Brazil at diplomatic impasse with Iran over US sanctions

Iranian ship Bavand, loaded with 48,000 tons of corn, is seen anchored in the port of Paranagua, Brazil, on July 19, 2019. (AFP / Heuler Andrey)
Updated 25 July 2019

Brazil at diplomatic impasse with Iran over US sanctions

  • Iran threatens to halt imports from Brazil if it continues to refuse to refuel two Iranian vessels stranded there
  • In addition to its imports of Brazilian corn, Iran is fifth largest buyer of beef and soybeans from the South American country

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil is entangled in a diplomatic spat that could potentially damage a long-standing commercial relationship with Iran, which is the biggest buyer of Brazilian corn.
Seyed Ali Saqqayian, Iran’s ambassador to Brasilia, was quoted Wednesday in Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency saying that Tehran could reconsider imports from Brazil if it continues to refuse to refuel two Iranian vessels stranded there.
The ships have been waiting off the coast of the southern state of Parana since early June. Brazil’s state-run oil giant, Petrobras, has declined to supply fuel because it says the vessels are under US sanctions and it would risk significant fines for doing so.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has sought closer ties with US President Donald Trump, said he stood by the US-backed sanctions on Iran.
“We’re aligned with their policy, so we do what we have to do,” Bolsonaro said over the weekend.
The consequences could be stiff if Brazil does not bow to pressure.
In addition to its imports of Brazilian corn, Iran is fifth largest buyer of beef and soybeans from the South American country. Brazil exported a total of $2.26 billion worth of commodities to Iran in 2018, according to official data.
A bilateral agreement between the countries also includes cooperation on matters such as energy, science and technology.
“Petrobras, which has shares in the US market, doesn’t want to make any faux-pas,” said José Alfredo Graca Lima, a former consul-general of Brazil in New York and Los Angeles.
Eleva Quimica, the Brazilian company seeking to export Brazilian corn aboard the ships, contends that agricultural commodities are protected under a “humanitarian exception.”
The company recently sued Petrobras in Parana and won, but the issue is still being disputed in the courts.
Brazil’s ministry of foreign affairs said it was involved with the case, but did not provide further details.
An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not have permission to speak to the press, said Eleva Quimica had asked Brazil’s Supreme Court to force Petrobras to provide a list of other fuel providers that could help.

 

 


Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

Updated 10 August 2020

Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

MANILA: Virgilio Estuesta has picked through trash in the Philippines’ biggest city for four decades, and is noticing an unusually large amount of plastics during his daily trawl of about 15 km (9.3 miles).
Tough curbs re-imposed to combat a surge in daily coronavirus infections are squeezing income for the 60-year-old, as many of the junkyards and businesses in Manila that buy his recyclables have been closed since March.
Plastic items, such as bottles and containers, dominate the contents of the rickety wooden cart Estuesta pushes through the deserted streets, far more than metals and cardboard, yet the money they bring in is not enough to get by.
“It’s been really hard for us, it’s been difficult looking for recyclables that sell high,” he said.
“Recently we’ve been seeing a lot more plastics, but the problem is they don’t really sell high.”
Environmentalists say the Philippines is battling one of the world’s biggest problems stemming from single-use plastics, and ranks among the biggest contributors to plastic pollution of the oceans. It has no reliable data for its plastics consumption.
Greenpeace campaigner Marian Ledesma said consumers and businesses are now using yet more single-use plastics, in a bid to ward off virus infections.
“The pandemic has really increased plastic pollution,” she added. “Just because there’s a lot more people using disposables now, due to misconceptions and fears around transmitting the virus.”
Since March 16, Manila has experienced lockdowns of varying levels of severity, in some of the world’s longest and tightest measures to curb the spread of the virus.
They are taking a toll on Estuesta, who hopes to start earning soon.
“When you go out, the police will reprimand you,” he said. “I was stuck at home and had to rely on government aid, which was not enough. I had to resort to borrowing money from people.”