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CNN International: Notre Dame Restoration; President Biden Announces Gun Reform Executive Actions; Interview With World Bank President David Malpass; COVID Crisis in Brazil. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 8, 2021 - 14:00   ET




Live coverage of the trial of Derek Chauvin continues later in this hour. It's day nine of the testimony.

Before lunch, the jury heard from medical experts on exactly how George Floyd lost oxygen and died. The former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for Floyd's killing, after kneeling on his neck for nine minutes last summer.

While we wait for the trial to resume, allow me, please, to update you on some of the other international headlines around the world.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro is playing down an alarming new number of coronavirus cases, rejecting lockdowns and saying, in his words, "We are not going to cry over spilled milk."

This week, Brazil had its deadliest day of the pandemic so far, with more than 4,000 deaths in just 24 hours.


JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We are not going to accept this policy of staying at home, of closing everything down. This virus will not go. This virus, like others, is here to stay and will remain for a lifetime.

It is practically impossible to eradicate it. What are we going to do until then?


QUEST: Rafael Romo is in Atlanta.

He says, what are we going to do until then?

Well, what's his answer? What's his own answer of what to be done, since he's clearly right? The virus will be with us for the foreseeable future, if not forever.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's just following the same thing that he's done before, which is minimizing the threat of the pandemic.

He's done it many times. And it's no surprise that he's doing it again. And let's remember, Richard, that Brazil has well over 13 million confirmed cases and the number of COVID-19 deaths is now more than 340,000.

March was the deadliest month in the South American country since the pandemic began. And things seem to be getting worse, instead of better. Tuesday was the deadliest 24-hour period since the pandemic began. More than 4,000 people died that day alone.

Also, the Brazilian variant known as P.1 has been found in 18 out of 26 states throughout the country and, as we have reported, has also been detected in neighboring countries like Uruguay.

So, what is President Jair Bolsonaro saying about this health crisis? Once again, he downplayed the alarming situation Wednesday, saying, as you just mentioned, Richard, there is no point crying over spilt milk.

That was the very same day that Brazil posted 3,829 new deaths, raising the total nationwide death toll to 340,776, according to government data.

Of course, you may remember, Richard, that Bolsonaro raised eyebrows a few months ago when he said COVID-19 was just (SPEAKING SPANISH) a little cold, and dismissed warnings about the disease. He would later test positive to the coronavirus.

Brazil remains the country with the second highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world, after the United States -- Richard, back to you.

QUEST: Yes, but it's doing to his popularity?

In terms of the country, where do people stand at the moment on his response and how they blame, if they blame?

ROMO: Well, he's a very polarizing figure. It's almost like the same phenomenon that we saw here in the United States, with a very loyal base of supporters that whatever he says is right, whereas the other half of the country is very worried about what has happened.

And the main problem here, Richard, is that for -- for a long time, Brazilians have received mixed messages, one from Bolsonaro trying to downplay the threat of the pandemic, and, on the other side, the governors saying, this is a real emergency, we have to follow guidelines, we need to be careful about this.

And so people are kind of caught in the middle, not really knowing what to do. But he remains a very popular figure in some segments of the population, for sure.

QUEST: Rafael Romo, who is in Atlanta, thank you, sir.

In Asia, South Korea saw its big daily jump in COVID cases for the year and for the second day in a row, 700 new cases reported today, one of many countries in the region that are struggling to keep the coronavirus under control.

Blake Essig with the details.


BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a part of the world which was first to bear the brunt of COVID-19, pandemic fatigue, virus variants and vaccine rollout seemingly moving at a snail pace are three factors that Dr. Jerome Kim, the head of the U.N. organization promoting vaccination and its development, says will likely continue to cause problems across Asia Pacific.

DR. JEROME KIM, DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL VACCINE INSTITUTE: If you can't control the pandemic, and you don't have access to vaccine, you're not going to be -- you're going to be in a situation we were in, in the spring of 2020, with hospitals being full, with people being denied admission and people dying at home.

ESSIG: It's a grim reality that many countries in the region could face in the days and weeks to come.

The Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, most of Japan, and South Korea are all seeing their daily case counts moving in the wrong direction.

As for India, well over 100,000 new infections have been reported daily,

VINOD K. PAUL, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR TRANSFORMING INDIA: Last couple of weeks, few weeks, the situation is becoming from bad to worse, and is serious cause for concern.

ESSIG: In the Philippines, the president's spokesperson said the spread of more infectious coronavirus variants came as a surprise. More than 24 million people in and around Manila had been living under lockdown for more than a week, as cases continue to surge.

Infections have been on the rise almost daily since mid-February. The result? Many hospitals are overwhelmed. Nonessential workers fear for what an extended lockdown might mean.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It will be more difficult when we don't have jobs, because we don't have the money to feed our family.

ESSIG: While case counts are on the rise in several countries throughout Asia Pacific, vaccines are not as readily available as in countries like the U.K. and U.S.

Dr. Kim explains why.

KIM: I think countries were a little late to enter the queue for vaccine purchases. I mean, to some extent, in Korea and Japan, it's because there weren't as many cases, and they wanted perhaps to know the vaccines were working or which vaccines were safe.

[14:05:10] ESSIG: Japan has fully vaccinated about two-tenths-of-a-percent of its population, the Philippines and South Korea even less than that. And India, the vaccine factory of the world, is still at less than 1 percent.

But it's not all bad news across the Asia Pacific region. In Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam, the new average daily case count has remained extremely low.

And in New Zealand and Australia, the count is low enough that they will resume operating a quarantine-free travel corridor between the two countries later this month.

Blake Essig, CNN, Tokyo.


QUEST: As we continue tonight, part two of my interview with the head of the World Bank.

David Malpass tells me, more must be done to combat global inequality as a result of coronavirus.


QUEST: Pope Francis is urging the IMF and World Bank to help relieve the debts of poor countries ravaged by the pandemic.

In a letter this week, the pope called for a new global plan that gives developing nations a greater say in making global decisions. He also said they should have more access to international markets. It's a call taken up, in a way, by the president of the World Bank, who's calling for more reforms when it comes to dealing with the debt, the sovereign debt of poorer nations.

Speaking to me earlier, President David Malpass said inequalities are getting worse and richer countries need to do their part to help.


DAVID MALPASS, PRESIDENT, WORLD BANK: There's good news and bad news.

The good news is that the advanced economies, there's been some upgrade of the forecasts, and particularly for the U.S. and China in terms of growth.

But I will say bad news is that the inequality problems are still with us. In fact, they're getting bigger. That means the median income in a lot of countries is not going up and, in fact, might be going down. It's the inequality over the vaccination efforts.

But one thing that I will just mention and throw out for you is, there are bankruptcy processes in most countries, but not for sovereign debt. So, when a poor country gets into solvency problems, it's very hard to get out of them, because there's not a bankruptcy process.


So, these are inequalities that people have to talk about, deal with and think about where to go in the international system.

QUEST: How would you address that?

That's the key now, I mean, we're at the point where I foresee rich countries getting richer and repaired, and poor countries just getting worse.

MALPASS: That's the core of an inequality challenge. The bottom goes down, and the top goes up.

And so, to repair that, I think what -- and I have proposed and talked about several different ideas. One is simply the interest rates that are being rolled over on the debt of the poor countries. It's too high. The global rates have gone down. So that's a starting point for doing this.

Another is the transparency that I mentioned of the contracts. This -- we have to get away from the idea of sovereign borrowers giving collateral. That means they lock up the -- the resources of their country...

QUEST: Right.

MALPASS: ... for years and years. That really needs to wind down.

These non-transparency clauses -- think if you live in a country where your government said it would never disclose the terms of the debt that it's taking on that your children are going to have to pay. That's not a fair situation.

And then one other thing that I will mention -- I did at the outset -- the bankruptcy, the lack of bankruptcy process. So, right now, in the courts in the advanced economies, they favor the creditor and say, you can attach all of the assets of the people of the poor country, if they don't pay their debt. And that puts them in a very weakened position in terms of negotiating a restructuring.

QUEST: What keeps you going at the moment, Mr. President?

I mean, you and I have talked before. And, at the World Bank, the issues you're now facing have put the clock back. There is no easy solution on debt. It's going to get nasty. It'll end up in the courts. And vaccinations is a question of supply, never mind demand.

What's keeping you going?

MALPASS: The opportunity to have transformations in individual countries.

I have put a lot of focus on success country by country. And so we work day and night to try to have countries -- for example, on vaccinations, one of the key things is for the ministers of the countries to sign contracts to actually get delivery. So, that requires a lot of people, as the World Bank has.

We have resources in order to have an impact. So, we need to identify -- and we do this -- situations around the world where we can get transformative benefit and scalable benefit. A program might start where it's benefiting 100,000 people, but we need it to benefit 10 million people in a country, for example, the agriculture programs, the water programs, the electricity programs.

All of those are vital to literally hundreds of millions of people. So that's what keeps me going.

QUEST: I don't mean to put climate at the end. But the temptation is, with debt relief, with vaccination, people say, oh, have we got time for climate?

MALPASS: Well, the climate is actually high on the agenda, both of the G20 and of the spring meetings which are ongoing now of the World Bank and the IMF.

It's talked about by almost every speaker. So, it really is a central part of this week's discussions. We released the elements of our climate change action plan last week.

QUEST: Right.

MALPASS: And, critically in that is this record funding that we're providing, and it's going to grow from record levels, which is good.

But we -- and we also want to focus on results in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the big emitters and the diagnostics that go with that. There has to be a rational system to really make progress on this.


QUEST: The president of the World Bank talking to me earlier.

The push to overhaul global corporate tax rate is gathering momentum. CNN has confirmed reports that the U.S. is proposing a new plan that will call for multinational companies to pay taxes to governments based on their sales in each country.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has called for a global minimum corporate tax rate earlier this week.

Clare is with me now, Clare Sebastian.

So, there was -- we're getting a very good idea of what the Biden plan looks like in all its participant parts, for instance, national corporate tax rate, Yellen's call for a global tax rate, and multinationals agreeing to pay more tax.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Richard. And this is really a big departure from what we have seen before. You know you and I have been talking about this for many, many years. The OECD has been the best part of a decade trying to bring countries together on some kind of plan to reform international taxation.

Now, what they have is pillar one, which is how to sort of redistribute taxes among some of the world's biggest companies, particularly digital companies.

You know that that has caused a huge dispute between the U.S. and other countries, like Italy, France, the U.K., even India, where they have now taken unilateral action and introduced a digital services tax, because they couldn't come to an agreement on how to get money from these companies in places where they do business, not just where they book their profits.

So, the U.S., in a turnaround now, is saying, look, we want to come up with a plan...

QUEST: Right.

SEBASTIAN: ... where some of these top companies, some of the spoils will be redistributed.

And the reason, Richard, that they want to do that is because they can get more money from pillar two, which is the global minimum tax that Yellen has proposed.

QUEST: Right, but, Clare, the U.S. under Donald Trump was viciously against plans like the digital tax in France and elsewhere in Italy.

Are you now saying that the U.S. will back individual countries introducing digital taxes like this because of their ability to do the same thing?

SEBASTIAN: Well, so, the U.S. is proposing this, in theory, so that the countries won't need a digital tax, which this would be a sort of international plan whereby, say, the top 100 companies in the world, many of which, of course, are American, many of which, of course, are digital, that would be a mechanism to somehow share out there -- the taxes that they pay among countries where they do business, and not just where they make their profit.

So, in theory, if that happens, these countries would no longer need their digital sales tax. But we have heard today, Richard, from the French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire. He welcomed us from the U.S. He said that a global agreement is now in reach. But until they see one, they're going to keep their digital tax.

QUEST: What's your gut feeling? Will this work? The digital companies, the online companies are very good at obfuscating where the money is made and where the taxes are paid.

SEBASTIAN: Yes, Richard, it gets complicated. And the technicals are still going to be hammered out in discussions. It's not likely that, if we do get an agreement, it will be before the middle of the year, possibly even later than that. But I know that a lot of people want it. It all boils down to what we have been talking about sort of throughout the past few days or the beginning of these spring meetings of the IMF, that the reduction of inequality, I think, exacerbated by the pandemic.

People are now taking a closer look at how they can take the winners when it comes to globalization, these big companies that have, many of them, profited in the last year, and help bring some of that money back into the tax base for these companies, so they can support the rebuilding process in the wake of this.

QUEST: Sebastian, Clare, Thank you.

To our top story again, one of our top stories. President Biden's unveiled a series of executive orders on gun controls. In the last hour, the U.S. president said gun violence is an epidemic and a blemish on the nation.

The announcement follows a spate of mass shootings in the United States.

Phil Mattingly is in Washington.

What's the core of it? I heard what the president was talking, about ghost guns, banning this,doing that which he can himself without requiring congressional action, but how far can he go?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think the fact -- the core of it is that it can't go very far at all.

What you're seeing, Richard, and what the president announced today were rulemakings by the Justice Department to basically crack down on kind of side elements outside the periphery elements of the core issues that you have seen that are largely attributed to gun violence.

If you're talking about the shooting that occurred in Georgia or the shooting in Boulder, Colorado, this mass shooting that occurred just last night in South Carolina, what the president is doing related to ghost guns, related to stabilizing braces wouldn't necessarily have had an effect on things.

And I think the president acknowledged that today. He acknowledged that the U.S., when it comes to gun violence, is, in his words, an international embarrassment, but, also, to make real change, to actually implement laws or implement policies that have teeth, they need Congress to work on this issue.

And this is just something -- Richard, you're not new to this. This is something that, over the course of the last several decades, just hasn't had a path forward on Capitol Hill. The president making clear he wants two-House passed background checks bills to move through the U.S. Senate.

He wants an assault weapons ban to be reimplemented, several different legislative priorities that the administration has. What they don't have is really any Republican votes, let alone 10, in the U.S. Senate to get it done.

QUEST: So, is it going to go anywhere at the end of the day?

As long as I have worked -- lived and worked in the U.S. as a journalist, this is -- it's gone nowhere. Do you get the feeling it's different?

MATTINGLY: No. No. And that's not -- I'm not just going off a gut feeling here. That's in talking to Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Look, I will say this. Democrats believe there is an opening here. I would say that somebody who was covering Congress in the wake of Sandy Hook, someone who was covering Congress in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shootings, if those weren't the moments, when is the moment actually going to come?


What's happening behind the scenes that may actually lead to some movement is, there are bipartisan conversations happening in the U.S. Senate. Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican who has sponsored background check bills before, Senator Chris Murphy, kind of the leading Democrat on this issue as well, they are talking, and they're talking quietly.

They are not talking about how their negotiations are going. And that's usually a positive sign on things. I think the reality is, no one knows what, if anything, could get 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats in support right now.

What we do know is that the options that have been laid on the table, the House-passed bills, the 2013 background check bill, those are nonstarters for 60 votes. They need to come up with something new.

That work is happening. Whether or not they have a breakthrough of any kind, it certainly would be a dramatic shift from what we have seen over the course of the last couple decades. But the conversations are happening right now.

QUEST: Phil Mattingly in Washington.

Phil, thank you, as we continue at the CNN NEWSROOM.


JEAN-LOUIS GEORGELIN, NOTRE DAME RECONSTRUCTION CHIEF: It is a place where the spire collapsed. This is the center of the drama.


QUEST: It's eight centuries' old, and it was minutes from total destruction. Now it's two years after the fire at Notre Dame. We will get a look at how the restoration is progressing. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Nearly two years since the massive fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Rebuilding it could take many, many more years. And much of the focus at the moment is restoring the churches spire, which famously collapsed during the blaze.

CNN's Melissa Bell us inside the restoration to see how the work is progressing.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Its vaulted ceilings, stained-glass windows, and elaborate columns.

As you can see on these images shot by CNN, so much of what makes Notre Dame one of the world's most exquisite Gothic wonders stands tall, almost miraculously.

The construction of the cathedral may have taken 182 years from when it began in 1163. It took the fire of 2019 a matter of hours to compromise its stability. The work of the last two years has been all about ensuring that the cathedral stayed upright.

GEORGELIN: We had to be sure that the structure is solid. So, I take a lot of measures to consolidate. We don't want to make the reconstruction without being reassured.


BELL (on camera): Here, you can see the iconic north tower that at one point had been threatened by the flames on the night of the fire. In the end, they were put out before it could collapse.

But this was where the most devastating part of the fire took place. It was here that the famous Notre Dame spire once stood.

(voice-over): As the world watched, the spire, which had been under renovation collapsed, breaking through the vaulted ceiling, which then crashed into the nave.

The scaffolding that had surrounded it, 40,000 tubes of metal now twisted into the structure, then had to be carefully picked through and removed.

General Jean-Louis Georgelin, who's in charge of the renovations, gave CNN a rare tour.

GEORGELIN: It is a place where the spire collapsed. This is the center of the drama.

BELL: The general then shows us the exact spot where the spire first came crashing through. Here, the vaulted ceiling is held up by wooden pillars, each weighing a ton-and-a-half. They ensure, explains the project manager, that if the stones give way

for whatever reason, bad weather, tremor, a shock, well, the wooden support beams will keep the structure standing.

Now that the scaffolding for the renovations is ready, General Georgelin says that the work of rebuilding Notre Dame's vaulted ceiling and its spire will begin before the end of the year.

(on camera): This is the central part of the nave, where the great majority of the reconstruction is going to have to take place, since it's here that the spire collapsed, bringing down the stone structure with it.

Elsewhere, what's really remarkable is how intact the structure is, these stones that had stood for more than 8 centuries almost exactly as they were.

(voice-over): Outside, too, the cathedral's iconic Gothic facade stands as a testament to a construction that has proven as sturdy as it is delicate.

Cathedral officials say that almost a billion dollars have been raised through donations from 150 countries so far, a reminder of the place that Notre Dame has, not just in the history of France, but in the hearts of so many all around the world.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


QUEST: Thank you for watching. I'm Richard Quest in New York.

Stay with CNN. The coverage of the trial of Derek Chauvin continues next.