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Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro during a protest where he called his supporters to gather, as police investigate him and his cabinet for allegedly plotting a coup after the 2022 election, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, February 25, 2024.

REUTERS/Carla Carniel

Brazil’s former president shows he still has clout

He may be barred from electoral politics for the next six years because of convictions for abusing his power. He may be facing a flurry of serious legal charges over his alleged attempts to foment a coup last January after losing his 2022 re-election bid.

But in a deeply polarized country, Brazil’s firebrand former rightwing president Jair Bolsonaro is still immensely popular. Over the weekend he showed it, calling tens of thousands of protesters into the streets of São Paulo, the country’s business capital and most populous city. Among them were a number of lawmakers and even the state governor of São Paulo.

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Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends an Air Force ceremony in Brasilia, Brazil January 4, 2019.

REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Police seize Bolsonaro’s passport, arrest top aides over alleged coup

Brazilian authorities on Thursday named former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro a target of their inquiry into an alleged coup to keep him in power following his 2022 election loss. Four people were arrested, and 33 search warrants were executed in Thursday’s operation, and the former president was ordered to surrender his passport.
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Premature newborns receive treatment after being transferred from Al-Shifa Hospital to Al-Emarati Hospital in Rafah.

Hard Numbers: Gaza newborns evacuated, Old Joe keeps a low pro, Shakira shakes tax rap, Bolsonaro’s whale of a harassment charge, a long overdue story from Minnesota

28: On Monday, 28 critically ill premature babies previously evacuated from Al Shifa Hospital in the Gaza Strip were transferred to Egypt for ongoing care. Israeli forces seized control of Al Shifa last week, alleging – thus far without independently verified evidence – that there was a vast Hamas command center located beneath the hospital. As of late Monday, Israeli forces had surrounded another large hospital in Northern Gaza, forcing the evacuation of at least 200 patients, according to the Gaza health ministry.
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Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Mateus Bonomi/AGIF

Bolsonaro goes on trial

A powerful and immensely popular former right-wing American president went on trial Thursday, and it’s not Donald Trump. Jair Bolsonaro, who led Brazil from 2018 until he narrowly lost to his left-wing nemesis “Lula” da Silva in 2022, faces charges that he unfairly sought to sway voters in that election with baseless claims about problems with the country’s voting system.

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Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro leaves his home following a search operation in Brasilia.

REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Bolsonaro’s home raided over alleged COVID vax fraud

Brazilian cops on Wednesday raided the home of former President Jair Bolsonaro as part of a probe into falsified COVID vaccine records.
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Reporter for U.S. newspaper The Wall Street Journal Evan Gershkovich, detained on suspicion of espionage, leaves a court building in Moscow, Russia March 30, 2023.

REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

What We’re Watching: Moscow’s muscle flex, Bolsonaro’s return, Lasso losing his grip

Russia nabs US journalist

A Wall Street Journal reporter apprehended by Russia’s notorious Federal Security Bureau in the city of Yekaterinburg Thursday has appeared in court in the Russian capital on espionage charges, which the Journal has dismissed as bogus.

Evan Gershkovich, who works out of the Moscow bureau for the New-York based outlet and earlier this week penned a bombshell feature on how sanctions are hurting the Russian economy, was on a reporting trip when he was seen being escorted into an FSB van in scenes reminiscent of the Soviet era. Indeed, he’s the first US journalist to have been arrested by Russian authorities since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. The Committee to Protect Journalists has demanded his immediate and unconditional release.

The Kremlin claims that the 31-year-old reporter was “collecting state secrets” on behalf of the US government. But many analysts say this is likely an attempt by President Vladimir Putin to flex his muscles and gain some leverage amid reports that Russia is stalling in Ukraine, with one US general claiming that ongoing fighting in Bakhmut is a “slaughter-fest” for Moscow.

Putin may be looking to secure some sort of trade deal with the US, like he did last fall when Washington agreed to swap WNBA star Brittney Griner, held in a Russian prison, for Viktor Bout, a Russian citizen and notorious arms dealer held in US custody since 2008. But Griner was held for the lesser offense of possessing a small amount of weed oil. Espionage is a whole other ballgame.

We’ll also be watching to see whether US media outlets now respond by pulling reporters out of Russia. After all, the US State Department has urged all US citizens to leave the country fearing a situation just like this.

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A general view as North Korea fired two missiles from a submarine at an underwater target at an undisclosed location in North Korea March 12, 2023.

North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) via REUTERS

Hard Numbers: North Korea goes ballistic about “puppets”, Iran pardons protesters, Lula sacks soldiers, Freddy ravages Southern Africa

2: In response to new military drills by “the US imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces,” North Korea on Monday announced it had tested two new cruise missiles, which it says it plans to fit with nuclear warheads.

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A new 1000 Naira note as the Central Bank of Nigeria releases the notes to the public, December 15, 2022.

REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

What We’re Watching: Nigeria’s dwindling cash/patience, Bolsonaro’s next move, China's diplomatic European tour, Armenia’s olive branch

Nigeria’s currency crisis

It’s a little over a week before voters head to the polls in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, and temperatures on the streets are rising amid protests over a cash shortage. In November, outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari began a program of phasing out currencies of high denominations, saying it would help transition the country to a cashless economy and clamp down on the currency black market and inflation. The timing appears odd so close to an election, but Buhari’s explanation has been that the measure will curb vote buying. But fast forward three months, and banks are running low on cash, with people having to line up for hours to withdraw their own savings. After being told by the government to hand in large denomination notes in exchange for new wads of cash, many are being sent home empty-handed. This is particularly problematic because the West African country of more than 213 million is highly reliant on cash, with just 45% having access to a bank account in 2021. Violence is on the rise as frustrated Nigerians take to the streets, which presents increasing governance challenges ahead of the crucial Feb. 25 vote. In a bid to calm things down, Buhari announced Thursday that one of the three banknotes being phased out would remain legal for another two months. For more on what’s at stake, see this Q+A with Eurasia Group’s Africa expert Amaka Anku.

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