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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How Brazil, the darling of the developing world, came undone

Nick Miroff and Dom Phillips – Washington Post,  04/15/2016

It was called the “Brazil model,” or simply “the Lula model,” back when this country’s economy was roaring and its president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was a superstar of the developing world.

By balancing support for big business with big social-welfare programs, the union boss turned statesman presided over an era of growth that lifted tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty. Lula’s presidency cut a new template for a Latin American left that had long insisted class struggle and revolution were the only road to fairness. The coronation came when Brazil was chosen to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, confirming its rise as a global power.

Now Brazil is limping to the Games. Its economy is facing its worst crisis since the 1930s. A Zika virus epidemic rages. And on Sunday, lawmakers will vote on whether to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s hand-picked successor. Impeachment appears increasingly likely.

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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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How A Town In Brazil Reportedly Rid Itself Of The Zika Mosquito

Ana Beatriz Rosa, Anna Almendrala – The Huffington Post, 02/29/2016

Brazil has recently ramped up its fight against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads dengue, Chikungunya and Zika, the latter a virus that has been linked to birth defects. Brazil’s health minister Marcelo Castro announced in January that the country would send 200,000 members of the armed forces to help in mosquito eradication, and cities across the country have intensified strategies to combat the pest.

But a few communities in Brazil are already leading the way when it comes to eliminating the disease-carrying mosquito from their neighborhoods. One of these is the small town of Água Branca, home to 16,000 people in the state of Piauí.

Compared to other similarly sized rural towns in Brazil, Água Branca should have a mosquito problem. But in 2013, when Zika virus wasn’t even an issue, the town launched a community initiative to address rising dengue fever rates. The partnership between municipal health authorities and residents focused on eliminating mosquito hotspots, and as a result, Água Branca has reportedly been mosquito-free for three years.

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Pictures capture daily battle against Zika mosquitoes

Becky Little,  Tomás Munita- National Geographic, 02/25/2016

How do you stop disease-carrying mosquitoes from multiplying? That’s the question plaguing the Brazilian government, which has been sending army soldiers door to door on a mission to fight Zika—the virus suspected of causing microcephaly in infants born to infected mothers.

 

“They are giving leaflets saying you have to keep your backyard clean from rubbish,” says photographer Tomás Munita, who has been documenting Recife, a northeastern state capital with a population of 3.7 million. Any stray items left outside, even a bottle cap, can collect rainwater and become a breeding ground for the Aedes aegyptimosquitoes that are thought to be the main carriers of Zika.

But in Brazil’s favelas, or poor neighborhoods, Munita says it’s hard to imagine that the government’s information campaign will have much effect.

Zika exposes class differences in Brazil, where most victims are poor

Alex Cuadros – The Washington Post, 02/24/2016

Watching kids skate around an ice rink inside the 1-million-square-foot Ribeirao Shopping center, you would hardly guess that this city is one of the hardest hit by the Zika epidemic.

Young women in dresses buy lattes at a Starbucks by the rink. Men in shorts and T-shirts take selfies with their cellphones next to a stand selling exercise machines. If they look unconcerned, it’s because, in this air-conditioned space, the mosquito that carries Zika can’t survive.

Although 230 miles from the southeastern coast, Ribeirao Preto is sometimes called the California of Brazil. The nickname traces back to the 1980s, when a boom in sugar and ethanol production raised living standards for many residents. But the boom left many others behind.

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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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CDC arrives in Brazil to investigate Zika outbreak

Rob Stein – NPR, 02/22/2016

A team of U.S. government disease detectives Monday launched an eagerly anticipated research project in Brazil designed to determine whether the Zika virus is really causing a surge of serious birth defects.

A 16-member team of epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began training dozens of Brazilian counterparts in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, in preparation to begin work on Tuesday. The researchers will gather data on hundreds of Brazilian women and their children.

“Having the data at this point in time are very critically important for understanding the impact Zika might be having in the future and as it spreads in the region,” says J. Erin Staples, a CDC medical officer leading the CDC team in Brazil.

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