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BRAZIL GOES TO THE POLLS

BRAZIL GOES TO THE POLLS

If you like drama, you’ve got to love politics in Brazil, the world’s fourth-largest democracy. One of the country’s two most popular politicians is in prison, and the other is recovering from a knife attack. This weekend, Brazil’s beleaguered voters will finally head to the polls.


It’s little wonder the country’s mood is sour. Since the triumphant days of 2009 when the famous Economist cover gave us the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue lifting off like a rocket, Brazilians have suffered through…

  • The worst recession in the country’s history
  • Brazil’s biggest-ever public corruption scandal
  • One of the world’s highest murder rates
  • Deepening public polarization
  • An underperforming national football team

In fact, it’s been five years since The Economist brought that statue back down in flames.

This Sunday, Brazil’s voters can vent their fury and elect new leaders. In a first round of presidential voting, they’ll choose among 13 candidates. Unless one of them gets 50 percent of the vote, the top two will meet in a second round on October 28. They will also elect 27 state governors, all 513 members of the lower house of congress, and two-thirds of the Senate.

The presidential frontrunner: Jair Bolsonaro has emerged as prime contender with a no-nonsense, law-and-order message. A former army captain with a former general as his vice-presidential running mate, Bolsonaro loves the military, hates the left, belittles women, and despises homosexuals. In an environment where crime and out-of-control entitlement spending trump other issues, Bolsonaro has built surprisingly broad appeal.

The likely challenger: His likeliest second-round opponent will be former Sao Paulo mayor and Worker’s Party candidate Fernando Haddad, a man best known as last-minute stand-in for (the far more charismatic) former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, now serving a 12-year sentence for corruption. Exacerbating that recognition problem, Lula introduced Haddad to voters just three weeks ago by writing on the Workers’ Party website that Haddad “will be Lula for millions of Brazilians.” If Haddad advances beyond Sunday’s first round, he’ll have another three weeks to show voters who he really is.

The other key question: Cynicism and apathy have become potentially potent forces in Brazil’s politics. One recent poll found that just 14 percent of Brazilians have faith in the integrity of their country’s elections. Another reported that 62 percent of young Brazilians would leave the country if they could.

Will this election increase confidence in Brazil that elections can bring positive change? Or will it further widen the country’s divides and feed new doubts?

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

Join us tomorrow at 11 am ET for a GZERO Town Hall livestream event, Ending the COVID-19 Pandemic, to learn about the latest in the global hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Watch here at 11am ET: https://www.gzeromedia.com/events/town-hall-ending-the-covid-19-pandemic-livestream/

Our panel will discuss where things really stand on vaccine development, the political and economic challenges of distribution, and what societies need to be focused on until vaccine arrives in large scale. This event is the second in a series presented by GZERO Media in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group.

Apoorva Mandavilli, science & global health reporter for the New York Times, will moderate a conversation with:

  • Lynda Stuart, Deputy Director, Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director, Energy, Climate & Resources, Eurasia Group
  • Mark Suzman, CEO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Gayle E. Smith, President & CEO, ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development

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The long-simmering conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over a region called Nagorno-Karabakh erupted over the weekend, with more than 50 killed (so far) in the fiercest fighting in years. Will it escalate into an all-out war that threatens regional stability and drags in major outside players?

What's the background? For years, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been at odds over the rugged highlands of Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies between them. In the dying days of the USSR, the two sides fought a bloody six-year war to control the enclave, which was part of Muslim-majority Azerbaijan but mainly populated by ethnic Armenian Christians.

The conflict ended in 1994 with over 30,000 dead, more than one million displaced, and a fragile truce that left Nagorno-Karabakh as a de facto independent state, recognized and supported by Armenia but not by most other countries, including Azerbaijan. Low-level clashes have persisted ever since — including deadly skirmishes in 2016 — and both governments often use the conflict to stoke nationalist flames at home.

Although the trigger for the latest violence is still unclear, bilateral tensions have been rising since mid-July, when 16 soldiers died in border clashes. That violence sparked an uproar in Azerbaijan, where thousands of Azeris took to the streets calling for the army to "recapture" Nagorno-Karabakh. Now, both sides are accusing each other of throwing the first punch, and have declared martial law.

A war over the enclave would resonate far beyond the region. The South Caucasus, where Armenia and Azerbaijan are located, has enormous strategic importance because it is crossed by two major energy pipelines that carry Azeri oil and Caspian Sea gas to Turkey and Europe.

Two outside players — Turkey and Russia — are on opposite sides of the conflict. Turkey has close relations with fellow Turkic Azerbaijan, and historically there is little love lost between Ankara and the Armenians. Moreover, Azerbaijan is Turkey's main oil supplier. Turkey has denied reports that it has sent 4,000 Syrians to fight on behalf of the Azeri army, but Turkish President Recep Erdogan's moves here merit close attention.

Russia is the dominant player in the region. But although it sells weapons to both Azerbaijan and Armenia, Moscow keeps troops garrisoned in Armenia and is, technically, treaty-bound to defend the country. If things escalate further, Vladimir Putin will have to decide whether to honor that obligation. Doing so could quickly put Ankara and Moscow on opposite sides of another nasty war (they already back different sides of the civil war in Libya.)

Finally, Iran also as a stake. It borders both countries, and Azeris are Iran's largest ethnic minority. Although Tehran has traditionally backed Yerevan, and often bickers with Baku over energy and security in the Caspian Sea, the Iranians offered to mediate when the latest tensions began two months ago. Will they try again now?

On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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62: In a referendum over the weekend, nearly 62 percent of Swiss voters said they wanted to preserve freedom of movement between the European Union and Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU. The right-wing Swiss People's Party had proposed imposing migration quotas at the border, saying that the current frontier is basically a... (okay, they didn't actually say it's a "Swiss cheese" but still).

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