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Geopolitics

New Brazil Study Finds Shocking Racial Discrepancy In Zika Cases

A new Brazilian report shows that far more babies born with microcephaly and other conditions linked to the Zika virus are black or mixed race. There are troubling explanations for this fact, including access to (illegal) abortion.

Mother and her baby born with microcephaly in Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Brazil
Mother and her baby born with microcephaly in Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Brazil
Fabiano Maisonnave

MANAUS — New figures published by the Brazilian Health Ministry show that eight out of ten babies born with microcephaly and other cortical alterations linked to the Zika virus are born from mothers who are black or mixed-race.

In Brazil's northeastern region, where the number of reported cases is the highest in the country, the proportion even reaches 93.9% in the state of Ceará, even though black and mixed-race women there represent 66.4% of the female population. Nationally, they make up for 49.9% of women.

Jurema Werneck, a black doctor and activist for NGO Criola, which fights for the rights of black women in Brazil, says that the figures "unfortunately aren't unexpected."

Werneck adds that "lurking behind the proliferation of Zika-infected mosquitos is an environmental tragedy. The lack of sanitation, of proper garbage pick-up, of access to a clean water network affect black communities."

The doctor says that racial inequality between black and white women is also reflected in their access to abortion which, despite being illegal (except if the woman's life is in danger or if the pregnancy is the result of a rape), is more easily accessible and safer for the predominantly white middle class. "The government says: You can't abort. But it also says that your children are your responsibility."

Information and race

Werneck also criticizes failures in the data's collection and disclosure. "When the government doesn't say that black women are suffering more, it refuses to take responsibility and to take measures directed specifically at this group. It makes some generic statement and can continue to publicly say that we need to eradicate this mosquito while continuing to ignore these women. This is pure racism."

Anthropologist Debora Diniz, whose research at the University of Brasilia focuses on the Zika virus, states that the figures indicate that even among poor women in the northeastern region, it is black women who proportionately bear the brunt of the epidemic.

Diniz, who wrote a book on the virus (Zika: do Sertão Nordestino à Ameaça Global — "Zika, from the Northeastern Hinterland to Global Threat") says that the high number of malformations linked to Zika among black families will only contribute in widening the inequality gap between communities.

Diniz says families struck by diseases linked to the virus require extra support from the state. "You're forcing women to take responsibility for the whole care." As a result, many mothers have had to abandon their jobs to take care of their children full time which, according to Diniz, makes these families' situations even more precarious.

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Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

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