Two reporters credentialed with the Brazilian presidency have produced a book filled with little stories showing a side of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva that the world didn’t know exist.
Viagens com o Presidente (Travels with the President) by Eduardo Scolese, from Folha de S. Paulo and Leonencio Nossa from O Estado de S. Paulo, two of the top three Brazilian dailies, has more than trip tales though.
The book in almost 300 pages also describes the presidential routine, which includes rage attacks and constant bad mood, something very distant from the almost always smiling Lula that we have been accustomed to see in pictures on TV, newspapers and the Internet.
The reporters also portray a president for whom the use of profanity is second nature to the point of creating the impression that the more he curses the friendlier he is. This leads the authors to conclude, "Therefore, getting to hear curse words (from the president) can mean status."
According to the journalists, Lula, during his presidency has taken a trip overseas every 23 days. This from a man who criticized his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, for travelling too much. In his first three years in office, Lula made 85 foreign trips, almost doubling Cardoso’s performance.
Viagens also reveals a practice introduced by Lula to keep close to its constituency and feel good in the process. He has created what is called the ‘princess’ hour, a daily meeting that happens around 3 pm . The name comes from the fact that he receives princesses from regional fairs throughout Brazil as well as councilmen, old union leader colleagues, priests, businessmen or someone who calls asking to take a picture with the president.
A few excerpts:
"In an audience with the Minister of Environment, Marina Silva, at the time when the government starts to discuss the transposition of part of the San Franciso river waters, the president listens to her oppinion opposing the work and also listens to the arguments of technicians who favor the project. After listening to both sides, he consoles the minister: "Marina, this environment thing is like a prostate exam: you can’t stay virgin you whole life. One day they will have to stick their finger in our ass. So, comrade, if they have to stick it’s better that they do it fast. Lula, even to show his own individuality to contrast the government’s ‘scholars’ and ‘professors’ brings to the Panalto his easy-going demeanor, his habit of cursing."
"Lula doesn’t mince words and says whatever he pleases. (…). Although he isn’t as cordial as his predecessor, the president is seen with sympathy by his security staff for, according to their words, having the drive to work and the tough demeanor of a military man. He doesn’t have that much patience though. For him, everything has to be done yesterday. He can get mad at an aide for any little mistake. He gets mad, for example, if he goes someplace and they don’t have an expresso ready for him. Military aides, advisors and security staff, all know that the president can easily lose his temper if he is not able to smoke his cigarillo with a cup of coffee in hand."
"The purchase of a new presidential plane became one of Lula government’s obsessions. A priority. Even aware that such initiative could make him lose some points in the court of public opinion, for investing millions of dollars in the purchase of an aircraft when there are millions of miserable people in the country, the president expressed the certainty that it was worth to take a chance. All this to get rid of the noise and constant oscillations of temperature inside Sucatão (the Big Scrap).
"Right in the first movie session of cine Alvorada (the president’s own theater), Lula devises a strategy to avoid at all costs contact with the congressmen. He arrives at the theatre with a glass of whiskey in hand when the film is already under way (…) That day, deputies and senators anxious to ask for new resources for their electoral corrals, have to wait till the end of the session to talk to President Lula, who slept and snored loud during good part of the Narradores de Javé (Jehova’s Narrators) showing. He gets up quickly as soon as the film ends and in an innocuous attempt at being subtle he sends everybody away from his residence: "People, let’s go home because tomorrow I’ll have a lot to do."