Rousseff’s main ally eyes Brazil’s presidency in 2018

Updated 15 May 2015
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Rousseff’s main ally eyes Brazil’s presidency in 2018

BRASILIA: For the last 20 years, Brazil’s largest political party has not once fielded a presidential candidate, instead content to partner with the eventual winner to retain a share of power.
No longer, it appears.
The Brazil Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), which for many Brazilians epitomizes a self-serving political class living off pork barrel, is now pushing its own legislative agenda as it gears up to make a run for the presidency in 2018.
PMDB sources told Reuters it is reviewing its policy program and preparing to abandon its 12-year-old alliance with President Dilma Rousseff’s left-wing Workers’ Party (PT) for the next election.
An umbrella party that was tolerated during the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, the PMDB has no defined ideology but is broadly more pro-business and socially conservative than the PT.
It is an amorphous agglomeration of regional bosses who often represent contradictory interests and seldom have united behind their own presidential candidate. Instead, they have allied themselves with whoever is in power, be it the PT or the centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), which ruled Brazil between 1995 and 2002.
Still, the PMDB has great power in Brazil today.
It controls both houses of Congress and the vice presidency, with the power to push through or block legislation.
It has several cabinet members in Rousseff’s government, including key ministries such as agriculture and energy, and its support has been pivotal for the passage of unpopular austerity measures Brazil has had to adopt to put its finances in order.
PMDB officials say it has hired economists to update its program and overhauled its communications strategy to appeal to younger voters on social media.
“We are paving the way for victory in 2018. We cannot miss the opportunity to make the 50-year dream of our party come true: to elect the country’s president,” Wellington Moreira Franco, the main architect of the PMDB’s renovation plan, told regional party leaders last week to a loud round of applause.
Moreira Franco, a former minister in Rousseff’s cabinet, said the PT is in crisis after more than a decade in office, buffeted by a stagnant economy and a massive corruption scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras.
“There is a big power vacuum today,” he told Reuters.
The PMDB will hold a convention in September to revamp its platform before testing the waters in municipal elections in 2016.
It has a strong presence in small towns across much of Brazil, a legacy of military rule when it was the only opposition party that politicians were allowed to join. It is now targeting the big cities, where angry voters have taken to the streets to protest against corruption and bad public services.
The PMDB is also looking for strong presidential candidates.
Only once has Brazil elected a president from its ranks, in 1985 when democracy was restored, but Tancredo Neves died before taking office. His running mate José Sarney, a backer of the military who switched to the PMDB, became its only president to date.


Sharer of New Zealand mosque shooting video gets 21 months

Philip Neville Arps, left, appears for sentencing in the Christchurch District Court, in Christchurch, New Zealand, Tuesday, June 18, 2019. (AP)
Updated 18 June 2019
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Sharer of New Zealand mosque shooting video gets 21 months

  • Under New Zealand laws aimed at preventing the distribution of objectionable material, Arps faced up to 14 years imprisonment on each count

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: A Christchurch businessman who shared a video of worshippers being slaughtered at a New Zealand mosque was sentenced on Tuesday to 21 months in prison.
Philip Arps had earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing the video, which was livestreamed on Facebook by a gunman on March 15 as he began killing 51 people at two mosques.
Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said that when questioned about the video, Arps had described it as “awesome” and had shown no empathy toward the victims.
The judge said Arps had strong and unrepentant views about the Muslim community and had, in effect, committed a hate crime. The judge said Arps had compared himself to Rudolf Hess, a Nazi leader under Adolf Hitler.
“Your offending glorifies and encourages the mass murder carried out under the pretext of religious and racial hatred,” the judge said.
O’Driscoll said Arps had sent the video to 30 associates. The judge said Arps also asked somebody to insert crosshairs and include a kill count in order to create an Internet meme, although there was no evidence he’d shared the meme.
Under New Zealand laws aimed at preventing the distribution of objectionable material, Arps faced up to 14 years imprisonment on each count.
In other cases, at least five other people were also charged with illegally sharing the shooting video. An 18-year-old was jailed in March while the others weren’t kept in custody. The teen is accused of sharing the video and an image of the Al Noor mosque with the words “target acquired.” He is next due to appear in court on July 31.
The judge said Arps had argued he had a right to distribute the video under the banner of freedom to pursue his political beliefs.
Arps’ lawyer Anselm Williams told the judge that Arps should not be sent to prison.
“It’s my submission that this court needs to be very careful to sentence Mr. Arps based on what it is that he has actually done, and what he accepts he has done, not on the basis of the views that he holds,” Williams said.
After the hearing, Williams said Arps had filed an appeal against his sentence at the High Court, but declined to comment further.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, last week pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism in the mosque shooting case. His trial has been scheduled for next May.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has helped lead a global pledge named the “Christchurch Call,” aimed at boosting efforts to keep Internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organize extremist groups and broadcast attacks. New Zealand has also tightened its gun laws and banned certain types of semi-automatic weapons since the attack.