Upcoming Presidential Election in Brazil
After four years with Jair Bolsonaro as President, Brazil is scheduled to hold elections on Sunday, October 2 to select a new President. This vote, which also elects the National Congress and take place simultaneously with state legislative/executive elections, looms large as two controversial candidates compete to be reelected. On the conservative side incumbent and political conservative Bolsonaro of the PL (translated Liberal Party) is running while two-time former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (commonly known as Lula) of the PT (translated Workers’ Party) is running for his third term as the liberal candidate. While politics is always contentious, these two candidates are particularly polarizing, each painted as corrupt villains by their detractors and as saviors by their supporters. The October election could set Brazil on significantly different trajectories depending on the results and, while unlikely, does have the potential to facilitate political unrest. Understanding the current state of the election, how it will progress, and historic precedent for how it may conclude is important to understanding results and consequences this October.
The October election process is expected to roll out in two phases, with an initial vote on Sunday, October 2 to be followed by a runoff vote on Sunday, October 30 if no single candidate receives 50%. Most observers and polls so far have indicated it’s highly likely neither Bolsonaro nor Lula will emerge with over 50%, but will advance to the runoff election on October 30 as the two top candidates. At the start of September, the major poll Datafolha projected Lula and Bolsonaro to advance through the first round with 45% and 32% respectively and Lula victorious in the runoff with 53% to Bolsonaro’s 38%. Other major polls have affirmed the September 1 Datafolha findings of Lula winning in the runoff, though that margin has been tightening these past six months. In June most polls indicated Lula winning by over 25 points, while the September 1 poll has Bolsonaro trailing by just 15 points.
Both candidates have labeled each other corrupt and as existential threats to Brazilian interests, most recently in the first Presidential Debate on September 4 – but the escalating rhetoric is particularly concerning in Bolsonaro’s case. The current President has spent much of the summer criticizing Brazil’s voting system and making reservations about accepting election results if he views them as unfair. A former Army Captain, Bolsonaro has made statements nostalgic of past military dictators and has been elusive in questions from journalists about whether he would seek assistance from the military to keep power. For the military’s part, senior generals have made statements emphasizing their allegiance to the constitution over individuals, though there have been sporadic comments echoing Bolsonaro’s critique of the election process. Intense scrutiny, both domestically and internationally, makes any attempt by the military to assist Bolsonaro increasingly unlikely. However, should he lose, Bolsonaro may well attempt to instigate supporters to agitate, which could lead to potentially violent unrest across the country following October 30. Things which could increase the risk of unrest are the election becoming even tighter and perceptions of Bolsonaro facing political retribution once he exits office. This is particularly pertinent given multiple corruption investigations ongoing into those close to him.
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
Iranian Influence in Iraq
In August 2022 hundreds of Iraqi protesters breached parliament in Baghdad’s Green Zone in response to the selection of Mohammed al-Sudani as the official nominee of the Coordination Framework bloc for Prime Minister. The Coordination Framework is led by pro-Iran-backed Shia parties and their allies. There is growing disapproval of Iranian influence in Iraq. Protesters were heard chanting anti-Iran curses during the demonstrations. It wasn’t until Iraqi Shia leader and cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, asked supporters to vacate the Green Zone and return home did the protesters leave.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has had considerable influence in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Iran has sought to unite Iraq’s Shia parties in its attempts to create a Shia majority government that is like the one in modern-day Iran. Shia Islam is the second-largest branch of Islam. Shia Muslims make up the majority of the Iraqi population and close to 90% of the Iranian population. Iran seeks to prevent non-Islamist parties from gaining power in Iraq while simultaneously marginalizing secular nationalist parties. Iran exploits its relationship with local Iraqi parties to achieve its own objectives and positions itself as an influential external power for when assistance is needed.
Before his death, Iranian major general Qassem Soleimani had a significant role in Iraq commanding Iran-backed groups and forces. Soleimani had longstanding relationships with Iraqi militia and political figures. He served Iran’s interests in Iraq by ensuring the Iraqi government would not contradict Iran’s interests and by mediating between different Shia factions to prevent divisions.
More recently, the influence of Iran’s rivals in Iraq has increased as have divisions among Iran-backed forces in the country. Countries like the United Arab Emirates and Turkey have increased exports to Iraq exponentially. Earlier this year, Iraq signed an agreement to connect its power grid to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) interconnection grid, forging a link to Saudi Arabia. Almost concurrently, Iraq signed a deal to import liquefied natural gas from Qatar. Some experts believe Iraq may not have a need to import gas from Iran in the next five years.
Because of its location, Iraq provides Iran with secure land connections to its allies Lebanon and Syria. Iran-backed militias have the capability to move between Iran, Syria, and Lebanon easily. In addition to Iraq’s geographic benefits, Iran has involved itself with religious tourism in the country. Iraq is home to two of the holiest Shia cities, Karbala, and Najaf. It is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into developing Shia shrines in Iraq to exert more influence in the country. Religious tourism is worth billions of dollars a year, making it the second-largest earner of revenue for Iraq after the oil sector.
Given the chaotic state Iraq is currently in, Iran’s strategic interests in the country are at stake. As Iran’s adversaries create new or mend old relationships with Iraq, Iran may be scheming for new tactics. Regardless, it is possible we may see Iraqi politics and interests continue to distance themselves slowly from Iranian dependency in turn upending the status quo.
Another Victim of Severe Weather
Record rainfall has inundated more than one-third of Pakistan, as the country experiences its worst flooding in more than a decade. The climate crisis is the prime suspect for the devastating scale of the floods, which have left entire villages swamped, over two million acres of crops destroyed, and more than 1,200 people dead.
The monsoon season in Pakistan descends every year from June to September, often bringing much-needed rain, but research shows that annual monsoons are becoming wetter and more dangerous. Rainfall was reportedly nine times higher in Pakistan’s Sindh Province than in previous years and five times higher throughout the rest of the country.
According to a study conducted in 2021, global warming is making monsoons in South Asia more intense and erratic. With each 1C rise in global temperature, rainfall in the region increases by 5%. The effect of the monsoon rain has been exacerbated by the continuous melting of Pakistan’s 7,000 glaciers. Pakistan holds the most glacial ice outside of polar regions. As these glaciers melt, its waters contribute to flooding.
This is not Pakistan’s first time in dealing with floods. The nation was hit with similarly devastating floods in 2010, which destroyed almost two million homes and resulted in the deaths of nearly 2,000 people. The floods in 2010 were also attributed to warmer oceans and heating in the Arctic, which led to a prolonged period of rain in the country.
Pakistan has been continuously referred to as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, despite contributing less than 1% to global emissions of greenhouse gases. Pakistan is not the only country that has been impacted by severe weather changes. Over the past few months, floods and landslides have displaced thousands of people across India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and South Korea. Projections state that severe weather anomalies are increasing and are expected to impact less developed countries more than industrialized nations.
Though the international community, including multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank have pledged support for relief efforts for Pakistan, these donors should also account for long-term impacts and allocate resources for capacity-building, along with helping to redesign the nation’s developmental plan with the incorporation of all types of natural disasters.
Somalia Hotel Siege
In August, Somalia experienced its most significant terrorist attack since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in May of this year. Prior to the attack, President Mohamud had been speaking about conducting offensives to retake areas under the control of al-Shabaab for many years.
On Friday, August 19, the Hayat hotel in the capital of Mogadishu came under attack from al Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab militants. An explosion that detonated at an entry gate by a suicide bomber was quickly followed by gunmen overwhelming hotel security and opening fire. A second explosion was detonated as rescuers and security attempted to enter the hotel to assist those inside before the militants walled themselves in the Hayat for what would become a 35-hour siege on the building leaving 21 people dead and 117 wounded. Survivors recalled witnessing some of those victims being dismembered and their remains being filmed for propaganda videos.
While the siege ended when security forces bombarded the hotel to break al-Shabab’s hold on the building, the response to the siege has been met with criticism. Security forces have been criticized for being unable to break the siege for such a long period of time and for significant breakdowns in communication. An initial paramilitary force was repelled before a second wave trained by the United States military was able to push back the militants inside enough to be able to rescue survivors trapped on the ground floor.
Hotels in Mogadishu have been popular targets of al-Shabaab for many years. The Hayat hotel is known to have been a favorite hotel of government employees and businesspeople. In a nation constantly under the threat of violence, hotels have often been largely considered to be bastions of safety and security despite serving as targets for militants. Attacks on hotels in Mogadishu are typically conducted with the goal of drawing security forces to the building to engage in shootouts where the militants seek to kill as many of those responding to the attack as possible.
The Hayat hotel was considered generally safe and secure due to its positioning in a highly fortified area with proximity to the nearby airport and government buildings. In the aftermath of the Hayat siege, Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre called for national unity against al-Shabaab, and President Mohamud responded by vowing to bring total war to al-Shabaab, likening the militants to a deadly snake that must be eradicated before such killings continue. Many Somalians have held out hope for years that the security situation in the country would eventually begin to improve. The severity and brutality of the Hayat siege appear to have received the opposite of its intended reaction. Rather than further demoralizing the government and citizens it appears the attack has instead galvanized the government under President Mohamud to escalate efforts to fight back and repel the efforts of al-Shabaab to terrorize and destabilize the country.
The Removal of Soviet-Era Monuments
To many Europeans, the memory of the Soviet Union represents oppression and fear. As the war in Ukraine continues, there are some eerie similarities between Russia and its predecessor. Many European countries have made this connection, and whether in support of Ukraine or simply disdain for Russia’s actions, they have decided to dismantle physical representations of the Soviet Union. Monument removal is not a new concept, as it has become an increasing movement worldwide, having sparked plenty of debate. Now it is individual European countries that are deciding whether they should make a public statement and send the diplomatic message of removing a Soviet Union monument.
Several European countries have already made the decision to remove Soviet Union monuments. All removals have been broadcasted and heavily circulated on social media. On April 26, Ukraine dismantled a large Soviet-era monument in the center of Kyiv. The monument was meant to be a symbol of friendship between Russia and Ukraine, depicted as an eight-meter (27 ft.) bronze statue portraying a Ukrainian and Russian worker holding together a Soviet order of friendship, below a giant arch of titanium that said, ‘People’s Friendship Arch’. The dismantling began with the beheading of the bronze Russian soldier and was met with overwhelming excitement by the surrounding crowd.
The removal of these monuments has been ongoing since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has provided an additional reason for dismantling Soviet Union monuments, beginning with Ukraine tearing down the largest one in its capital and continuing throughout August in several European countries.
On August 8, Finland removed a statue that was given as a gift by the Soviet Union after officially submitting its application to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). On August 16, Estonia removed the T-34 tank memorial from the city of Narva which borders Russia. Two days after its removal the Estonian government reported having repelled major cyber-attacks, coincidentally following days of Russian officials antagonizing the country for removing the monument.
On August 25, a nearly 260-foot monument in Latvia, erected during the country’s Soviet Union occupation, was torn down to show solidarity with Ukraine and remove a major symbol in the country once under occupation. Crowds around the demolished monument cheered and social media applauded the government’s decision. On August 24, Poland, the EU country that has welcomed the most Ukrainian refugees, tore down a Soviet War Memorial in the town of Brzeg.
While some argue the reassessment of Russian monuments is erasing history others view the removal of any remnants of the Soviet Union throughout Europe as a highly symbolic step toward unifying against Russian aggression. Although it may not physically affect the Kremlin and it may not be as powerful as a weapon on the frontlines, it is a universal symbol that feeds into both the European dialogue and the world in reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
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