Brazilian judge lifts suspension of WhatsApp

Vinod Sreeharsha – The New York Times, 05/03/2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — A judge lifted the nationwide suspension of WhatsApp in Brazil on Tuesday, allowing the popular messaging service owned byFacebook to get up and running again.

The ruling, from Judge Ricardo Múcio Santana de Abreu Lima, overturned a lower court order that had led to WhatsApp being blocked on Monday afternoon. The suspension was supposed to last 72 hours.

Judge Múcio is one of 13 judges on the higher court in the northeastern state of Sergipe, where WhatsApp has become embroiled in an organized crime and drug trafficking case. Authorities are seeking information for the case from the messaging service, but WhatsApp has not complied with requests for data, leading to the court order on Monday.

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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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Law firm at center of Panama Papers leak was implicated in Brazil corruption scandal in January

Keren Blankfeld – Forbes, 04/06/2016

Two months before one of the world’s largest data leaks, dubbed the Panama Papers, was made public on Sunday, Brazilian prosecutors accused the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca at the center of the leak, of corruption. (The firm, whose leaked records span 40 years and make up the Panama Papers, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), issued a statement to the ICIJ denying any unlawful activities. In addition, it stated that ties to offshore companies is not an implication of wrongdoing.)

On January 27 Brazil’s Federal Police, as part of Brazil’s far-reaching corruption probe known as Operation Car Wash (“Operação Lava Jato”), accused the firm of helping clients create offshore entities to hide corrupt money. Prosecutors alleged that the firm was using real estate company OAS Empreendimentos Imobiliários S/A to help cover up money made in the criminal scheme involving state-owned oil giant Petrobras . Six temporary arrests were made and 16 search warrants were issued. Lawyers representing those arrested denied any wrongdoing or irregularities. FORBES has been unable to reach the firm for comment. Aside from its office in Brazil, the firm also has branches in 40 other cities.

According to the ICIJ, which on Sunday began sharing information on the Panama Papers, Mossack Fonseca’s cofounder Ramón Fonseca, an adviser to Panama’s president, “took a leave of absence as presidential adviser in March after his firm was implicated in the Brazil scandal and ICIJ and its partners began to ask questions about the law firm’s practices.”

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Brazil politicians linked to offshore companies in Panama leaks: paper

Silvio Cascione and W Simon – Reuters, 04/04/2016

Politicians from seven parties in Brazil were named as clients of a Panama-based firm at the center of a massive data leak over possible tax evasion, O Estado de S.Paulo said on Monday.

The newspaper was one of more than 100 other news organizations around the globe to publish this weekend details of more than 11.5 million documents from the files of law firm Mossack Fonseca, based in the tax haven of Panama.

O Estado said names in the leaked files included politicians from Brazil’s largest party, the PMDB, which broke away from President Dilma Rousseff’s coalition last week. Political figures from the PSDB, the most prominent opposition party in the country, was also mentioned in the leaks, as well as others from the PDT, PP, PSB, PSD and the PTB parties.

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Israel changes tack over ambassador after standoff with Brazil

Isable Kershner – The New York Times, 03/28/2016

JERUSALEM — Israel pulled back on Monday after a monthslong diplomatic standoff with Brazil over plans to install a former settler leader as its ambassador there, reassigning him to a post in the United States after the government in Brasília refused to approve his appointment.

The office of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, issued a brief statement saying that he had decided to appoint the former settler leader, Dani Dayan, as consul general in New York.

“He will replace Foreign Ministry career official Ido Aharoni, who is completing his term,” the statement said. Officials in the prime minister’s office and in the Foreign Ministry declined to make any additional public comments.

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Exports from China to Brazil collapse as recession deepens

Joe Leahy – Financial Times, 02/25/2016

Chinese exports to Brazil collapsed last month in the latest dramatic sign of the deepening recession in Latin America’s biggest economy.

Containerised exports from China to Brazil of goods ranging from automotives to textiles fell 60 per cent in January compared with a year earlier as the weak real limits Brazilians’ ability to buy imported goods, according to Maersk Line, the world’s largest shipping company. Total volume of containerised imports into Latin America’s biggest economy halved, data showed.

“What we are seeing right now from China is not only a phenomenon for Brazil, we are seeing the same all over Latin America, declining [Chinese export] volumes into all the markets,” said Antonio Dominguez, managing director for Maersk Line in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. “It has been going on for several quarters but is getting more evident as we move into [2016].”

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Logistics cause delays on first day of Brazil Zika study

Associated Press – New York Times, 02/23/2016

JOAO PESSOA, Brazil — U.S. and Brazilian health workers seeking to determine if the Zika virus is causing a surge in birth defects ran into the chaotic reality of northeastern Brazil on their study’s first day Tuesday. Traffic and logistical problems shredded their schedule, delaying or preventing meetings with mothers and babies.

The plan conceived in the air-conditioned halls of Brazil’s Health Ministry and the Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had seemed simple:

Eight teams of “disease detectives” are looking to enroll about 100 mothers of babies with microcephaly, a rare defect that causes newborns to have unusually small heads and damaged brains. They also want to sign up two to three times as many mothers of babies without the birth defect, born in the same area at around the same time.

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