February 19, 2021
1. Cities halt vaccinations due to lack of doses, vaccination schedule unclear
Some large cities are suspending vaccinations due to a lack of doses – or have announced they will halt vaccination for the next few days.
Even though Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello promised governors that the entire population of Brazil would be vaccinated by the end of the year, the schedule for the vaccine remains unclear, as there are no doses available. Members of the opposition, including Maranhão Governor Flávio Dino, have said that constant changes to the Ministry of Health timeline for the vaccine make it even more difficult to plan vaccinations at the state level.
Some people also question the viability of the administration’s timeline due to the fact that vaccines which have not yet been purchased or approved by the Brazilian government – such as Sputnik V and Covaxin – are listed on the timeline. On Monday, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes (DEM) announced that the city will have to halt the vaccination campaign due to the shortage of doses.
2. Jair Bolsonaro to reduce tax on cooking gas and diesel to zero
On Thursday, President Jair Bolsonaro announced that he will reduce federal taxes on cooking gas and diesel to zero. The changes will come into effect on March 1st. According to Bolsonaro, the tariff on cooking gas will be permanently brought to zero. The tax on diesel, on the other hand, will stay at zero for two months. The measure comes after a series of price increases caused by the international rise in oil prices that were then passed along to Petrobras.
In the last few weeks, Bolsonaro criticized Petrobras and state governors, who are responsible for state taxes that are increasing the prices of these products. The prices of diesel and cooking oil have the biggest impact on the image of the federal government – for better or worse. For that reason, facing a drop in popularity, the president decided to suspend the tax. Unlike former President Dilma Rousseff, who controlled prices at refineries – a measure that artificially holds prices but ended up causing inflationary pressure – Bolsonaro is choosing a less risky approach, according to his economy team.
3. Federal Supreme Court cancels charge that would make 5G more expensive
On Thursday, the Federal Supreme Court decided that telecommunication companies can install equipment in public spaces at no additional charge. The Brazilian Public Prosecutor’s Office asked for the trial, arguing that the General Antennas Law was unconstitutional.
According to the judiciary, relieving companies of this charge will lead to cost reductions and result in lower prices for consumers. They argued that this will ensure the universalization of phone and 5G services – which will be implemented over the next few years – in the country. According to experts, the Court’s decision means companies will save approximately R$ 4 billion (USD $739 million).
Folha de S. Paulo: Decisão do Supremo barra cobrança que deixaria 5G mais caro no país
Estado de São Paulo: Por 10 a 1, STF dá aval para teles instalarem equipamentos em espaços públicos sem pagar
4. Bolsonaro’s disapproval rating reaches 48%, a record high during the pandemic
According to a poll by PoderData, 48% of Brazilians disapprove of Jair Bolsonaro’s administration. This is the same percentage that was registered in 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak. Disapproval ratings of Bolsonaro grew 7% in comparison to the previous poll, which was published 15 days ago. PoderData interviewed 2,500 people in 457 cities in all 26 states and the Federal District.
Experts believe that there are two reasons for his approval ratings to have dropped. The first is that the emergency aid for people in vulnerable situations during the pandemic ended in December 2020. The second is the lack of momentum in the national vaccination campaign. This week, many cities had to halt vaccinations due to a lack of doses.
5. Supreme Court orders arrest of Bolsonaro-supporting representative, causing new crisis between powers
On Sunday night, representative Daniel Silveira, a member of Partido Social Liberal (PSL), was arrested in flagrante delicto at the direction of Federal Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes. The reason for the arrest was a video the representative posted on YouTube criticizing justices and threatening to physically attack them. Silveira also mentioned AI-5, an Institutional Act that led to the military dictatorship in Brazil in 1964.
Silveira’s arrest needs to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies, according to the Federal Constitution. This created a new possibility of conflict between the republic’s powers. While the President of the Chamber, Arthur Lira (PP), tries to reach a consensus with party leaders, the government is keeping its distance, avoiding public statements that could delay discussions of economic reforms in Congress. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled to keep the representative in prison.
G1: Deputado federal Daniel Silveira é preso em casa após defesa do AI-5 e ataques ao Supremo
Folha de S. Paulo: Câmara articula acordo político após decisão unânime do STF por prisão de deputado bolsonarista