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…

Nobody is completely sure which mosquito spreads Zika in Brazil

Will Carless – Global Post, 04/06/2016

The World Health Organization’s fact sheet on the Zika virus contains a wealth of useful information about the mysterious disease that has spread across the Americas and is blamed for a surge in birth defects in Brazil.

 

One of its leading facts may sound pretty benign: Zika is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, mainly the Aedes aegypti species in tropical countries like this one.

There’s only one problem: It’s not actually a “fact” that this particular mosquito spreads Zika in Brazil.

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Zika virus command center leads biggest military operation in Brazil’s history

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 03/30/2016

It is the biggest military mobilisation in Brazil’s history: 220,000 army, navy and air force personnel have been called into action, as well as 315,000 public officials.

Rapid reaction units have been deployed to take the fight across the country. Local authorities are stockpiling munitions and supplies. Scientists have been enlisted to devise new weapons of mass destruction with which to defend the motherland.

But the enemy is not a geopolitical rival or a militant group: it is the tiny Aedes aegypti mosquito which is believed to be responsible for the spread of the Zika virus.

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Zika epidemic uncovers Brazil’s hidden birth-defect problem

Alex Cuadros – Washington Post, 03/01/2016

As researchers race to establish a link between the Zika virus and a birth defect known as microcephaly, one of their biggest obstacles is the lack of reliable health data in Brazil, where the epidemic broke out there last year.

Since October, Brazil’s Health Ministry has received reports of about 5,600 suspected cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with unusually small heads. Many cases have been thrown out, and many more are still being investigated, but given that the country previously reported 150 such cases per year, the number would still seem to indicate a massive jump.

Many doctors, though, say that the jump is largely illusory — based on massive underreporting of microcephaly and other birth defects in Brazil. What’s more, this poor record-keeping reflects much larger public health problems here: poor prenatal care and woefully inadequate services for children with disabilities. Until the Zika epidemic, these issues were mostly swept under the rug.

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