Blinken cancels Beijing trip after Chinese spy balloon discovered over US.
Brazilian ex-Pres. Bolsonaro seeks 6-month US tourist visa, dodging mounting legal peril at home.
Blinken cancels Beijing trip after Chinese spy balloon discovered over US
Civilians in Montana have reported sightings of a massive white balloon floating over the state. The Pentagon confirmed yesterday that it is a Chinese spy balloon and that they have been tracking it since it entered US airspace a few days ago. Beijing has expressed regret about the incident and claim that the balloon was blown off course and was not meant to fly over the US. US atmospheric scientists say this is feasible, but few in the public or in Pentagon circles are likely to accept this explanation.
At the time of the balloon’s discovery, defense officials discussed shooting it down but decided against it. They determined that the massive size of the balloon and the large surveillance apparatus suspended from it would make shooting it down too hazardous. They also believe it poses minimal danger to air traffic and military security, although it has been flying over missile sights in the state. The balloon is now sailing off towards the central US.
Blinken trip called off
Sec. of State Antony Blinken was due to make a brief trip to China this weekend. This trip has now been postponed because of the balloon business. Blinken’s trip had been informally planned for months and was to be an opportunity for the two sides to find common ground over a number of issues including Taiwan, climate change and human rights. The trip could also have presented an opportunity to lower the temperature after several recent developments have ramped up tensions between the US and China.
Yesterday, the US announced an agreement with the Philippines to access four military bases. A memo from a four-star Gen. Mike Minihan also leaked this week in which Minihan shares his “gut” feeling that China would invade Taiwan by 2025 and that the US would then be at war with China. The memo seemed calculated to pressure the Biden administration to assume an even more adversarial posture against Beijing.
Just to pour more fuel on the fire, CIA chief William Burns issued a statement saying that he “wouldn’t underestimate [Chinese] President Xi’s ambitions with regard to Taiwan”.
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Brazilian ex-Pres. Bolsonaro seeks 6-month US tourist visa, dodging mounting legal peril at home
Brazil’s right-wing former President Jair Bolsonaro is currently ensconced in a private home in Orlando, FL, not far from Disney World. He’s been living in the home, belonging to a Brazilian mixed martial artist, since he left Brazil on Dec. 30, just two days before his rival Lula da Silva assumed the presidency.
During this stay in Florida, Bolsonaro has become something of an Orlando tourist attraction himself. Twice a day, he emerges from his home to greet a small crowd of supporters. There are usually about 30 and 40 people waiting outside to cheer him, some clad in Brazilian flags. Other than that, Bolsonaro is keeping a very low profile.
On Jan. 8, seven days after Lula took office, thousands of Bolsonaro’s supporters converged on the capital in Brasilia. They had been bussed there from around the country on over 100 chartered busses. Once there, they entered the federal government complex that houses the Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace and vandalized the property. With no resistance from police, the rioters broke windows, set fires, broke pipes which flooded hallways and defecated on furniture.
The riot followed a weeks-long campaign by Bolsonaro to overturn his October election defeat. The courts rejected his lawsuit and fined him for bad-faith litigation. Nevertheless, Bolsonaro never conceded and continued implying that the election had been rigged. His supporters caused havoc all over the country, blocking highways, attacking police stations. They even camped outside military barracks demanding the army seize control and reinstate Bolsonaro.
“He could never come back”
Following the events of Jan. 8, Brazilian authorities have ordered the arrests of high-ranking figures in Bolsonaro’s administration. So far, they have not called for the US to extradite him. However, 46 Democrats in Congress have signed an open letter to President Biden demanding that Bolsonaro be sent back to Brazil. Those calls are likely to intensify as a former ally of Bolsonaro’s has revealed that Bolsonaro attended a meeting where one of his aides discussed blackmailing the country’s top judge to keep Bolsonaro in power.
There’s been no indication yet that the State Department is planning to kick Bolsonaro out. The visa Bolsonaro used to enter the US, a visa reserved for foreign heads of state, expired at the end of January, 30 days after Bolsonaro’s term officially ended. Bolsonaro is now applying for a 6-month tourist visa “to enjoy being a tourist for a few months more”, his representative said. While the application is being processed, which could take months, Bolsonaro will likely be allowed to stay in the country.
Flávio Bolsonaro, a son of Bolsonaro who is also a sitting senator, told Brazilian reporters on Saturday that his father had no firm plans to return to Brazil. “It could be tomorrow, it could be six months from now. He could never come back,” he said. “He has no fear at all because he bears no responsibility for what happened in Brazil”.
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