The ownership deeds for thousands of rural properties in various
Brazilian states were revoked by the government. Less than 20 percent of these properties
should be retained by current occupants. Owners have been given 120 days to defend their
claims, or lose their land.
By Brazzil Magazine
Can you hear the boos? In its last 1999 edition, the traditional
Globo prime-time Sunday TV show Fantástico organized an election to pick the
prettiest Brazilian woman of the last 100 years, A Bela do Século (The Beauty of the
Century). And the winner was Maria Fernanda Cândido, a girl nobody had heard about up to
a few months ago, but who became the country’s sweetheart since appearing in the current
hit novela (soap opera) Terra Nostra as the character Paola. A young Italian
immigrant who falls in love with her boss’s son and abandons everything to become his
lover. Paola/Maria Fernanda ended up with 79 percent of the popular vote, and 116 votes
ahead of second place.
The results were immediately challenged. Rio’s daily
newspaper O Dia, used its Voce É o Juiz (You Are the Judge) section and a 800
telephone number to gauge the opinion of its readership asking, "Was it fair to
choose Maria Fernanda Cândido?" Almost 9000 readers participated with 4432 agreeing
with the decision and 4316 disagreeing. Those who disagreed pointed out that Maria
Fernanda was only chosen because she starred in a successful TV show.
The initial selection of beauties was made by a panel of experts
that included renowned plastic surgeon Ivo Pitanguy. The original list of 114 names was
trimmed to a more manageable 10 after four TV shows. Among the top-10 candidates there
were model Luma de Oliveira; movie actress Norma Bengell, who was the Cinema Novo muse in
the ’60s; and stage actress Maria Della Costa.
The second place also went to a new face, Luana
Piovani. Older generations complained that classical beauties from the past were left out,
belles like stage actress Tônia Carrero, and Marta Rocha, who was miss Brazil in the
’60s. "This election is absurd," commented writer Rose Marie Muraro, age 69.
"These girls don’t have consistency or history to win a title like this."
Tônia Carrero herself, however, came out in defense of Maria
Fernanda, after giving thanks for being remembered for the title. "She is dazzling
and despite being young, she was born this century." To what veteran samba composer,
Moreira da Silva, 89, concurred: "We can’t keep thinking about the past. Life goes
on. This girl is the present, she is gorgeous and she is intelligent."
The Last Dictator
With the end of João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo’s
administration, Brazil closed its cycle of general-presidents who ruled during the
1964-1985 military dictatorship. And now with his death all of the former
president-generals are gone. During Figueiredo’s mandate, which lasted from 1979 to 1985,
Brazil went into a deep recession and won the title of country with the largest foreign
debt. The nation’s foreign debt exploded, surpassing $100 billion.
While he granted amnesty to those condemned for political crimes
and kept his promise of returning the power to civilians at the end of his term of office,
the general will be better remembered as one of the worst leaders the country has had and
the man who said upon leaving power, "I want people to forget me." His
disapproval rate at the end was 70%. In 1984, the country had an 223,8% annual inflation
rate, a record at the time.
The general, who would be 82 in January, died at 9:35 AM on
Christmas Eve in his Rio apartment. Wife Dulce and João, one of his two sons, were at his
side. He suffered from a chronic kidney disease and emphysema. In the last two years he
had been in very poor health. Aloysio Salles, his doctor, explained that the general had
suffered from "episodic mental confusion in the last two months."
Despite Figueiredo’s distaste for pomp and ceremony he was buried
with military honors. The former president was taken from his apartment at the Condomínio
Praia Guinle in the São Conrado neighborhood of Rio in an Urutua Brazilian made
military armored car, which was also used to disperse protesters during the
dictatorshipin a 20-mile cortege to the Caju cemetery in the Rio docks district. The
funeral procession was received by 26 cavalrymen who took the casket enveloped with the
Brazilian flag to the cemetery’s chapel. This gesture was in response to the wish of the
general, who was a horse lover.
Most of the 200 people present at the ceremony were members of
the military and friends. Politicians shunned the service. President Fernando Henrique
Cardoso even though he was vacationing in Rio, sent Army chief, general Gleuber Vieira in
his place. For Adhemar de Barros Filho, son of former governor of São Paulo, Adhemar de
Barros, the funeral was the "clearest portrait of ingratitude," complaining
about the absence of politicians: "Neither the left nor the right showed up to say
Two years after taking the oath of office, in 1981, the athletic
general suffered a heart attack. From them on his life would become a series of uphill
bouts with health until the end. In 1983 he went to Cleveland in the United States for
bypass surgery. In 1995, due to malpractice after surgery for an abdominal aneurysm at
Rio’s Clínica São Vicente, he lost more than 60 percent of his sight. He complained
about the episode, but never sued the hospital. Figueiredo said with resignation at the
time: "Even the fair-weather friends have disappeared."
He once said describing himself: "I am not the gorilla that
I seem to be. Deep down I am even a liberal. I am like a pineapple: I have a rough and
thorny peel but the center can be sweet." And after death? "I don’t want to go
to heaven because they only have one horse there and that’s a mere nag, the one from Saint
His father, Euclides de Oliveira Figueiredo, was the troops
commander during the 1932 Revolução Constitucionalista, the failed São Paulo state
insurrection against the Getúlio Vargas provisional government. Born in January 15, 1918,
in Rio, Figueiredo followed on the steps of his military father and was a gifted student.
He was only 11 years old when he entered Porto Alegre’s (capital of Rio Grande do Sul)
Colégio Militar (Military School) in 1929. The next year he was transferred to Rio’s
Colégio Militar and then in 1935 went to Escola Militar do Realengo where he chose the
The future general-president was still 19 when President Getúlio
Vargas predicted a brilliant career for him. It was November 11, 1937. Vargas, who had
decreed the Estado Novo dictatorship on the eve and out of precaution had incarcerated
colonel Euclydes Figueiredoan opponent of the dictatorshipwanted to know who
was the enthusiastic official who was the top student. "He is the son of
Euclydes," the dictator was informed. Vargas went to young Figueiredo and told him:
"I know you are a great student. I hope you will be as competent and brilliant as
your father." To what the youngster answered: "I don’t think I will be able to,
so as to stay out of jail." "This boy is going places," Vargas concluded.
In 1958 he went to work with then colonel Golbery do Couto e
Silva at the Army’s high command. Three years later, at the start of the Jânio Quadros
administration, he became chief of the Serviço Federal de Informações e
Contra-Informações (Federal Service of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence). When
Quadros resigned from office on August 25, a mere eight months after being inaugurated,
Figueiredo became one of the main opponents of João Goulart, the vice-president, who then
In 1964 he became colonel and chief of the Rio’s bureau of the
SNI (Serviço Nacional de InformaçõesNational Intelligence Service). He was
promoted to general and chief of the military staff in 1969 during general Emílio
Garrastazu Médici’s presidency. In 1974, when general Ernesto Geisel became president,
Figueiredo was chosen as the chief for the national SNI.
It was Figueiredo who signed August 28, 1979, the Lei da Anistia
(Amnesty Law), which reopened Brazil’s door to thousands of Brazilians who had lost their
political rights and had been jailed, banned and exiled. The law benefited 4650 people
directly. More dragged by the circumstances than by conviction, he also freed Brazil from
the straitjacket of a two-party system, which could not contain the diversity of opinions
in the country. However he was never a democrat, but someone who believed democracy was
bad for you and a utopia. The proof: he did his best to prevent the country to have direct
elections for the presidency, something that would happen later in November 1989.
The Riocentro bombing showed that he was not ready or willing to
face the hardliners of his regime. The terrorist act, which was never fully investigated,
ended up killing sergeant Guilherme Pereira do Rosário and hurting captain Wilson
Machado. The bomb they were carrying exploded in the parking of Riocentro convention
center in Rio de Janeiro on April 30, 1981. The place was full of people who had come for
a show to celebrate May Day. While not accepting the official version that the left was
responsible for the action, Figueiredo never pressed for a full investigation of the case.
Reporters assigned to the presidency used to say, "Where
Figueiredo’s horse passes no news will grow." He left the presidential Palácio do
Planalto literally through the back door, refusing to pass the presidential sash to his
successor José Sarney.
He died alone, forgotten and filled with resentment. He hated
Sarney and used to call him a traitor. Figueiredo went into a deeper isolation the way he
wanted. In the end, even his wife avoided talking to him, sleeping when he was awake and
taking walks in the dark night, so as not to wake up her husband and have to carry on a
conversation with him.
All the Christmas cards sent to the general this year were torn
down by her. Friends who tried to visit the ailing former dictator were turned down by
Dona Dulce and were asked to sign a guest book at the entrance of the building where the
"The smell of a horse, the sweet smell of a horse was better
than the smell of people." (1978)
"If the people like me, very good. If they don’t I will not
"It’s really to open. And whoever does not want to open I’ll
send to prison and smash." (after being chosen to substitute general Ernesto Geisel
in the presidency, 1978)
"The only solution is to shoot yourself in the noodle."
(Answering a kid who wanted to know what he would do if he earned minimum wage, October
"Horse and women, only after you ride or marry." (1980)
"We will overfeed democracy to the opposition until they get
an indigestion." (1980)
"If it was something from the other side, it couldn’t be
smarter. If it was something done by our side, there could not be greater stupidity."
(May 1981, commenting on the Riocentro terrorist bomb explosion)
"They opened me up like a roasted chicken. (1983, after his
bypass surgery in Cleveland, US)
"I am feeling better. So much so that I already feel like
cussing." (in Cleveland, USA, after bypass surgery, 1983)
"Brazil is a chick wanting to lay ostrich eggs." (1983)
"If inflation were a horse, I would already have tamed
"Tancredo Never." (1984, in English, showing his
displeasure with the candidacy of Tancredo Neves to the presidency)
"The table is too heavy to be overturned. (1984, discounting
any possibility of a military coup to prevent Tancredo Neves from being inaugurated as
"I want people to forget me, tell them that I died, that I
had a heart attack." (in an interview to Manchete TV in 1985)
"I am a Brazilian and I badmouth. Now I feel like a polo
player. Get out of my way, the ball is coming. I get in and I tear it apart. (1985)
"I don’t hate the Brazilian people. It’s the Brazilian
people who hate me." (in a interview with daily newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo,
"Women should be like those toothpastes you get on
international trips. Whoever does not like it throws the tube away. Those who like it just
ask for another one." (1988)
"I am convinced that I was a schmuck." (1993)
"They pushed me into politics. As soon as they opened the
door I got out." (1993)
"I was a victim of medical error. I cannot recognize the
words without a magnifying glass. When you are 79, to fight against a doctor and to prove
his mistake is as hard as facing bankers. (Interview with weekly newsmagazine Isto É,
One of president Cardoso’s resolutions for the year 2000 was to
never again fly on his aging Boeing 707, prefix KC-01. In fact, the resolution was taken
for him. It was Defense Minister Élcio Alvarez who announced that the presidential jet
was being retired after a remodeling of the aircraft three years ago that cost $2 million
and had a bed and bathroom shower added to the plane. The plane will be 42 years old this
February. While in the US the presidential jet goes by the dignified name of Air Force
One, Brazilian wry humor has named its president’s air transportation as Sucatão (The Big
"We are studying the possibility of buying a new
plane," revealed Alvarez, at the same time that he denied that Brazil was thinking
about acquiring the jet Argentina’s former president Carlos Menem used and that is for
sale. For the chief of staff Pedro Parente, leasing would be the best option. "With
the technological revolution," he said, "it useless to buy white elephants that
fast become obsolete."
All the haste to retire the main Sucatão started when Sucatão 3
had one of its engines catch fire and was forced into an emergency landing in Amsterdam,
on December 14, while carrying vice-president Marco Maciel for a eight-day mission to
China. Maciel and his wife Ana Maria, devout Catholics, prayed the rosary during the scary
experience that lasted one hour, and continued their trip on a commercial airplane.
Completely unfazed by the episode, upon leaving the plane the vice-president gave a
15-minute interview to the Revista Brasil radio program from Rádio Nacional
without once mentioning the accident.
The Sucatão 3, a Boeing 707 manufactured in 1958, the same year
as the main presidential airplane, is very similar to the Sucatão 1. It is one of the
four aircrafts that serve the presidency. There are no plans, however, to change the four
Boeings 737 that carry the President on domestic trips. These jets are garaged at the
Galeão Air Base in Rio.
It was not the first time the old presidential Boeings gave
officials a fright. In 1989, for example, President José Sarney and his entourage had to
make a forced landing in Pará state when coming back from a trip to Venezuela. Once again
the same Sucatão was a source of trouble in ’89 when Sarney was leaving on a trip to
Japan for emperor Hiroito’s funeral. That time the plane did not even take off.
Many people have complained and Rio’s Detran (Departmento de
TrânsitoDepartment of Motor Vehicles) discourages its use, but horns with the
strangest sounds have become a fad among Carioca (from Rio) drivers. They imitate
the scream of Tarzan and the sounds of animals like a horse’s neigh, and reproduce the
lively anthems of soccer teams, belly laughs and whistles. The reaction to the
contribution to the noise pollution of the city has been varied. It goes from those who
get a good laugh from it to other who consider it a serious annoyance.
Rio’s daily Jornal do Brasil cites psychologist Regina
Perez complaining about the new craze: "These horns are a real plague. I think they
are terrible. People should understand that the streets are not a zoo." But
21-year-old college student Marcelle Prado seems amused with the novelty: "The other
day, I was extra nervous in a traffic jam and suddenly there was this Woody Woodpecker
laugh. I thought it was very funny and I ended up relaxing. But I would never install
something like that in my car. It is too corny." There is nothing in the legislation
that forbids the use of the noisemakers even though article 229 from the Brazilian Traffic
Code considers a medium offense the use of a device that produces sounds that disturbs the
public peace. Traffic cops have not asked anyone to get rid of the new horns and there is
no problem at the time of registration, as long as the car’s original horn is kept in
The horns, which can be found at car accessories shops, usually
have from six to ten different sounds and cost between $50 and $100. Sometimes it seems
that all taxicab and van owners have bought one. Among the favorites there is one very
loud one that sounds like a foghorn used on ships.
Brazil has reacted promptly to a move by the United States and
Canada to create a certificate of human rights to be issued by the UN. The document would
be used to guide commercial relations between both the countries and the rest of the
world. The Brazilian government denounced the action as interference of the globalized
economy into human rights and a silent diplomatic wrangle brewing since early 1999 has put
a damper on the relationship between Brazil and The United States.
Brazil has made great progress in the field of human rights and
José Gregori, the National Secretary of Human Rights, was even awarded a prize by the UN
for his effort in this area. There’s still a lot to improve though.
A recent report by Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund) shows
that 35 percent of Brazilian children live in families whose monthly income is less than
$37, or half a monthly minimum wage. The State of the World’s Children report places
Brazil together with many African countries regarding the inequality of distribution of
wealth. With such bad grades the nation wouldn’t qualify for favored nation trade status
if the new human rights certificate were in affect.
The Unicef data also reveals that close to 18,000 Brazilian
children are beaten every day and that 2.9 million boys and girls aged 5 to 14 work to
help with the family budget even though Brazilian law establishes 16 as the minimum
working age. While rating low in income distribution and high in violence against
children, Brazil improved in child mortality going down a notch in this category, falling
from number 86 in the ranking to number 85. In Sweden, Norway and Japan there are four
children deaths for a group of 1000, but in Brazil this number is still 42 for 1000.
According to the report, there are also approximately 4 million
kids without a birth certificate in the country. Twenty percent of the children born in
Brazil today do not receive a birth certificate. The federal government’s program Toda
Criança na Escola (Every Child in School) has attracted millions of children, but there
are still 1.3 million kids who should be in school, and are not.
Reiko Niimi, the representative of Unicef in Brazil, criticizes
the huge gap between rich and poor in the country: "Brazil has a giant disparity of
income. That’s why it is necessary to demand public policies for income redistribution,
because you cannot allow children to live in a house without a bathroom, you cannot allow
10 percent of the richer people to have income 30 times larger than the poorer 40
Rubens Barbosa, Brazilian ambassador in Washington and Marcos
Azambuja, ambassador in France were asked by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso to join
secretary José Gregori to fight the US-Canada proposal. Brasília sees the measure as a
plot to bar imports from Brazil into the United States. Brazil, however, has been
importing more than exporting to the States. In 1998 the country bought $13.5 billion
while selling $9.7 billion. The Cardoso administration has hinted that it can retaliate,
restricting for example the entry of Hollywood movies, which represent 90% of the films
shown in the country.
Brazilian officials have also been in the offensive reminding the
Yankees that they also have their own human rights blemishes including the death inflicted
to civilians in attacks against Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq, in the 1990s. "One or two
countries cannot dictate the rules of human rights for the rest of the world,"
complained Gregori. He is now trying to convince the rest of the world to hold an
international meeting to discuss globalization and human rights.
A pictorial on a Brazilian magazine has brought to the forefront
of the national discourse a discussion on female pubic hairs. The theme is being debated
not only by the men on the streets, and women at the hairdresser’s, but also by the crème
de la crème of Brazilian intellectuals. It all started after the January-2000 issue of Playboy
hit the newsstands with its special edition celebrating the muse of the new millennium.
The chosen one was former Miss Brazil, Vera Fisher, a 48-year-old movie and TV actress who
is always making headlines due to a new romance, a custody fight over her son or her
battle to beat of drug addiction.
What is keeping people buzzing is not the fact that a woman who
is ready to be a grandmother would show all her wares again or that she in a very
suggestive pose bites a baguette with her legs wide open or that she bathes her naked body
with French Champaign or sucks on a Perrier bottle with her eyes closed. People have found
out that La Fischer does not shave or pluck and that’s something you don’t do with
impunity. The last big public controversy over a playmate was when model Adriana Galisteu
appeared shaving her pubic hairs
Vera herself concedes that the pictures have a taste of forbidden
fruit. "They are certainly daring pictures," she told Rio’s daily O Dia.
"But they are very elegant pictures that have humor. This was the result I wanted and
shows the work of an actress." For stage director Moacyr Góes "no one could
expect Vera Fischer to be well behaved. Nothing remains the same after she passes
by." And former Miss Brazil Adalgisa Colombo commented: "She rubs her beauty in
our face. That body, and color are unbelievable."
Others, like business administrator Farley Dantas, believe that
Fischer went overboard: "This is an aberration. She made crude poses, like a man. It
was vulgar and the picture with the butcher is in very bad taste. Besides, she is too
The pictures taken in Paris have some rousing scenes, like the
cook who cuts meat while Vera shows breasts and genitals through the window slits, or
taking a shower with the Champaign bubbles simulating an ejaculation; or playing a
prostitute in a Parisian dark alley.
The controversy became cause célèbre when bestseller writer
Luis Fernando Verissimo decided to enter the fray. For two days in a row (January 7 and 8)
he dedicated his daily national syndicated column published among others in O Estado de
S. Paulo and Rio’s O Globo to ponder about pubic hair in an article he called:
"Musings about the pubic hair of Vera Fischer in Playboy."
Veríssimo used his tribune and the intimate hairs to
criticize what he sees as Yankee hypocrisy: "The appearance of the first pubic hairs
in the American Playboy was a landmark in the history of western hypocrisy. For a
long time one of the reasons for the success of the magazine National Geographic
Society was that in its pages Americans could look at the pictures of naked women and
say that they had an anthropological interest Not by chance, the first woman to be
shown in Playboy completely nakedthat is, nude even from the resources used
until then to cover or disguise pubic hairswas a black model. A return to the
natives so the transition would not shock too much.
"It took a long time, but Goya’s Maja, the first
playmate, the first respectable representation of Diderot’s maxim that there is a
difference between naked woman and undressed woman, was able to finally flaunt all her
glorious nudity, frontal, natural and without conjectures. The history of the triumph of
pure female beauty over the prejudice disguised as good taste, over the euphemistic
"artistic nude" and other false pruriences is the history of the slow
affirmation of the pubic hairs in the world. Which gets to a kind of apotheosis with those
from Vera Fischer in the latest Playboy."
Now you know.
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