AP Explains: How Brazil’s Bolsonaro used Trump tactics
By SARAH DILORENZO and PETER PRENGAMAN
Monday, October 8
SAO PAULO (AP) — Long before Sunday’s election that saw Jair Bolsonaro get 46 percent the vote in the first round of the presidential race, many observers flirted with the idea that the far-right congressman was a “tropical” Trump. Bolsonaro, who will now compete in a second round runoff on Oct. 28, presented himself as someone who tells it like it is while promising to dismantle a dysfunctional political system and seeking to capture the imagination of many citizens afraid of losing their place in an increasingly diverse and inclusive society.
While Trump and Bolsonaro have many differences — before running, Trump was a billionaire businessman while Bolsonaro was long-time congressman with few legislative victories — many tactics used in their campaigns were remarkably similar.
Perhaps the biggest similarity and likely the one that initially gave rise to the comparisons between Bolsonaro and Trump is that neither man appears to measure his words. In the 2016 U.S. elections, Trump often billed himself as the man who wasn’t afraid to say what everyone else was thinking. Bolsonaro shares the same lack of filter. Some of the comments that have gotten him in trouble reflect longstanding ideological positions, like his repeated praise for Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship. Other comments may be more off the cuff and a wink at his reputation for shunning the “politically correct,” like when he told an audience that he had a daughter “in a moment of weakness” after four sons. Both men “enjoy being outrageous and making statements for shock value,” said Paulo Sotero, the director of the Brazil Institute at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington.
BASH MAINSTREAM MEDIA
Bolsonaro and his three oldest sons, who are also politicians, have hammered away at Brazil’s main media organizations, accusing them of everything from telling outright lies about the candidate to ignoring his rise in the polls and endorsements from other politicians. Like Trump, they accuse the media of propping up the country’s traditional elite and of trying to derail a campaign that might threaten it. Carlos Bolsonaro, who is a city councilman in Rio de Janeiro, recently tweeted that the media and a major pollster “ignore growing rallies in favor of Bolsonaro, including in the farthest corners of Brazil, and they try to create a narrative of Bolsonaro’s stagnation (in the polls). They really believe the population is blind and stupid!”
SOCIAL MEDIA MESSAGING
For candidates who don’t trust the media, social networks provide the perfect outlet. Bolsonaro, like Trump, has made heavy use of Twitter and Facebook to talk directly to voters. That became especially important after the candidate was stabbed on Sept. 6 and confined to the hospital for more than three weeks. Last week, even after being released from the hospital, Bolsonaro skipped the most important televised debate on major network Globo, citing his doctors’ orders. Instead he held nightly Facebook live sessions with political allies and did interviews with friendly stations. “The idea that you would skip the debate on health grounds but then have three 10-minute interviews with a friendly TV networks is very Trumpian at its core,” said Matthew Taylor, associated professor of Latin American politics at American University, adding that for both men such a heavy reliance on social media helped them overcome initial resistance to their candidacies.
Bolsonaro has raised the specter of fraud and said it could rob him of the election. A week before the vote, he told a television station he would not accept any result but his own victory, implying that the size of support he had seen at street rallies indicated he would win, even though the polls were close. A few days later, he backed off those comments, saying he would accept the election results but wouldn’t call his rival to concede. Sound familiar? Trump trod a very similar path. “Bolsonaro is essentially saying, ‘Fairness means that I win. Anything else is fraud,’” said Jason Stanley, author of “How Fascism Works: The politics of us and them.”
USE OF PROXIES
Similar to how Trump’s campaign had Donald Trump Jr. and other children sometimes speak for their dad, Bolsonaro has often depended on his three eldest sons to float ideas, deny critical press reports and make outlandish claims. The latest example: On Sunday, while Brazilians were going to the polls, Flavio Bolsonaro, who is running for the senate, shared a video on Twitter that purportedly appeared to show a voting machine that had been tampered with. Within hours, the country’s electoral court announced that it was a false report. However, by then it had surely been seen by millions of people on Twitter and the messaging group WhatsApp. “The technique is to use people who speak for you but don’t speak for you,” said Taylor. “Trump or Bolsonaro can always say, ‘I didn’t or would never say that.’”
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Brazilians weigh stark visions of future in runoff election
By PETER PRENGAMAN, SARAH DILORENZO and MAURICIO SAVARESE
Monday, October 8
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilians showed their disgust with corruption and rising crime in the first round of presidential voting, nearly giving an outright victory to a brash-speaking former army captain who has promised to restore “traditional values,” jail crooked politicians and give police a freer hand to shoot drug traffickers.
But with far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro getting 46 percent of the vote Sunday, short of the 50-plus percent he needed, voters also signaled they were not quite ready to make a final decision. On Oct. 28, Bolsonaro will face second-place finisher Fernando Haddad in a runoff vote. Haddad, the Workers’ Party standard-bearer who was appointed by jailed ex-President Luiz Inacio da Silva, got 29 percent in the first round, and polls have predicted a close race in the runoff.
Bolsonaro was expected to come out in front on Sunday, but he far outperformed predictions, blazing past competitors with more financing, the institutional backing of traditional parties and much more free air time on television. The candidate from the tiny Social and Liberal Party made savvy use of Twitter and Facebook to spread his message that only he could end the corruption, crime and economic malaise that has seized Brazil in recent years — and bring back the good old days and traditional values.
“This is a victory for honest people who want the best for Brazil,” said Bianca Santos, a 40-year-old psychologist who gathered outside a hotel where Bolsonaro was watching the returns. “I believe he is the only one with a serious plan to end crime.”
For voters, Bolsonaro and Haddad represent starkly different visions for the future. Bolsonaro has promised to slash spending, privatize as much as possible in a country long heavy on state control and be a check on social movements that have gained much ground in recent years.
Meanwhile, true to the Workers’ Party’s leftist roots, Haddad has promised to fight long-standing inequalities, scrap a major labor reform passed last year and invest more in education.
Where Brazil’s next leader takes the economy, the largest in Latin America, will have a large impact on surrounding countries that are trading partners with Brazil. The next leader will also have an influence on Venezuela, both diplomatically and practically, as thousands of Venezuelans have crossed Brazil’s northern border.
Bolsonaro has promised a harder line on Venezuela and other leftist regimes and closer ties with the United States. It’s not clear what Bolsonaro would do to further isolate Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, but he once suggested creating camps for the Venezuelans who have fled the country’s economic collapse.
But much of his campaign focused on domestic issues. Bolsonaro has painted a nation in collapse, where drug traffickers and politicians steal with equal impunity, and moral rot has set in. He has advocated loosening gun ownership laws so individuals can fight off criminals, encouraging police to shoot more crooks and restoring “traditional” Brazilian values — though some take issue with his definition of those values in light of his approving allusions to the country’s 1964-1985 dictatorship and his derisive comments about women, blacks and gay people.
Haddad, a former education minister, has also spent much time arguing that da Silva, his mentor, was unfairly jailed — a strategy aimed at attracting voters who still feel strong affection for da Silva despite a corruption conviction. Workers’ Party stalwarts are still fuming about the 2016 impeachment and removal of office of President Dilma Rousseff, da Silva’s predecessor.
Matthew Taylor, an associate professor of Latin American politics at American University, said that in the weeks before the runoff vote Bolsonaro will likely hit Haddad hard on the theme of corruption within the Workers’ Party and da Silva, who Brazilians simply call Lula.
“Haddad has a huge albatross around his neck because of the corruption and all the rhetoric about the impeachment and Lula,” said Taylor. “Bolsonaro will hit back on that.”
Indeed, Bolsonaro already showed his ability to tap deep anger in Brazil with the traditional political class and “throw the bums out” rage after a massive corruption investigation revealed staggering levels of graft.
Still, he alienated nearly as many people as he attracted with his offensive comments. And polling shows Bolsonaro will face a tight race with Haddad in the second round — before Sunday’s first round, polls showed a statistical dead heat in a potential second round.
Many voters, already disillusioned with their democracy, said they felt trapped by the choice between the two front-runners, a sentiment likely to deepen in the weeks to come.
“I didn’t like any of the candidates and I felt obliged to choose the lesser of two evils,” said Frederico Vasconcellos, a 68-year-old retired metalworker. The Workers’ Party “managed to ruin the country with corruption and theft. … So I decided to vote for Bolsonaro, who is the only one who can block the return of the Workers’ Party.”
Though they come from opposite sides of the political spectrum, both Bolsonaro and Haddad ran campaigns based on nostalgia for a better time. Bolsonaro frequently evoked the country’s military dictatorship amid promises of a return to traditional values and safer, simpler times.
“The country is on the brink of chaos,” Bolsonaro said in a Facebook live after a second round was announced. “We can’t let the left advance even one more step.”
For his part, Haddad called on “democrats” to unite around his candidacy. In a broadside against Bolsonaro, who frequently talks about liberalizing gun laws, Haddad said: “We don’t carry guns. We carry the force of arguments to defend Brazil and its people.”
Associated Press writers Marcelo Silva de Sousa and Beatrice Christofaro in Rio de Janeiro and Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.
Indonesia tsunami: why wasn’t there an earlier warning?
October 4, 2018
Reader in Physical Geography, University of Dundee
Sue Dawson receives funding from the Natural Environmental research Council
University of Dundee provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.
The recent earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia has claimed the lives of at least 1,350 people. Many more people are missing and the disaster has destroyed homes and businesses across the city of Palu and surrounding area on the island of Sulawesi.
Yet after the much larger tsunami that devastated countries around the Indian Ocean in 2004, Indonesia began installing a new early warning system to try to prevent such widespread destruction from happening again. So why is the country once again facing such a severe loss of life? The location of the tsunami may have made the destruction particularly acute, but the country’s early warning system also appears not to have lived up to expectations.
A tsunami (Japanese for “harbour wave”) is formed when a disturbance on the sea floor leads to a series of large waves which spread out across the ocean. This disturbance can be caused by a large earthquake, an underwater landslide, or even a volcanic eruption.
When the tsunami waves reach shallow water as they move towards the shore, the speed of the wave slows down and causes the water to dramatically pile up. The increase in wave height leads to devastating coastal flooding especially in highly populated, low-lying areas.
The height of the wave depends on the size of the tsunami wave but also by the shape of the coastline. For example, tsunamis will have a greater impact where the wave moves through a narrow, elongated bay, like Palu, as it approaches the shore. The earthquake in Sulawesi likely disturbed sediments on the seabed and triggered a local underwater landslide. These two factors combined could explain the six-metre waves that reached Palu.
More than one wave can occur during a tsunami, meaning that such events can continue to impact the coastline over a number of hours. It can be the case that the second, third or even later waves can be the biggest.
Early warning systems
Unfortunately it isn’t possible to predict exactly when a tsunami may strike a coastal area, but there are clues that can save lives. Indonesia’s main early warning system is made up of a network of tidal gauges that measure sea level, and land-based stations that detect earthquake activity. However, the tidal gauges were so far away from Palu that they only registered a small rise in the water level as the waves started to form. It’s possible the system wasn’t set up to take into account how the waves would grow as they travelled down Palu’s bay.
A more advanced warning system is more common in some areas of the world affected by tsunamis and earthquakes, using a series of buoys in the sea to detect any movement of the seafloor. In the event of a tsunami, the buoys send a signal to the local agency responsible for issuing a clear advance warning to coastal residents to allow people to get to higher ground away from the advancing waters.
Indonesia has installed a new sea-based system but some researchers have said that it is stuck in the testing phase, and that the ocean buoys deployed aren’t working properly. They point to a potential life-saving early warning system hampered by lack of funding and delays, despite the very real threat from tsunamis in this part of the world following the 2004 event.
There may have also been a problem with the way the information about the incoming waves was used. The Indonesian authorities in this case did issue a tsunami warning via text message, but the earthquake destroyed many cellphone towers. Similarly, damage to power lines reportedly prevented sirens from working. The authorities have also been accused of cancelling the warning too soon.
Unfortunately, Sulawesi has paid the price for an incomplete tsunami warning system as well underestimating the wave heights that actually struck the coastline.
Comment: Chris Coles
From what I can make of the images coming out of the disaster area, the earthquake devastated the region, causing massive disruption. That was followed almost immediately by the tsunami; as such, much of the damage was caused by the earthquake. Now imagine an area with all its local infrastructure destroyed? So where and how does anyone deliver the tsunami warning to those people whose homes and businesses have already been destroyed? This article is all about PR to underpin raising funding for such a warning system; that is not scientific debate.
Reviewing Indonesia’s tsunami early warning strategy: Reflections from Sulawesi island
October 3, 2018
Jonatan A Lassa
Senior Lecturer, Humanitarian Emergency and Disaster Management, College of Indigenous Futures, Arts and Society, Charles Darwin University
Jonatan A Lassa does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Charles Darwin University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.
The 7.5 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that had hit Palu and Donggala in Central Sulawesi Indonesia last Friday, has killed at least 1,300 people. Some 99 people are missing, 799 injured and nearly 60 thousand are displaced in over 100 locations.
After the 2004 tsunami in Aceh, the international community and Indonesia invested hundreds of billions of rupiah to set up the country’s tsunami early warning system, InaTEWS. But with the rising death toll of Palu and Donggala disasters, its effectiveness is questioned.
Although InaTEWS may be conceptually comprehensive, it was not able to provide the necessary service when faced with the earthquake in Palu. Its heavy emphasis on the technology and not the people has serious implication in human lives.
Many fell victim for not evacuating in time. Almost all of the victims of the tsunami did not receive evacuation information from the government after the earthquake. No sirens rang. At the same time, the public have yet to have the habit of quick evacuation to higher ground right after an earthquake.
The public’s alertness to tsunamis and earthquakes is not simply a matter of sufficient technology. It’s also a socio-cultural, economic, and political problem that must be sufficiently and continuously addressed in detail.
The Palu tsunami controversy
Indonesia’s House of Representatives (DPR) will be calling the Chief of the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics (BMKG) to hear her explanation on why the BMKG’s tsunami warning was revoked after the arrival of the deadly waves on the coast of Palu. Thirty minutes after the warning was issued, the BMKG terminated the warning while the tsunami had arrived 15 minutes earlier.
BMKG’s decision was based on the results of Palu’s tsunami modelling analysis verified using a tide gauge located in Mamuju (300km from Palu). Results from the analysis have shown that the tsunami water level was detected but it was not significant enough for it to be considered dangerous.
The BMKG and a number of experts explained that the tide gauge in Palu was either not confirmed or was not functioning. At the same time, it was impossible for them to verify directly to Palu as phone lines were down shortly after the earthquake.
There were also no available alternative data sources such as tsunami buoys.
Lost or damaged tsunami buoys have often been reported. The Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) has frequently reported this, once on July 2011, then on March 2016, and on December 2017. This means that within the last seven years, none of the tsunami buoys have been replaced.
We need to ask why haven’t the tsunami buoys been replaced if it is such a vital device in a scenario such as the Palu earthquake? Why wasn’t the replacement of damaged technologies a government priority? Who should be responsible? Did Indonesia’s House of Representatives (DPR) reject the proposal from related bodies?
Increase public’s disaster preparedness
A human-centered tsunami early warning system (TEWS) requires the commitment to invest in building the public’s awareness. Investing in at-risk communities must be done regularly and continuously from the district to the household level.
It’s not enough to focus only on technological upgrading while disregarding the need to prepare the public against future tsunamis. It’s important to scrutinise how serious have Indonesia’s national and local governments implemented tsunami and earthquake awareness agendas.
Accusing the community for stealing or vandalising tsunami buoys and calling them “murderers” is one thing, but reducing the problem of tsunami buoys into a criminal dispute would not solve the issue on disaster preparedness.
Even if there are tsunami buoys, they are probably ten years old. Has there been routine maintenance? In Australia, for example, the Bureau of Meteorology routinely replaces tsunami buoys every two years. Seabed pressure sensors must also be regularly checked and cleaned from sediments and small sea creatures.
This means that since InaTEWS was officially established and the buoys were used in 2008, it needed to have been replaced at least three to four times already. Depending on the type and resilience of the device, maintenance can be expensive and are not always reliable.
Some experts have said that Palu does not even have tsunami buoys due to the lack of financial support from the government to the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), the agency responsible for managing the device.
We need to question if adequate budget have been allocated for the maintenance of InaTEWS’s tsunami buoys for the last eight years. It’s possible that tsunami buoys were unavailable because they had stopped functioning due to want of care.
Thus, when the government calls people who have stolen the buoys as “murderers”, they should be equally aware of their role in the death of hundred of victims for failing to provide InaTEWS with adequate maintenance and infrastructure upgrades.
People line up for fuel at a gas station in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, 30 September 2018. At least 1,300 people have died as a result of a series of powerful earthquakes that hit central Sulawesi and triggered a tsunami. EPA/MAST IRHAM
The uncertainty of the technology and system of TEWS
Technology’s inherent weakness is embedded in its governance system and it’s also limited by context. The Geospatial Information Agency (BIG) needs to routinely upgrade and supervise the maintenance of tide gauges.
Systems and equipment that depend on electricity frequently becomes a problem during large earthquakes. The importance of back-up energy systems like solar power has been frequently discussed (see the InaTEWS guide).
In addition to the lack of information from Palu’s tide gauges and the absence of tsunami buoys, there have been critiques to the tsunami analysis model. Tsunami analysis models should take into account the characteristics of bay dynamics, the potential of underwater landslides, and the state of InaTEWS’s technology and systems.
It’s easy to put all the blame on the BMKG, but everything is not always as it seems in Palu’s September 28 earthquake. We should also look at local and national bureaucracies for negligence in the maintenance of tide gauges and buoys. The problem with InaTEWS is its governance mechanism is complex because there many layers and levels of authorities involved.
It’s also easy to accuse the local people for stealing InaTEWS asset such as tsunami buoys without educating the them on disaster preparedness.
The element of speed and accuracy are crucial in any tsunami early warning system (TEWS). The principle of technology development according to Moore’s law stipulates that new technology arrives every 18-24 months. This implies the need to upgrade the old ones regularly.
How would InaTEWS operate a system that can effectively protect its people if the system is not routinely enhanced according to technological advancement? How are we supposed to have a state-of-the-art system if policy makers do not support the budget for technological upgrading?
Additionally, one of the most vital components in Indonesia’s early warning system is the Indonesian people. Communities should be able to adapt and anticipate future disasters independently and sustainably.
Regional disaster management reforms
Because TEWS was set up to protect people, consistent tsunami and earthquake risk awareness building is a must. Emphasis must be made on people and governance systems to ensure the early warning system works well.
There should be bureacratic reforms in Indonesia’s local disaster management to improve InaTEWS’ service at local level. The Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) and Operations Control Centre (Pusdalops) should act as the vanguard to provide district and city-level disaster information and warnings instead of a purposeless bureaucratic display.
Without bureaucratic improvements and public service reforms along the whole InaTEWS chain, from the centre to the regional level, along with public awareness building at grassroots level, it would be impossible for Indonesia to withstand future tsunamigenic earthquakes.
This article was originally published in Indonesian.