February 21, 2020


1. General Heleno: Congress blackmails for budget bump

The chief minister of the Institutional Security Office, General Augusto Heleno, has caused controversy by accusing members of congress of blackmailing the Jair Bolsonaro administration in exchange for support in the division of responsibilities over the federal budget. “We can’t accept these people blackmailing us. F— it,” he was overheard saying during a live broadcast of a presidential ceremony on social media. Control over the federal budget is at stake, as Congress wants to use R$ 30 billion (USD $6.85 billion) – out of a total of R$ 80 billion (USD $18.3 billion) – for parliamentary amendments. Since the administration would keep nearly half of the money, it could be pressured to invest in what the members of Congress want, when they want it. Heleno’s declaration stirred protests even among members of the ministry. Heleno took to Twitter to calm passions: “I expressed my opinion on some insatiable members of Congress demanding part of the federal budget, which would significantly reduce the budget for the executive branch,” he said, reiterating that his opinion is his own and not that of the administration.

Folha de S.Paulo: General diz que Congresso chantageia o governo
O Estado de S. Paulo: Entenda a negociação entre governo e Congresso
Valor Econômico: Fala adia envio da Reforma Administrativa ao Congresso
Folha de S.Paulo: Afirmação desagrada parlamentares e ministros

2. Federal government to auction three Amazon forests

From September, the federal government will auction three tracts of forest in the Amazon region. President Jair Bolsonaro authorized the economic ministry’s initiative on Wednesday. It is the first time in history that Brazil includes protected areas in its concession program. Logging will be authorized in the protected areas of Humaitá, Iquiri and Castanho. According to the National Secretary for Support of Environmental Licensing and Expropriation of the Investments Partnership Program, Rose Hofmann, the exploitation by private companies aims to achieve economic benefits, but “in a way that the forest can recover. This technique is important to become sustainable.” Along with the forests, the natural parks Canela and São Francisco de Paula in Rio Grande do Sul state will be offered for exploration of tourism.

Folha de S.Paulo: Governo autoriza concessão de florestas
Valor Econômico: Governo passa a contemplar concessões ambientais

3. Tax reform includes higher rates for 84% of industries

The primary project under the tax reform umbrella is currently under discussion in Congress. The measure could result in a tax hike on consumption for 84% of companies in the productive sector. According to a study by the Fundação Getúlio Vargas, led by former Federal Revenue Secretary Marcos Cintra, approval of the bill would raise taxes for 106 the country’s 126 economic sectors. In areas with an intensive use of the work force, there would be an even bigger impact without compensation. In services such as private security, there could be a 250% increase in taxes. Other increases would take place in education (125.5%), legal services (85.2%), health (75.6%) and oil and gas (81.7%). Cintra argues for a tax on monetary transactions in exchange for a mandatory employer contribution to the pension fund, which led to his dismissal from the Bolsonaro administration.

Valor Econômico: Reforma Tributária da Câmara elevaria impostos para a maioria
Valor Econômico: Movimento defende desoneração da folha

4. Federal Supreme Court warned about criminal attacks

The Federal Police warned the Federal Supreme Court about the risk of criminal attacks against justices. Investigations identified messages with threats against justices in the deep web (the part of the internet that is not discoverable by search engines). After the warning, Federal Supreme Court President Dias Toffoli recommended justices increase their personal security details. Messages included criticism and “plans for potential attacks against many authorities,” according to an investigator. The police say the matter requires care, but that there is no imminent risk. Still, according to the press, Justice Toffoli sent a classified memo to all members of the Federal Supreme Court warning them against a “terrorist cell” that is planning “attacks against the ministers of this court.”

Valor Econômico: Ameaças levam STF a reforçar segurança
Folha de S.Paulo: Toffoli alerta para risco de ataque terrorista

5. 3.5 million people are waiting to be included in Bolsa Família

Nearly 3.5 million Brazilians in extreme poverty are not included in the social welfare program Bolsa Família and are currently waiting to join. The program was created in 2004 and currently benefits 13.2 million families in extreme poverty, or those with a per capita income below R$ 178 (USD $40.60) a month. The average amount received with the benefit is R$ 191.08 (USD $43.59) monthly. According to news stories published this week, without the money provided by Bolsa Família, people are seeking help in city halls, which cannot provide support. Data from the Citizenship Ministry reveals that since May 2019, there has been a drop in the availability of the benefit. In May, 264,159 families joined the program. In July, this number dropped to 2,542 and remained the same through October 2019. The administration says that there has been a reduction in the number of inclusions in the past few months, but that it will go back to normal “with the conclusion of studies on the restructuring of Bolsa Família.”

O Estado de S. Paulo: Fila do Bolsa Família tem 3,5 milhões de pessoas
UOL: Cortes no Bolsa Família aumentam pobreza extrema