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Morning news brief

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has returned to the capital, Brasilia. He's come back to survey the damage from an attack yesterday on the Brazilian Congress and other government buildings.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST, GUNFIRE)

DWANE BROWN, HOST:

Thousands of supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro marched across the capital to the plaza that houses Brazil's Congress, Supreme Court and presidential offices. President Lula da Silva called the rioters fascists and said they will be identified and punished.

FADEL: NPR's South America correspondent Carrie Kahn is in Brasilia. Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi. Good morning.

FADEL: Good morning. So this sounds very familiar, a lot like what the U.S. experienced on January 6 at the Capitol building two years ago. What motivated these supporters of Bolsonaro to storm the Capitol and vandalize government buildings?

KAHN: The similarities are quite striking. You have Bolsonaro, who's a one-term president from the far right, who lost the election and refused to concede. And he spent months insisting he lost due to fraud, which he's never provided proof of. His supporters have been camping out in front of army barracks ever since the election on October 3, and they've been urging the military. They want them to step in and overturn the results.

Yesterday, they amassed in great numbers here in Brasilia. Some 40 buses had arrived in the capital. And they march, escorted by police, to the government esplanade, where you said - where they have the Congress, the Supreme Court and the president's office. Once there, they just trashed those offices. Images of the mayhem are devastating. They smashed windows. They broke furniture. They set fires. They were violent against the few police that did try to hold the line. One video was particularly disturbing. It was showing the crowd turn on this lone police officer on a horse. They just pulled him off the horse and were beating him with sticks.

FADEL: Wow.

KAHN: And hundreds have been arrested.

FADEL: Wow. It does sound so similar. When President Lula da Silva spoke about this, did he say how he plans to respond?

KAHN: He was clearly upset and angry. He called the rioters vandals.

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PRESIDENT LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: He says they were fascists, fanatics, and what they did has never been done before in the history of this country. He lashed out at the federal police in Brasilia, too, that appeared to do very little to stop the rioters, especially as they marched from this encampment at the army barracks, and they walked about four miles to the government buildings. And he also squarely placed the blame for incitement of the violence on former President Bolsonaro. He said there will be a quick and thorough investigation into who financed the rioters and also the police in action.

FADEL: What about Bolsonaro? I mean, these are his supporters. Where is he? What is he saying?

KAHN: Last night, Bolsonaro tweeted he condemned the - what he called illegal acts. And he said that he was not responsible for the rioters' actions, though. He's not in Brazil. He's actually in Florida...

FADEL: OK.

KAHN: ...In Orlando. He left Brazil just days before Lula's inauguration. He broke a longstanding Brazilian tradition to pass the presidential sash to his successor. He really had remained practically silent after losing the election last October, and many of his followers have just been frustrated by the silence and then his leaving the country. The attack was exactly one week since Lula was inaugurated. It was at this exact same site. So that may be why they chose this day, even though the government isn't working on a Sunday.

FADEL: That's NPR's South America correspondent Carrie Kahn in Brasilia. Thank you so much.

KAHN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: President Biden is in Mexico for a summit of North American leaders. It's the first time a U.S. president has visited the country since former President Barack Obama attended the summit nine years ago.

BROWN: Biden was received in Mexico City last night by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Now, they plan to spend the next couple of days meeting with each other and with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and migration is likely to be a top issue.

FADEL: So we're going to go to NPR's Eyder Peralta, who's in Mexico City. Good morning, Eyder.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: OK, so broadly, what is the objective of this summit? What do these leaders hope to achieve?

PERALTA: You know, these meetings are jokingly called a meeting of the three amigos. But I spoke to Julian Ventura, who used to be the deputy foreign secretary under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and he said, don't let that moniker fool you. Let's listen.

JULIAN VENTURA: It's a massive three-way relationship. You know, North America accounts for one-third of global GDP. It's a trading superpower.

PERALTA: And this summit is happening in the shadow of the pandemic, when supply chains from China have been disrupted, and the relationship between China and the West is so strained. So there will be, no doubt, a lot of talk about near-shoring, which is getting stuff built in these three countries so there is less dependence on China. And all three countries see this shift as a win. But this is a huge relationship, and these meetings tend to talk about a lot more than the economy. So lots of other things will be discussed.

FADEL: OK, so now, President Biden made a border stop in El Paso on his way to Mexico yesterday. So is that foreshadowing? Will migration be the issue that's going to dominate these talks?

PERALTA: Yeah, I mean, that's a - it's a huge issue, and it's a prickly issue. Some officials here in Mexico have expressed reservations about some American policies, but by and large, the U.S. and Mexico are aligned on immigration. For example, the U.S. has just announced that Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Haitians will be deported back to Mexico if they cross the border to seek asylum, and that policy would not be possible if Mexico didn't agree to receive them. One analyst I spoke to said that Mexico and the U.S. have come to an agreement that what they want to do is deter migrants from ever leaving their countries in the first place.

FADEL: Now, last week, we also heard about the arrest of one of Mexico's biggest drug lords and the violence that followed that. How much attention will be on security?

PERALTA: A lot of attention. The U.S. is looking to Mexico to fight the drug war more effectively. Essentially, most of the fentanyl that ends up in the U.S. comes through the southern border. And as you mentioned, last week, Mexico arrested the son of notorious drug lord El Chapo Guzman, who is thought to be a huge fentanyl dealer. And the press here called his arrest a gift to President Biden. On this side of the border, Mexico is complaining about the number of guns that keep flowing from the U.S. to here. The Mexican government blames the U.S. for the violence here, and they have expressed frustration that the American government is not doing enough to stem the flow of weapons.

FADEL: Now, Eyder, leaders will only be meeting for a pretty short time. Are there issues you're watching that might fall by the wayside?

PERALTA: I think Haiti. It's essentially a failed state. Months ago, the de facto prime minister asked for help. And all of these three countries - the U.S., Canada and Mexico - have played key roles in the past, and they could actually mount an international response to help. But I think it's an open question whether Haiti will even come up in these talks.

FADEL: Wow. Eyder Peralta reporting from Mexico City. Thank you so much.

PERALTA: Thank you, Leila.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: After 15 ballots and four days of drama, Kevin McCarthy secured enough votes to serve as speaker of the House.

BROWN: The California Republican spoke about his priorities leading the House amid a politically divided government.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEVIN MCCARTHY: Our system is built on checks and balances. It's time for us to be a check and provide some balance to the president's policies.

(APPLAUSE)

FADEL: NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh joins us to preview what's ahead in Congress. Good morning, Deirdre.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So before the House can vote on any bills, it has to approve rules for how the chamber operates, right? Is that a done deal?

WALSH: It could run into some problems tonight. In exchange for getting those votes from the hard-right faction, McCarthy agreed to a slew of rules changes. Some of them are widely supported by House Republicans - things like votes on the floor and amendments, votes on single-issue bills instead of wrapping them into a bunch of things into one massive package, giving 72 hours to read bills before votes. We should also note, this rules package would gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, which screens potential rules violations at a time when New York GOP Congressman George Santos admitted he fabricated much of his record and is facing federal investigation for potential campaign finance issues. These rules also allow just one lawmaker to offer a resolution to oust the speaker. So there's going to be this constant threat hanging over McCarthy's speakership.

FADEL: Are moderate Republicans going along with these changes?

WALSH: Not all of them. Texas Republican Tony Gonzales on CBS yesterday said he's a no because he has concerns about the impact the vows to balance the budget within 10 years and slash discretionary spending are going to have on the Pentagon. South Carolina Republican Nancy Mace, a moderate, supports rules changes but said on CBS yesterday she's on the fence for voting for them because she wants details about the other deals that were cut in exchange for votes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NANCY MACE: And we don't know what they got or didn't get. We haven't seen it. We don't have any idea what promises were made or what gentlemen's handshakes were made. We just have no idea at this point. And it does give me quite a bit of heartburn because that's not what we ran on.

WALSH: We should note, McCarthy just has a four-seat majority, so he can't afford more than a few defections.

FADEL: So what's the first thing House Republicans are planning to do if they can get past this step?

WALSH: The first bill the House of Representatives is going to vote on will be to roll back the increase to the Internal Revenue Service that was part of the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Democrats over the summer. This was a top Republican campaign promise - to get rid of new IRS agents. But the goal of giving money to the IRS was to boost an agency that has lost staff and has really struggled to respond to problems with tax returns that many Americans have been dealing with. So Democrats wanted to increase staffing. Of course, this bill isn't going to go anywhere in the Senate that's controlled by Democrats.

FADEL: So we're starting 2023 with a divided government. Given how hard it was to elect a speaker, what does this mean for governing?

WALSH: It's going to be really messy. I mean, one House Republican I talked about, Tony Gonzales, said the speaker vote was actually the easiest vote that members are going to take this year, and we remember how that went. The new rules and commitments Speaker McCarthy made in terms of dealing with the debt later this spring and government funding this fall are really going to test his ability, but they could also have a big impact on the economy.

FADEL: NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Thank you.

WALSH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Dwane Brown
Dwane Brown is a multiple award-winning newscaster for NPR and joined the network in December 2015. He is the first newscaster to broadcast from NPR West in Culver City, California. His newscasts air during All Things Considered.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.