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The politics of COVID aid and compassion: India vs Brazil

While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

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What We're Watching: The world ignoring Brazil, El Salvador's strongman, the US' vaccine stash

Why is the world ignoring hard-hit Brazil? In response to the COVID crisis pummeling India, foreign governments quickly mobilized: the US, the UK, Singapore, Thailand, and the EU have all sent much-needed oxygen tanks, medical supplies, and materials to make vaccines. But now many analysts — and Brazilians — are questioning why the same goodwill hasn't reached Brazil, where the death tally of 410,000 (the world's second highest) is a much larger percentage of the population. Brasilia's pleas for help have, they say, often fallen on deaf ears. One explanation is that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has simply made himself too many enemies: he has not only dismissed the severity of the pandemic but has also insulted much of the international community whose help Brazil, which relies heavily on medical imports, needs. Who could forget that Bolsonaro called French president Emmanuel Macron's wife "truly ugly," and questioned US President Joe Biden's electoral win? But in recent months, Bolsonaro's administration has also chided China (his economy minister recently said China had "invented the virus" and others have mocked Chinese-made vaccines), endangering ties with Brasilia's main supplier of vaccines. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by contrast, has certainly been a divisive and confrontational figure at home, but he has maintained warm relations with governments whose help his country desperately needs.

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Bolsonaro's Brazil is divided and in crisis

Ian's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Happy Monday. Good to see everyone and got a Quick Take for you as we kick off this week. Thought we would talk today about Brazil. It is the epicenter today for coronavirus. The healthcare system in the country is getting overwhelmed. Over 90% of ICU beds are filled in most of the states in the country. As a consequence, you are triaging healthcare. This is what you remember happened briefly in Northern Italy at the beginning of the pandemic a year ago. It's what we feared could happen in New York City, though never quite did. You've got nearing 4,000 deaths a day in Brazil right now, per capita that's worse than anything we've seen in the United States. And yeah, we blame the government. We blame President Bolsonaro.

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Can Bolsonaro bounce back from a terrible March?

March was without a doubt the most difficult month for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro since he came to power in 2019. The country's healthcare system collapsed under a surge of Covid-19 cases. He was forced to reshuffle his cabinet and had a falling out with leaders of the military, an institution that has been one of his biggest supporters. And to top it all off, the courts vacated the corruption conviction of Bolsonaro's biggest rival, the popular leftist leader Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva, who will probably challenge his re-election in 2022. What comes next? Eurasia Group analysts Filipe Gruppelli Carvalho and Silvio Cascione explain the deepening political crisis that Brazil's controversial president now faces.

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What We’re Watching: Military pushback against Bolsonaro, new HK “election” rules, Catalan separatists bicker

Bolsonaro reshuffles, brass revolts: For the first time in Brazil's history, the heads of the army, air force, and navy all resigned at once on Tuesday. The move came in response to President Jair Bolsonaro's decision a day earlier to force the resignation of his defense minister, along with half a dozen other top officials, in a bid to reassert his leadership amid a chorus of criticism over his disastrous handling of the pandemic and soaring COVID deaths. Bolsonaro, a former army captain himself, is famously nostalgic for Brazil's dictatorship, and his armed forces chiefs reportedly took exception to the president's attempts to establish excessive personal influence over the military himself. Bolsonaro is now facing the biggest crisis of his presidency, with his approval rating plummeting and threats of impeachment circulating anew. Meanwhile, the pandemic — which he has repeatedly downplayed in terms ranging from merely smug to dangerously incompetent — is claiming more lives in Brazil daily than anywhere else in the world.

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China overhauls Hong Kong elections; Brazil & Turkey under pressure

Ian Bremmer discusses Hong Kong's election changes, Bolsonaro's latest cabinet reshuffle, and Turkey's economic problems on World In 60 Seconds.

China has overhauled elections in Hong Kong. Now what?

Well, now nobody that would be in the democratic opposition would really want to run for election in Hong Kong because it's just a titular body that serves mainland China. There is no more one state, two systems policy in Hong Kong. The UK, the United States are angry about it. We've put some sanctions on individual leaders, but that's about it. And China increasingly integrates the small Hong Kong economy into the mainland, and it's considered a domestic sovereign issue. Sorry, it kind of sucks if you're from Hong Kong, and there's not much work we can or are going to do about it.

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Lula vs Bolsonaro: A clash of titans in Brazil

If ever there were a knock-down, drag-out, heavyweight clash of populist titans brewing — this is going to be it.

A Brazilian court on Monday overturned a 2018 corruption conviction against former president Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva, clearing the way for the polarizing but immensely popular leftist to run in the 2022 presidential election. If he does, he'll almost certainly be the main challenger for current president Jair Bolsonaro, a bomb-throwing far right populist.

Let's get ready to rumble.

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Lula’s comeback upends Brazilian politics; Senegal's dicey situation

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

We'll start in Brazil. Will Lula run for president and seriously challenge Bolsonaro?

And the answer is, it increasingly looks that way. The Supreme Court threw out former President Lula's former conviction, saying they didn't have jurisdiction. And the court that he was actually charged, court members were surprised by this. Lula's own PT party surprised by this. It means a couple of things. One, he's much more likely to run. He's extremely popular on the left. His PT party has about 20% approval in the country. And that means that between Bolsonaro, the president, and Lula on the left, there's very little room in the center. This is going to be an incredibly contentious and polarized election, much more so than in the United States, even this past November.

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