Highlights – XII

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Commentary on recent events

One of the highlights this week was the submission to Congress of the annual Budget Bill, the famous PLOA 2021, which will take effect in 2021. In Brazil, as a rule, the Budget is almost a piece of fiction. After the executive's presentation, the negotiations are so heavy that at the end of the year the result has little to do with what was proposed. But, in any case, the derisory increase in the minimum wage, of R$ 24, and the absence of an indication of the source of funds for the announced Renda Brasil program, which would replace the Bolsa Família, draws attention in this submission.

In addition, the resources for the payment of retirees and the public service payroll are not included in their entirety, that is, with actual expenses until the end of the year. This means that for the third consecutive year the Executive will have to get in touch with Congress to negotiate its proposals. The most optimistic projection, closer to austerity, is a bond issue of 248 billion reais by the Federal Government. These are situations to be discussed throughout the year that clearly reveal the dilemma that the government faces between (a) maintaining the cap on spending and expenditure on investments and other expenses or (b) breaking the ceiling to cover some demands of a social nature, especially in the Lace Brazil.

The government oscillates between the political pretensions of the president who wants to maintain the emergency aid – which will be R$300 in the next four months and not R$600 as it has been until now – and then guarantee this in a permanent flow and the interests of the economic sector that says that this constitutes, in practice, disrespect for the law that stipulates a ceiling for expenses. Well, it's not like this or that. Arminio Fraga's article, dated August 30, published in the mainstream press, proposes a thoughtful strategy for controlling the final result. In any case, everything indicates that we will continue in the dispute between the “developmentalists” and those who want to maintain the expenditure ceiling, as voted in the Temer government, which is corrected simply by the inflation of the previous year.

The second highlight is the situation in Rio de Janeiro, involving two of its main leaders. Governor Wilson Witzel was removed from the government command by an almost unanimous decision of the STJ. Mayor Marcelo Crivella won the news for having set up a traveling praetorian guard to mediate relations between the public served, that is, patients and the press in municipal hospitals in Rio de Janeiro. A restriction, an undue intervention, which deserves the full protest of public opinion.

In the case of Governor Witzel, regardless of the content of the accusations about deviations in the health area and others, an important legal question remains: was the STJ's intervention legitimate? Doubts remain about its legitimacy, since the governor's impeachment process was already running in the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro. Everything leads one to believe, both in the case of Witzel and Crivella, that the hand of Jair Bolsonaro is present, who intends to control Rio de Janeiro by appointing the vice-governor for the exercise of the end of Witzel's term, counting on the appointment by the acting governor of the new Attorney General of the State in tune (as well as the command of the local police) with the interests of Bolsonaro and family.

The tension in the relationship between General Mourão, president of the National Council for the Amazon, and Minister of the Environment Ricardo Salles became public at the end of last week. While the Amazon is on fire, the Pantanal has a 40% increase in the total of its fires compared to the previous month, the government is fiercely discussing who controls the resources and who withdrew 66 million reais from the Ministry of the Environment's budget. General Mourão said that Minister Salles' complaint was hasty and constituted a gaffe. It remains to be seen whether operations will be resumed by the Ministry's bodies, IBAMA and ICMBio.

An ordinance from the Ministry of Health points to a regression regarding the constitutional right to abortion in situations of rape. It obliges doctors and hospital authorities to report to the Police in detail the general operation to provide abortion to the alleged victims. This is a clear intimidation of doctors and especially of victims. Everything suggests that this situation, if it persists, will increase the number of victims resulting from the practice of clandestine abortions. The right to abortion in this case was enshrined in the Penal Code 80 years ago. The president of the Chamber, Rodrigo Maia, vehemently opposed this ordinance and said that there will be appeals in the Judiciary. If they are not successful, the Federal Chamber will express its opinion on this measure, trying to resume the old procedures.

Finally, it is worth noting the official statement that Brazil is in a technical recession with a 9,8% decline in GDP compared to the previous quarter. There is a paralysis of economic functions, and the only sector that presented a surplus was agriculture.

*Benicio Viero Schmidt is a retired professor of sociology at UnB. Author, among other books, of The State and urban policy in Brazil (LP&M).


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