Highlights – XV

Image: Stela Grespan
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By BENICIO VIERO SCHMIDT*

Commentary on recent events

A serious problem for Brazil and for future generations – of tragic dimensions – is the intensity of deforestation, deforestation and other environmental disasters both in the Amazon and in the Pantanal. During the week, the Pantanal should benefit from the rains that are beginning to fall in the Midwest region. Even so, what happens there is a major disaster in which four million square meters of vegetation were decimated by a drought and a series of fires probably caused by people interested in land grabbing and the expansion of livestock and soybeans.

On the other hand, it is worth highlighting the document, signed by international organizations, NGOs and some Brazilian banks, sent to the government requesting immediate measures in relation to the environmental disasters that are happening in the Pantanal and in the Amazon. They justify the requirement by the need to guarantee the current level of access for Brazilian agribusiness exports to the foreign consumer market. For the first time in history, NGOs and large companies, such as Klabin, for example, sign a document together.

The first opinion polls about the municipal elections point to a close dispute, especially in São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro and probably Belo Horizonte, although in the latter the current mayor, candidate for re-election, has the support of the majority of the electorate (54%). In this initial stage of the campaigns, two things stand out: (a) the attempts, made by almost all the candidates, to nationalize the election and (b) the lack of protagonism of the PT, a large party that has the largest bench of the Chamber of Deputies and with own or affiliated candidates in virtually all Brazilian capitals.

On September 22, we will have the opening of the International Assembly of the United Nations, as usual, with the inaugural speech by the President of Brazil. Following the route of his classic denialism, the president will probably tell untruths, citing unproven facts such as Brazil's alleged economic success (while the country is experiencing a record drop in economic activity). He should also say that there are only a few scattered fires in the Pantanal and the Amazon, which will do nothing to reduce the negative image of the country abroad.

Lastly, budget cuts. With the partial paralysis of Congress due to the difficulties arising from the pandemic, we are witnessing an accumulation of incisive cuts, whether in policies to protect women, in environmental protection policies or in labor inspection policies. Such cuts seek to transfer revenues for the creation of a program along the lines of the announced Renda Brasil, in a different strategy from the one defended a few days ago by the Secretary of Finance of the Ministry of Economy.

These cuts made evident the paralysis in the execution of government policies, even with the existence of resources to do so. The degree of use of available resources has been very low, especially in education – as recognized by the current minister –, in programs to protect women, in environmental policies and so on.

*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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