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DON’T GO TOO FAR WITH THE “TROPICAL TRUMP” STUFF

DON’T GO TOO FAR WITH THE “TROPICAL TRUMP” STUFF

As widely expected, Brazil’s far-right firebrand Jair Bolsonaro won the country’s presidential runoff in a landslide on Sunday. His brash and improbable rise to power has invited comparisons to US President Donald Trump, whom he openly admires.


So we thought we’d take a look at what that comparison does and doesn’t tell us about the man set to lead Latin America’s largest country.

It’s true that Trump and Bolsonaro have some important things in common. They both surged from the fringes to the center of power by exploiting popular frustrations with the traditional political class. They have both thrived on polarization and love to use rough language – in particular about women and minorities – to signal to their followers a kind of brash, unyielding authenticity. They both shrewdly used social media to circumvent mainstream media outlets that they decried as biased and hostile. Neither man has much regard for environmental protections or multilateral agreements, and the business community has gladly taken a gamble on both.

But taking the comparison too far can obscure the uniqueness of Brazil’s situation, which is very different from the United States. While Trump, to be sure, tapped into many Americans’ rising frustrations with trade, technology, and a changing society, his inaugural description of “American carnage” rings much truer of today’s Brazil than it does of the US.

Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America, has a rising murder rate that is more than six times higher than that of the US. What’s more, Brazil is just barely clawing out of the worst economic contraction in its history, and the country’s political class has been gutted by a multi-year anti-graft scandal that exposed malfeasance across the political spectrum, among officials and top businessmen alike. Popular confidence in the government has collapsed.

In his bid to solve these problems, Mr. Bolsonaro takes office with a stronger mandate than Trump – he won the popular vote by a whopping 10 million ballots with turnout of 80 percent – but also with a weak grip on a badly fragmented legislature. Trump lost the popular vote but came into office with both houses of Congress firmly on his side.

Bolsonaro, a former army man, has a defined track record of authoritarian pronouncements. That has raised concerns about how he – and Brazil’s institutions of democracy – will react if the going gets tougher in what is, quite clearly, a very tough situation to begin with.

So while Bolsonaro and Trump are certainly both part of the broader shift away from traditional political parties and norms that has swept across the world’s major democracies in recent years, Mr. Bolsonaro takes power in Brazil amid very different circumstances.

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

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Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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