Highlights – XIV

Image: Stela Grespan
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By BENICIO VIERO SCHMIDT*

Commentary on recent events

The first highlight is the confusion regarding Renda Brasil. After authorizing studies at the Ministry of Economy, the president denied the possibility of presenting any program, especially if it aims to “take from the poor to give to the very poor”. After this declaration, the threat of freezing pensions for two years was removed from the agenda.

Jair M. Bolsonaro has adopted an apparently confusing strategy, to say the least, which calls into question the presence and power of Minister Paulo Guedes at the head of the Brazilian economy. In any case, the question remains pending on what they will do to attract, in 2022, the votes of voters belonging to the lower income brackets. The initial proposal was the expanded Bolsa Família, then Renda Brasil. What will be next?

On the other hand, the president vetoed, with a clever maneuver, the project to exempt churches from taxes and tax revenue. It seems like an operation from the fantasy world, because at the same time he does this, he asks Congress to override his veto – in a unique incongruity – and promises a Proposed Constitutional Amendment addressing this issue, encompassing churches of all faiths.

This means that the veto solution to the exemption and amnesty of church debts is merely temporary. It remains to be seen whether the new presidential project will come before or after the end of October, the deadline that Congress has to express its opinion on the presidential veto.

Many expressed surprise at Minister Paulo Guedes' insistence on remaining in the Ministry after yet another public rebuke from the president. It should be remembered that although this and some other measures are not being approved by Jair M. Bolsonaro, many measures guided by Paulo Guedes are being adopted without any resistance from the executive, legislative or judiciary branches. This is the case, for example, of the sale of subsidiaries and the closure of Petrobrás' refineries.

Due to a self-critical article by former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso the weekend before last, the issue of re-election was once again discussed. Deputy Alexandre Molon presented a bill to the National Congress that prevents re-election. The chances of approval for a project of this nature are, in principle, very low. A survey of major newspapers, at the end of last week, shows, however, that 15 of the 24 parties with parliamentary representation agree with a review of the re-election institute. Perhaps there will be a mobilization in this direction, but not with an immediate outcome.

In the area of ​​the environment, General Mourão – president director of the Commission of the Amazon Council – continues to fight with the facts. The Pantanal reserves have fire rates that reach 70% of their territories, the fires in the Amazon have never been as strong and frequent as they are now. General Mourão, however, continues to claim that it is a conspiracy by INPE officials interested in disclosing only negative data.

This is evidently an untruth that amplifies the negative image of the country abroad. The payment of the costs of aircraft that fight fires more effectively, for example, were paid with funds offered by the governments of Germany and Norway. Such funds were suspended due to Brazilian environmental policy. As a result, there are no IBAMA aircraft working on the fires. This is a powerful negative point in the outbreak of the Brazilian environmental catastrophe.

In addition, while the environmental crisis is increasing, the government is announcing a considerable cut – which reaches up to 34% in certain sectors – in the funds destined to two of the agencies responsible for preserving the environment, ICMBio (Instituto Chico Mendes) and IBAMA . In other words, precisely when it is most necessary, the government refuses the European funds intended for the fight against fire and devastation and announces cuts in resources in its main environmental agencies.

*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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