Thursday, 7 May 2020

Away from Covid - mostly

Gantz-Netanyahu coalition can go ahead

There was just a chance that the complicated job-share agreement between the two main party leaders would be seen as conflicting with Israel's basic law. While the prime minister has immunity from criminal action by virtue of his office, the same is not true of other politicians, including ministers. Benjamin Netanyahu has indictments for corruption hanging over him from which his office has so far protected him. The supreme court has ruled that he is still protected, even when Gantz is presiding under the alternation arrangement under the coalition agreement. So Israel avoids yet another election, but it looks as if the hard line against Palestinians and non-Jewish citizens of Israel will continue.

Venezuela "invasion"

In what looks like an attempt at diversion from the poverty inflicted on his country by his communist ideology, and now exacerbated by a Covid-19 epidemic, President Maduro of Venezuela has had arrested two American citizens. They are accused of being an invasion force funded, as I understand it, by state oil company .money seized by the US government and channelled to the parliamentary opposition leader, Juan Guaido.

This does seem an unlikely scenario, even for President Trump. It is politically sensible not to waste money on an expedition, even a sub-contracted one, against Venezuela which is no threat to the US. Moreover, while she remains a pariah state, she cannot sell her oil on the international market, thus helping to put a floor on the price for oil, to the benefit of US producers. One cannot see Maduro surviving internal pressures for much longer, even by raising the American bogeyman.

Brazil corruption

Al-Jazeera reports:
In mid-April, Bolsonaro fired Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, a popular public figure, following disagreement over measures to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. Mandetta, like most health experts, had recommended that social distancing be imposed across the country - a move Bolsonaro fiercely opposed. The president replaced Mandetta with an advocate for reopening the economy, prompting protests by residents who banged on pots and pans out of windows and balconies demanding that Boslonaro resign. 

 That anger has only been compounded by a major political crisis that escalated at the end of last month. Bolsonaro's justice minister, Sergio Moro, resigned in late April, accusing the president of interfering in an investigation and firing the federal police chief for personal and political reasons. In a scathing 45-minute televised presentation, Moro accused the president of seeking to interfere in investigations that involved two of Bolsonaro's sons, and had requested access to intelligence files. Moro also said that Bolsonaro had pressed him to replace the chief of the federal police with someone who would be a "personal contact" of the president. The comments triggered calls to impeach Bolsonaro - a move supported by nearly half of Brazilians, according to the most recent Datafolha survey. Bolsonaro denied Moro's accusations and said he had the authblority to replace federal police officials. But the Supreme Court authorised an investigation into the allegations that Bolsonaro tried to interfere in the work of the country's federal police force for political motives.

It is significant that the military, which initially supported Bolsonaro's election, has publicly declared its dedication to upholding Brazil's democracy. In spite of the demands of Bolsonaro's extreme followers the army has no wish to repeat the military rule of 1964-1985.

... and some good news

Deutsche Welle reports that scientists at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine have found that a drug already developed to counteract heavy metal poisoning blocks the effects of some snake venom.

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