Brazil’s Ex-Leader, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Is Held for Questioning

Simon Romero – NY Times, 03/04/2016

Brazilian police officers raided the home of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former president who is under investigation in the colossal graft scheme involving the national oil company Petrobras, on Friday morning.

Officers from the Federal Police swarmed Mr. da Silva’s home in São Paulo, according to reports on television. He was taken to a police station at Congonhas Airport for questioning. Although he was in custody, he has not been arrested or charged.

Mr. da Silva, 70, has been facing an array of legal challenges related largely to his close ties to giant construction companies that profited from lucrative government contracts.

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Brazil police probe payments to ex-president’s lover

Latin America and the Caribbean – BBC, 02/27/2016

Former TV journalist Mirian Dutra says Mr Cardoso arranged the $3,000 monthly payments through the firm, Brasif.

The transfers began in 2002 – a year before Mr Cardoso left office.

Mr Cardoso denies the allegations. Brasif also says Ms Dutra was paid for work she did for them and the former leader had nothing to do with it.

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Brazil Supreme Court moves to curb impunity loophole

Joe Leahy – Financial Times, 02/29/2016

A decision by Brazil’s Supreme Court could prove as decisive as the country’s sweeping corruption investigations in curbing impunity in Latin America’s largest country, proponents claim.

The ruling this month by Brazil’s highest court ordered that a worker, who had already been convicted by a court for robbery and again on appeal, should begin serving a five-year jail sentence while awaiting the results of a further appeal to Brazil’s higher courts.

The decision sets an important precedent by closing a loophole in which convicted criminals are allowed to remain free until they have exhausted every avenue of appeal, including in the country’s higher constitutional courts. Skilled defense lawyers are able to draw out the process in the overburdened higher courts for so long that many convicted criminals can go free for decades pending appeal before serving time.

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Rousseff Campaign Chief Santana Surrenders to Brazilian Police

Reuters, 02/23/2016

João Santana, the architect of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s 2010 and 2014 campaigns, returned to Brazil and police are taking him to the city of Curitiba, the epicenter of a massive corruption probe, his spokesman said on Tuesday.

Police said on Monday they had a warrant for Santana’s arrest after evidence showed engineering conglomerate Odebrecht had paid him funds siphoned from state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA in offshore accounts.

Santana said in a statement he was quitting the re-election campaign of Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina in order to defend himself from “baseless accusations.”

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Zika epidemic prompts pharma rush to develop vaccine

Clive Cookson – Financial Times, 02/13/2016

The global pharmaceutical and bioscience industry has responded swiftly to the Zika epidemic, with 15 companies involved in vaccine development and 20 in making diagnostic tests for the mosquito-borne virus, which is associated with birth defects.

In update briefings in Geneva and Washington on Friday, senior officials from the World Health Organisation and the US National Institutes of Health contrasted the industry’s response to Zika with its slow reaction to previous epidemics, particularly Ebola.

“We had been working on an Ebola vaccine for 10 years and had no interest from industry,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We made a West Nile vaccine several years ago but couldn’t find a pharmaceutical partner.

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The Rot at the Heart of the Brazilian Economy

Christopher Sabatini – Foreign Policy, 02/10/2016

In late 2014, Brazil seemed on the verge of a meltdown. Its economy had grown a mere 0.1 percent that year, as its currency (the real) dropped like a stone and business confidence plummeted. In response, in November of that year Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff turned to a Chicago-trained technocrat — a common antidote among Latin American leaders. Domestic and international investors welcomed the appointment of Joaquim Levy, a former banker and fiscal hawk, to lead the finance ministry, but they acknowledged he would have his work cut out for him. If Levy hoped to enact the drastic fiscal cuts and structural reforms needed to fix the careening economy, he would have to first overcome the resistance of not only a fractious congress, but also many members of Rousseff’s leftist Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) and her cabinet.

Success would ultimately elude Levy. In December 2015, he quit, handing the ministry over to Nelson Barbosa, another well-respected economist. But Barbosa lacks Levy’s credibility among investors. And the task before him has only become more unenviable. He will have to push through his predecessor’s stalled reforms, while turning around an economy that suffered a GDP contraction of 3.7 percent in 2015, staving off potential debt crisisstabilizing the real, and avoiding what analysts predict could become Brazil’s worst crisis since 1901.

The first step to fixing Brazil’s crisis will have to involve recognizing that the rot goes much deeper than it might seem. Brazil’s troubles began with the downturn in the global commodity markets, which once bolstered the country. But the roots of the malaise trace much farther, to a historically autarkic economic model, a political system hobbled and corrupted by party factionalism and localism, and a constitutional carnaval of guarantees for social rights and payouts.

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Study in Brazil links Zika virus to eye damage in babies

Catherine Saint Louis – The New York Times, 02/09/16

Infants infected with the Zika virus may be born not only with unusually small heads, but also with eye abnormalities that threaten vision, researchers reported on Tuesday in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

The study described damage to the retina or optic nerve in 10 of 29 newborns examined at Roberto Santos General Hospital in Salvador, Brazil. All the infants were presumed to have been infected with the Zika virus and had small heads, a condition called microcephaly. Other causes of the defect, like infection with rubella or toxoplasmosis, were ruled out.

Seven out of the 10 newborns had defects in both eyes, while three infants had damage in a single eye. The most common problems were black speckled lesions in the back of the eye, large areas of tissue damage in the retina itself, or damage in the layer of blood vessels and tissue below the retina.

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After criticism, Brazil transferring Zika samples to US

Raphael Satter, Maria Cheng – ABC News, 02/05/2016

Brazilian officials say they’re sending a set of samples related to the Zika outbreak to the United States, a move which follows complaints that the country was hoarding disease data and biological material.

The announcement came hours after The Associated Press revealed that international health officials were frustrated at Brazil’s refusal to share enough viral samples and other information to answer the most worrying question about the outbreak: Whether the disease is truly causing a spike in babies born with abnormally small heads.

U.S. and U.N. officials told AP that Brazil probably shared fewer than 20 samples when experts say hundreds or thousands of samples are needed to track the virus’ evolution and develop accurate diagnostics and effective drugs and vaccines. Many countries’ national laboratories are relying on older strains from outbreaks in the Pacific and Africa, the AP found.

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The Heat: Brazil at a Crossroads

Paulo Sotero, Lucrecia Franco,  Ligia Maura Costa, Bernardo Sork, Fabio Ostermann – CCTV, 01/28/2016

Political upheaval, economic downturn and corruption scandals: Brazil is at a crossroads.

So, what’s the way forward for a Latin American giant in crisis? 2015 was not Brazil’s easiest year. Several widespread protests across the country called for change. Confidence in president Dilma Rousseff reached a record low. A scandal at state-run oil conglomerate Petrobras exposed corruption. All while the economy stagnated and began a free fall. 2016 hasn’t started off much better either. For a Brazilian perspective, from Rio de Janeiro, The Heat was joined by CCTV America’s Lucrecia Franco. To discuss the current political and economic climate: Ligia Maura Costa is a professor of legal studies at Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo. Bernardo Sorj is a professor of Sociology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. To discuss Brazil’s future and the youth movement: Fabio Ostermann is one of the founders and a former coordinator of Movimento Brasil Livre. Paulo Sotero is director of the Brazil Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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