Would Lula Oust Lula from Brazil?

     Would Lula Oust Lula from 
Brazil?

    The imbroglio about
    the expulsion of the New York Times reporter
    from Brazil ended worse than it started, with a shameless farce.
    Due to his doggedness, Lula could not step back. To save face,
    he decided to see a retraction where there was none. The good
    thing: a petty tyrant showed his claws for the whole world to see.
    by: Janer
    Cristaldo

    Brazzil
Picture

    American general Ulysses Grant, the Civil War hero who won many battles, is
    known to have been an inveterate drunk. When President Lincoln was informed
    of his devotion to whiskey, he didn’t hesitate: "Tell me what is Grant’s
    favorite whiskey, so I can recommend it to the other generals". History
    honored he boozer yet competent general with an actual brand of scotch.

    What a man drinks is not
    important. His deeds are important. Drinking is part of the idiosyncrasies
    of ordinary people, just like their sex lives. A wave of Puritanism seems
    to be taking over the minds of the American people and particularly the American
    press. Journalists have been meddling with the personal lives of their leaders
    for several decades now.

    The accusation of Larry
    Rohter, correspondent of the New York Times in Brazil, concerning
    the level of ethylic consumption of the Brazilian President comes from the
    same kind of journalism that saw in Bill Clinton’s sexual practices reasons
    for an impeachment. Just between us, our presidents always drank and fornicated
    plenty, and no citizen ever lost any sleep over such peculiarities.

    This wave of Puritanism
    and invasion of privacy is recent and didn’t always exist. John Kennedy’s
    sexual appetite was the subject of folklore and nobody condemned him during
    his era. On the contrary, it was part of his charm. Besides advancing on secretaries,
    interns and even visitors to the White House, he also had some professionals
    on shift for moments of urgency.

    Here in Brazil, everyone
    knew about João Goulart’s taste for prostitutes and Jânio Quadros’
    love of scotch. We also had a Minister, economist Mário Simonsen, whose
    appreciation for good liquor was as notorious as his knowledge about opera.

    These were extremely personal
    habits and they were nobody’s business. Still, the press was prodigal in jokes
    concerning both Jânio and Simonsen and neither ever thought of suing
    or ousting any journalists from the country.

    Boris Ieltsin became famous
    in the international press as an inveterate alcoholic but never expelled any
    journalist from Moscow on that account. There are those who actually believe
    that the hard-kicked cannonball that hit the Duma, making the old guard of
    the soviet Communist Party give up on any whim of resistance, would not have
    occurred at all if it were not for the high vodka content in Ieltsin’s veins.

    At the end of his administration,
    Fernando Henrique Cardoso was accused of having a child with a journalist
    from the Globo network, who supposedly lived abroad. Caros Amigos,
    the magazine that made the accusation sent a correspondent to Barcelona to
    unveil the mystery.

    The journalist brought
    back an irrefutable proof of the child’s existence: when he called the alleged
    mother on the phone, he heard a child’s voice in the background. What the
    president was trying to hide was now proved to be true.

    The proof was the child’s
    voice in the background, heard over the telephone line. To the disappointment
    of the astute journalist, Fernando Henrique did what he should have done:
    nothing. The accusation, with or without grounds, fell empty.

    Having been touched on
    a spot that seems to leave him very sore, Lula gave international repercussion
    to something that would have been left unnoticed if it weren’t for his besta
    fera (ferocious beast) type reaction.

    Dictatorship Law

    Digging out a decrepit
    law from the times of the dictatorship against which he says he fought, he
    expels the correspondent from the country. Ironically, he was using the same
    law that the military used to expel from Brazil, back in 1980, an Italian
    apparatchik, Father Vito Miracapillo.

    If his reputation as an
    obstinate drunkard was until now restricted to Brazil, now Lula has managed
    to release it urbi et orbi. The story appeared in approximately forty newspapers
    in the West and also in China and in the Arab world. Not even celebrated adman
    Duda Mendonça could have orchestrated such a performance.

    Domestically, the scandal
    came in good time. In the midst of the total state of misadministration of
    this administration, the press suspended for a week all their talk about the
    total disregard of the sem-terra and sem-teto (landless and
    homeless) for the law, about the Bantustans in Rio where the State no longer
    rules, about the Indians who massacred tens of whites and remain unpunished,
    and about the ridiculous increase in the minimum salary, in order to get busy
    with presidential drinking binges.

    The first line of defense
    from His Highness, who was hurting, was to identify himself before the nation.
    According to his crude vision of the world, the journalist had offended not
    the President but the country. Le Brésil c’est moi—was
    what he said, in other words.

    Well, the country of cachaça
    would never take such a statement as an offense. And here is the first
    mistake from the American journalist, to judge that this country cares about
    the ethylic habits of the President.

    These habits have been
    known from his prior attempts to hold office, before running for President.
    His election is definitive proof that Brazilians never cared about this. Another
    mistake was to think that the gaffes committed by Lula are the effects of
    alcohol.

    Lula should be thankful
    for such a statement because it only brings him favor. For the first time,
    his folly is attributed not to his atrocious unenlightment but to an occasional
    factor—his ethylic exhalations.

    Equally illogical is the
    insinuation by Rohter that the President’s predilection for hard liquor may
    be affecting his performance at the helm of the country. There is nothing
    even resembling the erratic steps of a drunk in the Lula administration.

    In order to ensure the
    perpetuity of the petista Nomenklatura, it has actually advanced with
    considerable logic and coherence into the pockets of taxpayers. First it cheated
    pension holders out of 30 percent of their pensions, now it is trying to cheat
    another 11 percent out of retirees in general and it’s already thinking about
    increasing the income tax to 35 percent.

    This is not a drunken
    spree. Instead, it shows crystal clear determination from people who want
    to stay in power at the cost of the impoverishment of the middle class. What
    we face is not a bateau ivre floating adrift, but a ship with a very
    precise route.

    History of Drinking

    Lula says he was particularly
    offended with the reference made by Rohter to the ethylic problems of his
    father. Now he wishes he had not said a word. Last Sunday both Veja and
    Folha de S. Paulo published demolishing stories that extend the alcoholism
    of the Silvas two generations back.

    "My father always
    drank—says one of the President’s brothers. He drank pinga. Then
    he changed to cognac, which was better. Then he changed to beer, which was
    better. If he had the chance to drink fifty pingas, he would. He had
    no control. He used to get home very high."

    About his maternal grandmother,
    Lula himself has said: "My granny, poor thing, drank a great deal",
    he regrets. "How many times my brothers had to go get her, sleeping in
    the bushes, on the road, on the edge of the pavement. […] She drank a lot,
    a lot".

    These statements are in
    the book Lula—O Filho do Brasil (Lula—Brazil’s Son),
    by journalist Denise Paraná, which was put together based on testimonies
    from Lula and his family members.

    The press was also showered
    with emphatic declarations of love by Lula to alcohol. There are those saying
    that Rohter’s report is inconsistent as far as the President’s alcoholism
    is concerned.

    The fact is that Rohter
    did not research deeply enough. Among the tens of statements published, let
    me pull out just two. In 1978, asked by underground newspaper Pasquim
    about his recent preference for scotch, he said:

    "Listen, if you had
    a bottle of 51 cachaça right here, I would drink two times the
    amount of this whiskey. I drink whatever is available, you know… but in
    my office at the union, we open bottles of 51."

    And this other one, definitive,
    extracted from the testimony given to Denise Paraná:

    "Here’s the truth:
    politics is like a good cachaça. You take the first shot and
    that’s it, you can’t stop, only when the bottle is empty."

    A conclusive confession
    from a rough drinker, able to gulp down a whole bottle of cachaça.
    Will Lula oust Lula from Brazil?

    The whole imbroglio ended
    worse than it started, with a shameless farce. For reasons of a legal nature,
    the government was unable to stand by its decision. Due to his own foolish
    doggedness, Lula could not step back.

    To save face, he decided
    to interpret as a retraction from the NYT correspondent a letter
    in which the journalist retracts nothing whatsoever. His newspaper even reiterated
    that they were not apologizing or retracting.

    The episode had a healthy
    overtone. The project of a petty tyrant who had been hiding under a democrat’s
    mantle showed his claws for the whole world to see.


    Janer Cristaldo—he holds a PhD from University of Paris, Sorbonne—is
    an author, translator, lawyer, philosopher and journalist and lives in São
    Paulo. His e-mail address is cristal@baguete.com.br.

    Translated
    by Tereza Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter
    based in Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators
    Association. Contact: terezab@sbcglobal.net.

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