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.

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This weekend, world leaders will open the COP26 climate summit, the UN's annual climate change conference, in Glasgow. Some insist this event is crucial to the multinational fight to limit the effects of climate change; others dismiss it as a circus that will feature politicos, protesters and celebrities competing for attention – one that's long on lofty promises and short on substance.

What's on the agenda?

Political leaders and negotiators from more than 120 countries will gather to talk about two big subjects. First, how to reduce the heat-trapping carbon emissions that scientists warn can inflict catastrophic damage on millions of people. This is where they'll offer their "nationally determined contributions," diplomatic jargon for their updated promises on their climate goals. Second, how to help poorer countries pay for adaptation to the climate damage that's already unavoidable.

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Some enterprising South African scientists are now making a bold bid to change that, with an experiment that could benefit not only Africa's 54 nations and billion people, but the entire world: Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a Cape Town-based startup, has developed a plan to reverse-engineer Moderna's mRNA shot and manufacture it for priority distribution on the continent.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Has Russian behavior in cyber changed after President Biden and President Putin's meeting earlier this year?

Well, unfortunately, we see ongoing assertiveness and aggression from the Russian side, targeting the US government, but also US tech companies. And the fact that there is so little accountability probably keeps motivating. Shortly before the Russian elections, Apple and Google removed an app built by opposition parties, to help voters identify the best candidate to challenge Putin's party. The company sided pressure on their employees in Russia, but of course, the pressure on the Russian population is constant. And after these dramatic events, the silence from Western governments was deafening.

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No government today has the toolbox to tinker with Big Tech – that's why it's time to start thinking of the biggest tech companies as bona fide "digital nation states" with their own foreign relations, Ian Bremmer explains on GZERO World. Never has a small group of companies held such an expansive influence over humanity. And in this vast new digital territory, governments have little idea what to do.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Big Tech: Global sovereignty, unintended consequences

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