixeira/ZUMA

No reason to be cheerful: "The support scheme shows that social policies are designed badly in Brazil. When the government withdraws the 600-real-scheme, extreme poverty will triple by the beginning of 2021," Daniel Duque of the Brazilian Institute of Economics at the Getulio Vargas Foundation told the Gazeta do Povo. "When you look at income distribution, you can see that inequality has exploded. The rich are making more money during the pandemic, and the poorer have seen money wane in their pockets."

Go deeper: Not long ago, Brazil was hailed as an economic miracle for the rate at which it was lifting its people out of poverty. Now, The pandemic risks jeopardizing the progress the country made.

• Between 2000 and 2015, some 50 million low-income Brazilians were lifted out of poverty, or some one-quarter of the population.

• The results were largely linked with the popular Bolsa Familiascheme introduced by leftist President Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula. The policy gives poorer families a monthly stipend in exchange for sending children to school and complying with health checkups.

• But Brazil experienced the worst recession in its history between 2014 and 2016, causing inequality to rise again. Last year's "Global Inequality Report" ranked the country second in the world (behind Qatar) for having the highest concentration of income in the top 1%, Folha de S. Paulo reported.

Poverty is a risk factor: In Brazil too, the virus has killed the poor and the marginalized in higher proportions:

• A housekeeper was the first death from COVID-19 reported in Rio de Janeiro in March.

• The evolution of the pandemic in Brazil has killed poor and Afro-Brazilian people more than the rest of the population. They are often essential and informal workers, or simply workers who could not afford to stop working during the pandemic.

• One more reminder that "Social inequality has a direct impact on deaths among the poorest and least educated," as Paula Maçaira, a researcher of Industrial Engineering of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, told O Globo. "The more unfavorable the patient's socio-economic situation, the more likely he is to die."

The deputies Maurizio Lupi and Vittorio Sgarbi (the first with a protective mask and the second without).
Alessio Perrone

Trump To Bolsonaro To Salvini: A Populist Aversion To Face Masks

MILAN — In our pandemic times, face masks are politics. Last Thursday, the debate arrived with fury at the Culture Commission of the Italian parliament. "I won't be gagged and I won't wear it!" barked Vittorio Sgarbi, a Parliament member from the center-right Forza Italia party. The obligatory face mask policy inside the Parliament, he declared, was "blackmail." Sgarbi's invective followed another incident two days earlier, when the leader of the far-right populist Lega party Matteo Salvini was criticised live on television for posing for selfies without a mask, La Repubblica reports. "Am I allowed to lower the mask to speak to a woman?," he retorted.

Such political hay is stirring around masks in multiple countries, even as a consensus is growing among major scientific institutions that face masks can indeed curb the spread of the coronavirus. The most recent study on the topic — by the Universities of Cambridge and Greenwich — suggests that masks could be more effective than lockdowns to prevent a second wave of coronavirus.

In southwestern Germany, the far-right AfD leader Alice Widel attended a demonstration without a mask, Bild reports. Like her, the hundred or so demonstrators rallied without one, although keeping a distance.

With hugs from Bolsonaro

In Brazil, the country with the second-highest coronavirus death toll in the world, President Jair Bolsonaro has been attending official events and meetings without a mask, hugging and taking photos with people, according to Correio Braziliense.


Trump tours new face-mask factory but does not wear one. — Photo: Shealah Craighead/White House/ZUMA

Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump seems to see masks as a question of pride, and vanity. In an April press conference announcing CDC guidelines that included a recommendation to wear masks, Trump… did not wear a mask: "I don't think I'm gonna be doing it." Later his team publicly mocked Joe Biden, the Democratic Party's nominee for the 2020 presidential election, for wearing one.

Back in Rome, after the scene in the Commission hearing room, Sgarbi was mask-less again before the entire Parliament. The president of Italy's lower house Mara Carfagna ordered him to wear a mask multiple times. When he refused, she sent the parliamentary officers to force him. "Wear it," she said. "We don't have 629 fools here and one intelligent man."

Medical staff in Iran earlier this week

Coronavirus — Global Brief: Why Are So Many Doctors Dying?

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus global pandemic. The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. Our network of multilingual journalists are busy finding out what's being reported locally — everywhere — to provide as clear a picture as possible of what it means for all of us at home, around the world. To receive the daily brief in your inbox, sign up here.


Italy's overall COVID-19 death count, currently above 7,000, is stunning enough. But another number is no less disturbing: 30 doctors who have died, after they contracted the virus working to save the lives of others. Yes, the doctors, nurses and other medical staff are the heroes — and martyrs — of this global crisis, much like New York firefighters who rushed up the Twin Towers just before they came crumbling down.

But this disaster is different, as it unfolds day after day, and often in contrasting conditions for the medical crews. The World Health Organisation has reported a global shortage of the medical masks, gowns, gloves and eye protection that are recommended for treating COVID-19 patients, and also reduce the chance of infection for the caregiver. In Italy, some 5,000 health workers have been infected, and are dying at a rate of two per day since the first doctor died on March 11. Criticism has been growing over the shortage of protective equipment, with doctors often wearing the same face mask for over a week. La Repubblica reports that in the city of Palermo, doctors and nurses have even launched a fundraising drive to purchase masks. In India, a leading doctors' association has written a letter to authorities pleading for more surgical masks and gloves.

Still, to have any chance of limiting the overall death rate, countries need even more doctors on the front lines. In the U.S., where the crisis appears to be reaching a peak, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for retirees to help staff the hospitals as the amount of emergency beds needed is predicted to double. Despite the obvious infection risk for older people, the call was answered by 30,000 former health professionals as of Monday. The first doctor to die from coronavirus in France was a recent retiree, 67 year-old Jean-Jacques Razafindranazy. A colleague in the northern French town of Compiègne told Le Parisien daily: "We didn't ask to die. We assume our responsibilities, but people don't realize the gravity of the situation."

— Carl-Johan Karlsson


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Futebol fanatic?

Four Years Later, Brazil Counts On World Cup Superstition

Ask anybody with a minimum of knowledge about either the sport or the country, and they'll tell you that soccer in Brazil is like a religion. This truism becomes all the more true every four years, at the FIFA World Cup. But some of us also know that Brazil is a very religious country as well. So what happens when the nation's obsession with soccer meets its religious zeal?

Writing in Brazilian daily Correio Braziliense, journalists Augusto Fernandes and Pedro Grigori look across of the country at fans' assorted superstitions, as the national team — the Seleção — aim to avoid a humiliating defeat like the 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinals four years ago, in the World Cup it was hosting. For instance, Marilza, a 67-year-old who describes herself as Brazil's "number one" fan, lights a candle before every game and prays to Our Lady of Aparecida (a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

Thankfully, God is Brazilian.

Her "World Cup Prayer," which she recites in her green-and-yellow-painted home filled with all the Brazilian fan props you can imagine — from pictures and shoes to coffee mugs and teddy bears — goes like this: "Save all saints and patrons. And God, Who is Brazilian. Look after us, fans. And inspire our strikers."

"I play together with the players," she told the reporters. "During the game against Costa Rica which the Seleção won 2-0 thanks to two late goals, I stood up the whole game and got down on my knees for the final minutes. Fortunately, it worked. Thankfully, God is Brazilian."

Other, perhaps less devout, fans have opted for simpler lucky charms. Tairo Gomes, a 26-year-old law student who is also quoted in the Correio Braziliense piece says he always wears the same Brazil shirt when the team are playing. "It's the only one I have, and whenever I've used it, the Seleção hasn't lost a game yet," he said. "I'm sure it will continue to bring them luck for a long time."

But in Tairo's defense, the journalists explain that the last time he gave in to superstition was 16 years ago, when Brazil won its fifth, and last world title. "If it worked then, it will work now too. The sixth World Cup title is a reality."

Wish Brazil, Marilza and Tairo "boa sorte" ... unless that's bad luck?


Brazil's Temer Survives Corruption Vote

Correio Braziliense, Aug. 3, 2017

Brazil's President Michel Temer has survived a crucial vote in the lower house of Congress on whether he should be tried on allegations of corruption. The vote is a "victory" that "strengthens' his position, Correio Braziliense writes on its front page Thursday.

The newspaper features a striking image of one of several heated exchanges during the session: Lawmakers were seen pushing one another, shouting abuse and tossing fake banknotes.

The Brasilia-based daily notes that Temer's victory doesn't hand him a blank check and that future votes on "reforms are uncertain." Although he was able to convince enough members of the chamber (263 out of 513) to block the motion Wednesday, and likely secure his position at the top job until the end of 2018, the newspaper writes that Temer will be facing an uphill battle to secure enough votes to pass his controversial reforms on labor and retirement. A poll published last week showed popular support for Michel Temer plummet to just 5%.


Brazilian Daily Drops Corruption Bombs On Front Page

Correio Braziliense, April 12, 2017

A Supreme Court judge's bombshell decision has many of the Brazil's top political figures running for cover, the daily Correio Braziliensereports.

On Tuesday, Judge Edson Fachin extended the already three-year-old Lava Jato ("Car Wash") anti-corruption probe by opening investigations into 108 people suspected of involvement in a massive bribery and embezzlement operation. The names feature inside bombs on today's front page of the Brasilia-based daily, which reads "Fachin's list blows up the country's political elite."

The list including eight ministers in the current government, along former presidents Luiz InácioLula da Silva (2003-2011) and Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016), and numerous members of Congress. President Michel Temer, who automatically succeeded Dilma Rousseff after her impeachment last year, is also named in the case but protected by his presidential immunity.

The ongoing probe and scandal, which continues to rock Brazilian politics ever harder, is raising serious questions against the political elite and their privileges in a country faced with its worst financial and economic crisis in recent history.


One Week Before The Olympics

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Correio Braziliense, July 29th

Friday's edition of the Correio Braziliense daily features images of final preparations for the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, which are now just one week away.

As the Games near, concerns about security and logistics are rising. The country is still reeling from a series of political and economic crises, and Brazilians remain unsure about the country's overall readiness to handle security for an event on the scale of the Games.

Several series of actions aimed at neutralizing suspected terrorists and reassuring the public that Rio's streets will be safe have taken place in the last few weeks. Correio Braziliense, the leading daily in the capital of Brasilia, featured photos of locals simulating rescue procedures in case of terrorist attacks.

Moreover, the waters of Rio's bay remain so polluted they could pose a health risk to competitors. Health experts say Rio's waters are much more contaminated than previously thought. Already, some athletes who are there to prepare for the Games and other competitions have been suffering from gastrointestinal illness, including members of the Spanish and Austrian sailing teams.