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Geopolitics

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.

Bolsonaro in Brasilia on March 31
Bolsonaro in Brasilia on March 31
Alessio Perrone

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."

In the Brazilian press, most commentators took the mass firings (a first in Brazilian history) as a sign of weakness of the dictatorship-apologist, Trump-loving president. "Bolsonaro has long tried to turn the armed forces into militias at his service," wrote the Estado de São Paulo.

Anti-Bolsonaro protest in Sao Paulo on March 31 — Photo: Roberto Casimiro/Fotoarena/ZUMA

It's true that as a former army officer himself, the 66-year-old president has stuffed his cabinet with generals, defended the legacy of the military dictatorship in the country, including its use of torture, and threatened coups several times. And yet, the latest news showed that large sections of the military do not support him. "Obviously, the officials chose the Constitution," the Sao Paulo daily said.

But this take may be optimistic. Just last month, a court allowed Bolsonaro's nemesis, the former left-leaning president Lula, to run in Brazil's next election in 2022, where he would be Bolsonaro's main opponent.

Many in Brazil believe Lula to be the favorite — and yet doubt that Bolsonaro would concede. Instead, as Donald Trump did in the U.S., he might challenge the election results and rally his supporters against Brazilian institutions.

It's early to tell if all this will come true. But if Brazil does go through a "Capitol Hill moment" next year — with president loyals now in charge of the army — Bolsonaro might succeed where Trump failed.

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Society

How India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

A woman walking through dense fog in New Delhi

*Saumya Kalia

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

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