In Brazil, Gossip Is News, Too

In Brazil, Gossip Is News, Too

A royal horse in Spain condemns Lula’s bad manners by
doing its business in front of the
President’s ministers. TV tycoon
Sílvio Santos "jokes" that he only has a few months to live and

thinks this
is funny. And Mick Jagger wishes he had not had
an affair with leggy Brazilian model Luciana Gimenez.


John Fitzpatrick


For Lula Ignorance Is Bliss

A couple of readers have taken me to task because I lamented the fact that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had
boasted about his inability to speak English recently. In fact, I was not criticizing Lula for being monolingual but for playing the
populist card and behaving as though his lack of English somehow brought him closer to the people. In my view, Lula would be
setting a good example if he were to announce that he intended learning English to enable him to convey his views to the
world community in the world language.

No-one expects him to become fluent but if he were, at least, able to make a speech in English it would improve his
image abroad and, I am sure, at home. No-one was ever impressed by ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s linguistic
skills because they expected it from an intellectual, but if Lula were to master English then the very people he claims to
represent would consider it a tribute to them as well. They would be proud of him.

Lula should follow the example of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat who started to learn English about 20 years
ago to help get his message across. Anyone who has ever heard him speak knows that Arafat still has a long, long way to go
but, at least, he can speak and respond to questions in English. In his case it must have been more difficult than it would be
for Lula. Not only has Arafat spent most of his life on the run from Israeli bombs and bullets, not exactly conducive to quiet
study, but since Arabic is his mother tongue he had to learn a new script as well.

Horse Sense

For a man of the people Lula seems to be as star struck by royalty as any forelock-tugging English serf. During his
visit to Madrid this week, our President was so overawed by the presence of His Majesty, King Juan Carlos of Spain, that he
bounced out of his Rolls Royce and rushed to greet the King and Queen, completely forgetting his own wife, Marisa, who had the
car door slammed in her face by a royal flunky.

Fortunately His Majesty showed more gallantry than our forgetful, macho head of state and, noticing Marisa’s
absence, went back and rescued her with a Castilian charm that her hick husband will never have if he lives to be a thousand
years old. Shortly afterwards, one of the horses in a cavalry guard of honour showed what it felt about Lula’s bad manners by
doing its business in front of Lula’s team of minister. Horse sense indeed!

Sílvio Santos’s Funny Sense of Humour

Sílvio Santos is the kind of person whom you can admire yet despair of at the same time. He came from a humble
background and by dint of hard work built up the second largest television network, SBT, of which he is the owner and star
performer. His channel is probably no worse than the others and so mentally undemanding that even a hamster could follow his
programs. He unashamedly targets the least-educated part of the population and has a great following among them.

In my opinion he exploits people shamelessly. One particularly distasteful sight is of him walking through the studio
audience, holding up handful of notes, shouting "Who wants money? Who wants money?" Since most of these people probably
survive on the minimum salary or less, this kind of behaviour is obscene, like dangling a glass of water in front of someone who
is dying of thirst.

Santos is one of the most famous people in Brazil yet does not have a bodyguard because he says the people love
him so much that no-one would kidnap. These could have almost been famous last words. Just over a year ago he was held
hostage in his home in São Paulo by a gunman who had previously kidnapped one of his

Santos put his foot in his mouth again last week when he told gossip magazine
Contigo that he only had six years to live and, more foolishly, that he was going to sell his TV channel for R$ 2 billion (US$ 700 million). This interview, which
was given in Miami, caused a bombshell since none of the SBT directors back in Brazil knew anything about and it was
denied by the alleged purchasers Santos had named.

Since Brazilian law changed recently to allow up to 30 percent foreign participation in media companies, this
comment also generated international coverage. SBT eventually published full-page notices in the press stating that Santos had
only been "joking." Santos must have a funny sense of humour if forecasting his own death and announcing the sale of his
main asset is his idea of what is funny.

Gossip, Gossip

Having checked the above story out I have become an expert on local gossip. Don’t tell anyone I told you but,
apparently: a) Ronaldo’s wife has been seen in public without her wedding ring; b) Mick Jagger wishes he had not had an affair with
leggy Brazilian model Luciana Gimenez, which resulted in the birth of a son and a hefty alimony bill; c) Children’s TV
presenter Eliana traveled to the US recently with somebody who was the ex-husband of somebody who once played a top role in a
novela, the name of which I have forgotten; and the daughter of the late Cristina Onassis has just attended the wedding of her
Brazilian boyfriend’s sister. For more on these and other exciting stories check out
Contigo, Caras, Isto É Gente, Capricho,
Minha Novela etc.

Opportunities for the Boys from Brazil

The attraction of Brazilian girls is obvious, but what is it about the boys that they seem to beguile English
politicians? Remember Peter Mandelson who lost his job as a minister in Tony Blair’s cabinet after getting himself into trouble on
behalf of his Brazilian boyfriend? Well this week another MP was suspended from the House of Commons for his part in a
bogus immigration application by a Brazilian former male escort he employed as a parliamentary assistant.

A committee said that the MP had been "unwise" to employ the Brazilian since "past experience indicates how
the employment in Westminster of a person with a history of work in the sex industry can become a cause of public
scandal." The price of love for the MP came high, not only in terms of prestige but also in cash—the hopeless, hapless English
lovebird loaned his Brazilian paramour 4,000 pounds sterling (about US$ 6,000) and admitted that he did not expect to receive it
back. Coitadinho! (Poor thing!) For any unemployed Brazilian rent boys looking for an opportunity, my advice is get on the
next plane to London and hang about the lobbies and tearooms of the House of Commons.


According to local press reports, 11 members of drug trafficking gangs in Rio de Janeiro were killed in a day of
violence this week. How most of them died depends on which police force you believe. One section says the deaths occurred in
shootouts between two rival factions while a spokeswoman for another section said the majority of deaths resulted from a gun
battle between the gangsters and the police. With law enforcement in the hands of people who cannot agree on something as
clear cut as a major gun battle in the country’s second largest city, can anyone wonder why many victims crime don’t bother
to report even serious crime like robberies and assaults?

1 There is no room for this story here but no soap opera
novela could have been as sensational as this tale.


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, which specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian and foreign clients. You can reach him at 

© John Fitzpatrick 2003


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