Brazil: While Lula is Away, Vice Trips and Bungles

Brazil: While Lula is Away, Vice Trips and Bungles

While Brazilian President Lula is abroad, Brazilians are left in
the hands of Vice President,
José Alencar. Barely a day goes by
without Alencar making some kind of boob. Alencar’s latest
was to tell the Portuguese President that Brazil wanted
to use Portugal as an entry to the European market.


John Fitzpatrick


Lula—Brazil’s Frequent Flyer

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was in Bolivia last week for a summit meeting of Iberian-Latin American
leaders. Since he has met most of these people at least once since taking office, almost a year ago, you would wonder what he
had to talk about. However, Lula can make speech at the drop of a hat and a meeting of Latinos gives him the chance to slap
backs and give abraços instead of the frigid handshakes and frozen smiles which mark his trips to gringoland.

Lula has developed quite a taste for travel and barely a week goes by without him hopping on a plane. So far he is
reported to have visited 38 countries and made 21 international trips. His most recent trip took him to six African countries
where we saw him playing football with some kids in Angola and expressing surprise at how clean he found the Namibian
capital, Windhoek.

He will be off again shortly to the Middle East so we can look forward to pictures of him in Arab head dress and,
perhaps, sitting astride a camel. When things are not going well President like to go abroad where they are sure of a respectful
welcome—unless they are Portuguese and visiting Brazil as we will see in the next item.

Oops—Alencar Puts His Foot in it Again

While Lula is abroad, we are left in the hands of Vice President, José Alencar, who becomes acting President.
Barely a day goes by without Alencar making some kind of boob or upsetting someone or some sector. Alencar’s latest gaffe
was to tell the Portuguese President at a public ceremony held in São Paulo that Brazil wanted to use Portugal as an entry to
the European market.

Not surprisingly this did not please the distinguished visitor who was quick to point out that Portugal had other
merits than being a mere entry point for Brazilian exports. Since the Portuguese exploited Brazil for centuries, using it as an
entry point for their immigrants and undesirables and an exit point for Brazil’s wealth, for once, I can’t help but be on
Alencar’s side.

Paranoia Rules—the Americans are Coming

Lula’s Chief of Staff, José Dirceu, has been complaining of being overworked of late. Perhaps this fatigue explains
some paranoiac comments he made recently implying that the Amazon is in danger of being invaded by those nasty
Americans. In a speech to a group of visiting Latin American businessmen, Dirceu, the former guerrilla who ended up in Cuba
during Brazil’s military dictatorship, called for military integration in Latin America.

Why? Because he now loves the military? No, to prevent the United States from sending troops to the Amazon
region of Colombia and occupying it permanently. The Brazilian defense minister, José Viegas, was quick to refute Dirceu’s
idiotic comments but reports say some members of the military were pleased. The chairman of Foreign Affairs and National
Defense Committee of the House of Deputies had this to say: "I am pleased that Dirceu has discovered that the Americans have
their eyes on us." As to Dirceu, his reply was that he had not known any journalists were present when he spoke.

The Name Game

A few months ago I mentioned the strange names which Brazilians give their offspring. It is not uncommon for
babies to be named after a combination of the father’s and mother’s names, have classical names like Júlio César or foreign
names like Milton or Wilson. I am grateful to reader Richard Anderson (whose own surname is a common Christian name
here) for a splendid article he found on the Internet and forwarded to me.

Here are a couple of examples from this priceless piece, which is partly based on lists published by the Brazilian
Social Security register in the 1980s. Portuguese speakers will have a better understanding of the later examples but the first is
easy enough, although José Dirceu would disapprove.

* A poor uneducated maid gave her daughter the name Madeinusa. When her employer asked why she responded
innocently:  "It is because I was picking up your clothes to wash and I saw on the label of your shirt the word "Made in
USA", and I thought it was pretty…"

* brothers and sisters: Xerox, Autenticada and Fotocópia; Cedilha, Vírgula, Cifra and Ponto;

* sisters: Dialinda and Noitelinda;

* father and son: Fredolino and Merdolino

Unfair Advantage?

There have been two teams wearing the national football strip these last days _ the full squad taking on Peru in the
World Cup qualifying process and the Under-23 selection which faced, not a similar squad from another country, but the São
Paulo team Corinthians. The under-23 team fielded some excellent players, like Robinho and Alex from Santos, and easily
beat Corinthians who are having a terrible season.

It would be interesting to know how this game came to be organized. After all, why should Corinthians get the
chance to take on a national squad? Had Corinthians won the game, would this not have boosted their morale and given them an
unfair advantage over other teams? Now that Corinthians have had the chance will other teams demand similar treatment?

One team which was not around to watch the game was rival São Paulo which, for some equally bizarre reason, was
far away in England playing unglamorous Bolton Wanderers. At times, it is difficult to know whether Brazilians take their
football too seriously or whether they take it seriously at all.


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

© John Fitzpatrick 2003


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