Will Lula’s Brazil turn away from the West?

Joe Biden has promised to bring Brazil and America closer together. ‘Both of our democracies have been tested of late’, Biden told reporters last week as he met with president Lula da Silva for the first time. The two leaders were on the ‘same page’, Biden said. But that feeling isn’t entirely mutual. When Lula was sworn in as president on New Year’s Day, he promised ‘dialogue, multilateralism and multipolarity’, and there’s good reason to believe he’ll deliver it. In Lula’s first two terms, he was key to founding the Brics, an economic grouping with Russia, India, China and South Africa. In the post-Cold War era, Brics was important in

My part in Jair Bolsonaro’s downfall

Rio de Janeiro When I first began writing about politics in 2005, my Brazilian husband, David Miranda, was not remotely interested in the subject. When politicians or journalists would visit us in Rio and invite us to dinner, he would always try to get out of it: ‘I’m not going; you’ll talk about nothing but politics the whole night and I will be desperately bored.’ In 2013, David was detained at Heathrow under the Terrorism Act 2000. I’d been working on the Edward Snowden story, uncovering the extent to which the NSA and GCHQ surveil their own citizens, and David had travelled to Berlin to help with a documentary about the

Katy Balls

Can Boris Johnson salvage COP26?

It’s day two of COP26 and so far the climate summit in Glasgow has made news for travel chaos, Greta Thunberg’s swearing and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s unfortunate ‘Nazi’ climate comparison. There was some disappointment among government officials on Monday when India only set a target of 2070 to reach net zero, but ministers are hopeful that today – which is the last full day many world leaders will spend at the two-week summit – will see better headlines. This is also the first agreement Boris Johnson can really shout about The first of which is an agreement between more than 100 world leaders to end and reverse deforestation by

Bolsonaro isn’t finished yet

São Paulo The polls got it wrong again. In the first round of Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday, challenger Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) got 48.4 per cent of the vote, 5.2 points ahead of the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. Polls had predicted a possible first-round win for the insurgent. But – with neither candidate gaining a majority – they will now face a run-off election on 30 October. Bolsonaro hasn’t just flirted with the idea of a coup, he’s wined and dined it Lula has the lead and remains sanguine about victory. But the momentum is with Bolsonaro, the populist former army captain whose chaotic administration has polarised Brazil. Under

Don’t be surprised if Bolsonaro wins again

Brazil’s Donald Trump has a challenger. Jair Bolsonaro is preparing to take on his predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in what will be the socialist’s sixth run at office. But if the flamboyant Bolsonaro is Trump, does that make Lula the Brazilian Biden? Part of the reason Trump lost was his erratic response to the Covid crisis. In Brazil, Covid policies are mostly set at the local level. But Bolsonaro has been pilloried in the press for opposing shutdowns, appearing at rallies without masks or social distancing, and promoting chloroquine and Ivermectin as treatments. He refuses to get vaccinated. He has also done himself no favours with impatient and

Snakes alive! Playing cricket in Latin America

Cricket in Latin America sounds like an oxymoron. Yet in almost every country in the region willow was hitting leather before feet were kicking pigs’ bladders. England vs Australia, first played in 1877, may be cricket’s iconic series, but the Ashes cedes ten years of history to the contest between Argentina and Uruguay — the rivalry of the River Plate. In Evita Burned Down Our Pavilion, James Coyne and Timothy Abraham, cricket journalists with a fondness for Latin America, travel from Mexico to Argentina with bat in rucksack and dates with fusty archives. A social history with elements of travelogue, the book tells a story of new horizons and false

How worried should we be about the Brazilian variant?

How worried should we be about the news that P1, one of the two Brazilian variants of Sars-CoV-2, has been found in six people who travelled from Brazil to Britain before the hotel quarantine rules came into force, and that one of these people has yet to be traced? Variant P1 is of concern not just because laboratory study has revealed changes to the spike protein, which might make it theoretically more transmissible, but because of real-world data from Manaus, the Amazonian city to which its origins have been traced. It was first detected in Japan on 6 January among a family which had travelled from the city. A subsequent

Contains nothing you couldn’t get from Wikipedia or YouTube: Netflix’s Pelé reviewed

Pelé is a two-hour documentary about the great Brazilian footballer — the greatest footballer ever, some would say — who played in four World Cups (a record) and was one of the first global sporting superstars. But while there is plenty of footage showing his astonishing talent, if you’re interested in what made him tick, or what his life was like off the pitch, or how adulation might ultimately mess with your head, then move on, nothing to see here. Or, to put it another way, if, like me, you’re the sort of person who goes straight to ‘Personal life’ whenever you look someone up on Wikipedia, it’s as if

What we know about the Brazilian Covid variant

The World Health Organisation’s appeal to stop naming variants of Covid-19 after geographical locations evidently cut no ice with the Prime Minister, who warned MPs yesterday about a new Brazilian mutation of the Sars-Cov2-virus. Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance later suggested to ITV News that the changes identified in the new variant ‘might make a change to the way the immune system recognises it but we don’t know. Those experiments are underway.’ According to Pfizer last week, its vaccine still offers protection against the newly-identified Kent and South African variants of the Sars-CoV-2 virus. But should we now be worrying that the Brazilian variant will creep through our defences?

Has this Brazilian city reached herd immunity without lockdown?

Throughout the Covid crisis, the international response to the disease has rested on a simple assumption: that none of us have any resistance to it, being caused by a novel virus. Therefore, if allowed to let rip through the population, the virus would exponentially spread until around 60 – 70 per cent of us had been infected and herd immunity was reached. This was the assumption behind Neil Ferguson’s paper in March, claiming that Covid-19 would kill 500,000 Britons if nothing was done and 250,000 of us if the government carried on with the limited mitigation polices it was then following. Yet real world data has challenged this assumption. First

Is Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro really the ‘Trump of the Tropics’?

Jair Bolsonaro’s victory in Brazil’s presidential election has stoked fears around the world that ‘fascism’ is on the rise. In Brazil, of course, that word has a particular resonance. The former army captain sees the years of military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985 as benign ones. The only mistake the generals made, he has said, was in not killing enough dissidents—another 30,000 would have done the trick. His pick for vice-president thinks that the country should be back under martial law, and repeats the line whenever he is invited to withdraw it. Bolsonaro has been dubbed the ‘Trump of the Tropics’, a moniker he seems happy to accept. Both men

Indigenous languages are being wiped out – and social media isn’t helping

We are in Imbassai in the state of Bahia. It’s lush, beautiful and green. I am escaping the London winter gloom. For Fixyá of the Fulni-ô tribe, covered in body paint, he is escaping a desertified region in Pernambuco state. He lives by a town called Aguas Bellas (Beautiful Water) which is ironic as there isn’t any. We are here for the Encontro Multietnico, organised by Juliano Basso, where representatives of several different Brazilian indigenous groups, nearly all from the Amazon, can ‘get together, exchange information, bond and have fun’. You certainly bond with people in a three-hour sweat lodge session, even if I wouldn’t call it fun exactly. Tangara Mirim,

Low life | 12 January 2017

Still depressed, or, as Matthew Arnold put it, ‘the foot less prompt to meet the morning dew’, I got out of bed one afternoon and exchanged the soggy Devon hills for the tower blocks of Canary Wharf. I went at the invitation of Dr Ivan Mindlin, orthopaedic surgeon, Las Vegas casino house doctor during the mob-run era of ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal and Tony ‘the Ant’ Spilotro, and one of the most successful sports bettors in US history. He kindly put me up in an ‘executive’ room at a hotel round the corner from his 18th-floor apartment. The first night we went for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. We went there on

Portrait of the week | 1 December 2016

Home Paul Nuttall, aged 39, was elected leader of the UK Independence Party. He said: ‘I want to replace the Labour party and make Ukip the patriotic voice of working people.’ Theresa May, the Prime Minister, was rebuffed by Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, and by Donald Tusk, the President of the European Commission, when she proposed settling the status of British and EU expatriates even before Article 50 was invoked. She made another attempt in talks with Beata Szydlo, the Prime Minister of Poland. There was some interest in a note photographed on papers being carried after a meeting in Downing Street by Julia Dockerill, an aide to Mark

Going Dutch | 27 October 2016

In debates about what should and should not be taught in art school, the subject of survival skills almost never comes up. Yet the Dutch, who more or less invented the art market, were already aware of its importance in the 17th century. In his Introduction to the Academy of Painting (1678), Samuel van Hoogstraten included a chapter headed ‘How an Artist Should Conduct Himself in the Face of Fortune’s Blows’. Top of his casualty list of artists ‘murdered by poverty …because of the one-sidedness of supposed art connoisseurs’ was the landscape painter and printmaker Hercules Segers (c.1589–1633). This year, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has mounted three shows devoted to

Rio, Rio

Stuff I have learnt after two solid weeks watching the Olympics on TV. 1. Tennis and golf shouldn’t be Olympic sports. Yes, I know we won both and Rose’s final chip on to the 18th green was great to watch. But you can see this sort of thing done with a tougher range of competitors at any number of majors all the time. Olympic medals should be there to reward the Corinthian spirit not just an opportunity for millionaires to add something a bit different to their mantelpiece. 2. I still don’t understand the judging system for the diving but had arse quality been included in the women’s events —

The first favela

Where are you going?’ demanded the boy on the wall. A walkie-talkie clipped to his denim shorts crackled, but there was no sign of a weapon. ‘The English Cemetery,’ I answered. He slid down. ‘You need to go back that way. Take the road on the right.’ The street in question was a dustbowl where diggers flattened the ground for the tramlines that should have arrived in time for the Olympics. But no, he insisted, there was no way of reaching the cemetery through the favela. There are favelas and there are favelas, and the mesh of houses, shacks and alleys that extends across Morro da -Providência, above the English

Olympic shames

 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ‘Welcome to hell’ was printed on a banner written in English at Rio de Janeiro’s international airport recently. ‘Police and firefighters don’t get paid. Whoever comes to Rio will not be safe,’ the message concluded. It’s fair to say not everyone is feeling the Olympic spirit ahead of the Games that start here next month. Bad news abounds. The city’s mayor made headlines by declaring the security situation ‘horrible’, and body parts were reported to have washed up near the Olympic beach volleyball venue. Then an investigation by Human Rights Watch exposed an alarming number of murders by Rio policemen. Earlier in the month a baddie

Women of substance

Three women, three writers, three very different life experiences. On Monday afternoon the artist Fiona Graham-Mackay introduced us to Imtiaz Dharker, whose portrait she has been painting. While she attempts to capture a visual impression, Imtiaz, who is a poet, tells us what it feels like to be the sitter, the one who is being looked at, drawn, observed with such sharp-eyed scrutiny. A Portrait of… on Radio 4 was one of those seductive programmes that draws you in simply by the quality of the voices and the clear-sighted honesty of what they’re saying. What would it feel like to be painted, and then see yourself as someone else has

Are we about to see the return of the Kings?

With only two months until the Rio Olympics, Brazil’s woes continue, with a minister in the interim government being forced to resign after being accused of plotting to stop the country’s national corruption probe. It is not just president Dilma Rousseff being investigated, of course; a full quarter of Brazil’s congressmen are accused of criminal acts, which suggests the country may have a slight problem with corruption. There is a solution at hand, however, and one favoured by the people. Two thirds of Brazilians say they would like to get rid of presidents altogether – and bring back the monarchy. And there is a man waiting in the wings. Seventy-five-year-old Bertrand