A Strange Silence

    A Strange 

    In a list of 150 countries classified by the he Gini index—an
    used internationally to measure income distribution—Brazil appears
    as number 148 in a list of 150 countries. And the country is losing its
    battle to reduce this blatant inequality.
    By Marta Alvim

    In its April, 2000 edition, monthly magazine Caros Amigos, a small publication
    headquartered in São Paulo, ran a story widely known yet largely ignored by Brazil’s
    mainstream media for nearly a decade. "President, take responsibility!" was the
    title of the cover story and alluded to 8-year-old Tomás Dutra, the supposedly
    illegitimate son of president Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC) and TV Globo journalist
    Miriam Dutra. The affair between the journalist and then senator Cardoso took place
    between 1988 and 1990, during which time the couple were often spotted in Brasilia’s
    nightlife scene.

    Media reports on extra-marital escapades by local celebrities are not strange to
    Brazilians. The long list of philanderers include late presidents Juscelino Kubitchek,
    João Goulart and Tancredo Neves; impeached president Fernando Collor de Mello; singer
    Roberto Carlos, and former soccer player Pelé, to name a few. However, Brazilians’
    reaction to such news is usually blasé. And for the most part, those exposed for
    adulterous behavior will get out of the jam with their prestige intact. So, why do
    Brazil’s mainstream media insist on ignoring the president’s faux pas?

    According to several media honchos interviewed by Caros Amigos, the subject is
    just not relevant enough to be publicized. Others have implied that the editorial line of
    their publications doesn’t approve of gossip and the reporting of such private matters.
    However, as many readers have pointed out, the same criteria don’t apply to other public
    figures, much less to Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, the left-wing candidate who was
    Fernando Collor de Mello’s main opponent in the 1989 presidential election. While news
    about Collor’s illegitimate son didn’t surface until after he had won the race, the media
    carefully scrutinized Lula’s private life during the entire campaign. Carioca daily
    O Globo went so far as to run an editorial with prudish overtones, in which it
    cautioned voters against the wisdom of electing a candidate (Lula) with a history of
    supposedly extra-marital indiscretions. Lula has since acknowledged his out-of-the-wedlock

    The silence surrounding the Cardoso-Dutra controversy is even more disturbing since
    there is ample evidence to support the theory. In fact, journalists Gilberto Dimenstein
    and Josias de Souza had already given an account of the imbroglio in A História Real
    (The Real Story), a book where the authors describe the behind-the-scenes maneuvers of the
    1994 presidential election. Then and now the media have been silent. Even when the
    Clinton-Lewinsky scandal came to light, the Brazilian media gave extensive coverage to the
    matter, but again failed to mention the national "state of affairs".

    Tomás Dutra was born in 1991, when FHC’s name started to rise in the political arena
    as a potential presidential candidate. Sources close to the case have described in detail
    the exchange between Cardoso and Dutra as she went into his office to inform him of the
    pregnancy. According to those witnesses, an enraged Cardoso not only kicked a floor fan
    but also threw the journalist out of his office after cursing at her. Others have revealed
    how two of FHC’s closest friends—former Minister of Communications, the late Sérgio
    Motta and current Minister of Health José Serra—successfully pressed TV Globo into
    transferring the journalist to Lisbon, Portugal, after Tomás was born. Miriam Dutra still
    lives abroad and is now a TV Globo correspondent in Barcelona, Spain.

    Instead of patronizing Cardoso’s behavior and theorizing about the moral significance
    of his actions, Caros Amigos’s article was more an analysis of the often-ambiguous
    relationship between the media and power—economic, political or otherwise. For doing
    so, the magazine has been vilified by many of the local media luminaries who have labeled
    its article sensationalistic, and the magazine itself "brown press." Still, the
    lingering question remains: are the Brazilian media so ethical and respectful that they
    won’t publicize the president’s personal affairs, or could it just be that the emperor has
    no clothes after all?

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