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Giving “dirty money” a new meaning

On Wednesday, Senator Chico Rodrigues, the government’s deputy whip in the Senate, was targeted by a Federal Police investigation into the embezzlement of BRL 15 million earmarked for the fight against Covid-19 by members of Congress. However, while this story seems bad enough, as Brazilians say: the hole gets even deeper. The Feds found around BRL 30,000 in cash in the senator’s home, with part of the money soiled by being stashed “between his buttocks,” leaving little to the imagination.

Interestingly, the case surfaces just days after President Bolsonaro stated that there was no more corruption in the government. Furthermore, last week, Mr. Bolsonaro said that if someone steps out of line with regard to corruption, they will be met with “a flying kick to the neck.”

The case continues to shed light on how corrupt officials are using the emergency situation created by Covid-19 to fill their pockets — and underwear, apparently — with public money. 

In a video that resurfaced after yesterday’s events, Bolsonaro is seen praising Senator Chico Rodrigues, saying their relationship is “almost a stable union.” However, today, Mr. Bolsonaro affirmed that Rodrigues is not part of his administration, despite being his deputy whip in the Senate.

Could this be a new meaning for the term “dirty money”?

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Half a millennium on, Brazil is still burning

Once upon a time, Brazil was a Portuguese colony. In the early days of its European “discovery,” the land went by several names, including Ilha de Vera Cruz and Pindorama, the preferred choice of native indigenous people. The name “Brazil” came in 1505, being an homage to the land’s first major export: the Brazilwood tree, or Pau Brasil.

The word ‘brasil’ comes from ‘brasa’ (ember, in English) suggesting the wood’s resemblance with the intense red color of burning coal. Indeed, fire has been a part of Brazil’s story from the very beginning. Half a millennium after the Portuguese arrived on the country’s southeastern coast, Brazil is still burning — and its native vegetation is being destroyed.

So far in 2020, fires in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands have destroyed at least 26 percent of the biome, threatening the region’s rich biodiversity. The increased air temperatures have led to a heatwave that has spread countrywide. This week Brazilian Institute of Meteorology (Inmet) issued a warning of “severe danger” due to high temperatures in Brazil’s Center-West region. The report even indicated a potential risk of death from hyperthermia.

The city of São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, two of Brazil’s biggest state capitals, are also facing historical temperature records. But this isn’t a one-off: the average high temperature in Brazilian state capitals jumped from 29.5ºC to 31.4ºC between 1962 and 2019. In recent weeks, thermometers shot above 40ºC in several parts of Brazil. 

And the situation could get even worse, as the government has shown nothing to suggest it will effectively combat the burning of the country’s native vegetation. In fact, during last month’s UN General Assembly, President Jair Bolsonaro dismissed Brazil’s environmental chaos, saying that his government is the victim of an international misinformation campaign. 

But if this didn’t change in half a millennium, why would it change now? 

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U.S. presidential election: Jair Bolsonaro votes Trump

This Tuesday, U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden presented us one of the worst presidential debates as far as we remember. Called a “shitshow” by CNN journalists covering the election, the tos and fros of the messy discussion was being watched attentively at home by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. 

While cheering on Mr. Trump, the Brazilian president may have jumped out of his seat when his own country got a mention by presidential challenger Joe Biden. When discussing the environment, the former vice president mentioned the burning of the Amazon rainforest, suggesting the U.S. should give Brazil USD 20 billion to end deforestation, or face “economic consequences.” 

Jair Bolsonaro could hardly contain himself. Running to social media, he posted a shakily translated statement criticizing Joe Biden, suggesting his offer of USD 20 billion was a “bribe” and even mistaking the candidate’s name, referring to him as “John Biden.”

Since his election, Brazil’s president has given little thought to his country’s image abroad. He has started fights with counterparts in Argentina, France, and angered several member nations of the European Union. 

Now, with Joe Biden leading in the polls, Mr. Bolsonaro may just have made an enemy out of the next president of the world’s biggest economy.

What could go wrong?

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Bolsonaro plays Pinocchio at the United Nations

Gepetto’s wooden puppet Pinocchio, who magically turns into a real boy, is lucky that he isn’t Brazilian. Judging by the ongoing environmental catastrophe in the Amazon and Pantanal, wood more often than not gets turned into cinders. 

But Pinocchio might have a Brazilian rival — perhaps not for his amazing ability to transform from an inanimate being into a human, but for his strange penchant for lying. It is fair to say that if Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro were crafted by Gepetto, his nose would have grown to at least ten times its length during his opening address at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

Brazilian fact-checking agencies Aos Fatos and Lupa counted at least ten lies told by Mr. Bolsonaro to his global audience. Besides saying that his government is targeted by a “brutal misinformation campaign” related to the increase of deforestation and fires, the leader also said that Brazil suffers from “Christophobia.” 

Mr. Bolsonaro tried to take full credit for Brazil’s Covid-19 emergency salary, a financial aid program which helped the president vastly increase his popularity. However, what he failed to mention is that his government was opposed to the idea from the beginning, proposing a monthly benefit worth just one-third of the amount eventually agreed upon. The decision to raise the value was made under pressure from Congress and House Speaker Rodrigo Maia. 

While Pinocchio hasn’t got a sequel (yet…?), Mr. Bolsonaro’s display of falsehoods is already in its second edition, with at least two more UNGA appearances to come in 2021 and 2022. Will his nose continue to grow? 

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The world’s largest wetland area, Pantanal is burning

The Pantanal region in the Center-West, Mato Grosso do Sul state, is considered as the world’s largest wetland area. So why is it that Brazil’s wettest biome, that yearly experiences heavy rainfalls, is on fire? Just as the Amazon rainforest has been facing deforestation peaks, the Pantanal is also being hit by record fires this year: by August 13, at least 14,500 fires were recorded, resulting in a 17-percent loss of the native vegetation in 2020. 

Indeed, people in several parts of the country are complaining about the humidity dropping and causing dry weather. But this time of the year always had weather like this, so we have to search for different reasons to explain how fires in a moist environment could increase by 210 percent since 2019. 

We should remember that, during the week, the Brazilian Federal Police announced an investigation into five local farmers who allegedly burned up to 25,000 hectares of the Pantanal wetland, to clear the conservation area for cattle-ranching. The operation is searching for evidence that could land the suspects a 15-year sentence. So, there you have it, the dry weather is not the only thing to blame. 

These environmental criminals, like the ones being investigated by the Feds investigation, rely on the support of President Jair Bolsonaro and Environment Minister Ricardo Salles. We can’t forget that Mr. Salles once said in a private meeting (which was leaked to public) that the government could take advantage of the press’ undivided attention on the Covid-19 pandemic to “run the cattle herd” through the Amazon, “changing all of the rules and simplifying standards.”

So, we ask the question again: is it really just the dry climate?

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Rice is gold

Rice becomes gold. Inflation is nothing new in Brazil. In the early 1990s, the country experienced devastating hyperinflation, reaching up to 80 percent a month. In 1986 then-President José Sarney created his own fiscal team, who controlled the prices in supermarkets. 

After the adoption of the Real in 1994, those days seemed to be over. While Brazil has been through several economic crises before the one sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic – which will force Brazil’s GDP toward a -9.7 percent growth, according to the Brazilian Geography and Statistics Institute (IBGE) – the skyrocketing of food prices is unusual. 

But it is really happening again. Brazil’s so-called National Amplified Consumer Price Index, or IPCA, rose 2.44 percent in 12 months, while food inflation rose by 8.83 percent over the same period. Among the most-consumed items, the prices of rice and cooking oil jumped the most –– by 19.2 percent and 18.6 percent, respectively. 

Before the pandemic, a pack of rice cost around BRL 10 (less than USD 2). Now, some stores are selling the same pack for up to BRL 40 (USD 7.50). A huge increase in Brazil’s most loved (and, more importantly, payable) staple food item. As a result, Many Brazilians are appealing to Procon, Brazil’s consumer protection service. 

Experts say that the currency disparity between BRL and USD and also the government’s emergency salary are the main reasons for the price increases. In the second case, it means that people who sell supplies saw in the Covid-19 aid an opportunity to increase their prices. 

The government finds itself in hot water. President Bolsonaro once again endorsed his own words, saying that he was right to prioritize the economy instead of the isolation measures when the pandemic started. “I forgive those who said ‘stay home,” he even said to supporters. The leader also asked producers to keep a sale profit close to zero, but also promised that there won’t be any price-fixing. 

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The endangered 200 real bill

This week, the Brazilian Central Bank put the country’s new BRL 200 bill into circulation. According to the institution, the decision to create the new banknote — worth roughly USD 38 — came as the use of printed money increased in Brazil during the Covid-19 pandemic. Experts, however, say larger notes make life easier for money launderers and drug trafficking.

We’ve already covered the economic pros and cons of the new bill, but today we’re looking at the design. As other Brazilian denominations are printed with traditionally Brazilian animals, the Central Bank chose the maned wolf to adorn the BRL 200 note. Neither a fox nor a wolf — while resembling both — the maned wolf is found throughout central South America, and it has Near-Threatened status from the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

And while the BRL 200 bill goes into circulation, one of the maned wolf’s main habitats — the Pantanal tropical savannah — is under threat by intense waves of fires. The central-western region has recorded the second-highest number of blazes this year since 1998, with experts estimating there are as many as 5,935 uncontrolled fires in August alone. 

And the Pantanal is not alone: the Amazon rainforest, Brazil’s largest biome, is also struggling to fight the increase of fires, with almost 30,000 occurring in different areas throughout August — 12.4 percent more than the historical average. 

To news website G1, the executive director of NGO S.O.S Pantanal, Felipe Augusto Dias, said that the fires are caused by humans. The Brazilian Report also showed that the Amazon suffers from the same problem, with deforestation skyrocketing for the 14th straight month in Brazil. 

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Besides Covid-19, Brazil catches a cold

Beyond face masks, 2020 has seen Brazilians put on plenty of extra layers thanks to a sweeping cold snap. Despite its usually tropical climate, areas in the South of Brazil had snow days this month, with some cities in the state of Rio Grande do Sul seeing temperatures fall to -8 degrees Celsius. 

Parts of São Paulo and Minas Gerais experienced freezing temperatures, while the beaches of Rio de Janeiro looked more like the United Kingdom, with cloudy, cold days and constant drizzle. 

Among videos of frozen backyards, questionable snowmen, and Brazilians donning gloves and scarves for beat the chills, one post went viral: inside a subway station in São Paulo, one man took off his own shirt to provide heat to a shivering dog, who appeared delighted with its gift. 

Cold weather comes with renewed concern about the country’s homeless population, with several cities holding donation campaigns for warm clothing and blankets for those sleeping rough.

Brazil’s image as a tropical paradise seems lightyears away in the cold of August. But this year, at least there won’t be any disappointed tourists: they’ve all been kept away due to the coronavirus epidemic. 

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The Handmaid’s Tale: Brazil

“This is Gilead!” was a common utterance on Brazilian Twitter this week. The name is a reference to the fictional theocratic and repressive regime in the U.S. depicted by Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale, later becoming a popular TV series. And events earlier this week have led to comparisons between the dystopian society and present day Brazil. 

Last weekend, a so-called “pro-life” ultrareligious group protested in front of a hospital in Pernambuco, decrying an abortion procedure being performed on a 10-year-old girl, who was the victim of sustained sexual abuse from one of her family members. Protesters tried to stop doctors and nurses entering the medical facility, saying the girl should be forced to deliver the baby, despite Brazil’s restrictive reproductive rights guaranteeing legal abortions in rape cases. 

The group only managed to find the address of the hospital after far-right extremist Sara Winter — who recently spent time in jail for threatening a Supreme Court Justice and organizing anti-democratic rallies — shared the address and the child’s name on her Twitter account.

It is safe to say that one does not need to have read or watched The Handmaid’s Tale to realise that Brazil couldn’t be more old-fashioned and frighteningly far from social progress. At least 1 million women resort to unsafe abortions every year, with one of them dying every two days, according to the Brazilian Health Ministry. Activist groups believe these figures are extremely underrated. Official numbers also point out that at least 180 rapes are reported per day in the country, and the majority of victims are girls of no more than 13 years old. 

And that’s not all: one state lawmaker in the state of Rio Grande do Norte even proposed a bill that would force young pregnant girls to watch a video of an abortion procedure upon considering terminating pregnancy, even in cases of rape. Kleber Rodrigues gave up on the measure after many civil organizations criticized his ideia. 

But even with sanity left in a few Brazilians, we can affirm that Gilead is in fact here. 

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Brazil: where a football match is worth more than 100,000 lives

Yes, Brazilian football has returned. As we said on our weekly podcast, imagine having 60 groups of between 30-40 people each, flying around the country meeting each other, in close contact, without wearing masks. With Covid-19 infections not showing any sign of a decrease. It seems like a recipe for disaster, and it is exactly what Brazilan teams are facing right now. 

In the second weekend of August, after arguing about the Covid-19 tests that should have been carried out before the match, São Paulo giants Palmeiras and Corinthians faced each other for the final of the state championships. Days after the game, it was reported that two players of Corinhians’ starting lineup had tested positive for Covid-19. Hours after the final, Corinthians president Andrés Sanchez argued against testing the athletes, fearing that his team could lose its best players. 

But this incident is not the only one that showed how football administrators are more concerned about the game than with the health of their players.  During the week, first division club Atlético Goianiense appealed to the Brazilian football confederation (CBF) for the right to field four of their players, who had tested positive for Covid-19, in a match against champions Flamengo on Wednesday evening.

Their appeal was successful, and Atlético won the match 3-0.

But the idea that “there is no risk” in having infected players taking part in matches is not just common sense, it’s actually the CBF’s official line. The confederation’s medical head Jorge Pagura said the players were “nearing the end of their infection” and had quarantined for 10 days, claiming that their potential to transmit the virus has reduced greatly.

And we are talking about elite clubs, who largely have the structure to test their entire squads on a regular basis. In lower divisions, the conditions are much worse. Though the players’ union in São Paulo has threatened to take the CBF to court in order to stop the national championship, it is unlikely that things will change. 

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Brazil prays for Lebanon after horrific Beirut blast

This week, the world was rocked by a massive blast at the port of Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon. So far, at least 137 people were killed, another 5,000 are injured, and more than 300,000 have been displaced due to what is being called ‘the total destruction’ of the city center. The causes are still unclear, though Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab pointed the finger at an estimated 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate stored at a warehouse at the port.

People around the planet were left open-mouthed by the horrific footage of the explosion, with each different camera angle of the blast showing its dramatic destructive scale. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro was quick to tweet his condolences, saying that his country “is home to the largest community of Lebanese people in the world.” However, he was criticized for not showing the same solidarity to the more than 97,000 Covid-19 victims in Brazil. 

Indeed, Mr. Bolsonaro is right in his words. According to official numbers from 2017, there are 12 million people of Lebanese origin in Brazil, while the Middle East nation has a population of just 4.5 million. 

The Lebanese Ambassador to Brazil, Joseph Sayah, said that the tragedy couldn’t have happened at a “worse moment.” In an interview with news website G1, he said the country needs hospital and food supplies, as well as construction materials.

The ambassador stated that Lebanon is a country that imports about 80 percent of its needs, and that the port of Beirut is also used for storage. Reports say the country only has one month’s grain stocks to feed its population.

Lebanon is currently facing a huge economic crisis, with hyperinflation, layoffs and a 50-percent decline on imports in 2020. The Lebanese government has estimated that by the end of the pandemic, six out of ten citizens will be living below the poverty line.

Analysts say it is the worst crisis in the country since the Civil War, between 1975 and 1990. More than ever, we should #PrayForLebanon

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Football returns as Covid-19 gives Brazil a thrashing

Brazil’s two largest football clubs, Flamengo and Corinthians, have an average attendance per game of 52,000 and 33,000 people, respectively. Were we to put these crowds together in one stadium, we still would have 5,000 fewer people than the number of Brazilians who have died from Covid-19, five months since the first case was detected.

Perhaps if Brazil had employed the same energy it used to demand the return of football — with competitions now back underway up and down the country — and applied it to Covid-19 prevention measures, perhaps the death count would be significantly lower. The decision to allow Brazilian football to return followed successful resumptions of national championships across Europe and Asia, but with a significant difference: in these countries, the pandemic had been brought under control well before the discussion of getting players back on the pitch was brought to the fore. 

In the first game back in Brazil, in mid-June, Flamengo and Bangu played out a meaningless encounter in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã stadium, next door to a busy Covid-19 field hospital. While Flamengo dispatched of Bangu three goals to nil, with no fans in attendance, one of the coronavirus patients died only a few hundred meters away.

And this week, in São Paulo — the state with the highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths — the local football championship reached its final knockout round. On Wednesday evening, tiny countryside club Mirassol took on giants São Paulo in a quarter-final match after seeing 18 players leave the squad during the pandemic stoppage. Regardless, the minnows won 3-2. 

With more than 90,000 Covid-19 deaths and over 2.5 million confirmed cases, Brazil is set to continue battling the facts and pushing for a premature return to normality. In the 2014 World Cup, Germany famously trounced Brazil 7-1, but in 2020, Covid-19 is battering them 90,000 to nil. 

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Bolsonaro and the chloroquine trophy

Even if you are not a football fan, you may well have seen the image of Brazil’s captain Cafu holding the golden World Cup trophy aloft in 2002, the country’s fifth world title. In fact, as the story goes, the gesture of lifting a trophy above one’s head was invented by a Brazilian: national team captain Hilderaldo Bellini back in the 1958 World Cup final. Mobbed by journalists at the end of the match, one photographer asked the champion to lift the trophy high above his head, so he could get a better picture. Ever since, it has been the iconic gesture of celebration, inside and outside of sport.

Why, then, would anyone be repeating such a celebratory act during a global pandemic, which has killed more than 81,000 Brazilians? Well, you should ask President Jair Bolsonaro. At the weekend, instead of a trophy, Mr. Bolsonaro held a small box of antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine above his head, before a mob of his faithful supporters in Brasilia.

Since contracting Covid-19 two weeks ago, President Bolsonaro claims he has been taking hydroxychloroquine every day, and has tipped the drug as a potential cure for the disease. Odd, then, that after two weeks of taking hydroxychloroquine, the president is still testing positive. Nevertheless, this is a country in which almost one in five citizens believes that Bolsonaro’s elixir is in fact the cure for Covid-19.

According to Marcos Calliari, head of polling institute Ipsos Brazil, Brazil has the second-highest rate of believers among 16 surveyed countries, behind India, where 37 percent trust in the drug. Not to mention those who believe that garlic has some kind of healing power against the virus. 

“Chloroquine, chloroquine,” the crowd yelled, while Jair Bolsonaro turned the box of the medicine into a trophy. While perhaps ludicrous to outsiders, it is but another day in Brazil under President Bolsonaro. 

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Brazil’s Animal Farm

This week, President Jair Bolsonaro was bitten by a rhea — a large ostrich-like bird — while trying to feed the animal in the garden of the presidential palace, in the capital city Brasília. Clearly, the incident went viral, with the social media hordes lampooning the president. Mr. Bolsonaro has been infected with Covid-19 since last Monday. Fortunately, the disease doesn’t harm birds, meaning the rhea is doing well. 

The week in Brazil has been quite ‘animalesque.’ Besides the bird attack, a veterinary student in the capital was bitten by a cobra, leading to a serious investigation about animal trafficking, which happens to be behind only drugs and gun smuggling as the most profitable criminal business worldwide.  

Both cases were compared to George Orwell’s famous 1945 novel Animal Farm, which in Brazil is translated as “The Animals’ Revolution.” Some keen social media jokers have suggested the rebellious animals are looking to overthrow the government in the 2022 elections. 

And last month, First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro “adopted” a Maremmano-Abruzzese Sheepdog, naming him Augusto Bolsonaro, The social media frenzy around this new pup lead to the dog’s actual owner being identified — it turned out Mrs. Bolsonaro hadn’t adopted the animal at all. In the end, Augusto only stayed with the First Family for 12 days, longer than some of Bolsonaro’s cabinet ministers have remained in office.

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The world’s biggest Covid-19 denialist contracts coronavirus

As we have covered on The Brazilian Report, President Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, after months of belittling the pandemic. This week, let’s take a look back at what the denialist president has said about Covid-19 so far: 

March 9: The Brazilian media “overestimates” the virus 

“There is also the issue of coronavirus, which, in my opinion, is overestimated, the destructive power of this virus.”

March 24: Covid-19 is a “little flu”

“Due to my past as an athlete, if I were infected by the virus, I wouldn’t have to worry. I wouldn’t feel anything, at most the sniffles or a little flu.”

March 29: “We will all die someday”

“This is a reality, the virus is here. We are going to have to face it, but face it like men. Not like kids. Let’s face the virus with reality. It’s life. We will all die someday.”

April 2: “I am not aware of any hospital that is full.”

“I am not aware of any hospital that is full, on the contrary.”

April 10: “No one will hinder my freedom to come and go.”

“I have a constitutional right to come and go. No one will hinder my freedom to come and go. No one.”

April 28: “So what?”

“So what? I’m sorry. What do you want me to do? (…) I don’t perform miracles.”

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Delivery workers didn’t ask for this

During the week, Brazilian bicycle and motorcycle couriers working for delivery apps staged a national strike for better pay and working conditions. Their demand is far from utopic: they clamor for improved pay per kilometer traveled, insurance coverage, access to personal hygiene items during the pandemic, and the end of the “blacklisting” of workers who take part in protests. 

The major app delivery companies, such as Rappi, iFood and UberEats, are known to identify protestors and reduce their supply of jobs. Meanwhile, they ignore the safety of their workers, putting them at risk in the name of profit. 

In Brazil, data shows that the gig economy has been increasing. The number of people working with vehicles — such as taxi or bus drivers and those working for lift apps — increased 29.2 percent in 2018, reaching 3.6 million. 

The recent protests shed light on the poor working conditions of these delivery drivers and have received widespread attention, as these on-demand apps have become indispensable during the pandemic phase. 

However, despite becoming essential service providers during such an unprecedented time, delivery drivers aren’t treated as such. They are forced to work long hours, for a pittance, and have been left hugely exposed to Covid-19.

Delivery workers have remained on the streets, zipping from one destination to the next, not because they want to, but because there are no other opportunities. Unlike the millions sitting on their couches waiting for their dinner to arrive, they didn’t ask for it. 

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An anti-globalist, in a globalist organization?

Brazil’s former Education Minister Abraham Weintraub is the antithesis of “do your best, forget the rest” — at the least the “do your best” part. However, despite having racked up a laundry list of controversial flashpoints during his time in office — such as racial slurs against China, verbally abusing members of the public on Twitter, receiving a BRL 2,000 fine for not wearing a mask during a protest calling for a military coup, and calling the members of the Supreme Court “bums” — he could now walk out of the cabinet with a seven-figure income. 

After being removed from his post and flying to the U.S. in ‘political exile’ — potentially the first case of someone being ‘exiled’ despite having the full support of the sitting government — Mr. Weintraub is now awaiting the approval of eight countries to take on his new job at the World Bank, his gift for a disastrous job at the head of Brazil’s education system. 

However, despite being nominated, he will also have to overcome the opposition of the World Bank’s staff association, which said offering him a job goes against the organization’s code of ethics, especially due to Mr. Weintraub’s several racist comments. 

Mr. Weintraub is far from being a popular figure, even in Brazil. According to a conservative blog linked to President Bolsonaro’s ideological guru Olavo de Carvalho — where Mr. Weintraub is adored — only 70 scholars in the country’s entire academic community expressed their support for the outgoing Education Minister. 

Seeing Brazil has 2.5 million professors, according to the Anísio Teixeira National Institute of Educational Studies and Research, the support of the former minister represents just 0.028 percent. Thankfully, the lion’s share of academia knows that this is not how the head of the education should behave. 

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Jair wants to be a millionaire

Within the next few days, Brazil is set to hit the mark of one million officially recorded coronavirus cases. Jair Bolsonaro’s “little flu” has proven itself to be anything but small.

To make things worse, several regions are haunted by possible underreporting of cases, suggesting the actual Covid-19 situation in Brazil could be far worse than the already outrageous milestone of one million. 

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Brazil could surpass the U.S. to become the country with the most coronavirus deaths in the world by July 29. Currently, Brazil has 46,665 deaths to the U.S.’ 120,000. 

According to current trends, Brazil could reach a total 137,500 deaths over the next six weeks, then overtaking the U.S.’ slowing curve at 137,000. In terms of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, Brazil could become the world’s leader by as early as July 12 according to the IHME model. The numbers don’t seem to say the contrary so far. 

Will Mr. Bolsonaro finally sit up and pay attention? Unlikely. While the health crisis rages on, the president is more worried about institutional problems, with his close allies coming under investigation for spreading fake news and organizing anti-democratic protests. Just this morning, Fabricio Queiroz — family friend and former advisor to eldest son Flávio Bolsonaro — was arrested in São Paulo, guaranteeing that the president will have his mind off Covid-19 for some time.

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Jair Bolsonaro plays hide and seek

If you have been keeping up with our weekly cartoons, you’ll be aware that President Jair Bolsonaro has transformed Brazil into a tragic cautionary tale of how not to lead a country during a global pandemic. That said, the disaster was taken even further this last week, with the government mishandling and concealing key Covid-19 data. On June 7, the government published two drastically different death counts for the 24 hours prior: first reporting 1,382 deaths, and then just 525 an hour later. NGO Transparency Brazil says that the recent data tampering and omission by President Jair Bolsonaro’s government could be an impeachable offense and a crime — for going against laws guaranteeing access to public information and emergency health measures.

According to both the president and the interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, “everything that has been said in the last few days will be explained and I am sure that the population will adopt this coronavirus counting method.” However, if the government follows the script on which it has been basing its decisions since the pandemic began, we may never know what caused the disparity. 

The Brazilian press strikes back

The opaque data shared by the government has once again united the Brazilian press, bringing big hitters G1, O Globo, Extra, Estadão, Folha, and UOL together in a collective task force to find and publish reliable Covid-19 data. 

The joint effort from these media outlets will collect data from state-level health authorities and publish them at around 8 pm, in time for nightly newscasts. Previously, the government had delayed its daily statistics until late at night, when the news had finished and people had already gone to bed. A Supreme Court decision has ordered the administration to cease this dishonest practice. 

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