Bolsonaro announces welfare program (Oct. 22, 2021)
Four senior Brazilian Treasury officials resigned yesterday, after the government announced a new social welfare program that would exceed the government spending ceiling established by law. President Jair Bolsonaro's government said the program, Auxilio Brasil, would start next month with a 20 percent increase in benefits over the Bolsa Familia welfare program it will replace.
Bolsonaro has sought to increase social spending ahead of presidential elections next year in which he will seek to renew his mandate. The Bolsa Familia program was inaugurated by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is currently favored by voters over Bolsonaro, according to polls.
The president made the announcements at a time when his popularity is at its lowest level since he took office in 2019, and amid high inflation and high unemployment. A Senate inquiry commission into the administration's handling of the pandemic recommended Bolsonaro be charged with "crimes against humanity" this week. (See yesterday's post and Wednesday's.)
Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said the government may try to exempt $5.3 billion of spending from its fiscal ceiling in order to boost welfare spending at Bolsonaro's request, a move supported by lawmakers but rejected by market investors and experts concerned it will fuel the country's already high inflation. Guedes plans to stay on.
(Reuters, AFP, Bloomberg, Poder 360)
Brazil's senate investigation committee into the Bolsonaro administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic didn't force Bolsonaro’s former chief of staff, retired Gen. Walter Braga Netto, to testify due to concern of antagonizing the country's armed forces, according to Bernardo Mello Franco in Globo. If so, it's an indicator of the limits of Brazil's democratic institutions, argues the Latin America Brief. (See yesterday's post and Wednesday's.)
A group of 63 U.S. members of Congress sent a letter to President Joe Biden, urging the administration to leverage its influence to confront Bolsonaro’s pursuit of policies that threaten the country’s democratic rule, human rights, public health, and the environment. (WOLA)
No country can enforce its way out of migration, instead Dan Restrepo calls for an "Americas Migration Accord, an ambitious, integrated, hemisphere-wide effort to bring order to the otherwise chaotic movement of people resulting from a cascading set of crises in the Western hemisphere." (Dallas News)
The head of the gang that kidnapped 17 members of Christian missionary group threatened to kill them if his demands aren’t met, according to a video that circulated online yesterday. Wilson Joseph, leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, was speaking to a crowd of hundreds of gang members in the open, on the streets of Croix-des-Bouquet, where the missionaries were abducted last weekend. (Miami Herald, Washington Post, Associated Press, New York Times, see Monday's post)
Haiti National Police Chief Léon Charles submitted his resignation to Interim Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who has been under pressure to oust Charles amid Haiti's surging insecurity, reports the Miami Herald.
The kidnapping underscored the growing power of Haiti’s gangs, reports the New York Times. By some estimates, gangs now control more than half of Haiti and in some places, they operate like de facto governments, with their own courts, “police stations” and residential fees for everything from electricity to school permits. (See Wednesday's briefs.)
Haiti's kidnapping surge has political as well as criminal causes, reports InSight Crime. These include a long period without elections -- which are a source of income for gangs that charge politicians for access to their territory.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is now using seafaring barges to ship supplies to earthquake victims in southern Haiti, after escalating gang violence made overland journeys unsafe for aid convoys, reports the Guardian.
A key suspect in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was arrested in Jamaica earlier this month. The detention of Mario Palacios Palacios, a former Colombian military officer, was secret until now, reports the Miami Herald.
Mercenaries involved the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July traveled to Bolivia ahead of the country’s election late last year, according to Bolivian authorities. (The Intercept, see Tuesday's briefs.)
Cuban prosecutors summoned dissident leaders from across the country who have called for protests on Nov. 15 over curbs to civil rights, and warned them against convening the rallies under penalty of the law, reports Reuters.
El Toque denounced harassment and threats from security forces against members of the media outlet's team.
A new generation of Cubans is using memes to criticize the government under the shadow of a repressive anti-free speech law, reports Rest of World.
U.S. federal prosecutors unveiled criminal charges against an alleged corruption ring accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes to a top ally of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to profit from lucrative contracts to import food and medicine, reports the Associated Press.
Maduro's swift and aggressive reaction to the extradition of Saab indicates that the Colombian businessman may hold financial secrets beyond the money laundering alleged by US prosecutors, reports InSight Crime. (See Monday's post.)
A new Wilson Center report looks at food insecurity and climate change in Central America’s Northern Triangle. “Poverty, food insecurity, and out-migration occur despite strong economic growth. The dynamics show how agro-export growth does not automatically nor necessarily benefit rural or poverty-affected populations.” Shaping policies that address food insecurity in Central America’s Northern Triangle has become a key priority to limit outbound migration from the region to the United States.
The widespread theft of the $30 deposits used as an incentive by El Salvador's government to have citizens open digital wallets reveals that the government’s proprietary technology – which was rapidly rolled out – is not secure, reports InSight Crime.
Many U.S. communities have sought to share unused coronavirus vaccines with Mexico, but have been blocked by the White House which said donation efforts must go through the federal government, reports the Washington Post.
Mexican public services are not keeping up with the country's ageing population, reports the Economist.
Mexican criminal groups are recruiting vulnerable young people through video games, reports InSight Crime.
Education often brings inequality to social classes, says Guatemalan tech entrepreneur Luis von Ahn, who founded Duolingo with the goal of disrupting that cycle by making education “universally available." Von Ahn has become a vocal advocate for the private sector’s active role in reducing inequality, writes Brendan O'Boyle in an Americas Quarterly profile.
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