We’re covering the latest on Huawei 5G in Brazil. The curious court order benefiting Jair Bolsonaro. And the links between more women mayors and lower child mortality rates.[sc name=”shortcode_daily”]
A move against Huawei in Brazil
Telecom Italia has removed Chinese behemoth Huawei[restricted] from a tender for 5G equipment for the core network it is preparing to build in Italy and Brazil, according to Reuters. Invited suppliers include Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia, and the U.S.’s Cisco, Mavenir, and Affirmed Networks (which was recently acquired by Microsoft).
What’s going on? Earlier this week, Italian newspaper La Reppublica said the country was mulling over banning Huawei from its 5G network over concerns — not yet backed up by evidence — that Huawei hardware could have backdoors allowing the Chinese government to monitor and control networks across the globe, or try to insert malware in government systems.
U-turn. Interestingly, TIM Brazil — a subsidiary of Telecom Italia — had already begun 5G trials in the southern Brazilian city of Florianópolis, using Huawei equipment. TIM has yet to comment on whether or not the trials will continue.
Why it matters. The ‘5G Cold War’ between the U.S. and China is squeezing Brazil between its two main trade partners.
- “It would be an opportunity to try and gain the most from each side if Brazil were to remain equidistant from them, but Jair Bolsonaro’s alignment with Washington goes against the country’s interests,” said political scientist Mauricio Santoro, who studies Brazil-China relations at the State University of Rio de Janeiro.
Huawei’s footprint. Despite Mr. Bolsonaro’s pro-U.S. demeanor, Brazil is unlikely to ban Huawei. Not that such a move would be anything simple. According to the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel), the Chinese giant has built roughly 70,000 of the country’s 86,000 operational radio antennas.
- These devices are responsible for transmitting 3G, 4G, and LTE frequencies to smartphones, modems, credit card machines — essentially any device connected to a mobile network.
5G in Brazil. Last week, we reported that Claro, owned by Mexico’s América Móvil, had announced a pre-launch of 5G technology in Brazil. It chose Motorola, Ericsson, and Qualcomm as its partners.
Love moves mountains … and open jail cells
The Superior Court of Justice, Brazil’s second-highest judicial body, issued a mind-boggling decision on Thursday. It revoked the preventive custody order of Fabrício Queiroz, a longtime friend of President Jair Bolsonaro who is suspected of operating, for years, a money-laundering scheme for the president’s son. The decision also benefits Mr. Queiroz’s wife — who is literally a fugitive from justice.
Why it matters. Mr. Queiroz could compromise the Bolsonaros on many levels — he has ties with Rio’s paramilitary mafias and operated money schemes for Senator Flávio Bolsonaro. Some pundits expected him to make a plea deal with prosecutors to protect his family. That is no longer necessary.
Unprecedented. It is unheard of another case in Brazilian law in which a fugitive had penalties relaxed. Preventive arrests are used precisely when there is a flight risk for defendants.
- The decision was penned by the court’s presiding justice, João Otávio de Noronha. In April, President Bolsonaro said he felt “love at first sight” for Mr. Noronha. Apparently, the feeling is mutual.
Not his first rodeo. Justice Noronha already has a track record of odd decisions in the president’s favor. In May, he allowed Mr. Bolsonaro to hide his Covid-19 test results — a decision later revoked by the Supreme Court.
- Fellow court members called the decision a “disgrace,” and accused Justice Noronha of using his decisions to get in the president’s good graces — eyeing a nomination to the Supreme Court in the future.
More women, fewer deaths
A new study by the Federal University of Bahia and the University of Campinas suggests that positive results in lowering child mortality in Brazil depend more on politicians’ gender than their party. Researchers analyzed 3,167 of the country’s 5,570 municipalities for 15 years — and developed an econometric model suggesting that municipalities with female mayors and lawmakers had better performance reducing the mortality of children under 5.
What they are saying. The hypothesis of these public health scientists is that women are more committed to social policies than male politicians. However, the researchers say the impact of other positive outcomes of female leadership needs to be deeply investigated.
Why it matters. In Brazil, women account for only 11.7 percent of mayors — and only 10 percent of federal lawmakers.
Child mortality in Brazil. Though child mortality has declined over the decades, 12.8 of every 1,000 births still die in Brazil before reaching the age of 5. That is almost twice the rates of Chile and Uruguay.
— with José Roberto Castro
What else you need to know today
- Fintechs. Mastercard has reportedly invested in one of the most innovative Brazilian fintechs, Banco Digital Maré, which tackles how the country’s banking system excludes poor consumers. Besides providing banking services, the startup also gives financial advice to 37,000 people who otherwise would have little access to ATMs and bank branches. The value of Mastercard’s investment has not been disclosed.
- U.S. Congress. A 26-page report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service says that President Jair Bolsonaro’s “interference in justice sector agencies and frequent attacks on the press, civil society groups, and other branches of government have placed additional stress on the country’s already-strained democratic institutions.” The document says that Mr. Bolsonaro’s demeanor may refrain U.S. congressmen from pushing for a closer relationship with Brazil. That contradicts the government’s official foreign policy mantra — that total alignment with the White House will bring positive trade results for Brazil.
- Car Wash. Supreme Court Chief Justice Dias Toffoli granted an injunction forcing the Operation Car Wash anti-corruption task force to share all of its investigation files with Prosecutor General Augusto Aras — who investigates whether prosecutors overstepped their legal limits. There are two sides to this story: (1) the Bolsonaro administration has given evidence that it wants to kill anti-corruption efforts; (2) Car Wash investigators have also given evidence that they bent the rules in the name of what they consider to be the “greater good.”
- Education. During a live broadcast on Facebook, President Jair Bolsonaro said he could appoint a new Education Minister today. “We want someone who promotes dialogue, which is not easy, with all levels of education,” said the president. After Abraham Weintraub left the department three weeks ago, Mr. Bolsonaro tried two names — one was tarnished due to lies in his résumé, while the other gave up the nomination after being bad-mouthed by the president’s most radical supporters for not being conservative enough.[/restricted]