Tag Archives: Foreign Development Assistance

Millions of people in Brazil are returning to poverty as pandemic relief dries up | Instant News

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Tatiana Araujo de Sirqueira, a 33-year-old single mother of six, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro are nearly neighbors. But they inhabit different universes.

Sirqueira lives in a landfill less than a mile from Planalto’s presidential palace in Brasilia, along with 36 other families, and raises money by recycling trash.

He is one of 40 million or more “invisible” Brazilians, a term coined by Economy Minister Paulo Guedes for the unemployed who have largely flown under the radar of the government – and Brazilian society.

“I live next to the president. I see him and his security pass by here every day, ”he said one hot, dusty afternoon outside his improvised shack. “How can he pass here every day and not see the family here?”

Last year, however, Sirqueira was nowhere to be seen. From April to December, he and some 66 million other Brazilians received the government’s most generous cash transfer program, emergency assistance to help the most vulnerable through the pandemic.

That nearly $ 60 billion jump in basic income is softening the economic hit from the coronavirus, boosting Bolsonaro’s popularity and beating poverty – but expiring at the end of 2020 unravels many of those effects.

Sirqueira now relies on a pre-existing ‘Bolsa Familia’ social benefit of up to 205 reais ($ 36) a month, about a third of last year’s emergency assistance, missing out on a second, smaller round of cash transfer programs that started in April.

“They said I no longer met the criteria so I could no longer be part of the program. My life has become much more difficult since then, with six children to raise, ”he said.

Millions of Brazilians like him were briefly lifted out of poverty only to be thrown back. The national poverty rate fell suddenly to 4.5% in August from nearly 11% in early 2020, according to the calculations of the Getulio Vargas Foundation.

However, the Rio de Janeiro-based think tank estimates that 12.8% of Brazil’s population – some 27 million people – now live below the poverty line of 246 reais a month, the most since the streak began a decade ago.

Graph: Brazil poverty rate – FGV –

The economic impact of the aid was offset by its political blow, reversing Bolsonaro’s dwindling popularity as the first wave of COVID-19 hit and winning a record agreement among the country’s poorer classes and regions, which have since withdrawn.

Pollster Datafolha showed his disapproval of Bolsonaro in Brazil’s poorer northeast exceeded his approval by 16 percentage points in April 2020, when the cash transfers began.

That gap narrowed to just two points in August, last month before the maximum salary of 600 reais was halved. By January, the gap had recovered to 15 points, basically back to square one.

Overseeing next year’s presidential election, Bolsonaro is eager to extend the program, even if it wreaks havoc on public finances, destabilizes financial markets and irks Guedes.

The new aid package, which begins in April, will provide quarterly transfers of an average of 250 reais to a small group of informal workers.

Its 42 billion reais price is a fraction of the 322 billion reais ($ 58 billion) bill for aid last year, which was nearly 4.5% of gross domestic product.

The simpler program has alleviated some of the concerns over the trajectory of Brazil’s public debt, but also reduced the impact on poverty and inequality levels.

Joao Saboia, professor emeritus at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said even with the next cash transfer, poverty rates would remain high.

“The prospects for 2021 are very bad – vaccinations are slow, the economy is stagnating, unemployment is rising and poverty is high,” said Saboia.

For Sirqueira, a single mother of six, it may have been worse.

Local authorities are pushing to relocate his family to a satellite town outside the capital. She has resisted their efforts, worried about what her children will do in the new environment.

On Tuesday, they bulldozed his shack.

($ 1 = 5.65 reais)

Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Additional reporting by Adriano Machado and Anthony Boadle; Edited by Brad Haynes and Alistair Bell


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Italy repatriates its ambassador and bodyguards who died in Congo | Instant News

GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Reuters) – A military plane leaving eastern Congo bound for Italy on Tuesday loaded the bodies of the Italian ambassador and bodyguards in coffins wrapped in the Italian flag, a day after they were shot dead in an ambush at the United Nations Convoy.

Ambassador Luca Attanasio, 43, and his bodyguard Vittorio Iacovacci, 30, died while traveling in a World Food Program convoy to visit a school feeding project. WFP driver Mustapha Milambo also died.

The two crates were loaded onto an Italian military cargo plane in the city of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, near the Rwandan border. The plane then took off for Rome.

According to the Congolese presidency, a two-car convoy was stopped on the road north of Goma by six gunmen, who killed the Milambo driver and took the other six passengers away. Soldiers and park rangers tracked the group and a gun battle ensued, during which the kidnappers shot the two Italians.


Congo’s interior ministry blamed Rwandan Hutu rebel militias called the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) for the attacks. The FDLR, one of about 120 armed groups operating in eastern Congo, has denied responsibility for what it called the “cowardly killings”.

“The FDLR stated that they were not at all involved in the attack,” the group said in a statement.

The local governor said that the attackers spoke the Rwandan language Kinyarwanda.

The FDLR, set up by former Rwandan officers and militia blamed by the United Nations and others for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, has been blamed for previous kidnappings, including two British tourists who were detained for several days in May 2018.

President Felix Tshisekedi sent his top diplomatic adviser to Goma to support an investigation by local authorities, and the Congolese envoy in Rome will hand over a letter from Tshisekedi to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, the Congolese presidency said.

Dario Tedesco, an Italian volcanologist living in Goma, pays tribute to his friend Attanasio.

“He was able to talk to all of us, very differently because, he adapted to each of us, (made) us feel we were important,” said Tedesco. “He believes in what he is doing and this shouldn’t be his last trip.” (This story corrects the number of passengers to six, in paragraph 4)

Reporting by Fiston Mahamba and Hereward Holland; written by Hereward Holland; editing by Nellie Peyton, Philippa Fletcher, Giles Elgood and Peter Graff


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Brazil’s Congress will analyze next week’s emergency aid bill. -Senate President | Instant News

BRASILIA, February 18 (Reuters) – Brazil’s congress next week will analyze constitutional amendments aimed at reviving emergency cash assistance to millions of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people, Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco said on Thursday.

Emergency assistance to more than 60 million Brazilians when the COVID-19 pandemic raged last year ended on December 31, but a second wave of the virus and a shaky economic recovery have forced the government to extend it, albeit at a lower rate.

Pacheco spoke to reporters after meeting Lower House leader Arthur Lira and Economy Minister Paulo Guedes to discuss emergency relief and cuts in other areas of the federal budget to compensate for increased spending.

“It was agreed today … that among the many bills to be passed next week, an emergency PEC will be discussed,” said Pacheco, referring to the constitutional amendments, or “PEC” as it is known by its Portuguese acronym. .

“(PEC) will be presented by Senator Marcio Bittar on Monday and Senate approval will allow, through war budget clauses, the disaster clauses necessary to carry out emergency relief,” Pacheco said.

Last week, Pacheco said he anticipates a four-monthly payment program from March to June that meets the government’s fiscal rules.

For that to happen, aid must be part of the “disaster clause” in the constitutional amendment bill, reflecting last year’s “War Budget” which deviated from conventional budget rules and meant that government spending ceilings were not violated.

Pacheco said on Thursday that spending cuts elsewhere were not necessarily a condition for reviving cash transfers, but were a strong signal that Congress was serious about its long-term commitment to reducing Brazil’s record debt. (Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello in Brasilia Written by Jamie McGeever Editing by Matthew Lewis)


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The UN envoy urged the United States to relax Venezuelan sanctions, drawing a rebuke from the opposition | Instant News

CARACAS (Reuters) – A UN envoy on Friday said US and EU sanctions against Venezuela were exacerbating the humanitarian crisis and recommended the United States relax such measures, an argument that the country’s opposition has labeled “regime propaganda.”

Following the 12-day visit, Alena Douhan, the UN’s special rapporteur focused on sanctions, recommended in the initial report that sanctions be lifted and the Venezuelan government given access to frozen funds in the United States, Britain and Portugal.

Washington in January 2019 sanctioned state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela for trying to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro, who has overseen an economic collapse in the once prosperous OPEC country and is accused of corruption, rights abuses and rigged re-election in 2018.

Maduro’s government blames sanctions for Venezuela’s economic woes. Before blacklisting PDVSA in 2019, Washington in 2015 imposed its first sanctions against top officials of the Venezuelan government, and in 2017 issued several financial restrictions on PDVSA.

“The increasingly unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and other countries have exacerbated the aforementioned catastrophe,” Douhan told reporters, acknowledging that the economic downturn began in 2014 with falling oil prices and that mismanagement and corruption also contributed .

Venezuelan opposition and US officials point out that the country’s economic collapse began before the imposition of economic sanctions, and argue they are justified because Maduro’s government is more likely to use resources for corrupt purposes than to alleviate the suffering of the Venezuelan people.

“We regret the inaccuracy of reporting and the lack of mention of subjects such as corruption, inefficiency, political violence and the use of hunger as a means of social and political control,” wrote Miguel Pizarro, envoy of opposition leader Juan Guaido to the United Nations, in Indonesia.

It allows itself to be used for regime propaganda.

US Ambassador to Venezuela James Story – based in neighboring Colombia, when the two countries cut diplomatic ties in 2019 – wrote on Twitter on Thursday that Venezuela’s crisis was caused by “regime corruption,” noting that the sanctions exclude humanitarian goods. .

Reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Written by Luc Cohen; Edited by Daniel Wallis


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“Forever grateful” – Portugal thanks Germany for its COVID-19 assistance | Instant News

BERLIN, February 3 (Reuters) – The German military on Wednesday sent more than 20 doctors and nurses along with ventilators and hospital beds to coronavirus-stricken Portugal, where an increase in severe cases has prompted several European countries to offer assistance.

“This mission is necessary because at the moment there is a very difficult situation in Portugal and because we have to show here in the framework of European solidarity that countries can only tackle this great challenge together,” said military general practitioner Ulrich Baumgaertner.

A military transport plane carrying 26 doctors, nurses and cleaners as well as 40 mobile ventilators and 10 went to Lisbon.

The German military team will also bring 150 hospital beds to Portugal and aim to stay for three weeks.

Portuguese Ambassador Francisco Pimentel de Mello Ribeiro de Menezes thanked the German government and military for medical support: “Their work will be welcomed in Portugal and we will forever be grateful for this assistance.”

Hospitals across Portugal, a country of about 10 million people, are on the brink of collapse, with ambulances sometimes queuing for hours for lack of beds as some health units struggle to find enough cooled space to preserve bodies.

Although the country’s daily infections and COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday are further backing than last week’s record and fewer patients in intensive care, doctors and nurses are still overreacting.

Portugal, which has so far reported a total of 13,017 deaths from COVID-19 and 731,861 cases, reported nearly half of all deaths from COVID-19 last month as cases accelerated. (Reporting by Michael Nienaber in Berlin and Catarina Demony in Lisbon; editing by Emma Thomasson and Angus MacSwan)


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