Vaccines, 5G and guardianship

Image: Anderson Antonangelo
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By JORGE ALMEIDA*

Indefinitions regarding the 5G internet are marked by disputes and interests inside and outside the government

Faced with the stalemate for the arrival of vaccines, Jair M. Bolsonaro appointed a commission for negotiations with the Chinese ambassador, composed of the Minister of Agriculture, Communications and Health.

Ernesto Araújo, from Foreign Affairs, was left out because he was not considered qualified to represent Brazil, much less to restore dialogue with the Chinese ambassador, with whom he had several public clashes.

The Minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina, represents the landowners of agribusiness and the capitalists of its productive chain, who are very favorable to good commercial relations, investments and Chinese financing.

The Minister of Communications, Fábio Faria, is directly linked to the 5G Internet contest, whose announcement is expected for March and the auction in June.

Bolsonaro would like to veto the Chinese Huawei and the auction’s rapporteur, Carlos Baigorri, even declared that 5G “requires reliable and transparent suppliers” in the “financial part, governance and corporate structure”, which are indirect against Huawei, which is accused of espionage, but it is the company that has the best and cheapest proposal. Eduardo Bolsonaro, backed by Ernesto Araújo, has also systematically attacked Huawei's 5G and China.

But the lobby in favor of relations with China is very strong in Brazil, especially in the business community of the primary export and communications sectors, as well as in a network of influence in parliament, the judiciary, the military, academia, the mainstream media and within the federal government itself, including Vice President General Mourão.

Providing Vaccines and 5G

Before the meeting of the negotiating commission with the ambassador, Bolsonaro had sought, for the third time in his government, the Chinese president to ask for favors.

The first time, in November 2019, he asked, at the last minute, during a face-to-face meeting with Xi Jinping, that China invest in the Pre-Salt oil auction, as no foreign investor was interested. The Chinese president complied with the request and a Chinese state-owned company entered the auction.

The second was to put out a fire after his son Zero Two's first wave of attacks on China in March 2020, when Xi Jinping left him waiting for a phone call request to be returned for a few days.

Now, Xi Jinping has not answered. And he will hardly answer before the terms of the conversation and the issues at stake are previously defined.

Thus, the choice of ministers for the commission was a demonstration of goodwill by the Brazilian government in the face of skirmishes over 5G and to facilitate the import of inputs for vaccines.

Tutored by several sides, Bolsonaro is guided by the so-called “government military”, who managed to reduce his verbiage and guide the government decisions that matter most to big capital, to the military corporation itself and to the survival of the President. Not by chance, two of the great articulators of the agreements with the Centrão were generals Ramos and Braga. And, outside the government, it is surrounded by the National Congress, the STF, sectors of the MPF and most of the big commercial media and big capital.

Anyway, the big business community has already told Bolsonaro that they want mass vaccination and 5G. And who is in a hurry. He was reluctant, but he is providing. Meanwhile, the Chinese trade.

The Chinese political elite and business community are well prepared, have clear interests, act strategically and are pragmatic. It doesn't matter the political regime or the ideology of rulers or businessmen.

What matters is what they call “win-win”, the “win-win”, when everyone wins in immediate terms, in the logic of the capitalist market. But they also win strategically, as in the case of 5G, and are advancing as a capitalist power in the global technological and geopolitical dispute.

In the midst of inter-imperialist competition between the US and China for the technological vanguard of world capitalism, Brazil does not have a national project. Just watch the dispute as an average consumer chooses between Amazon and Alibaba.

The fact is that, after the meeting of the commission of ministers with the Chinese ambassador, things unraveled. The inputs began to arrive and the auction process began to move forward without harming the interests of the Chinese.

But there are still some mysteries to be deciphered.

Mysteries to be deciphered

At the end of last week (29/02), Baigorri's report to Anatel and an MCom ordinance were released, which converge on not creating vetoes to Huawei. But they bring a series of conditions for operators, such as a specific network for the government (operated by Telebrás), supposedly to guarantee data security, and a series of other specifications that increase the cost and delay the implementation of 5G. They also reduce the grant fee to around zero and, by preventing the use of existing 4G networks, reduce the competitive advantages of Huawei, which provided most of the 4G infrastructure in Brazil.

There is a lot of pressure and lobbying from operators against these requirements. In addition, Minister Paulo Guedes would also be against these requirements of the ordinance, as this would lead to a strengthening of Telebrás, posing difficulties for its privatization.

For this reason, in the middle of the Anatel meeting (February 1st) that would approve the public notice, and after there was already a majority of three votes in favor of Baigorri's report, the president of the Agency asked for a review of the process, postponing the decision to 24. This request for views was supported by Conexis Brasil Digital, which is the association of large telecommunication operators, and by Paulo Guedes, who wants to avoid a reinforcement of Telebrás. So there are still unsolved mysteries.

Another mystery is the future of the Ministries of Pazuello and Ernesto Araújo. Contrary to what Bolsonaro discloses in the media, both had no role in the issue of vaccines and 5G.

Araújo seemed to be in decline, after so many clashes with the Chinese, other messes and the defeat of Trump, of whom he is an ardent supporter. Bolsonaro would have even probed Temer for the role. But he would not have accepted it, because he prefers his current role as a lobbyist for China's Huawei.

But, after an imprudent statement by Mourão to the press insinuating Araújo's departure, Bolsonaro does not want to give in. Until when?

As for Pazuello, Centrão is keeping an eye on this, “talquei”?

*Jorge Almeida He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at UFBA.

 

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