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tv   Inside Story  LINKTV  October 22, 2021 5:30am-6:01am PDT

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♪ this is al jazeera. these are the top stories. protests are taking place in haiti over the deteriorating security situation. the leader of the haitian gang, accused of kidnapping 60 americans and one canadian, has threatened to kill them if the ransom is not paid. reporter: there are videos posted on social media by the gang, the criminal gang responsible for kidnapping. in that video that was published on thursday, it appears to be a
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funeral of one of the members of the criminal organization that was shot and killed by police. in that video, the leader of the gang addresses the prime minister of haiti specifically, saying that, "you have made me cry tears, i will make you cry blood." the leader of the gang said he was willing to put a bullet in the heads of the 17 hostages, if his demands are not met. those amounts, being $17 million in exchange for the 17 hostages. >> tens of thousands have joined demonstrations in sudan, as tensions grow over the political future there. tear gas was used to disperse protesters, calling for greater civilian control. and the house of representatives and the u.s. has voted to hold donald trump's former ally steve bannon in contempt of congress. this means he could face charges for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into the storming of the capitol in
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january. the aide ignored a subpoena investor getting the attack. and airstrikes on the northern tigray region. mondays airstrikes left at least -- monday's airstrikes left many dead. the fighting broke out almost a year ago. those are the headlines. the news continues here on al jazeera after "inside story." ♪
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mohammed: brazil's president dismissed covid-19 as a little flu. now, a senate inquiry says jair bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity. but is his prosecution likely, and could this lead to further political divisions? this is "inside story." ♪ hello, and welcome to the program. i'm mohammed jamjoom. more than 600,000 brazilians have died of covid-19, the world's second highest death toll. president jair bolsonaro famously dismissed the coronavirus as a little flu. he touted misinformation and unproven treatments, even after contracting the virus himself. now, a senate inquiry says bolsonaro should face charges, including crimes against humanity. the panel accused him of negligence and intentionally
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letting the virus spread. bolsonaro says he's guilty of nothing. a senate committee will now vote on the report. we'll get to our guests shortly. first, this report from monica yanakiv. reporter: while a senate panel was reading the long list of accusations against jair bolsonaro, the president was in northeast brazil, being cheered by his supporters. >> the voice of the people is the voice of god. reporter: bolsonaro says he did nothing wrong. he's criticized the senate panel which has been investigating the government's handling of the pandemic. it's recommended the president be charged with 10 different crimes, including crimes against humanity. bolsonaro is accused of downplaying the pandemic, which cost 600,000 deaths in brazil, the world's second largest toll. the report says thousands of lives could have been saved, if the president had taken the virus seriously. instead, he criticized lock
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downs, encouraged mass gatherings, made a point of not wearing a mask, and delayed mass vaccination. the report will be voted upon next tuesday. it will then be submitted to brazil's attorney general, who has 30 days to determine whether he accepts the charges or not. senator omar aziz, who presided the panel, told al jazeera there is enough evidence to put bolsonaro behind bars. >> if the attorney general does nothing, we'll go to the supreme court and also to the international court of justice at the hague. we will continue to put pressure to make sure justice is done. reporter: bolsonaro says the investigation is the loss of time. -- a loss of time. >> it did nothing except spread grudge and hatred among brazilians. reporter: but that opinion is strongly contested by many brazilians, who lost their loved ones during the pandemic, and by doctors and scientists, who say the covid-19 probe is historic,
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because it points the finger at all those responsible for the tragedy. monica yanakiv, al-jazeera. ♪ mohammed: all right, let's bring in our guests. in sao paulo, gustavo ribeiro, journalist and founder of the brazilian report. in york, england, joao nunes, senior lecturer in international relations at the university of york. and in washington, d.c., paulo sotero, distinguished fellow at the woodrow wilson center's brazil institute. welcome to the program, and thanks so much for joining us today on "inside story." paulo, let me start with you today. how damaging is this report, and how likely is it that president bolsonaro would ultimately face trial, as a result? >> he will face trial, but not this year, not next year. i believe he will face trial once he is defeated in the presidential election of next year, which is a likely scenario.
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he will be tried for the crimes that were listed by the congressional committee. but obviously, the congressional committee report puts the record straight. this man committed enormous atrocities, him and his associates, and he will respond. politically, there is obviously a sort of shield, a political shield for him, organized in congress by his supporters, so the idea that the president could be impeached is far-fetched. it's very unlikely it will happen. mohammed: gustavo, as damning as this report is, it could also have been much worse. there was an earlier draft version, that i believe had called for authorities to indict
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the president and others listed on charges of mass murder, as well. why were those potential charges removed from the final report, and what impact does that have now? >> well, some of the senators who are part of the committee believe that these accusations were very hard to prove in a court of law and would seem like a legal stretch and make it easier for brazil's prosecutor general, who is someone very much aligned with jair bolsonaro, to shelf or stall the process altogether. so they believe that presenting fewer charges, but charges that are more substantiated by the incredible amount of evidence that this committee has dug during the six months it has operated, would be, from the legal standpoint, a much more sound approach. remember that a lot of these senators have prior experience with law enforcement, so they are experienced in presiding over inquiries.
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the thing is, bolsonaro, less than with the legal aspect, he's also very concerned about the court of public opinion, and for the government, the fact that the accounts of genocide and murder were struck down is some sort of a win, even if the report is as scathing as it could be, towards the administration. because in the words of one government official, everyone knows what genocide and murder is, and that would be a much worse look for the president. and in the opinion of some government officials, the remaining counts are legalized, that will be much more difficult to explain to the average voter come next year's election. mohammed: joao, gustavo there mentioned that from his vantage point, president bolsonaro would probably be more concerned about the court of public opinion right now. let me ask you about that, how are his poll numbers right now?
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what does the public think, now that they've been exposed to this report? >> well, president bolsonaro's popularity is at an all-time low, despite his efforts his -- despite his efforts, his recent efforts to solidify not only his base, but also to enhance and increase his base by developing a renewed cash handout program. the truth is that his popularity, his levels of acceptance are very low. current opinion polls suggest a very strong lead for former president lula da silva for the next election. we currently -- according to different opinion polls, we would have bolsonaro remaining at the level of 20% in a general election vote. i think that the question is, as gustavo was saying, there's a lot of questions that pertain to the court of public opinion.
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there's also, i think, the way in which this report has been presented might shake up the precarious balance upon which his government rests. so the current government depends on the support of parliamentarians, and the support of parliamentarians comes at a cost, and whenever the president is attacked and whenever the president is in a situation of low popularity, the the cost the premium to be paid -- the cost, the premium to be paid to parliamentarians, to get their support, increases. and what will likely happen is that this may have an impact not simply on the general population, but also on the level of support that bolsonaro currently enjoys from the government. so as one of my colleagues in the panel was saying, impeachment proceedings depend on the action of the speaker of the lower chamber, and this
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person has for now been sitting on 120 plus impeachment requests. the question then becomes whether this report may give strength to new or to previous impeachment proceedings to be examined. mohammed: paulo, i saw you reacting a lot to what joao was saying there, so i want to see if you wanted to jump in. and i also want to ask you, when it comes to what joao was saying about the next election and the popularity right now of lula da silva, do you think that this ultimately benefits mr. da silva in the long term? >> right now, it does. the election is a year from now. this is a lifetime in politics in any country. president lula obviously has the following, according to the poll, but at the minimum of a third -- but this game has not started yet, the electoral game.
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we will see this heating up in march, april of next year. and bolsonaro and lula maintain, you know -- they depend electorally on this very polarized situation. do not dismiss bolsonaro. he will -- he was elected with the support of an important part of the middle class and the business community. now there are movements in the business community, trying to foster a third way, or a so-called third way, a candidate between lula and bolsonaro. not sure if that will work, but yes, president lula is back. he can run next year. but do not dismiss the capacity of bolsonaro to revive --
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polls should show, earlier next year or in the first half of next year, a much tighter race. remember, bolsonaro has the power of the purse. he is not worried about fiscal responsibility. he will spend anything and everything, in order to be in a good position to get re-elected. many people in brazil in 2018 believed that he would never be elected, because he represents a brand of politics that we are not used to in brazil. he was elected. so, do not dismiss bolsonaro yet, but yes, lula ended -- one final point -- lula, in order to be elected, to prevail, he will have to make alliances. remember one thing, the two times the workers party ran
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successfully for the presidency, president lula, president yuma josef, they run in alliance with very moderate conservative candidates. these are very conservative leaders that represent a right wing up in brazilian society, so this is still a complicated game. not clear at all. and it will remain like that for the foreseeable future. mohammed: gustavo, it looks like you want to jump in, so please. please, go ahead. >> no, i just want to add something about impeachment, because i do not believe that impeachment is on the table right now, for a few reasons. one, there's very little time left in bolsonaro's term, and these processes take a long time, so it would be very convoluted.
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and we have to bear in mind that next year, congress will only work for until half of the the -- congress will only work until half of the midway point of the year. after that, congressmen will be more focused on their own races, so the congressional works will be disrupted at this moment. and there's also another point, is that everyone who's vying for the presidency is not really wanting bolsonaro to be impeached. there is this sentiment that the worse -- the more wounded bolsonaro gets to the ballot box, to the polls in october of next year, the easier it will be to beat him. but, i agree with paulo, this is a very dangerous calculation. let's remember that people tried to do the same strategy with lula in 2005, when his administration was facing corruption charges for bribing congressmen for a majority. but then the economy turned, created a lot of few good factors, and lula was re-elected
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quite easily, as a matter of fact. and i'm not saying that the same thing could happen with bolsonaro, but like paulo said, he is not off the game, because bolsonaro's approval ratings, in my opinion, are much more connected to the health of the brazilian economy, rather than to his pandemic response, as bad as it was. let's remember that last year, he enjoyed the peak of his approval ratings when the government handouts were giving -- were having a huge effect on people's purchasing power. and then, his approval ratings started to trend down since september of last year, when the handouts were halved. and then, in december, they expired, and there was a four-month hiatus in which we saw poverty rates climbing, hunger, food insecurity rising in brazil. so if bolsonaro manages, even blowing up the budget, to
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improve people's quality of life, then he's pretty much on the game, and he will try to at least get to the second round and get anti-left sentiment to do the rest of the job for him. mohammed: joao, whether or not president bolsonaro is ultimately charged or indicted, whether he's in office or out of office, do you think that it's at all likely that federal prosecutors in brazil would go after any of the other people named in the report? >> yes, it is likely. it is. it would be hard to understand that such an encompassing report did not really result in any indictments. so president bolsonaro, in this report, has been indicted for nine crimes. he is the person who has more crimes identified in the report. but there are countless others, around 60, 66 or 65 others are
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also named on this report for numerous types of crimes. so it would be surprising if just nothing happens, as a result of this. obviously, it all depends much on federal -- the prosecutor general. the prosecutor general, who is also a staunch personality -- staunch bolsonaro supporter at the moment. but i don't think this prosecutor, general augusto, i don't think he can simply sit on this report, because one possible scenario that we can witness is that this prosecutor general is also being challenged and being questioned by lots of state-level prosecutors, who are unhappy with his reluctance to confront bolsonaro, because if there have been numerous occasions in which bolsonaro -- in which accusations against bolsonaro have not followed through because of the actions, or rather the omissions of this prosecutor general. so one could see one possible scenario in which there was a mobilization of state-level
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prosecutors, that they would start their own investigations into specific individuals named in this report, such as, for example, ceo's of companies or other individuals, and this could put pressure on the prosecutor general to start acting more decisively, in response to the very serious accusations that have been identified in the report. so, i mean, i would find it very surprising if nothing happens, if nothing comes of this. however, i think i'm in agreement that the most serious crimes -- it is at present unlikely that at the moment there will be indictments, particularly on the most serious offenses that bolsonaro is being charged with, such as, for example, crimes against humanity. although that's a responsibility of international criminal court. but for example, the crime of epidemic leading to death, this is a very serious accusation
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that i'm not certain -- i don't think the conditions are created at the moment for an immediate indictment. mohammed: paulo, there's been rising anger in brazil because of the government's response to the pandemic. there has been this very emotional testimony that's been given by relatives of people who died because of covid-19. is the overall public sentiment in the country that the federal government has been completely negligent, and perhaps even criminal in its response to the covid-19 pandemic? >> yes, the short answer is yes, i think it's more than 600,000 people died of covid in brazil, a country that has a health infrastructure -- public health infrastructure that is pretty decent, but was not allowed to work, to function this time by a government that negates the existence of covid.
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you could say that botsonaro's history -- it is at the same time careful to jump to conclusions. he has the power of the purse. brazil is a very conservative nation, and this game, the electoral game, has not yet started, really. and the left, by the way, very divided, and we shall see what happens in this dynamic, if the more moderate forces are capable of producing a more centrist figure, a viable candidate. it doesn't look like it will happen, it doesn't look like it now, but the development -- this development could take shape. one important point on the positive side, i will be a little bit daring here, but the
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fact is that institutions in brazil work, they continue to work, they are doing what they are supposed to do. it is sometimes very difficult, to watch what's happening, but this report from the senate, from the congress shows that yes, the representatives of the people are doing the job. they know what is the population's expectations of them, and they are reacting by investigating, by producing reports such as this. mohammed: gustavo, where do things stand in the country right now, when it comes to covid-19, when it comes to the state of the pandemic? how is the vaccine rollout going? what about infection rates at the moment? >> well, brazil is in, let's say, the best moment of the pandemic since april of last year. september has been the least deadly month since october of
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last year, and deaths have trended down since peaking in march of this year. and that's mainly because of vaccines, because the government stalled -- deliberately stalled, as the covid inquiry showed vaccine purchases from pfizer, from other manufacturers like cylovac. but once the state level agents started to push for vaccine production locally, that pressured the government into rolling out vaccines, and the more political pressure ramped up, the more the government was forced to increase rollouts. so now we have about 50%, just over 50% of the population fully immunized and three quarters with at least one dose, and several big urban centers have vaccination rates right next to 100%, when it comes to the adult population. mohammed: joao, we only have a couple of minutes left. i just want to ask you about the enormity of this report and its
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potential impact. first and foremost, is there any precedent in brazil of a president or another government official being held to account for decision making during either a pandemic or a public health crisis? >> not to this extent. i think this is the -- to my knowledge, please correct me, following gustavo, to my knowledge, this is the most far-reaching and the most encompassing indictment of the -- of a president in office, and i think one of the peculiarities of the report is that it covers a broad range of crimes. so we have common crimes, so-called crimes, in terms of the common law or civil law, and then we have crimes of so-called crimes of responsibility, which are crimes that are committed by those who hold office, and as a result of their holding office. and then we have crimes against humanity. i think this is unheard of, to my knowledge, of brazilian
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politics. this is unheard of, that you would have such an encompassing range of crimes identified in a president in office. so, it is very strong, it is a powerful and a damning indictment of the present, but i -- of the president, but i think we should also bear this in mind that this is not simply about bolsonaro. i think what this report shows and what the investigations, the six-month investigations of this commission have demonstrated is an entire ecosystem around the president, including private actors, including scientists, including civil servants in the ministry of health, who have all conspired, or there were a lot of crimes being committed and a lot of actions and omissions being committed, because this is not simply about the government
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omitting to act in response to the pandemic, this is also about willful actions that were taken by a range of actors, some of them with knowledge, with the president's knowledge that led to the public health disaster that brazil has faced. so, this is an indictment of an entire ecosystem of private parallel cabinets that bolsonaro surrounded himself with that would advise him on, for example, the use of hydroxychloroquine, on denying or infringing social distancing measures that willfully delayed the purchase of vaccines. so a number of the delay in joining the covax facility. so all of this can be ultimately, the buck stops at the president, but i think this is also a powerful indictment of an entire political and economic ecosystem around the president,
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and this is, what's more, one of the most important conclusions to be taken of this report. mohammed: all right, well, we have run out of time, so we're going to have to leave the conversation there. thanks so much to all of our guests, gustavo ribeiro, joao nunez, and paulo sotero. and thank you, too, for watching. you can see the program again anytime by visiting our website, aljazeera.com. and for further discussion, go to our facebook page. that is facebook.com/ajinsidestory. you can also join the conversation on twitter. our handle is @ajinsidestory. from me, mohammed jamjoom, and the whole team here, bye for now. ♪ ççççcçgççococç
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