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Brazzil - Issues - September 2003

Brazil: Time for Lula to Stop Moaning

Instead of constantly sniping at the US, Brazilian President Lula
should adopt a more positive approach and offer constructive help
and agree to send Brazilian troops to Iraq. Lula will stop off in
Cuba where he and Fidel Castro, will be able to have a good moan
about "gringo" imperialism and aggression while puffing cigars.

John Fitzpatrick


President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is currently striding the world stage, addressing the opening session of the United Nations assembly in New York. Even before making his formal address, he was quoted as criticizing United States policy on terrorism and Iraq at a conference on terrorism. This comes as no surprise. However, instead of constantly sniping at the US, a more positive approach would be to offer constructive help and agree to send Brazilian troops to Iraq to help restore order. On his way back home Lula will stop off in Cuba where he and his old comrade, Communist tyrant and murderer, Fidel Castro, will be able to have a good moan about "gringo" imperialism and aggression while puffing cigars and toasting the revolution.

During his stay in New York Lula is also due to have several meetings with the UN secretary general, Kofi Anan, to discuss ways of reforming the body. Lula is expected to press Brazil's longstanding call for the country to have a permanent seat on the Security Council. During these meetings let us hope that, as a good servant of the UN, Anan reminds Lula that Brazil has an outstanding debt of US$ 40 million to the UN educational, scientific and cultural organization, UNESCO. If an installment amounting to US$ 6.8 million is not paid by next Saturday (September 27), Brazil will lose its right to vote at general meetings of UNESCO.

Prime Time = Crime Time

Can you imagine any responsible television station interviewing masked individuals who threaten to kill public figures? We are not talking about Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein threatening jihads etc against the US in a news item but a mass audience entertainment program broadcast on a Sunday afternoon. This program—"Domingo Legal"—paid two men, who were presented as members of a criminal organization known as the PCC, to make their threats in an interview with SBT presenter Gugu Liberato. Those threatened included a well-known priest, Marcelo Rossi, the deputy mayor of São Paulo and several rival television presenters

As things turned out, the masked men were not members of the PCC. It is still not clear whether they were, in fact, criminals or actors. In fact, it looks as though the whole item was a stunt to gain a bigger audience since, at the time the program was broadcast, the rival Globo channel was showing the Brazil-Colombia World Cup qualifying match.

Faced with a public outcry, Liberato claimed he had been hoaxed and later apologized. Few people believe him but even if this were true, it is unbelievable that a professional broadcaster could allow material like this to be aired. Broadcasting murder threats against named individuals, in a country as violent as Brazil, is nothing short of criminal irresponsibility.

Thankfully, the authorities took action and took the program—renamed "Domingo Ilegal" by some wags—off the air for a week while an investigation got underway.

As for Liberato, he was publicly disowned by Petrobras and Nestlé which had used him in their publicity material. Despite this setback there is no sign of him being sacked by Santos and, presumably, it will be business as usual soon. We can, therefore, look forward to brainless items such as practically naked girls wrestling in paddling pools with virtually naked hunks.

As for Santos he seems remarkably blasé about the whole affair considering that two years he himself was held captive by a criminal who had earlier kidnapped his daughter and later went on to kill two policemen.

Is Ronaldo Being a Bad Sport?

A tussle has arisen between Brazil's two most famous footballers—Ronaldo and Pelé. Ronaldo has made it clear that one of his ambitions is to score more goals in international games than Pelé. This will be a tough feat since Pelé's official record is 95 to Ronaldo's current 49. However, Ronaldo has just turned 27 and presumably will still be young enough to play in the 2006 finals should Brazil qualify.

To boost his chances, Ronaldo is trying to change the way in Pelé's goals have been counted. He wants about 20 of Pelé's goals removed from the records because he says they were not scored in serious competitive games but in others such as friendlies. This would obviously reduce the difference and give him room to catch up.

It is not known whether the Brazilian football federation will agree to Ronaldo's request but a poll of readers in the Estadão portal of the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper showed that 67 percent were against Ronaldo and 33 percent in favor. About 80 percent thought the move would backfire and have a negative effect on Ronaldo's image. Over 5,000 people took part in this poll, which shows the issue has raised considerable public interest. Personally, I think Ronaldo is right to make such an ambitious statement publicly since he will be committed to excelling himself. At the same time, he will be adding a bit of excitement to his career over the coming years.

Pelé has been as diplomatic as ever and said that, while Ronaldo could beat his tally, the younger player faced quite a task. Naturally, he showed no sign of agreeing to having his own record reduced. While Pelé is still highly regarded in Brazil, not everyone admires him. Some members of the team which beat Germany in last year's World Cup final complained publicly after Pelé appeared on the pitch and joined in the celebrations. These players were irked at what they saw as Pelé trying to muscle in and capture their moment of glory.

For anyone who reads Portuguese and is interested in how Ronaldo reached his positions as a global idol I recommend Jorge Caldeira's book Ronaldo: Glória e Drama no Futebol Glabalizado published by Editora 34 and Lance Editorial.

What's in a Name? Nothing in São Paulo

One morning, a couple of months ago, I looked out my office window in time to see a bulldozer start demolishing a house across the street. This set off alarm bells because the building was a low-lying, sprawling affair which allowed me a reasonably pleasant view. However, to my surprise and pleasure, a tasteful-looking one storey building was quickly erected, the trees were maintained and the place was tidied up nicely.

A couple of days ago, I stopped off to see what was going on and was approached by a real estate agent who obviously thought I was looking for a place to buy. He then unwittingly recounted a horror story by saying that two 23-storey buildings would be shortly erected on the spot over the next two years.

Unaware of my shock, he urged me to get my name down as soon as possible since the development would be much in demand. A price list showed that the duplex apartment would sell for R$ 2,290,000 (US$ 764,000) and the cheapest apartment would cost R$ 958,000 (US$ 320,000).

Even though the proposed flats will have four bedrooms, these prices are simply absurd given the market and the area. However, when I read the sales brochure I saw that the developers' tactics were based on reinventing the geography of the city and trying to fool gullible people. The developers have simply claimed that the street in which the development will be in is part of the up-market Jardins district whereas, in fact, it is in the more modest Pinheiros district.

If you are going to tell a lie then tell a big lie appears to be the motto. Not only have the developers renamed my district but have created a fantasy Jardins, which bears no relation to reality. According to the sales brochure I live in "the most glamorous region of the city" near "one of the most tree-lined and exclusive streets". Not only that but humble Pinheiros—or, should I say Jardins, is "...our Zurich, our little piece of New York. Île de la Cité avec Camden Town." The next time I walk along the dog-merded, cracked pavements, step over burst plastic bags spewing out rubbish, look at the graffiti scrawled on buildings and hold my nose as a reeking beggar passes I will remember that I am in "the most glamorous region of the city".

My main priority now, though, is to try and find out if the city law allows a developer to announce out of the blue that it intends building two 24-storey blocks without advising local people beforehand. According to the chairman of the consortium in my building we were given no official notification at all. I suspect I have already lost this battle but let's see if I can try and change the developer's plans and stop them spoiling my view as well as rewriting geography.

Death and Love in High Society

Finally, there have been two big social events which have enlivened the dull lives of São Paulo's socialites and those who follow their goings-on—the opening of a flashy new hotel in the Jardins, partly owned by the Fasano family, and the wedding of mayor Marta Suplicy.

The Fasanos run the most highly-regarded restaurants in the city and the opening of the hotel was given enormous coverage (and free publicity) in the media. Even the street where the hotel was built had its name changed from the indigenous-sounding Rua Tairana to Rua Vitorio Fasano. Unfortunately, only a week after the hotel opened, the editor of the Brazilian edition of Vogue fell to his death from the nearby apartment of Rogerio Fasano, in circumstances as yet unexplained.

Before he died, the journalist is reported to have been drinking heavily in the hotel and had become somewhat abrasive. This incident brought the hotel more free publicity but not the kind of gushy nonsense the Fasanos are used to receiving from sycophantic hacks and hackettes.

As to love, our 58-year-old socialist mayor got married on Saturday to a dishy heartthrob a few years younger than her. It was the social event of the year and took place on a country estate far from the media crowd. For Marta Suplicy, a fine-looking woman, it was her second marriage but for her swain, smoothie Monsieur Luis Favre, it was the fifth time he had slipped a wedding ring on the finger of a beloved bride.

Let's hope it works out for him this time so that our mayor's marital bliss encourages her to make a better job of administering the city than she has until now. What a pity that no Brazilian journalist has delved more into the background of this much-married man with double nationality (French and Argentinean) born with a different name (Felipe Wermus) and who is now the husband of one of Brazil's top politicians.


John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish journalist who first visited Brazil in 1987 and has lived in São Paulo since 1995. He writes on politics and finance and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicações— www.celt.com.br, which specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian and foreign clients. You can reach him at jf@celt.com.br

© John Fitzpatrick 2003




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