Brazil Enters New Era Under President Bolsonaro

Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right lawmaker and presidential candidate for the Social Liberal Party (PSL), gives thumbs up to supporters, during the second round of the presidential elections, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Mauro PIMENTEL / AFP

 

Brazil entered a new chapter in its history on Tuesday, embracing a far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, whose determination to break with decades of the centrist rule has raised both hopes and fears.

The former paratrooper and longtime lawmaker was starting his four-year mandate on January 1 as required by the constitution, after a night of New Year’s celebrations across the country.

He was taking office with a sky-high approval rating, fueled by public expectations that he will be a new broom sweeping away chronic crime and corruption, and boosting an economy still limping after a record recession.

“I will bring in politics completely different from that which brought corruption and inefficiency to Brazil,” he said late Monday in an interview with Record TV.

The 63-year-old comfortably won an October election against Fernando Haddad, a candidate from the leftwing Workers Party which was in power between 2003 and 2016 but ended up marred by a series of graft scandals.

The Workers Party icon, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is serving prison time for corruption. And his chosen successor Dilma Rousseff was impeached for cooking the government’s books.

In a ceremony marked by pomp and high security, Bolsonaro will formally take over from center-right Michel Temer, who succeeded Rousseff but made little headway with needed fiscal reform and ended up Brazil’s most unpopular leader ever.

Bolsonaro voters hope their man will do better.

He has promised to govern for all of the country’s 210 million Brazilians and campaigned on vows to eradicate graft, crack down on crime, open up Brazil’s protectionist economy to the free market, and put business interests ahead of environmental protection.

In his interview, he said, “we will de-bureaucratize to the maximum possible” and “clean out” the government so its “weight” is cut back.

But there has been no sign of him dropping the bluff, a shoot-from-the-lip style that has earned him comparisons with US President Donald Trump, whom he admires.

 Foreign policy 

Even before taking office Bolsonaro tweeted he will issue a decree easing gun laws so “good” citizens can possess weapons to deter criminals.

He also said his education minister will stop “Marxist trash” being taught in schools and universities — a swipe at Workers Party ideology.

Bolsonaro’s track record of waxing nostalgic for Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship has stirred some concerns, as have his past disparagements of women, gays, and blacks.

A more forceful foreign policy could be on its way, with the new leader saying he will do all he can to challenge leftist-ruled Venezuela and Cuba.

The leaders of those countries and their ally Nicaragua were excluded from the guest list to Boslonaro’s inauguration, although Bolivia’s left-wing President Evo Morales did get invited.

Other foreign dignitaries attending include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Hungary’s national Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Bolsonaro and Netanyahu talked up their budding “brotherhood” ahead of the inauguration. And Netanyahu said Bolsonaro had assured him that it was a question of “when” and not “if” Brazil was to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the city claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital.

Bolsonaro has already said he will pull his country out of a UN global pact on migration, and he is considering whether to keep Brazil in the Paris climate accord.

AFP

Cuba Marks End Of Castro’s Era, Diaz-Canel Emerges President

Cuba Marks End Of Castro's Era, Diaz-Canel Emerges President
Outgoing Cuban President Raul Castro (R) raises the arm of Cuba’s new President Miguel Diaz-Canel after he was formally named by the National Assembly, in Havana on April 19, 2018.
Photo: Adalberto ROQUE / AFP

 

Cuba marked the end of an era Thursday as Miguel Diaz-Canel was formally elected as the country’s new president, succeeding Raul Castro and becoming the first non-Castro to lead the island in six decades.

The silver-haired Diaz-Canel — a top Communist Party figure who has served as first vice president since 2013 — is the island’s first leader born after the 1959 revolution.

Diaz-Canel was elected in a landmark vote of the National Assembly a day before his 58th birthday.

The chamber erupted into applause as the results were read out, with many of the delegates smiling, and shaking hands warmly with Castro and Diaz-Canel.

As Diaz-Canel walked to the front of the chamber, he high-fived the front line of delegates, embracing Castro as he took to the stage, images broadcast on state television showed.

Then the 86-year-old Castro raised his successor’s arm in the air in victory, prompting another wave of applause from the delegates — some were in their shirt sleeves, while others wore military fatigues.

Between them, father of the nation Fidel and his younger brother Raul made the Caribbean island a key player in the Cold War and helped keep communism afloat despite the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Raul has been in power since 2006, when he took over after illness sidelined Fidel, who seized power in the revolution.

Diaz-Canel, who has spent years climbing the party ranks, was named the sole candidate for the presidency on Wednesday.

Thursday’s symbolic vote took place on the anniversary of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, when Fidel’s forces defeated 1,400 US-backed rebels seeking to overthrow him.

Havana has long hailed the showdown as American imperialism’s first great defeat in Latin America.

In Raul’s footsteps 

Diaz-Canel, who some say bears a passing resemblance to American actor Richard Gere, is a fan of The Beatles whose penchant for wearing jeans has set him apart in Havana’s corridors of power.

Although he has advocated fewer restrictions on the press and a greater openness to the internet, he also has a ruthless streak, with harsh words for Cuba’s dissidents and the United States.

Crucially, he will remain under the watchful eye of Castro, who will continue to serve as the head of Cuba’s all-powerful Communist Party.

Once sworn in, Diaz-Canel will be tasked with pursuing reforms begun by Castro to open up Cuba’s economy to small private entrepreneurs and reach a rapprochement with its Cold War arch-enemy, the United States.

In 2015, Havana and Washington renewed diplomatic ties, with then president Barack Obama making a historic visit to the island a year later.

But, steps towards a normalization of ties have been severely curtailed since Donald Trump arrived in the White House last year.

Diaz-Canel will also inherit a youthful population hungry for change on the Caribbean island — one of the world’s last outposts of Communism since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Cuba watchers and domestic analysts say he will favor continuity over change in the early days of his presidency, however.

AFP

Shell Relocates Gas Pipeline Across Kolo Creek Underneath River

Shell Relocates Gas Pipeline Across Kolo Creek Underneath RiverThe Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has relocated its Kolo Creek-Soku gas pipeline across Kolo River in Bayelsa from the river surface to the river bed.

A visit to the Kolo Creek Oilfield operated by SPDC shows that the gas pipeline is no longer located on the water surface across the creek.

Oil workers were seen refilling dug out sand from the creek.

SPDC had in October 2016 passed the gas pipeline above the surface of the Kolo River, hampering navigation by fishing canoes, transport boats amongst others in the channel.

The development had triggered resistance amongst environmentalists and residents affected by the blockade which compelled SPDC to remove the pipeline from the water surface and buried it under the riverbed.

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), had in its advocacy urged SPDC to bury the pipeline to protect the economic interest of residents who used the creek as transport channel and fishing activities.

Reacting to the development, Head of Field Operations at ERA/FoEN,  Mr Alagoa Morris, noted that it was a welcome development and applauded SPDC for taking steps to correct the anomaly.

“It is a positive outcome of our advocacy efforts and we commend SPDC for taking steps to come back to bury the pipeline under the river bed, it shows that we are partners to ensure that the oil industry is run in a sustainable manner.

“We always demand justice and fair play and preach the principle of ‘live and let live’, with the pipeline underneath the Kolo River, fishermen and community people who use the creek will operate while Shell carries on its business as well.

“We in the environmental rights movement are keen on complimenting and strengthening the efforts of the regulatory authorities. We are not trouble makers as some of the industry operators perceive us, we do not shout for nothing.

“When they do well we applaud and commend them, and this is a win-win situation for Shell and its host community. This action makes further protests which we planned unnecessary,” Morris said.

Also, an Environmental Scientist and development worker at Connected Development (CODE), Ms Benita Siloko, noted that she was worried about the adverse impact of crossing the pipeline on water surface when she noticed the pipeline in December 2016 during the Christmas holidays.

“I had observed the pipeline across the water surface and opted to take photographs because it looked abnormal for a channel where boats and canoes pass, I am pleasantly surprised that they have corrected the problem.

“Oil firms must understand that the welfare and economic interest of oil bearing communities count while executing their projects.

“As an environmentalist I feel happy at the development, and it shows that with the support provided by the civil society advocacy groups like ERA/FoEN our communities would be a better place to live in,” Siloko said.

Oil Spill Hits Bayelsa Community

Oil Spill Hits Bayelsa CommunityA field report by Environmental Right Action (ERA) has indicated that oil spills from Tebidaba-Ogboinbiri crude line operated by Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) has discharged massive volumes of crude into surrounding environment.

The report claimed that officials of NAOC had commenced recovery of spilled crude from Ikienghenbiri community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

The report, signed by Head of Field Operations at ERA, Mr. Alagoa Morris, said that more than 30 plastic tanks of 2,000 litres of crude had already been recovered by Agip officials.

ERA, the environment focused non-governmental organisation regretted that a joint investigative visit had yet to be conducted to ascertain the cause of the leak and urged the management of NAOC to urgently convene a JIV to the spill impacted site.

Some community sources at Ikienghenbiri said that the development had crippled economic activities in the predominantly fishing and farming coastal settlement as oil recovery was still ongoing at the spilled site.

A former Community Development Committee Chairman in Ikienghenbiri, Mr. Marshall Josiah, said that the community had reported the incident promptly but the oil firm had allegedly delayed its response resulting in the massive leaks.

He said, “Due to the heavy volume of crude oil so far spewed, we have not been able to commence the process of clamping the ruptured point.

“We are looking for a way to evacuate the crude oil from the place to enable us to access the oil-bearing pipe and repair it.

“That is what we are doing now, recovery of spilled crude oil. No JIV has been done on this spill incident.

“I saw several Geepee (plastic) tanks being used for the recovery exercise. From my observation, it may take them up to two or three months to conclude that task. And much of the surrounding bush/swamps have been completely polluted.”

The Community leader regretted that the pollution had depleted the arable land and fishing grounds available to Ikienghenbiri for fishing and farming, adding that urgent steps should be taken to bring reliefs to the people affected by the spills.

Officials of NAOC declined comments when contacted for comments.