Brazil Thanks Cuban Doctors' Solidarity with Its People

In statements to alternative media and radio stations in the southern state of Parana, Hoffman explained details of the contract signed between the Pan American Health Organization, Brazil and Cuba that brought out the initiative, created in August 2013 during the then President Dilma Rousseff's Government.

She described as disrespectful and unacceptable the position of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who issued offensive statements about the Cuban professionals who served in the most remote and humble regions of Brazil.

She called as a mockery Bolsonaro's attempt to ask for a qualification test for the Cuban doctors and argued that "Cuba sends doctors to 66 countries."

Do you know which is the only country that is demanding a competency test? Brazil; and you even commit the nonsense of saying that they are not doctors, the PT leader said.

She said that 'Cuban medicine is one of the most qualified in the world and even many US citizens go to Cuba for treatment. That is important for the elected government to know.'

Also, that future administration should know, she continued, that "the doctors who came to work in Brazil were evaluated, evaluated in the fluency of Portuguese and in the subjects of medicine by professors of our federal universities ... All these doctors underwent an evaluation."

In the five years of work of the More Doctors Program, nearly 20,000 Cuban collaborators served 113 million people in more than 3,600 municipalities in Brazil.

Cuba announced on Wednesday its withdrawal from the project because of the derogatory statements and inadmissible conditions that Bolsonaro intended to impose on the Cubans professionals once he assumes power on January 1.

I want to thank all the Cuban doctors who were here, their people who pay for the training with their work, their government for the 'solidarity and affection with which they treated our people, Hoffman said.

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Declaration of the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba

The Ministry of Public Health of the Republic of Cuba, committed to the solidarity and humanistic principles that have guided Cuba’s medical cooperation for 55 years, has been participating in the Program More Doctors for Brazil since its inception in August 2013.  This initiative launched by Dilma Rousseff, who was at that moment the president of the Federal Republic of Brazil, pursued the double purpose of guaranteeing medical assistance to the majority of the Brazilian people, following the principle of universal health coverage promoted by the World Health Organization.

The program had planned the inclusion of Brazilian and foreign doctors who would go to work in poor and remote areas of that country.

Cuba’s participation in this program was arranged through the Pan-American Health Organization with one distinctive feature, for it was intended to fill the vacancies left by doctors from Brazil and other foreign nations.

During these five years of work, around 20 000 Cuban cooperation workers have assisted 113 359 000 patients in more than 3 600 municipalities.  They managed to provide health coverage to a universe of up to 60 million Brazilians at the moment when they accounted for 80 per cent of all the doctors who were taking part in the program. More than 700 municipalities were able to count on a doctor for the first time ever.

The work of Cuban doctors in areas of extreme poverty, in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Salvador de Bahia and the 34 Special Indigenous Districts, particularly in Amazonia, was largely recognized by the federal, state and municipal governments of that country and its population, 95 per cent of which expressed their acceptance, according to a survey carried out by the Federal University of Minas Gerais at the request of the Ministry of Health of Brazil.

On September 27, 2016, the Ministry of Public Health, in an official statement issued on a day close to the expiration date of the agreement and amidst the events associated to the legislative and judicial coup d’ etat against president Dilma Rousseff, announced that Cuba “would continue to honor its agreement with the Pan-American Health Organization for the implementation of the Program More Doctors, provided that the guarantees offered by local authorities were maintained”, something that has been so far respected.

Jair Bolsonaro, president elect of Brazil, who has made direct, contemptuous and threatening comments against the presence of our doctors, has declared and reiterated that he will modify the terms and conditions of the Program More Doctors, in full disregard of the Pan-American Health Organization and the agreement reached by this organization with Cuba, since he has questioned the qualification of our doctors and has conditioned their permanence in the program to a process of validation of their titles and established that contracts will only be signed on an individual basis.

The announced modifications impose conditions that are unacceptable and fail to ensure the guarantees that had been previously agreed upon since the beginning of the Program, which were ratified in 2016 with the re-negotiation of the Terms of Cooperation between The Pan-American Health Organization and the Ministry of Health of Brazil and the Cooperation Agreement between the Pan-American Health Organization and the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba.  These unacceptable conditions make it impossible to maintain the presence of Cuban professionals in the Program.

Consequently, in the light of this unfortunate reality, the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba has decided to discontinue its participation in the Program More Doctors and has informed so to the Director of the Pan-American Health Organization and the political leaders of Brazil who founded and defended this initiative.

The decision to bring into question the dignity, professionalism and altruism of Cuban cooperation workers who, with the support of their families, are currently offering their services in 67 countries is unacceptable. During the last 55 years, a total of 600 000 internationalist missions have been accomplished in 164 nations, with the participation of 400 000 health workers who, in quite a few cases, have fulfilled this honorable task more than once. Their feats in the struggle against the Ebola virus in Africa, blindness in Latin America and the Caribbean and cholera in Haiti as well as the participation of 26 brigades of the International Contingent of Doctors Specialized in Disaster Situations and Great Epidemics “Henry Reeve” in Pakistan, Indonesia, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Venezuela, among other countries, are worthy of praise.

In the overwhelming majority of the missions that have been accomplished, all expenses have been covered by the Cuban government.

Likewise, 35 613 health professionals from 138 countries have been trained in Cuba at absolutely no cost as an expression of our solidarity and internationalist vocation.

All Cuban cooperation workers have preserved their posts and their full salary in Cuba, together with all due labor and social benefits, just as the rest of the workers of the National Health System.

The experience of the Program More Doctors for Brazil and Cuba’s participation in it show that it is indeed possible to structure a South-South Cooperation Program under the auspices of the Pan-American Health Organization in order to promote the achievement of its goals in our region.  The United Nations Development Program and the World Health Organization have described it as the main example of good practices in triangular cooperation and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals.

The peoples from Our America and from all over the world know that they will always be able to count on the solidarity and humanistic vocation of our professionals.

The Brazilian people, who turned the Program More Doctors into a social achievement and, from the very beginning, has trusted Cuban doctors, recognized their virtues and appreciated the respect, sensitivity and professionalism with which they have assisted them, will understand who are to be held responsible for our doctors’ not being able to continue offering their fraternal contribution in that country.

Havana, November 14, 2018.

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Extreme Righ-Wing Bolsonaro to Be Sworn In on Jan 1 in Brazil

Brasilia, Nov 15 (Prensa Latina) The ultra-right politician Jair Bolsonaro, who won Brazil''s October presidential elections, will take office on January 1, 2019, Senate Speaker Eunicio Oliveira announced. Oliveira confirmed the inauguration of the president-elect was brougt forward by two hours and will be held at 3:00 p.m., local time, on January 1, in response to a request from the former army captain.

The swearing-in ceremony is organized by a multi-disciplinary team made up of members of the National Congress, the Presidency of the Republic and the Foreign Ministry. There will be solemn events on three locations, according to sources close to the new Executive.

The Superior Electoral Court (TSE) scheduled the so-called diplomacy of the future president, an event that empowers all elected to the office, for 11:00 a.m., local time. on December 10.

The deadline for that ceremony was scheduled for December 19, but it was brought forward because of a new surgery that Bolsonaro will undergo (on December 12) to remove a colostomy bag he has had since he was stabbed in September.

 

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Goverment Of Cuba Quits “MÁS MÉDICOS” Program in Brazil

In a report published in the Cuba Debate Web Page the following is expressed … “The elected president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, with direct, derogatory and threatening references to the presence of our doctors, has declared and reiterated that he will modify terms and conditions of the Más Médicos Program, with disrespect to the Pan American Health Organization and to what was agreed with Cuba, by questioning the preparation of our doctors and conditioning their permanence in the program to the revalidation of the title and as the only way of contracting individual”.

According to the government of Cuba (MINSAP) .. “The announced modifications impose unacceptable conditions and breach the guarantees agreed since the beginning of the Program, which were ratified in 2016 with the renegotiation of the Cooperation Term between the Pan American Health Organization and the Ministry of Health of Brazil and the Cooperation Agreement between the Pan American Health Organization and the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba These inadmissible conditions make it impossible to maintain the presence of Cuban professionals in the Program “.

Therefore, in view of this unfortunate reality, the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba has taken the decision not to continue participating in the Más Más Program and has informed the Director of the Pan American Health Organization and the Brazilian political leaders who founded and defended this initiative.”

According to the Cuban government, “it is not acceptable to question the dignity, professionalism and altruism of Cuban collaborators who, with the support of their families, currently provide services in 67 countries.” In 55 years, 600,000 internationalist missions have been completed in 164 nations, in which more than 400,000 health workers have participated, who in many cases have fulfilled this honorable task on more than one occasion, highlighting the feats of the fight against Ebola in Africa, the blindness in Latin America and the Caribbean, cholera in Haiti and the participation of 26 brigades of the International Contingent of Physicians Specialized in Disasters and Large Epidemics “Henry Reeve” in Pakistan, Indonesia, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Venezuela, among other countries."

According to the Cuban government, “the experience of the Más Médicos Program for Brazil and the Cuban participation in it show that a South-South cooperation program can be structured under the auspices of the Pan American Health Organization to promote its goals. In our region, the United Nations Development Program and the World Health Organization qualify it as the main example of good practices in triangular cooperation and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda with its Sustainable Development Goals. ” Signed in Havana, November 14, 2018.

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Death threats and denunciations: artists fear Bolsonaro's Brazil

Some have employed security guards. Others have fled. With Jair Bolsonaro about to take power, many artists in Brazil fear the censorship and intimidation they currently endure are about to get much worse

Wagner Schwartz received the first death threat two days after lying naked on the floor of a museum in São Paulo. It was October 2017 and the Brazilian artist had invited members of his audience, which included children, to adjust his body: move a limb, roll him over, that kind of thing. This was for a dance piece called La Bête, a work he had already staged many times at home and abroad. So it was a shock to suddenly find himself the target of an increasingly emboldened network of rightwing and evangelical Christian groups.

During La Bête, a four-year-old girl, encouraged by her mother, lifted Schwartz’s hand and then his foot, while another slightly older girl touched his head. These moments were caught on video and uploaded to Facebook. “The creators of this page,” says Schwartz, “put a caption on the video saying the museum incited paedophilia and that I was a paedophile. From this moment on, people who did not know me or the work decided La Bête was a threat.”

Evangelical activists and members of the Movimento Brasil Livre, a group that claims to be libertarian, gathered outside the venue, the Museum of Modern Art (MAM), while 100,000 people signed a petition denouncing the work. One popular meme juxtaposed a picture of Schwartz with three bullets and the caption: “Paedophilia has a cure.”

Accused of inciting paedophilia … Wagner Schwartz performing La Bête.Accused of inciting paedophilia … Wagner Schwartz performing La Bête. Photograph: Benoit Cappronnier

Pedro D’Eyrot, a performer in the funk-electroclash band Bonde Do Rolê, is one of the founding member of MBL. “Having children touching and being exposed to a naked strange man is wrong,” he says, but he does add: “Our legal institutions are the ones to deal with it.” Nonetheless, Schwartz was forced into hiding and, shortly after, boarded a flight to Paris. “I was frightened,” he says. “Justice in Brazil does not protect those who are threatened.”

Schwartz is just one of many artists in Brazil who were given an early indication of the country’s changing climate. The recent victory of Jair Bolsonaro in the presidential elections is, for a large number of them, a nightmare incarnate. They cite the retired military officer’s courting of the evangelical vote, his homophobic and misogynist rhetoric, not to mention his promise to fold the ministry of culture, and “cleanse” Brazil of “communists”.

Regina Vater, an artist based in Rio de Janeiro, is old enough to remember Brazil’s former military regime. “I never thought I would live through something like the dictatorship again,” he says. “The situation we are in now is even more sinister. There is a veil of democracy, but we are in a state of deception.”

Homophobic rhetoric … election winner Jair Bolsonaro.Homophobic rhetoric … election winner Jair Bolsonaro. Photograph: Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty

There were jubilant scenes outside the Museum of Art São Paulo (MASP) on the night of Bolsonaro’s victory. Dressed in the yellow and green of the Brazilian flag, the president-elect’s supporters lit fires and cranked up the sound system, while a funk MC started to mock opposition politicians to a beat. As the party swelled, it looked as if the museum was under siege.

It could well be. Such institutions are unlikely to avoid interference, direct or otherwise, from the new government. Fernanda Brenner, artistic director of a non-profit arts body called Pivô, says the incoming president owes a huge debt to all the groups who supported his campaign – and she says they’re behind much of the intimidation being levelled at artists and performers.

Brenner believes one target will be the Rouanet Law, a system that allows companies to reduce their income tax bill by investing in cultural projects. “The Rouanet Law will be an easy hit for him,” she says. “People see it as artists taking advantage of public money. If he cuts it, cultural projects will become very difficult.”

Bolsonaro promised as much during his run. At a rally in March – before 2,000 people, some armed and in military fatigues – the candidate promised to dissolve the ministry of culture into the education department, while attacking the “big-time artists” who he claimed were getting rich off public money.

D’Eyrot, whose band worked with the producer Diplo, and whose involvement in right-wing politics shocked the Brazilian music world, hopes Bolsonaro will keep his promises: “I expect his government to stop funding all the ideological apparatus created by the PT that lives and thrives on taxpayers’ money.” The PT, or Workers’ Party, governed the country for almost 15 years. “If these initiatives want to survive,” adds D’Eyrot, “they will have to find the money on the market like everyone else.”

Antonio Obá, an artist nominated for the Pipa, Brazil’s biggest art award, caused a storm last September, when pictures and descriptions of a work he performed were circulated online. In Acts of Transfiguration: Disappearance of a Recipe for a Saint, Obá grinds to dust a statue of the Virgin Mary before pouring the powder over his naked body. “I was raised in a traditional Catholic family,” he says, “and almost attended the seminary. I play on Christian rites with affection. The work is supposed to reveal something of my personal history. It was awful to see it so distorted and politicised.”

Rocks are reported to have been thrown at the windows of the museum where he was performing. “The intimidation was systematic,” he says. “Racist messages, threats – all driven by rumours and photos circulating online. Life became unsustainable. I could no longer make work or teach. The strain on my family was too much.” In fear – and with legal action threatened by Magno Malta, a senator now expected to take a ministerial position in Bolsonaro’s government – Obá fled to Europe.

Ambushed … protests against the visit of gender theorist Judith Butler.Ambushed … protests against the visit of gender theorist Judith Butler. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Igor Vidor, a Rio-based artist who recently put on a show investigating the links between gang violence and public figures, also believes himself to have been targeted by an orchestrated campaign. “The things they were saying, the accusations they were making about me, were the same, the kind of things said by Bolsonaro.” He received his first threatening email three weeks ago, and they have since become increasingly aggressive.

Vidor’s exhibition, at the Galeria Leme in São Paulo, featured interviews with the police and people working within the city’s drug trade, together with a page torn from a cash book he found detailing drugs bought and sold. Like many I spoke to, he seems shocked by the new Brazil. “I never thought things I could do as an artist, critical thoughts presented in a gallery, would put fascists at my front door.” The artist now employs security for his family.

Late last year, the American gender theorist Judith Butler, in São Paulo for a symposium titled The End of Democracy, was ambushed by activists from Tradition, Family and Property, a far-right Christian group. Citing her writings about the fluidity of gender, they accused the professor of child abuse – and burned her effigy.

It has all contributed to a change in the public mood, according to Marcia Fortes, who owns a gallery in São Paulo. “Some time last year,” says Fortes, “we lost the battle. Artists are regarded as paedophiles and the population at large remain against us.”

However, British playwright Jo Clifford does not entirely agree. A Portuguese translation of her play The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven – which imagines a transgender Christ – was due to open in Londrina. But the venue cancelled at the very last moment and the lead, a trans woman called Renata Carvalho, received death threats.

“After we were left without a venue, however, with a mob outside, these local women – lots of them with children – turned up,” she says. “They formed a human shield to protect us as we went to a new venue, a semi-derelict space where we performed by torchlight.” Injunctions have been sought by both Pentecostal and Catholic groups to stop the production. “At an outdoor venue in Garanhuns, a smokebomb was thrown over the wall. Despite this, 500 to 600 people came to see the play that evening. Attending theatre like this has become an incredible act of defiance.”

Several resistance movements have now emerged. Last month, Wilson Witzel, now governor of Rio, was pictured alongside a colleague who was destroying a plaque commemorating Marielle Franco – the progressive city councillor assassinated in March. Channelling their outrage, artists Paula Kossatz and Sidnei Balbino produced and distributed 1,000 . Likewise, the #coleraalegria movement has brought together hundreds of artists. At workshops held at Casa 1, an arts venue and refuge for LGBT youth in São Paulo, fabric protest banners are sewn for display on the city’s streets.

One Turkish artist I spoke to, who wishes to remain anonymous, worries that such initiatives are of only symbolic value. “The rise of Erdoğan in Turkey was the worst thing I thought I’d ever witness,” says the artist, who has lived in São Paulo on and off for 10 years. “Yet I see frightening parallels here. I don’t think Brazilians are prepared, or realise how bad it can get. People are still thinking in terms of the democratic process and the right of protest. I am so afraid, because I know what is possible.”

The artist has opened a meeting space for queer artists in downtown São Paulo. From there they will operate a media agency to distribute anti-right-wing material. One of the projects, in the lead-up to the elections, was a series of video interviews with Pentecostal Christians and police officers who did not support Bolsonaro … “people who the public will listen to, to counter the fake news. People who can explain that the stuff Bolsonaro says is not Christian, or that the Workers’ party did not invent human rights to protect criminals”.

Other initiatives have more focused aims. The 324 movement, named after the number of votes needed in congress to pass a law, is coordinated by film producer Paula Lavigne. This week, 324 Artes, the branch dedicated to the arts (corruption and the environment are two other areas) will meet to plan “opposition strategies”, but most communication takes place via WhatsApp groups, involving people from across arts and media, including Brenner and Fortes.

Some notable successes have already been chalked up. When Santander bowed to pressure and pulled an exhibition of queer-identifying artists from the bank’s cultural centre in the southern city of Porto Alegre, and the mayor of Rio blocked the show from travelling to the city’s Museum of Art, 324 mobilised to restage it at Rio’s art school, raising more than £220,000 in crowdfunding.

In October last year, MASP, heeding legal advice, prohibited under-18s from attending the exhibition Histories of Sexuality. However, lawyers working pro bono for 324 were able to force the institution to make the age restriction advisory. “Censorship generates self-censorship,” says Fortes. “This is the biggest danger.”

Retaining visibility is key, says Wagner Schwartz, especially in art that deals with gender or sexuality. Schwartz is back in Brazil, about to stage a new autobiographical work at a venue in Rio, featuring other performers who have been on the receiving end of harassment – including Renata Carvalho, Elisabete Finger (the mother of one child who participated in La Bête) and Maikon K, a theatre-maker who was detained by the military police after a nude performance at the National Museum in Brasilia last July. “The art I do is one that disturbs authoritarian discourses,” he says. “Brazil has not and will not stop being a territory that I work in.”

Claudio Bueno, the curator of a new LGBT exhibition at the Museum of Sexual Diversity in São Paulo, echoes this stance. “We discussed whether we should include the artists’ names in the show,” he says. “Whether we are putting them at risk, especially the trans artists who are particularly vulnerable in this climate.But we decided that we cannot hide, we will not disappear. We must resist.”

 

 

  • Published in Culture

Brazil's Bolsonaro names judge who jailed his rival as justice minister

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil’s far-right president-elect has convinced crusading anti-graft judge Sergio Moro to become his justice minister, the two said on Thursday, delighting his supporters and enraging critics by hiring the jurist who jailed his chief political rival.

Moro oversaw the so-called ‘Operation Car Wash’ probe that convicted former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of bribery and money laundering, blocking the then poll-leader from running against Jair Bolsonaro.

A telegenic 46-year-old who has previously dismissed any political ambitions, Moro flew to Bolsonaro’s beachside Rio de Janeiro home on Thursday, where he met with Brazil’s next president for about an hour before both announced the decision.

“Federal judge Sergio Moro accepted our invite for the justice and public security ministry. His anti-corruption and anti-organized crime agenda, as well as his respect for the laws and the constitution, will be our guide,” Bolsonaro tweeted.

The president-elect scores a clear political victory with the appointment of Moro, who gained a cult following in Brazil after he locked up a string of politicians and businessmen in the country’s biggest-ever graft investigation.

But the decision also gives ammunition to his opponents, who have long argued that the ‘Car Wash’ probe was a politicized purge aimed at sidelining Lula and his leftist Workers Party (PT).

As Brazilians geared up to vote last month, Moro came under fire for releasing plea-bargain testimony alleging a bribery scheme by PT members to fund their 2014 electoral campaign.

“Moro will be Bolsonaro’s minister after his decisive role in his election, by blocking Lula from running,” wrote PT President Gleisi Hoffmann on Twitter. “Fraud of the century!”

In choosing to work with Bolsonaro, Moro appears to have cast aside criticisms about the political motivations behind his probe, attracted by the chance to rebuild Brazil’s justice ministry under his own vision.

But working with Bolsonaro will also pose a unique set of challenges for Moro. The president-elect has a history of making racist, misogynist and homophobic comments, as well as remarks that appear to show a scant regard for democratic institutions, although he has pledged to respect the constitution in recent days.

“The opportunity to implement a strong anti-corruption and anti-organized crime agenda, with respect for the constitution, the law and rights, led me to take this decision,” Moro said in a statement. He added that he would hand over the reins of the ‘Car Wash’ investigation to other judges.

WARMING TO POLITICS

As justice minister, Moro will have oversight of the federal police and federal public security, a crucial appointment given Bolsonaro’s victory was built on his pledges to combat corruption and rampant violent crime.

In a TV interview, Bolsonaro said Moro will have broad license to pick his own staff. Although public security is not one of Moro’s specialties, his reliance on good advisers will allow him to make the right decisions, Bolsonaro added.

In 2016, Moro said he would never enter politics, keeping the focus on his graft-fighting crusade in the courts. But the rise of Bolsonaro, a seven-term congressman who has cast himself as a political maverick untainted by graft allegations, appears to have changed the judge’s mind.

Some on Bolsonaro’s team would even like Moro to run for the presidency in 2022, according to a report by a Folha de S. Paulo columnist on the newspaper’s website on Thursday.

Moro, whose name was floated as a possible presidential candidate in the run-up to this year’s election, has seen his profile rise quickly as his name became synonymous with probes targeting a corrupt political establishment.

‘Operation Car Wash’ was based on his studies of Italy’s ‘Clean Hands’ investigations that helped curtail the power of the Mafia in the early 1990s. He has said the Italian example shows the importance of political and popular support for anti-corruption initiatives.

Early last year, Moro enjoyed the support of nearly two- thirds of Brazilians in opinion polls. That figure dropped sharply after he sentenced Lula, who is still remembered fondly for reducing inequality during his 2003-2011 presidency.

Bolsonaro is expected to announce a full cabinet this month, ahead of his term beginning in January.

On Thursday, his top agriculture adviser said he had recommended a two-time congressman from the south of the country to become the new agriculture minister.

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Fears for Amazon as Bolsonaro plans to merge environment and agriculture ministries

Jair Bolsonaro will merge Brazil’s environment and agriculture ministries, a senior aide has confirmed, raising fears the ultra-right leader will ramp up conversion of Amazon rainforest into farmland.

After his election victory on Sunday, the president-elect is putting together a cabinet that he says will “make Brazil great”, though many conservationists fear it will put short-term business interests ahead of the world’s biggest terrestrial carbon sink, indigenous communities and rich eco-systems.

He later hinted he might reconsider, but any suggestion of a softening of position was thrown out on Tuesday at a meeting of his inner circle to form what aides called “a combat vanguard”.

“Agriculture and environment will be in the same ministry, as we’ve said from the beginning,” said Onyx Lorenzoni, who is expected to become chief of staff when the new government takes power in January.

The move will be cheered by Brazil’s influential agribusiness and mining lobbies, who were among the strongest backers of Bolsonaro because they want to open up the Amazon, Cerrado and other protected areas.

But the country’s current environment and agriculture ministers expressed surprise and concern over the plan.

“The new ministry that would emerge from the fusion … would have difficulties operating that could result in damages to both agendas,” said the environment minister, Edson Duarte.

“How will a minister of agriculture comment on an oil field or mineral exploration?” asked the agriculture minister, Blairo Maggi.

Marina Silva, a former environment minister and presidential candidate warned it would destroy Brazil’s reputation as a force for good in climate and biodiversity talks.

“We are entering a tragic time in which environmental protection will amount to nothing. The Bolsonaro government hasn’t even started and the backsliding is already incalculable,” she tweeted.

If the Amazon deforestation rate – already running at a rate of 52,000 square kilometres per year – accelerates, the global implications could also be immense.

The Amazon absorbs huge amounts of carbon, regulates weather systems, is home to more species than any other ecosystem on earth and pumps water to the economically important cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro

“To increase deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions is to leave each and every one of us more vulnerable to an increasing risk of climate extremes,” said Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of the Brazilian Climate Observatory.

He has also opposed any further demarcation of indigenous land, which would probably mean the resumption of stalled mega-dam projects in the Amazon that have been held up by the environment and indigenous affairs agencies.

More land and environmental defenders have been killed in Brazil than any other country.

Indigenous leaders said Bolsonaro’s policies and incendiary language would embolden farms, illegal miners and land grabbers to use more violence against forest dwellers.

“He is a threat to humanity,” said Dinamã Tuxá, coordinator of Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples. “Those who invade indigenous lands and kill our people will be esteemed. He represents an institutionalisation of genocide in Brazil.”

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As Brazil shifts right, its leftists search for a way forward

After defining Brazilian politics for much of the past two decades, the party is still ruled by its imprisoned 73-year-old founder, threatened by internal divisions and concentrated in a region far from the center of economic power.

The damage goes beyond the drubbing voters delivered to the party’s presidential candidate Fernando Haddad, who lost by a 10-percentage-point margin in Sunday’s election.

For millions of Brazilians, the PT, as the Workers Party is known, has become synonymous with corruption and mismanagement. PT governments in recent years presided over the biggest bribery scandal in the nation’s history and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Street crime has also exploded.

The backlash has been severe. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - whom Barack Obama once dubbed “the most popular politician on Earth” - sits in a prison cell, serving a 12-year sentence for graft and money laundering. Lula’s hand-picked successor, former President Dilma Rousseff, was impeached for fudging public accounts.

Angry voters responded by throwing their support to Bolsonaro, including sizeable numbers of low-income workers, Afro-Brazilians and university students who were long the PT’s core supporters. The bombastic former Army captain tapped into their fury, vowing to crack down on criminals, be they in the streets or in the halls of Congress.

Even some voters nervous about Bolsonaro - who has urged police to shoot to kill and vowed to jail or drive his political foes out of the country - chose him as an insurance policy to keep the PT from returning to power.

Brazilian hip-hop icon Mano Brown chastised party leadership as being out of touch with voters at a star-studded concert and PT rally in Rio de Janeiro just days before Sunday’s wipeout.

“There is no reason for us to celebrate,” Brown told the crowd as stunned dignitaries, including Haddad and famed singer-songwriters Caetano Veloso and Chico Buarque, looked on. “If you can’t speak the people’s language, you’re going to lose big.”

‘PROJECT FOR POWER’

Corruption in Brazilian politics existed long before the PT was formed in 1980 to unite union workers, artists and intellectuals to help end Brazil’s 1964-1985 dictatorship.

All of the country’s major political parties, not just the PT, are implicated in the so-called Operation Car Wash investigation that ensnared Lula. PT loyalists say he and Rousseff were the victims of a right-wing “coup” that sought to discredit their leadership and undo social programs that lifted millions from poverty and gave minorities a seat at the table.

But even some PT stalwarts admit its rise from an opposition party to a governing one caused it to lose touch with its roots. Horse trading in the capital Brasilia became paramount for the party to stay on top, said Carlos Alberto Libanio Christo, a Roman Catholic priest and founding member of the PT who is known in Brazil as Frei Betto.

“Gradually, the PT traded its project for Brazil in favor of a project for power,” said Frei Betto, who spent four years imprisoned during the dictatorship. “The party disappeared from the countryside and the poor urban outskirts.”

Another major challenge is that the PT is dwarfed by the towering presence of Lula, who still runs the show from jail.

Barred from running for another term due to his felony convictions, Lula tapped Haddad, the former mayor of Sao Paulo, as his stand-in, a gambit that failed miserably.

Lula loyalists, including Washington Quaquá, the head of the PT in Rio de Janeiro state, are sticking with Haddad despite his resounding defeat.

“Haddad came out of this election a great leader,” Quaquá said. “He emerged with the stature needed to be our national leader.”

But a militant faction of the PT is pushing for more aggressive leadership. Some grouse that Haddad, a mild-mannered political science professor at the elite University of Sao Paulo, is not tough enough to take on Bolsonaro.

Gleisi Hoffman, currently the president of the party, had resisted putting Haddad at the top of the ticket until Lula told her to fall in line, according to party members familiar with the internal debate.

SEEKING SALVATION

The news for the PT is not entirely dismal.

The party won the most seats in the lower house on Sunday. It also took four governorships, more than any other party, although all were concentrated in Brazil’s poor northeast, a traditional PT stronghold.

After the shock of Bolsonaro’s big win dissipates, the PT will unify and embrace its role as the resistance, with Haddad at the helm, predicted Alberto Almeida, the founder of Brasilis, a political and social analysis firm in Sao Paulo.

“After all, he did win 45 million votes,” Almeida said.

He said the PT’s mission will be to confront a challenge not seen since Brazil’s return to democracy three decades ago: combating an “extreme-right leader.”

“In that way, the PT’s role is similar to what the Democrats in the U.S. are facing with Trump,” Almeida said.

Haddad signaled as much in his concession speech in Sao Paulo, issuing a rallying cry to a movement in disarray.

“All of us here, who helped build one of the world’s largest democracies, must maintain it in the face of provocations and threats,” Haddad said. “Have courage. The key to life is courage.”

 

  • Published in World
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