Wednesday. 7/9/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Heart of the matter

Today marks the bicentenary of Brazil’s independence. Alongside the annual military parades, the preserved heart of Dom Pedro I, who shook off Portugal’s colonial claim over the country, will be on display. Yes, his actual heart. When the emperor died in Porto in 1834, it was embalmed in a jar of formaldehyde and donated to the city’s church of Our Lady of Lapa, where it is usually kept. You can see the loaned organ today in Brasília’s Itamaraty building, which also houses the foreign ministry.

Negotiations with Portugal to bring the heart to Brazil proved complex and its “state visit” is seen as a coup for Brazil’s government. That matters because this Independence Day might be one of the most political in the country’s recent history. It provides a chance for Jair Bolsonaro to bring crowds of his supporters onto the streets – and he loves nothing more than a military parade full of tanks and military paraphernalia.

Bolsonaro is lagging behind former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the polls but the 2 October election will most likely go to a run-off. There are also concerns that Bolsonaro might challenge the results if he loses; he has already cast doubt on Brazil’s electronic voting system, which is one of the world’s most efficient and respected.

That’s why today is a day of both celebration and anxiety. With Bolsonaro’s followers out in force, Lula’s campaign and his supporters appear eager to avoid clashes but will mobilise for their own rallies later in the week. As I arrive home in Brazil, I fear that what was supposed to be a celebration of 200 years since the country gained independence has become extremely political, complete with an enlarged heart that is being treated like a visiting dignitary and an election-year trophy.

Fernando Augusto Pacheco is Monocle 24’s senior correspondent and producer. Hear his reports from Brazil across our radio station and podcasts over the next month.

Image: Shutterstock

Conflict / Ukraine

Eastern promises

According to Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s ambassador in London, preparations are under way for the UK’s new prime minister, Liz Truss, to travel to Kyiv – a place her predecessor Boris Johnson has visited twice since Russia’s invasion on 24 February. Truss (pictured, with Volodymyr Zelensky) has vowed to maintain – indeed, to increase – the UK’s robust military support for Ukraine, which has gone on the offensive in the country’s south in recent weeks and appears to be making inroads. This week a Russia-installed leader in occupied Kherson was forced to cancel plans for a sham referendum on whether to join Russia. “The Kremlin postponing its theatrical usurpation of power in Kherson certainly breeds some flame of hope for justice against Russia’s tyranny,” Lada Roslycky, Ukraine-based security consultant and founder of Black Trident, tells The Monocle Minute. “Yet this must not blind us from the fact that Moscow’s imperialistic capabilities can only be squashed through staunch international co-operation.”

Hear more reflections on Truss and Ukraine on the latest edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / Germany

Safe landing

Lufthansa, Germany’s flag carrier, might have averted another headache for international air travel and in doing so offered a positive example of effective labour-dispute negotiations. Last Friday the company’s pilots took industrial action at Munich and Frankfurt airports, causing the cancellation of 800 flights and ruining travel plans for some 130,000 passengers. They then threatened to expand the action to all German airports for a 48-hour strike, starting today.

After Matthias Baier, spokesperson of trade union Vereinigung Cockpit, said that the strike could “only be prevented by a serious offer from the company”, Lufthansa responded with an improved deal. Yesterday it offered a one-time salary adjustment of 8.2 per cent for next year and a 5.5 per cent raise for this year. The strike was called off at the last minute yesterday afternoon. Here’s hoping that the deal is accepted.

Diplomacy / Solomon Islands

Right of refusal

The Solomon Islands’ government has rejected Australia’s offer to finance its elections, in a statement accusing it of trying to “influence” how MPs will vote on legislation, of an “assault on our primary democracy” and a “direct interference by a foreign government into our domestic affairs”. Australia has provided help before, including during the 2019 elections. The new offer from Canberra came after Manasseh Sogavare, the prime minister of the Solomon Islands, said that his nation couldn’t afford to fund the Pacific Games and an election in the same year.

Sogavare (pictured) also introduced legislation this week to change the constitution and allow elections to be delayed until 2024. The archipelago’s refusal to accept support comes as it brokered a security pact with China that has sparked concerns across capitals in Australia, New Zealand and the US. Whether its motives for offering electoral support are positive or not, Australia is clearly in danger of losing its influence over the island nation.

Image: Felix Odell

Transport / Denmark

Turning a profit

Denmark’s transport ministry has been hosting a national cycling conference this week and it’s eager for new ideas: despite the country’s reputation as one of the world’s foremost cycling nations, the number of bike riders on Danish roads has decreased by almost 14 per cent since 2014. Reasons vary but the factors include Denmark’s economic success and increased car ownership, especially in rural areas. The decline has now prompted the ministry to set an ambitious goal of 20 per cent more bicycle trips by 2030.

Transport minister Trine Bramsen emphasised the importance of promoting cycling from an early age and the need for close collaboration between the state, municipalities and other organisations. And while Denmark might be a victim of its own prosperity, the ministry points to some clear arguments for reversing the downward trend: it calculates that for every kilometre cycled, Danish society becomes almost one euro wealthier thanks to less pollution and a healthier public.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Toronto Islands

Tomos Lewis marks the end of summer in North America with a trip to Toronto’s beloved city-side archipelago.

Monocle Films / Japan

Tokyo’s colourful community bus

An electric bus service has injected a new playfulness into a borough of Tokyo in need of a revamp. We hop aboard and meet Eiji Mitooka, its creator and Japan’s foremost train designer, who explains why he puts fun at the top of his list when designing public transport. All aboard! Read more in the June issue of the magazine.

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