Political Crisis Opens Up Space for Dialog With the United States – Crise Amplia Espaços de Diálogo com os EUA

Paulo Sotero –  Revista Interesse Nacional, 06/06/2016

The impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and the crisis that it generated was not a surprise to Washington. The interim government of Michel Temer and its foreign policy emphasis were well received and opens space for a renewal of bilateral dialogue and cooperation at a time when Latin America is changing and opening  up, as shown by the election of President Macri in Argentina, the normalization of US-Cuban relations and the breakdown of the Chavez regime in Venezuela. Washington does not underestimate the challenges the political crises for Brazilians, such as the exhaustion of state capitalism and the failure of its corrupt political class and of the system that produced it.  Add to the mix the uncertainties generated  by rise of populist candidates, from both the right and the left, in the presidential campaign in the Unite States. The desire of the Obama administration to invest in  a  deeper relations with Brazil remains, but won’t be acted on before  the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff is concluded, the  Temer administration consolidates its position and the outcome of the  November 8th elections in the United States is known. The good news is that the difficulties open time and political space for government officials and other interested parties to  prepare the way for productive initiatives.

Read the Article in Portuguese…

 

Where Policy Does Not Fully Address Reality – Abortion in Brazil

Therese Kuester – The Brazil Institute, 07/21/2016

Politicians promote, or at least have on their agendas, policies that better the conditions of their own kind. This is often the rationale for people’s assumption that a female president looks to improve the condition of women in her country, especially on issues concerning reproductive choices, access to education, political representation and sexual assault. Brazil is one of a handful of nations that boasts, at least for now, a female president. As President Dilma Rousseff undergoes her impeachment trial, which is most likely to end in August with her removal from office  and with a recent Zika outbreak highlighting reproductive concerns, it seems to be appropriate to ask what this female president has done for her fellow women, with abortion being a central issue.

In what Brazilian news network, O Globo, referred to as Dilma Rousseff’s first public  stance on abortion, they paint the female President as a strong advocate for providing abortion in government operated clinics of the “Sistema Unico de Saude” (SUS) in the case of rape. Indeed, in 2013 President Rousseff supported the approval of a bill (Lei 12.845) that ensures that women who have been raped or assaulted receive immediate care and permission for abortion through state care. According to the President’s press secretary at the time, during the Worker’s party’s thirteen year tenure there was a reduction in deaths due to botched abortions thanks to an expansion of public health services for women. This information was published in a report by the government think tank IPEA (Instituto de Pesquisa Economica Aplicada) report using the national Health Ministry’s data from their Sistema de Informacoes sobre Mortalidade (SIM) which Globo compares with other statistics, showing that there was not as drastic of a drop in the maternal mortality as Rousseff seems to focus on.  Even so, while Rousseff claims that there has been a 54% decline in maternal deaths in 22 years, 1.5 thousand Brazilian women still die each year due to improperly performed abortions. Dilma’s support of the bill contradicts a 2010 campaign promise she made to religious lobbyists, promising she would not seek to alter abortion legislation.

While O Globo examines Rousseff’s accomplishments, they do not provide general statistics on abortions or an explanation of current  legislation. Abortion, as in many countries in Latin America except for Uruguay and Cuba, has been illegal in Brazil since the development of the 1940 penal code (WSJ 2016). There are only three exceptions: a threat to the mother’s life,  evidence that the baby has anencephaly (absence of brain development) and in the case of rape. If a woman seeks an abortion, and is not included in these exceptions, she can be imprisoned for one to three years. Furthermore, if the woman is harmed by the abortion provider, the prison sentence given to the person who performed the abortion can be up to four years and to six if the woman dies. In an article published in March of 2016, Reuters describes how these punishments are enforced and often result in the raid of abortion clinics and the arrest of doctors.

Anti-abortion legislation is strongly defended by religious lobbies, which also advocate for complete criminalization of abortion. Since 1940, when the Brazilian penal code was enacted, the Catholic Church has been very vocal against any type of legalization of abortion. In recent years,  Evangelical Churches have often taken the lead on anti-abortion campaigns . Almost two thirds of Brazilians identify as Catholic, and while this percentage has been in decline in recent years, millions of Brazilians have become members of the Evangelical Church. Several senior politicians, such as Congressman Eduardo Cunha, the former speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, have been vocal about the need to get rid of the exceptions, and want to pave the way to completely criminalize abortions. In the past 70 years 53 abortion-related bills have been tabled by religiously-minded politicians and public support for current abortion laws remains high at almost 82%. Out of the plethora of political parties, Dilma’s Worker’s Party and the Communist Party are the only two to have spoken about legislation of abortion as a matter of public health.

Despite these strict rules and religious views, women have not been stopped from seeking abortions. Over half (56%) of unwanted pregnancies end with abortion. This adds up to around one million abortions being performed in Brazil each year. Many of these abortions are performed in clandestine conditions or are self-induced, with the Guttmacher Institute reporting that at least 10% of pregnancy-related deaths were because of such unsafe abortions, and 760,000 women are hospitalized each year for treatment from complications. According to the Guttmacher report, 26% of all abortions are self-induced, with 26% of respondents reporting self-administering drugs, compared to the 18% who use the mainstream medication called Misoprostol. Many women responded that they chose this method because physicians and drugs are expensive and hard to come by.

Ato em defesa da descriminalização do aborto

Véspera do Dia Nacional de Redução da Mortalidade Materna, feministas em ato na Praça XV, defendem a descriminalização do aborto e destaca o alto índice de mortes em abortos clandestinos (Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)

While O Globo says that President Dilma Rousseff takes credit for an increase in access to safer abortions, the data could suggest that there needs to be an expansion on access to abortions beyond those who qualify under the three exceptions. With over one million abortions each year, and a probable increase in the demand with the threat of microcephaly due to Zika, many woman could take extreme measures to terminate a pregnancy which could turn into a public health crisis.

Therese is a staff intern at the Brazil Institute

 

Brazil: Lula Favored in 2018 Election, Temer Tanks at 5%

Telesur, 07/27/2016

Suspended President Dilma Rousseff´s predecesor, former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva,–popularly known as Lula–   is the favored candidate for the 2018 presidential election, while “interim” President Michel Temer trails far behind with just 5 percent, according to a new Datafolha poll commissioned by the Globo newspaper.

The poll, of 2,792 respondents conducted between July 14 and 15, found that the former labor leader and Workers’ Party founder Lula leads voter preferences with 22 percent, followed by the Green Party’s Marina Silva at 17 percent. Silva finished third in the 2010 preisdential election.

Lula has expressed interest in running in the 2018 election, saying that the more he and his ally Rousseff are attacked, the more likely he is to run.

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Wall Street Has Moved On From Brazil’s Political Crisis

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 07/11/2016

Wall Street is looking forward to the day when Brazil’s economy turns the corner. They believe it happens in 2017. Wheels are in motion.

What is clear is that U.S. investors have moved on from the political crisis, but have not completely ruled out a return of ousted leader Dilma Rousseff. Nor are they expecting miracles from her vice president Michel Temer, who will be the official president once the impeachment is settled later next month.

The first catalyst for change was the December 2015 approval of the impeachment process against Dilma in the lower house. Once that date was settled, for mid-April, markets rallied. Regardless of the political drama behind the impeachment, investors see Dilma’s ouster as the trigger. That first shot was fired in December. The next one will be in August.

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Brazil’s Temer To Make China First Official Visit Abroad

Lise Alves – The Rio Times, 07/11/2016

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – If suspended president Dilma Rousseff is impeached from office in August, Brazil’s interim President, Michel Temer, plans to take his first official overseas trip as leader of the country in September to China, Industry and Foreign Trade Minister Marcos Pereira announced over the weekend. Temer’s main goal is to boost Brazilian exports to the Asian country, especially of aircrafts and beef.

Brazil, airplanes, embraer aircraft manufacturer

Last year, during Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s visit to Brazil, the two countries signed investment agreements worth US$53.3 billion to be made by Chinese companies in Brazil in the areas of agribusiness, auto parts, equipment transport, energy, railways, highways, airports, ports, storage and services. Now Temer wants to increase the presence of Brazilian products in China.

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Brazil’s suspended president denounces indictment as a ‘political farce’

Reuters/The Guardian, 07/06/2016

Brazil’s suspended president Dilma Rousseff has told the senate commission considering whether to permanently remove her from office that the case against her is a farce, arguing that her alleged misdeeds were no more than “routine acts of budgetary management”.

In a letter to the commission read by her lawyer on Wednesday, Rousseff also promised to fight to carry out her mandate until the end of 2018.

“Everybody knows that you are judging an honest woman, a public servant dedicated to just causes,” she said. “I’ve honored those who voted for me.”

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Brazil Congress Investigates Lawmaker’s Alleged Support of Torture

Reuters/The New York Times, 06/28/2016

SAO PAULO — Brazil’s Congress on Tuesday opened an ethics investigation into Jair Bolsonaro, an outspoken lawmaker whose views on torture, rape and homosexuality are sparking concern that the country’s political crisis may foster an authoritarian political revival.

The ethics committee of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Congress, will try to determine if Bolsonaro, a former Brazilian Army paratrooper, broke parliamentary decorum when he prefaced his vote in April to impeach President Dilma Rousseff with a speech praising Army Colonel Carlos Ustra.

Courts have found Ustra, a notorious Army intelligence officer during the 1964-1985 military regime, responsible for torture. Rousseff, a former left-wing insurgent, was tortured by Ustra’s Army intelligence unit.

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