Posted by On 2:42 AM

BHP Billiton facing £5bn lawsuit from Brazilian victims of dam disaster

Mining BHP Billiton facing £5bn lawsuit from Brazilian victims of dam disaster

Action launched in Liverpool against Anglo-Australian mining company after 2015 tragedy that killed 19 people

Ruined homes in the small town of Bento Rodrigues, Brazil after the disaster.
Ruined homes in the small town of Bento Rodrigues, Brazil after the disaster. Photograph: Felipe Dana/AP

The worst environmental disaster in Brazil’s history has triggered one of the biggest legal claims ever filed in a British court.

The Anglo-Australian mining company BHP Billiton is being sued for about £5bn by Brazili an victims of the Samarco dam collapse in Mariana three years ago.

The class action case was filed in the Liverpool high court on Monday by the UK-based SPG Law on behalf of 240,000 individuals, 24 municipal governments, 11,000 businesses, a Catholic archdiocese and the Krenak indigenous community.

Nineteen people died after toxic waters from the failed tailings dam surged through the village of Bento Rodrigues on 5 November 2015. The sludge destroyed hundreds of homes, devastated fisheries, contaminated forests and left hundreds of thousands of dwellers along the Doce River without drinking water.

Brazil dam disaster: firm knew of potential impact months in advance Read more

It emerged that the company had accurately predicted the risks in a worst-case assessment made six months earlier. Prosecutors charged senior executives of the dam operator Samarco Mineração with homicide and accused its parent companies â€" Vale and BHP Billiton â€" of env ironment damage.

A civil case has been filed in Brazilian courts, but the plaintiffs believe they have more chance to get fair and speedy compensation in Britain than in their home country, where courts can take more than a decade to reach a judgement and compensation offers are far short of the damages incurred.

Lawyers in the UK say that, in certain cases, they will seek 10 to 20 times the damages being offered to individuals in Brazil. For example, individuals who lost their water supply for two weeks have been offered £200 in Brazil whereas £2,000 to £4000 will be claimed in the UK. Fishermen who have only been offered £20,000 each to cover the losses associated with three years’ worth of catches will be seeking 20 years’ worth of future losses based on the slow pace of river recovery. Local governments will demand lost tax revenues and compensation for increased health and unemployment costs.

If jurisdiction in the UK is accepted, the lawsuit is lik ely to raise the international profile of the case. The first hearing would be next summer and the case could last two to five years. Representatives from the affected communities will be called to testify in Liverpool along with expert witnesses, including Brazilian lawyer Érica Gorga.

Tom Goodhead of the Anglo-American SPG Law firm said many of the plaintiffs suffered catastrophic losses yet received almost no compensation after three years in contravention of Brazilian law which says full damages should be paid and the environment be completely restored after an accident.

A fisherman clears up dead fish found after the disaster. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
A fisherman clears up dead fish found after the disaster. Photo graph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

“Brazil’s courts are cripplingly slow,” he said. “The main purpose of filing this case in the UK is to move at greater speed and to seek a greater amount. People have been let down by the politicians and the courts. We tell them there is no guarantee of winning, but we will put up a proper fight on their behalf.”

The law firm will work on a no-win no-fee basis, taking a maximum of 30% of any compensation they are able to secure for the plaintiffs. This will not be levied in the case of the indigenous community. SPG Law has already spent £1.5m on the case and estimates future costs of £18m, according to Goodhead.

BHP Billiton has yet to respond to a request for a comment, but in previous statements to the Guardian, Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton said they rejected the charges, that safety had been and remained a priority and that the dam complied with Brazilian legislation. The companies have said they w ould defend their employees and executives.

Separately from the civil action in Brazil, the three companies made a deal with the federal and state governments in March 2016 to carry out repair, restoration and reconstruction programmes. They have spent more than $1bn on a huge clean-up and relief operation, separate from civil actions launched by prosecutors.

Samarco has paid about $6.7m in fines levied separately by the state government of Minas Gerais. BHP has also announced that it is working on restoring the affected area through a charitable foundation.

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Source: Google News South Brazil | Netizen 24 Brazil


Posted by On 2:10 AM

Brazil is unpredictable right now. Here are 3 possible scenarios for incoming president Jair Bolsonaro.

Jair Bolsonaro, then a presidential candidate, arrives to cast his vote in the runoff election in Rio de Janeiro on Oct. 28. (Ricardo Moraes/AP) November 7 at 5:00 AM

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s newly elected president, represents a leap of faith into the unknown for Brazil. With reactionary rhetoric and populist appeals against crime and corruption, Bolsonaro pitched himself to the Brazilian electorate as a drastic break from the past 16 years â€" and a move away from Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the Workers’ Party (PT).

To deliver on the mandate he has been handed, Bolsonaro will need to pass legislation, which will depend on forming coalitions in the Nat ional Congress. The judiciary and its role in prosecuting crimes will also be important â€" but the courts could get tough on the new president, too. The Folha de São Paulo newspaper exposed an illegal operation that systematically spread messages against Bolsonaro’s opponent, the PT candidate Fernando Haddad; Bolsonaro’s campaign is alleged to have been involved, and the judiciary and federal police are investigating. In short, conflict with other branches of government seems likely. And that is without even considering the future of the economy or support of the military, which looks set to be heavily involved in the administration.

[In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro’s victory may mean further shifts in tolerance and moderation]

These tensions suggest Bolsonaro’s tenure will be extremely unpredictable. What happens now? Here are three possible scenarios and what each might mean for Brazil:

1. Disaster for Bolsonaro

Bolsonaro, who comes from outside Brazil’s two main parties, the PT and the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), is in a fragile position. The legislature’s fragmentation is at historic highs, with 30 parties elected to the Chamber of Deputies (for a whopping effective number of parties score of 16.4). Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party (PSL) has the second-highest number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies but just 10 percent of the total representation. And the PSL is made up of political rookies, which could make it difficult for Bolsonaro to navigate the peculiarities of Congress. A similar situation ended up sinking Brazil’s first president after re-democratization, Fernando Collor de Mello, on Sept. 29, 1992.

Brazil’s economy is also fragile. Unemployment only recently dipped below 12 percent â€" and the slide could mean the unemployed are giving up on finding work. Bolsonaro has signaled that he is willing to outsource his economic policy to Paulo Guedes, who has a doctorate f rom the University of Chicago and who may push free-market economic fixes, but will the new president â€" and Brazil â€" have the patience to fix the economy? Pensions urgently need reforms. And any global downturn or economic crisis would be a real concern, as Brazil would be vulnerable because it is a major exporter of commodities.

Bolsonaro’s combative style could lead to conflicts with both the Supreme Court and legislature. A significant percentage of his electoral base is loyal to him personally, but evangelical support could evaporate if social reforms fall short. Failing to improve security could also alienate law-and-order types, and his anti-PT strategic voters could jump ship at any time.

[Brazilian voters wanted change â€" and they got it. Now what happens?]

Given the ambivalence of some of his supporters toward democracy and the presence of a retired general as his vice president, paralysis in the face of a political or economic crisis could bring a premature end to Bolsonaro’s term. And if he picks too many fights, Congress could also act, making him the third impeachment victim since Brazil reestablished democracy in 1989.

2. Success for Bolsonaro

Or the opposite could happen, as Bolsonaro is coming from a position of strength. He won a decisive 10-point victory over Haddad in the second round of the election Oct. 28. The three largest states elected his allies as governors and the PSL emerged from obscurity to become the second-largest party in the Chamber of Deputies. Many of the other parties are not explicitly opposed to Bolsonaro and could be convinced to support his initiatives.

Bolsonaro could start off by throwing a bone to his evangelical and socially conservative base by offering socially oriented legislation. If he takes advantage of his honeymoon period to keep his big-business base happy, he could build up a head of steam that will be difficult to stop â €" particularly if the economy continues to improve.

Neither Congress nor the judiciary are popular, so when the eventual conflict comes, Bolsonaro might be able to intimidate them into submission. His son, a federal deputy, even opined, famously, that it wouldn’t take an army to close down the Supreme Court â€" just a private and a corporal would suffice.

Bolsonaro has already floated the idea of increasing the number of judges on the Supreme Court, adding his allies. His vice president floated the idea of a self-coup, or autogolpe â€" like Peru under Alberto Fujimori, closing Congress if it proved to be too much of an obstacle. If Bolsonaro approaches the 2022 election with a strong coalition, he could take Brazil ever closer to a delegative democracy â€" where Congress and the judiciary are largely sidelined.

3. Partial reform and polarization

Despite Bolsonaro’s authoritarian style and anti-system discourse, he could be less comba tive than many observers fear. Like every other president since re-democratization, he could become co-opted by the system, distributing federal money and pork to pass laws through Congress but without being able to intimidate legislators with his support among the public and military. This would guarantee some legislative success but could eat away at his support.

[Here’s what you need to know about Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment trial]

It could also be that Brazil steers clear of economic crisis but continues to see an underwhelming economic recovery. Long-term structural problems such as pension reform would probably go unaddressed. This scenario would see Bolsonaro lose part of his anti-PT support but keep his hardcore supporters on board. In this case, he very well could become a “Trump of the tropics” â€" largely ineffective, extremely polarizing and with an outside chance at reelection in 2022.

What does this mean for Brazil?

Bolsonaro’s first steps as president-elect seem to indicate that he might follow Path No. 3. He has named Sérgio Moro, the key figure behind the Operation Car Wash investigation to be his justice minister, which could either strengthen the investigation into government corruption or compromise it.

Either outright failure or blinding success for Bolsonaro â€" Scenarios 1 or 2 â€" could spell disaster for the country as a whole, damaging democratic institutions and setting Brazil on a path from which it could take decades to recover.

In fact, the best outcome possible would probably be mediocrity. If Bolsonaro becomes an ineffective leader but can prevent outright chaos from taking hold, it would at least stave off the worst on both sides.

Ryan Lloyd is a postdoctoral fellow in political science and international relations at the University of São Paulo.

Source: Google News South Brazil | Netizen 24 Brazil


Posted by On 10:33 PM

Brazil Economy Key to Bolsonaro Win, But Will He Deliver?


Key to Jair Bolsonaro's recent election victory was the support of Brazil's business community, which coalesced around him because he promised to overhaul Latin America's largest economy and address its worrying budget deficit. But the president-elect has been stingy with the details, and many wonder if he'll stick to his recent conversion to market-friendly reforms or if the dormant nationalist in him might reappear.
Even if he holds fast to the agenda set forth by his economic guru Paulo Guedes, a University of Chicago-trained economist and the man who convinced many investors to take a chance on Bolsonaro, the former army captain could face fierce opposition in Congress and from labor unions to what will be undoubtedly unpopular measures. His economic agenda will also have to compete for priority with his better-known promises to crack down on crime and cor ruption, and the latter are much dearer to his heart â€" and his base.
"It's really unclear what Bolsonaro is when it comes to economic policy," said Matthew Taylor, an associate professor at American University's School of International Service. "He himself has admitted to ignorance on the economic front, but he's also an extraordinary statist and a nationalist."
For years, Bolsonaro, who will be inaugurated Jan. 1, supported heavy involvement of the state in the economy, and he remains an admirer of Brazil's 1964-1985 military regime, which supported nationalist policies. But during the campaign, he espoused free-market principles.
It's not clear how complete his conversion is. For instance, after Guedes told reporters that he supported privatizing all of Brazil's dozens of state companies, Bolsonaro walked that back, saying he would sell off many but keep "strategic" ones, including big names like Petrobras a nd Banco do Brasil.
Amid this swirl of doubt, one thing is clear: Brazil must quickly cut its deficit or it risks heading back into crisis. A World Bank analysis concluded last year that Brazil spends more than it can afford and spends poorly.
Brazil's central government deficit was 7 percent of gross domestic product in 2017, according to the Central Bank, and has been above 5 percent in recent years. A large portion is interest payments on debt, but even excluding those, Brazil still had a primary deficit of 1.8 percent of GDP last year â€" which economists say is unsustainable because it means the already high debt level will continue to grow.
The new administration will have only a narrow window to show investors that it's serious about addressing this problem â€" by cutting spending or raising taxes â€" before they will begin to balk, making an adjustment more difficult because it could drive up borrowing costs.
Compounding the challenge, Brazil is onl y just beginning to emerge from a two-year-long recession, and growth remains stagnant. That means it can't rely on big increases in tax revenues to help it plug the hole â€" and Bolsonaro has even promised to cut tax rates.

Paulo Guedes, head economic adviser of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, leaves after a meeting with Bolsonaro and members of his party and campaign, to discuss the presidential transition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct. 30, 2018.
Paulo Guedes, head economic adviser of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, leaves after a meeting with Bolsonaro and members of his party and campaign, to discuss the presidential transition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct. 30, 2018.

Guedes, who will lead the Economy Ministry, appeared to be sending just that signal hours after Bolsonaro's victory on Oct. 28. He laid out a three-part pla n to reduce Brazil's public spending by passing a pension reform, privatizing state companies to draw down the debt and enacting other unspecified reforms that will reduce "privileges and waste."
Pension reform will be the linchpin in reducing Brazil's state spending for two reasons: Brazil's government spends more on pensions than anything else, and many other parts of the budget can't be altered because they're mandated by the constitution.
Attempts to reform the pension system will likely face stiff resistance from labor unions and other groups since any measure will force Brazilians to work longer and receive fewer benefits. Bolsonaro, who in 27 years in Congress didn't show any particular gift for building consensus, will have to build a broad coalition to get a reform through. His Social Liberal Party holds about 10 percent of the seats in next Congress, but so does the Workers' Party, which is against such a reform and has vowed tough opposition.

Brazil's President Michel Temer poses for a portrait at Four Seasons Hotel during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2018, in New York.
Brazil's President Michel Temer poses for a portrait at Four Seasons Hotel during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2018, in New York.

President Michel Temer, who is known for his ability to negotiate with Congress, failed at that task. Still, Glauco Legat, the chief analyst at the brokerage Spinelli, points out that Bolsonaro's decisive win gives him more legitimacy than Temer, who came to power after his predecessor was impeached in controversial proceedings.
Any reform will be whittled away at in order to win votes, but Monica de Bolle, director of Latin American Studies at Johns Hopkins Univers ity, says she fears Bolsonaro's proposal will lack ambition right out of the gate since he has indicated he will leave military personnel out of it. That could also mean he will exclude other civil service sectors, which are key to taking a bite out of the problem.
"The watering down process is going to take place on the basis of an already diluted reform," she said.
Beyond pension reform, Bolsonaro has promised to reduce the size of the state, including halving the number of ministries, and selling off state companies. Reducing the number of ministries could yield some savings, but other presidents have struggled to do that in more than name. And Bolsonaro has already taken off the table many state companies that would yield the most cash.
Instead, economists say that many of the savings lie in eliminating inefficiencies. Guedes didn't give details, but if he's serious about reducing waste, there's plenty of it: The World Bank analysis high lighted Brazil's high civil service salaries, a constitutional mandate on education spending that often results in spending for spending's sake, overlapping social welfare programs and a proliferation of small hospitals in the public health system.
Despite the challenges, Legat said it's important to remember that just by virtue of saying he'll take on Brazil's thorny issues, Bolsonaro has built momentum, which can have real-world effects.
"He brings optimism that's very important for the economy in this moment," he said. "This increase in confidence is reflected in real numbers.''

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Source: Google News South Brazil | Netizen 24 Brazil

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Posted by On 7:22 PM

Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro makes no secret of his admiration for Trump

President Trump was among the first to congratulate former military commander Jair Bolsonaro after his victory in Brazil’s presidential election Oct. 28.

The election placed Bolsonaro, who takes office Jan. 1, in position to become the most far-right leader to rule the second-largest country in the hemisphere since its return to democracy a generation ago.


During his campaign, Bolsonaro made no secret of his admiration for Trump. He often seemed to be reading from the same script. He said he would pull Brazil out of the Paris climate accord â€" long championed by the Amazon nation â€" as Trump did with the United States. He promised to move Brazil’s Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which Trump did with the U.S. Embassy.

In the campaign and in his more than 20 years as a member of parliament, Bolsonaro insu lted and disparaged opponents, women, people of color and gays and lesbians. He once told a female legislator she was “too ugly” to rape. He advocates arming more citizens against crime and allowing police to shoot first, ask questions later.

Like Trump, some of his closest advisors are his equally provocative sons.

And like Trump, Bolsonaro was chosen by a highly polarized electorate amid rampant disinformation and misinformation campaigns, according to the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which monitored the campaign and vote.

Still, to some it seemed unusual that Trump would so enthusiastically welcome Bolsonaro’s election given the controversy surrounding him.

“Had a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil,” Trump tweeted Oct. 29. “We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else! Excellent call, wished him congr ats!”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said the two men pledged to work “side by side.”

National security advisor John Bolton praised Bolsonaro as a “like-minded partner” whose election was among positive signs for the region. A senior administration official who briefed reporters said Trump felt like he “shared values and priorities’’ with Bolsonaro.

One explanation for the fawning is that Bolsonaro unseated a leftist party that had won nearly all of Brazil’s recent elections; a right-wing government with free-market tendencies is certain to be more welcomed in Washington.

The administration also is probably hoping the Bolsonaro government will provide a stronger counter-balance to neighboring Venezuela, where a socialist government has helped plunge the population into economic and political chaos and triggered a massive exodus.

Trump has taken aim at Venezuela, levying sanctions and c alling on the government to step down. One administration official even floated the idea of a military intervention, a cause dismissed by most but taken up by hawkish Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who wields outsize influence over Trump’s foreign policy in Latin America. Many South American countries have also protested Venezuela’s trampling of democracy, but Brazil was a major holdout.

Apparently hoping to gain access to Trump’s inner circle, Bolsonaro and his team sought support from Stephen K. Bannon, the former senior advisor to Trump who is often considered the mastermind behind the real estate magnate’s unlikely victory in 2016.

Brazilian analysts said Bannon’s brand of fiery, racially tinged right-wing nationalism, which he has been hawking in Europe and elsewhere, fit in with Bolsonaro’s own viewpoints and style.

Bannon told a conference in Toronto in May that it was no coincidence in his view that as the German leader Angela Merkel, a champion of the Western liberalism Bannon seems to despise, was being forced out of power, Bolsonaro was reaching the pinnacle of his own country’s leadership.


“Bolsonaro’s team was enamored of the idea of getting into the inner sphere of Trump,” said Shannon O’Neil, an expert on Latin America and a vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations. “They definitely have an affinity for Trump and how he does things and have an interest in emulating his style” â€" as well as the substance.

Whether a real change is coming in relations between Washington and Brasilia, apart from the cosmetics, remains unclear. Both Trump’s United States, and Brazil traditionally, are inward-looking countries.

But Bolsonaro appears more intent than his predecessors on building ties with the United States. The two are the largest economies in the hemisphere, but Brazil is only the United States’ 12th trading partner in goods. U.S. good s and services trade with Brazil totaled an estimated $100.3 billion in 2017.

“The U.S. would benefit from continued engagement with Brazil in areas of trade and commerce, as well as in areas of regional security to address pressing issues in the hemisphere, including the crisis in Venezuela,” said Roberta Braga, associate director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

Like many in formerly predominantly Catholic Brazil, Bolsonaro is also a fervent member of the evangelical Christian church, which is socially conservative and pro-Israel, attitudes that also align him with Trump.

Nevertheless, he has had to back down from some of his campaign promises. In the face of public outcry, he said he would remain inside the Paris climate accord, after all. And, with beef exports to the Arab world a huge source of national income, he has also reversed himself on relocating the Brazilian Embassy to Jerusal em, a move that would have angered those trading partners.

In the end, said Paulo Sotero, head of the Brazil Institute at the nonpartisan Wilson Center think tank, Bolsonaro “understands that the very divisive rhetoric will not help him govern.”

Source: Google News South Brazil | Netizen 24 Brazil

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Posted by On 5:36 PM

Brazil's President-Elect Won't Take Office Until New Year's Day, But He's Already Making Changes

Brazil's president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, does not take office until Jan. 1, but he is already shaking things up and drawing comparisons to President Trump. Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson speaks with NPR international correspondent Philip Reeves (@preeves106) in Rio.

This segment aired on November 6, 2018.

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Source: Google News South Brazil | Netizen 24 Brazil

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Posted by On 5:05 PM

Brazilian Soccer Player Found Dead After Being Castrated And "Nearly Decapitated"

Screenshot: YouTube

On Oct. 27, the mutilated body of Brazilian soccer player Daniel Correa was found in the woods outside of São José dos Pinhais, a city near São Paulo in southern Brazil. Correa, a midfielder with São Bento on loan from Série A club São Paulo, was found by police “nearly decapitated” and castrated. Officials quickly learned that Correa had been attending the 18th birthday party of his friend Allana Brittes Júnior before he was killed.

The party supposedly started at a local club before moving back to the Brittes Júnior family’s house. Allana, her mother Cristiana, and her father Edson were all interviewed by police and eventually detained on suspicion of killing Correa. Edson confessed to murdering Correa on Brazilian television shortly afterwards, claiming that he did so because he walked in o n Correa raping Cristiana and flew off in a fit of rage. Police confirmed that Correa was hit on the head, transported outside the city in the trunk of a car, and eventually tortured and killed there.

WhatsApp messages later showed that Correa was in bed with Cristiana at some point late in the night, as he sent photos of himself next to an either sleeping or unconscious Cristiana and also told his friends, according to a translation by the Mirror, “I’m going to eat the birthday girl’s mum… and the dad is here.”

Brazilian outlet Globo reported this afternoon that investigators ruled that Correa never actually attempted to rape Cristiana, after witnesses supposedly contradicted Edson’s story that Cristiana cried out for help. As Globo wrote, “Daniel was simply in bed.”

Source: Google News South Brazil | Netizen 24 Brazil


Posted by On 4:34 PM

Social divisions linger after Brazil's elections

Though Brazil’s presidential election is over, its new heights of polarization appear here to stay among society. In addition to sparking public violence, political divisions have cut deeply into the private lives of Brazilian families.

One week after Brazil voted in the far-right Jair Bolsonaro as their next president, I met up with a 35-year-old banker from Rio de Janeiro named Raquel to speak about how the election had affected her relationships.

Related: Angry at status quo, Brazil’s voters open a door for the far right

She asked that her last name not be used because she is worried about online harassment as a result of her political beliefs. Raquel voted for the left-wing candidate, Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party, who lost in the runoff with 45 percent to Bolsonaro’s 55 percent.

She said Haddad was not her ideal choice, but rather a vote “to try to block Bolsonaro,” whose “hateful discourse toward women, black and LGBT Brazilians” she considers unacceptable. And Haddad did fit Raquel's requirement for a candidate who campaigned on a pledge to reduce inequality.

Raquel’s mother voted for Bolsonaro. Though the two women have voted differently in the past, for the first time, political discussions between the two became “impossible,” said Raquel.

Bolsonaro, a former army captain and seven-term congressman, styled himself as a corruption-free opposite to the Workers’ Party, which participated in massive bribery scandals in recent years. But Bolsonaro also gained followers by lambasting minorities, praising Brazil’s former dictatorship and inflaming culture wars with false information, such as claims that Haddad created educational material in order to turn schoolchildren gay.

Raquel said her main challenge with her mother was a barrage of false information her mother read and shared on WhatsApp and Facebook. Despite pledges from Brazil’s government and social media companies to combat online misinformation during the campaign, one fact-checking group alone identified 113 election-related hoaxes that were shared over 3.8 million times on Facebook and Twitter. Fact checkers Bárbara Libório and Ana Rita Cunha wrote that the total shares across all platforms were far higher, “given that the biggest vector of disinformation in this election was WhatsApp â€" a closed platform.”

Related: Brazil fights online misinformation during election season

“It’s sad and disappointing,” Raquel said, to see her mother, an educated woman, spreading conspiracy theories and refusing to accept critiques of them. Raquel unfollowed her mother on Facebook and the two have not spoken about politics for weeks, though she hopes it will eventually be possible.

Elsewhere across the country, family feuds have broken out, doors have been closed to relatives and Christmas celebrations have been canceled.

Political analyst Marco Bastos said Brazil’s “major economic crisis” is key to understanding its current state of affairs, as is mistrust in political elites after the Car Wash anti-corruption probe. Within this context, “the culture war was instrumentalized by the alt-right as a way to get traction,” he said.

And those factors led to one of Brazil’s most polarizing campaigns in recent history: approaching the election’s first round, Bolsonaro and Haddad each had rejection rates, the percent of voters who would never vote for them, higher than any other two frontrunners since 2002.

Bolsonaro in particular specialized in targeted social media campaigns to set his own political narrative.

“There’s quite some evidence that would suggest the president-elect thrives on polarization and that he actively creates threats and enemies,” said Fundação Getúlio Va rgas international relations professor Oliver Stuenkel.

Stuenkel said Brazil’s polarization and flood of online misinformation have parallels in other parts of the world, like the United States, India, South Africa and Venezuela. As fake news becomes more sophisticated and “people increasingly live in separate universes, in a sense,” he said creating “international networks and globalizing this debate about how to deal with polarization” become all the more important.

Even after the election, Bolsonaro has continued to verbally attack his political opponents and the media, saying “we can’t continue flirting with socialism, communism, populism and extremism of the left,” and that “almost all of the fake news directed against me came from Folha de São Paulo,” Brazil’s largest newspaper, which he said “is over.”

Because Bolsonaro is not moderating his tone, Bastos says it is up to the rest of society “to maintain a healthy dialogue abou t politics” â€" especially among people who voted differently. He believes it is possible with patience and effort.

So, too, does Raquel. Since August, she’s even been dating someone who voted radically different.

Raquel met 33-year-old Renan, who works at a pharmaceutical company, on Tinder. They didn’t talk about politics on their first date “because when you’re trying to win someone’s heart, you avoid controversial topics,” he said. They talked families, books and jobs, and Renan said “the conversation was so good we only started kissing after we asked for the check.”

But it was election season, and it wasn’t long before Raquel sent him a quiz about which candidate best matched his values.

Renan says his main political belief is in the importance of free-market economics. He told Raquel he was so unhappy with the way the Worker’s Party had governed for 13 years, during which “Brazil grew much less than it should have,” that if the party made it to the runoff, he would vote for any opponent, even Bolsonaro.

“Oh, my God,” she remembered thinking. “How is this possible?”

Raquel thinks Bolsonaro’s ideas are “violent, aggressive and racist.” So she talked them through with Renan. And he said he agrees with that view.

However, Renan said his vote for president would be based foremost on “what, economically, he is willing to do,” and that he believes the social issues Raquel cares about can only be resolved by first “reducing the fiscal deficit, reducing bureaucracy and encouraging entrepreneurship.”

The couple has discussed the election â€" and now the new administration â€" constantly. And they both say that’s made them respect each other more rather than less.

It’s important “to listen to the other person,” said Renan, and to make sure everyone is basing their ideas on trustworthy sources. He and Raquel say they each recognize the trade-off the y are making in their decision â€" and that they are open to changing their minds.

“It hasn’t happened yet,” they both said. But still, they have decided not to get angry.

Raquel recalled the many times Brazilian politicians have made deals with supposedly sworn enemies in recent years.

“If tomorrow it’s in their interest to ally with each other, they will do it,” she said. “This division and fighting is only real between us, everyday people.”

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Source: Google News South Brazil | Netizen 24 Brazil