Brazil’s new government may be less likely to protect the Amazon, critics say

Dom Phillips and Nick Miroff – The Washington Post, 05/22/2016

Signs of a rightward turn by Brazil’s new government have alarmed conservationists and climate change activists who fear a rollback of environmental laws that could accelerate deforestation in the Amazon basin.

With Brazil’s economy in its worst slump since the 1930s, new leader Michel Temer took power this month promising a more business-friendly agenda to spur growth. Temer named a ­conservative-leaning cabinet whose members include figures with close ties to powerful landowners and agribusiness companies.

Temer has taken control in South America’s largest nation — and the world’s biggest rain forest — at a time when Brazilian lawmakers are considering a major overhaul of environmental laws. This includes a controversial constitutional amendment known as PEC 65 that would reduce licensing requirements for development projects and limit judicial oversight of their impact.

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From the favelas: the rise of rooftop solar projects in Brazil

Heriberto Araújo – The Guardian, 05/24/2016

Sunny days have long been considered a competitive advantage for Brazil. Before the 2014 World Cup, the country’s tourist board set up a website allowing visitors to compare the number of sunny days in US and European capitals to cities in Brazil (eg Brussels 103, Rio de Janeiro 212). But while tourism may have been capitalising on the sunshine, the solar industry has not.

According to statistics from the Brazilian electricity regulatory agency, Aneel, solar accounts for just 0.02% of the country’s energy. The bulk of the country’s energy generation (70%) is from hydropower.

However, while demand for energy is increasing, multi-year droughts andwidespread blackouts have created serious concerns about energy security for millions of businesses and homes. Despite a traditional lack of support (unlike Europe, China and the US, Brazil has not implemented feed-in tariffs or tax breaks), the government is now making efforts to diversify (pdf) the country’s energy mix with recent public auctions for solar and wind. Its 10-year energy plan released in 2014 estimates that 7GW of solar projects will be installed by 2024, making up 3.3% of Brazil’s energy mix.

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Five reasons why the world needs Brazil to pull through its political crisis

Nick Miroff – The Washington Post, 04/22/2016

If you caught a glimpse of last weekend’s impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff, you may have noticed that Brazil is going bonkers right now. There was spitting, shoving and confetti-shooting on the floor of parliament, which at times looked more like a Roman coliseum than a legislative chamber.

Rousseff lost the vote badly, setting up what is likely to be a protracted, bitter political battle to unseat her. She will be forced to step down temporarily if Brazil’s senate votes as soon as mid-May to go forward with the impeachment process, with hearings that could drag on for six months.

The country of 200 million people, by far the largest in Latin America, is increasingly polarized and entirely consumed with its political crisis. By no means is Brazil on the verge of collapse, but here are some reasons why the turmoil isn’t so good for the rest of us.

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Eradication of Zika-Spreading Mosquito in Brazil Unlikely

Peter Prengaman, Mauricio Savarese – AP, 04/19/2016

In the 1940s and 1950s, Brazilian authorities made such a ferocious assault on Aedes aegypti – the mosquito that spreads the Zika virus – that it was eradicated from Latin America’s largest country by 1958.

But Aedes aegypti returned, and now Brazil has launched another offensive against the pest, employing hundreds of thousands of troops to fumigate and educate people about how to eliminate its habitats. The assault is part of President Dilma Rousseff’s “war” on the Zika virus, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says can cause devastating birth defects.

But eradication experts say there is little chance Brazil can come anywhere near stamping out the pest like it did a half century ago. The world is different, with globalization bringing more travelers and trade across borders. And Brazil is different; its resources are limited as the country suffers through its worst recession in decades and its president is focused on battling impeachment for allegedly breaking fiscal rules in managing government funds.

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Interfarma, 04/14/2016

A controversial decision by the Brazilian government authorizing the use of untested and unproven cancer drug for human clinical has been strongly criticized by local pharmaceutical industry association, Interfarma. The  decision was approved by embattled president Dilma Rousseff, who faces impeachment proceedings in Congress, and seen as a politically calculated move to help prevent her ousting.

The drug, phosphoesthanolamine, has not properly been vetted by Brazil’s health agency AVISA, and sets a new precedent for fast tracking and releasing to the market drugs without proper approval.

In a public statement, Interfarma chastised the release of the drug and argued that it is a political stunt to divert attention away from the embattled president and will put patients at risk and noted it “has no proof of efficacy or the inexistence of side effects.” US press outlets have also lashed out at the decision, noting its lack of clinical trials and providing a false sense of hope to patients in need of cancer drugs.

Read Portuguese press release here…