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Geopolitics

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

In a gun shop in Sao Paulo
In a gun shop in Sao Paulo
Alessio Perrone

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.

Brazilians already live in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, having recorded 43,892 violent deaths in 2020 — in the middle of a pandemic. The figure is a 5% increase compared to 2019, according to G1"s Monitor of Violence. Many are victims of police shootings, 75% of whom are Black and mixed-race Brazilians, according to a recent study.

People lack oxygen, ICU beds, vaccines and jobs — but now they can buy up to six weapons to ‘protect themselves'.

This is the second time Bolsonaro has relaxed gun laws — in 2019, another set of measures led to the proliferation of guns among civilians, although some of them were suspended later. "In a carnival with an atmosphere of Ash Wednesday, the country is watching a macabre parade caused by the tragedy of the new coronavirus," wrote theO Globo daily in a scathing condemnation of the president. "People lack oxygen, ICU beds, vaccines and jobs — but now they can buy up to six weapons to ‘protect themselves'."

Bolsonaro, whose signature salute is a two-fingered gun sign, responded with characteristic dismissal. "The people are pumped," he said while on a break on the shores of the southern state of Santa Catarina. His son Eduardo added that shooting was a sport, and "demonizing" it was "part of a dictatorial leftist plan."

Even in the country that voted him in, it seemed too much. "Does anyone in their right mind believe that security will improve by arming citizens to the teeth?" O Globo asked. "More weapons and more ammunition means more shots fired. And, as dozens of academic studies have shown, more shots mean more deaths."

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Economy

Lex Tusk? How Poland’s Controversial "Russian Influence" Law Will Subvert Democracy

The new “lex Tusk” includes language about companies and their management. But is this likely to be a fair investigation into breaking sanctions on Russia, or a political witch-hunt in the business sphere?

Photo of President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda

Polish President Andrzej Duda

Piotr Miaczynski, Leszek Kostrzewski

-Analysis-

WARSAW — Poland’s new Commission for investigating Russian influence, which President Andrzej Duda signed into law on Monday, will be able to summon representatives of any company for inquiry. It has sparked a major controversy in Polish politics, as political opponents of the government warn that the Commission has been given near absolute power to investigate and punish any citizen, business or organization.

And opposition politicians are expected to be high on the list of would-be suspects, starting with Donald Tusk, who is challenging the ruling PiS government to return to the presidency next fall. For that reason, it has been sardonically dubbed: Lex Tusk.

University of Warsaw law professor Michal Romanowski notes that the interests of any firm can be considered favorable to Russia. “These are instruments which the likes of Putin and Orban would not be ashamed of," Romanowski said.

The law on the Commission for examining Russian influences has "atomic" prerogatives sewn into it. Nine members of the Commission with the rank of secretary of state will be able to summon virtually anyone, with the powers of severe punishment.

Under the new law, these Commissioners will become arbiters of nearly absolute power, and will be able to use the resources of nearly any organ of the state, including the secret services, in order to demand access to every available document. They will be able to prosecute people for acts which were not prohibited at the time they were committed.

Their prerogatives are broader than that of the President or the Prime Minister, wider than those of any court. And there is virtually no oversight over their actions.

Nobody can feel safe. This includes companies, their management, lawyers, journalists, and trade unionists.

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