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Post Has Bolsonaro Fought against Corruption?
Created by John Eipper on 06/17/20 1:43 PM

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Has Bolsonaro Fought against Corruption? (Joe Listo, Brazil, 06/17/20 1:43 pm)

This is in response to the questions posed by JE as a follow-up to my post of June 16.

In order to clarify JE's question whether "the thieves of one political stripe merely have been replaced by thieves of another," it is important to understand how corruption in previous Brazilian governments worked. Brazilian presidents have very limited powers and can hardly govern without full cooperation of Congress. The 1988 Constitution aimed at diminishing presidential powers and to create a situation in which a sitting president could only govern if in "coalition" with Congress. Coalition is achieved by offering high positions in state-owned companies to political party members in order to guarantee congressional approval for eventual presidential projects. Consequently, a politician sitting in a cash-cow like Petrobrás, would be in a position to embezzle billions before being caught. Impeached president Dilma Rousseff, at the time sitting at the board of Petrobrás, approved the acquisition of a refinery in Pasadena for US$467 million when the market value was at US$42.5 million. But this was peanuts compared with the actual amounts of stolen money revealed in Operation Car Wash, a third of which has been recovered.

In order to change the swamp of corruption installed in Brasília, Bolsonaro picked cabinet members with no political affiliations but with large experience in their fields. Now in power for eighteen months, not one single accusation of corruption has been levied against him or his cabinet. But by refusing to follow the norm of corruption, the country's needed reforms have been consistently shelved by Congress and most of his attempts at lessening the presence of the state in people's lives have been barred by the Supreme Court, another outgrowth allowed by our confusing Constitution. No need to mention that the eleven Justices in the court were appointed by former Leftist presidents Fernando Cardozo, Lula and Dilma.

So, the answer to JE is no. Bolsonaro did not replace corrupt politicians with members of his party. In fact, given the backstabbing by former supporters who were elected solely for being at his side and are now seeking Mayoral and Gubernatorial seats, Bolsonaro has left his former party. He expects to form a party with players who are actually interested in making a better country.

I can only wish Bolsonaro were a Brazilian Trump or had the powers Trump is granted by the American Constitution. They both share a common goal which is making their countries a better place, but Bolsonaro will probably not resist the forces of Congress and the Supreme Court against his government and may have his term undercut by some bogus charge. The Electoral Tribunal, whose president is a Supreme Court Justice, is trying to nullify his ticket as we speak to replace him and the VP with the president of the House. They will not allow an honest president to rule the country. With Brazil probably back in the hands of the Left, the only hope I have is that America comes to its senses and re-elects Trump. There will be no better president in sight for decades to come.

JE comments:  Joe, I'll trade you!  One Bolsonaro for one Trump, and I'll even throw in a son-in-law for free!

Returning to our serious topic, you have provided a very clear explanation of how government works in Brazil.  Presumably the intention of the 1988 constitution was to prevent a president from becoming a dictator.  The result, alas, has been to incentivize cronyism and corruption.

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  • The Brazilian People are Served by Jair Bolsonaro (George Aucoin, -France 06/18/20 4:08 AM)
    Joe Listo (June 16th and 17th) has done WAISers a tremendous service by simply explaining what no media arm will. The people of Brazil are served by Jair Bolsonaro.

    The "swamp" of corruption in Brazilian government is resistant to Bolsonaro's strength of character and love of country because Bolsonaro's approach to governance reduces illegal and immoral personal enrichment at the expense of the Brazilian people.

    The apt comparison to the current situation in the US are what WAISers aren't used to reading, or considering.

    Thanks, Joe!

    JE comments:  This reappraisal of Bolsonaro's character deserves consideration.  Joe Listo gave us a "one man against a corrupt system" take on Brazil's president.  I am reminded not so much of Trump, but of Duterte in the Philippines.  What are we to make of the accusations against Bolsonaro's sons for kickback schemes?  This comes from a recent article in Time magazine, which is hardly a rag of the radical Left:


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  • Bolsonaro, Brazil's Favela Population, and "Herd Immunity" (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/20/20 5:12 AM)
    Joe Listo (June 16th and 17th) wrote a very interesting response to Henry Levin. I was disappointed that he seems to think Bolsonaro is wonderful like Trump and any criticism of either is because the critics are a bunch of narrow-minded left-wing socialists like the BBC, CNN, most Americans, most people, etc. Actually, after three and a half years of Trump, the only supporters are White Supremacists and Christian Fundamentalists, possibly adding up to about forty percent of Americans.

    Joe supposed that favela dwellers "maybe given their continued exposure to the lack of basic sanitation [have] a natural immunity against the Novel Corona." This is similar to Trump's ideas that the virus is a Democratic hoax which will disappear with warm weather, can be treated with Hydroxychloroquine pills and detergent injections.

    Analogous to Trump's opinions about Mexicans and dark-skinned immigrants, Joe stated "the indigenous people of Brazil ... have received more [land] than they can handle. They own immense tracts of lands, some larger than European countries, all of them unproductive or exploited by foreign countries. Bolsonaro is the only Brazilian president that is attempting to transform indigenous people into real citizens, allowed to vote and pay taxes like the rest of us, which the mainstream media prefers to keep under wraps." That is very nice of him.

    Last, Joe stated that any conservative president will be attacked by the dirty left wingers, "because we live in a world that aspires to socialism no matter the examples set by Venezuela and Cuba." Not me, I am a proud Capitalist who thinks real democracy and free markets are the best way, together with strong institutions to enforce them. How is Bolsonaro doing in these areas? After being fooled by Trump for 3.5 years, I now know he sucks. Even Republican conservatives have said so.

    The meme below make some interesting points.  Can the Brazilian media say something similar about Bolsonaro?

    JE comments:  When Joe Listo has the chance, I'd like to know more about Bolsonaro's policies towards the Indigenous Brazilians.  What does making them "real citizens" imply?  I presume a great deal of this involves "opening up" their lands, which historically equates with taking their land away.

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    • In Defense of Bolsonaro (Joe Listo, Brazil 06/20/20 2:38 PM)
      Tor Guimaraes just cost me a Budweiser six-pack. I bet off-Forum he would be the first to counter my comments but he arrived second. Having been away from the country for so long clearly clouds Tor's views of Brazilian reality.

      First of all, I never said Bolsonaro is wonderful. I merely stated that we have an honest President for the first time since 1985. In his 28 years in the House, Bolsonaro has never been investigated for any wrongdoing. That means a lot in Brazil where those holding public office make the Mob look like Boy Scouts. Not surprisingly, the thieves who ran the country since the Military relinquished power to the civilians were affiliated with the Left. And, yes, the critics of Bolsonaro are a bunch of narrow-minded left-wing socialists, because they fail to see that Lula's socialism only served the purpose of increasing poverty and making him and his cohorts rich. Billions of dollars from the Brazilian Development Bank, instead of being invested in the country's infrastructure, were lent to Communist countries such as Cuba, Venezuela and Mozambique, which will never be repaid as per the Bank's own risk estimate. These loans were only made public after Bolsonaro opened what is known as the BNDES "black box." In order to secure the MSM support, Lula also gave away loans at subsidized interest. Globo Network, currently the most overt anti-Bolsonaro force, received US$6 billion in federal ads over a 5-year span. Once the tap was closed, Globo is firing personnel and downsizing operations, as it cannot survive on regular advertisers only. Little wonder they want Bolsonaro gone. Aside from the MSM, Bolsonaro also gets constant fire from the Supreme Court and Congress, all too eager to oust him and resume the good old ways of Brazilian corruption.

      The Bolsonaro-Trump comparison is just wishful thinking. Brazilians would love to see Bolsonaro holding the same powers granted to Trump, so he could fight back against the Left. Given our reality, many are at least happy to see Bolsonaro aligning with America again after decades of antagonism. After Trump, pro-Americanism is on the rise in Brazil like I have never seen before. If you think only White Supremacists and Christian Fundamentalists support Trump, you will probably be surprised in November.

      Tor, regarding the favelas, as you may know I am not a virologist. I simply stated the fact that the middle-class has been more affected by the virus than the favela dwellers. This is based on the fact that the National Health System has not reached its peak capacity while private hospitals are packed. I don't know what caused the immunity but I took a guess based on what the numbers are showing. It does not mean I am right. What is your opinion? Regarding your disdain for Hydroxychloroquine, it is a fact that the chief doctor of Syrian-Lebanese hospital--who opposed the drug from the very beginning--contracted the virus and was successfully cured by it. Other renowned doctors from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, the Butantan Institute and Hospital Albert Einstein were treated with Hydroxychloroquine in spite of their reservations against the drug. Again, I don't know, but could it be that Big Pharma wants a drug with a larger profit margin since Hydroxychloroquine is cheap and has no patent?

      Your sarcasm about my remarks on the indigenous people did not go unnoticed. Let's take the gloves off and comment the truth as it is: the "protection" of the Amazon forest by NGOs and snowflake countries is a sham. Nobody cares how many trees are axed. The forest is not the world's lungs. The oceans are. Minerals are the great value of the Amazon region. Yes, there is some interest in the flora for the potential development of new drugs, but it is the underground that pays the bills. It is cassiterite, gold, diamonds, manganese and especially niobium, which is sold at 1% of its real value. It would be irresponsible of Bolsonaro to allow the indigenous people to have yet more land than they already have when these lands are only explored by 38,000 Yanomamis. Indigenous inhabitants must be given full citizenship and stop living off the taxes of the rest of the country. Brazil has the right to explore all of its territory as it sees fit. Countries that criticize Brazil have already destroyed all of their forests.

      The meme you posted is nothing compared with what Bolsonaro has to put up with on a daily basis. Not only was he stabbed and almost died during the campaign, but the Supreme Court ruled that the potential murderer's cell phones (he had four) could not be submitted to forensics since all leads indicated he had been paid by a leftist party. Just yesterday a journalist of a well-known radio station prayed Bolsonaro's death will take place before the end of this year. It's all on the Internet. Not my opinion.

      I am happy you are a proud Capitalist because capitalism is the only way forward to a better world. In Brazil, wealthy people who fight for socialism are referred to as "caviar-left." But I am sure you don't fall into this category.

      JE: Making the Brazilian indigenous "citizens" implies, primarily, in making them responsible for their acts as citizens under the Constitution. Today they are considered unimputable of any crimes. Voting is not mandatory and they possess a number of benefits that are denied to the rest of the population. Obviously, it also involves opening up their lands so the country can benefit from the reaches they contain. It is not logical that a handful of tribes hold sovereignty over territories they can't even control, much of which open to foreign countries. There are certain parts of Brazil that require prior consent of the tribal leader to enter. It is preposterous and a slap in the face of all Brazilians.

      JE comments:  I appreciate this alternate appraisal of Bolsonaro, who never gets much respect in the press I read.  But don't attack the rainforest!  Call me a tree-hugger, but I deeply care about how many trees are axed.  At present I'm feuding with my next-door neighbors who are planning to cut down nine majestic cottonwood trees.

      Joe, can you comment on the massive fires in the Amazon?  There has reportedly been more forest destruction under Bolsonaro than ever before.  He's even embracing the "Nero" moniker.  This saddens me.  See below:


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      • Amazon Fires Are Not as Severe as the Media Reports (Joe Listo, Brazil 06/21/20 12:31 PM)
        The size of burnt forest depends on the sources one wishes to believe. Portal G1, a Globo Network-sponsored blog, informs that as of May 2020 fires in the Amazon rose 179% in relation to the same period in 2019, and points the finger at Bolsonaro, as if in five months into his presidency he was able to approve environmental policies that allowed farmers to burn the forest at will. On the contrary, the Bolsonaro administration has fined perpetrators of criminal fires more than all past presidents combined.

        Respected institutions, such as NASA, report that in the last ten years Amazon fires have followed an expected up-and-down pattern, with a spike in 2020 but no greater than spikes seen in previous years. Most of the torching of crops, the major contributor to the fires, occurs in the states of Pará, Mato Grosso and Tocantins, which are part of the "legal" Amazonia for administrative purposes but with an entirely different type of vegetation. Torching in those places is unstoppable as it is cheaper to set remains of old crops on fire for replanting than using tractors and manpower to prepare the land. The largest portion of the rainforest, which tree-huggers are most concerned about, are in the state of Amazonas and they do not suffer from fire, well, because it is hard to burn land with perpetual rain. Nonetheless, poachers are still extracting fine wood in the region, mainly destined for European countries. The government is struggling to fight illegal extraction but in an area so vast and difficult to police without tons of money, I would say it will be an uphill battle.

        Bolsonaro is not actually embracing the tens of monikers thrown at him every day. Not unlike Trump, anything that happens in Brazil is his fault, even if it has been happening for decades. The mainstream media won't give him a rest. CNN inaugurated its office in Brazil in January and are already doing what they do best: fight conservatives even if it hurts the country. It's simply sad.

        JE comments:  Joe, thank you for showing us that every story has more than one side.  Yesterday you wrote that the vast Globo media empire hates Bolsonaro because he cut their subsidies.  What, I ask, might be the motivation for CNN's animosity?

        I just learned that Globo is the second-largest commercial TV network in the world, behind only ABC in the US.  Brazil has been on my mind of late:  son Martin has a visitor from Dallas, whom he met as a fellow exchange student in Brazil 9 years ago.  The two American boys proudly speak to each other in Portuguese.

        But it's time to mow the lawn at WAIS HQ.  I'll give the oak in our front yard an extra hug!

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        • CNN and Bolsonaro; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 06/22/20 4:09 AM)
          Gary Moore writes:

          Our esteemed moderator asked Joe Listo (June 21) what might possibly be the reason for CNN's aversion to President Bolsonaro in Brazil. Dismally, I think that if one has to ask that question, there may be no answer that will satisfy the asker.

          Did CNN require some kind of conspiracy theory motivation to go after Richard Jewel in the Atlanta bombing witch hunt? Did it require a back-stairs grudge to elaborately produce the Agent Orange scam for which it ultimately had to fire the producers?

          CNN is a facile, glitzy mouthpiece for attention-getting crusade, not always left but usually so, perhaps because it's easier. Go ahead, ask them. They'll tell you how untrue they know this is. And they're not always bad, just enough times to make the point. Their formula has produced plenty of resources with which to hire skilled reporters and talented producers, who sometimes are going to score important hits, which provides cover of a sort for the rest of the stuff. If they form one's standard of what to believe, then this reply to the unanswerable question must sound poignantly warped.

          JE comments:  Here's a theory:  Bolsonaro is just Trumpish enough to allow for the projection of anti-Trump sentiment onto the Brazilian president.  A similar thing happened when Spain's courts went after the Chilean dictator Pinochet, as a sort of stand-in for Franco, who was long dead.

          Tor Guimaraes (next) sees many parallels between Bolsonaro and Trump, with the exception of the latter's bankruptcies.

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          • CNN's Anti-Trump (and Anti-Bolsonaro) Bias (Joe Listo, Brazil 06/23/20 6:42 AM)
            The obvious reason for CNN-Brazil's bias against Bolsonaro is ideological, as it is its position against Trump in America. Fox News also tends to display rosier scenarios when it comes to Trump but to a lesser extent in my view. Who doesn't remember a happy Wolf Blitzer dancing and drinking wine on live TV at the DNC when it appeared Hillary had won the election? As I see it, partisan demonstrations like this removes any and all credibility a serious news outlet should strive to maintain.

            CNN-Brazil acts exactly as its US parent. Discussion panels are formed with only guests of the opposition. Rarely a dissenting voice is present. Discussions never focus on positive achievements while eventual defeats are highlighted ad nauseam. If this is not ideological bias, I don't know what is.

            JE comments:  I've said it before:  Ideology is what the other guy practices.  My Aunt Doris is the most "rightie" among my extended family.  Her view is that Fox is the only "balanced" news network, while all the others are guilty of extreme left bias.

            (Auntie D, my late father's younger sister, is not well at present.  Wishing her the best for a speedy recovery.)

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            • Media Bias Left and Right: Is It the Same Thing? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/25/20 3:09 PM)
              Seems as if Joe Listo (June 23rd) and are I closer to an agreement. Over the years I consistently stated my position that both the Democrats and the Republicans have been corrupted by the same special interest groups. Both avail themselves of media outlets supporting their positions to the detriment of informing the citizenry about what is happening in the world. The level of manipulative entertainment versus information is so bad that some years ago I stopped watching the "mainstream media" and look for independent sources much more informational with dates, facts and figures which can be checked to assess the likelihood of manipulative biases.

              However, an intelligent person like Joe Listo should be able to see that that is some operational asymmetry. For example, the Koch brothers are known to spend hundreds of millions to fight racial desegregation, take out regulations which support popular democracy, less disparity in income distribution, health care for all Americans, and other well-known right-wing causes. Yes, the left-wingers have their causes too: less vote suppression, less disparity in income distribution, health care for all Americans, etc. The big difference is that the funding from the right-wingers are aimed at providing benefits for themselves: more power and more money to their own business and bank accounts. What do Soros and other wealthy left-wing supporters get from providing money to fight vote suppression, lower income differential, health care for all, etc? What personal benefit does Warren Buffett get when he states that his secretary pays more taxes than he does, and that is not fair? The Koch brothers get billions in benefits from fewer regulations on oil production, lower taxes, "free" environment pollution, etc.

              In the same vain, people and media outlets supporting efforts for less racial and social injustices, less income disparity, less legal privileges for the wealthy, less vote suppression, fewer law enforcement professionals who break the law instead of enforcing it, less environment destruction, fewer barons too big to fail or to jail; we are doing the right things. People and media outlets supporting efforts against these efforts are destroying the American nation. They are peeing on the Constitution, are unpatriotic and on the wrong side of history. Thus, they must be stopped. You are a good man, Joe; join us.

              JE comments: I'll let Joe speak for himself, but he is disgusted with Brazil's political corruption, which he describes as coming primarily from the left for the last generation or so.

              A proposal I'd like to share.  Let's find a new metaphor for "drain the swamp." Swamps can be nice places, teeming with fascinating life. We've toured the Florida Everglades twice, and I highly recommended it. Draining our valuable wetlands is also unkind to the environment.

              To fight political corruption, how about "scrub the sewer"? It's a thought--although sewers are necessary, too.

              (I have more tributes to David Pike in my inbox, but will catch up first on the other posts.)

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      • Did Tulsa Rally Reveal Trump's Political Weakness? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/22/20 4:27 AM)
        Given Joe Listo's post of June 20th, my impression is that Bolsonaro has the mind and personality of Trump but with fewer business bankruptcies. Consequently I lost further interest in another loser. But Trump is still interesting, and honestly I was expecting that the foolhardy but brave Trump rally in Tulsa was going to be a great show of political strength, albeit short in relevant facts and benefits to the American people from his years in office. I guessed wrong.  The rally showed substantial political weakness. Once again I failed to consider the curse from the now famous book by Rick Wilson, Everything that Trump Touches Dies, even his political rallies.

        Regardless, Trump supporters see the economy as the key to keep the Senate and the White House in November 2020. I suppose short of giving up, they have to minimize the social political economic and financial impacts from the coronavirus, racial conflicts, Trump's confrontations with the law, human decency, trading partners, and many foes worldwide. The GOP senators are hoping economic growth heading into the fall, combined with promises of fundamental policy differences from the "Washington swamp" might provide a winning campaign strategy. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) stated, "As long as it's moving in the right direction and people have some hope, obviously we've been through a tough time, but I think if we see a V-shaped recovery, which I think most people are predicting now, then I think that will be a good issue to run on." He is not alone.  Sen. John Thune (South Dakota) thinks "most people believe that the president and Republicans in Congress, have better [economic] policies and strategies for bringing the country back."

        Trumpsters heading into 2020 promised to put the economy at the heart of their election message, and GOP senators were projecting confidence about their chances of winning the White House and holding onto the Senate, where they are defending 23 seats with several GOP senators in "toss up" races. The Trump campaign issued a TV ad trying to show Biden as one who would "crush our economy" compared to Trump, who "led us to the strongest economy in history. We have done a great job ... a few months ago the economy was the greatest of all time. ...And now ... I'm doing it all over again." Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News, "We're going to have an amazing year next year. We're going to have a great third quarter."

        I only wish all that to be true for the sake of our nation.  To be fair to Trump, over the years I have stated in this Forum that despite the Wall Street shine, the real economy has been dying for decades due to widespread financial engineering, corruption, and massive income and wealth disparities. The financial engineering was put in second gear under Clinton, mildly corrected under Obama, and exacerbated violently under Trump. The coronavirus further destroyed the economy and the Labor Department recently showed the 11th straight week of more than 1 million new applications for unemployment benefits. Probably part of the curse, the killing of George Floyd has placed police reform legislation in the forefront for Congress, and Trump's response to the protests sparked backlash from the world, including members of his own party. The result: a steady stream of bad polls in recent weeks. Trump's friends Fox News national poll had Biden ahead by 12-points, a Gallup poll released earlier this month had Trump's approval at 39 percent.

        The GOP's decision to focus on the economy came after May jobs report showing the country surprisingly added 2.5 million workers to payrolls that month. The unemployment rate dipped from April, when it hit the highest level since the Great Depression, but remains at 13.3 percent (probably much higher without traditional fudging). Trump's economic adviser Kevin Hassett told CNN he believes the statistic could remain in the double digits through Election Day. I believe that Trump's only vehicle to keep Wall Street shining is the Fed's continuous flood of free money for the US government to buy junk bonds and God knows what else in the future (perhaps company stocks?). Privileged corporations can also borrow more money at near zero for more financial engineering (giving bonuses to top executives by buying their own shares, mergers, etc.). With a shiny stock market, Trump can claim for a few more months that in his mind the real economy is doing great.  But that is not sustainable and the intensity of the crash for the taxpayers will increase to grow dramatically. Imagine the real value of the US dollar when nations finally realize the emperor has no clothes, God forbid. Joe Biden has no idea what he is going to inherit and won't have what it takes to fix it. This is new to all, no one knows the end game, but it is scary and enormous.

        What, you think I am being pessimistic? Just look at the people's purchasing power. How much more debt can they accumulate to buy food, shelter and transportation before they collapse? Also look at corporate debt, how much more can they borrow and what are they doing with the money? Mostly not hiring people to produce something valuable, which would make me hopeful. Last, also look at the US government debt. What have we done with all the trillions in debt? Built infrastructure like transportation, education, health care? Protected the environment? Made any friends and partners all over the world who can buy our products and services? If you want to participate in national suicide, go ahead; just don't pee on my head and say it is raining.

        JE comments:  Biden may be ahead by 12 points, but there's one thing we can be sure of for the next five months:  Nobody trusts the polls.  The confident predictions of a Clinton victory in 2016 may have been the ultimate "fake news," and gave legitimacy to the accusations of fakeness that came afterwards.  If you cannot conduct a poll with accuracy, the logic goes, how can you guess the crowd size at an inauguration or political rally?

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