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Cacciola Comes Home

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Apologia pro vita sua and “witness to history” read of the week.

Writing in the Observatório da Imprensa, Luciano Martins Costa comments on the imminent extradition of former Marka Bank president Salvatore Alberto Cacciola from Monaco.

I often warn you of getting too caught up in the scandalous aspect of Brazilian newsflow — the teapots here can get astonishingly tempestuous — but I have to admit that I sometimes have a hard time following my own advice.

The scandal over allegations of inside trading and favoritism during the 1998 transition from a dollar-pegged to a free-floating Brazilian real is one of those murky affairs that never got laid to rest.

Mr. Cacciola, whose bank received a federal bailout after getting caught wrongfooted on a heavy bet on dollar futures — was the only party to the affair ever to do jail time, although some Central Bank officials were also found culpable and forbidden to drink champagne for a few months or something.

Cacciola later fled federal custody to Italy, where he wrote a fascinating apologia pro vita sua claiming that he was framed by business rivals and ratfinked to the max by Veja magazine — whom he claims admitted as much to him in a private telephone call.

On which see also

Diz-se nas redações que o bom jornalista, além de talento e competência, precisa ter sorte. Pois a imprensa brasileira acaba de ganhar um presente da Corte de Apelação do Principado de Mônaco: o ex-banqueiro Salvatore Cacciola deverá ser extraditado no prazo máximo de um mês.

In the newsrooms, they say good journalists need more than talent and competence; they need luck as well. Well, the Brazilian press has just been given a nice present by the Court of Appeals of the Principality of Monaco: Former banker Salvatore Cacciola is due to be extradited back to Brazil within a month.

Pivô de um dos muitos escândalos que envolvem o dinheiro público na nossa história recente, Cacciola está condenado no Brasil a mais de 17 anos de prisão, em vários processos. Sua presença entre nós será um prato cheio para a imprensa.

Focal point of one of the numerous scandals involving public money in our recent history, Cacciola was sentenced to 17 years in prison in several criminal proceedings. His presence among use should be a feast for the press.

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Net Serviços: The Cable Empire Has No Disclose

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In the Bovespa’s Plantão Empresas newswire today (above, click to zoom), Net Participações S.A. informs us “that its financial statements, set forth according to international accounting standards in both Portuguese and English, for the period ending March 31, 2008, along with management’s comments on results for the period, are available on the Bovespa Web site in the menu ‘Companies / For Investors / Listed Companies,’ under ‘Material Information.'”

This is simply not the case.

Consolidated and company financials for the period are available on the Bovespa Web site, but only in Portuguese, and management comments are nowhere to be found:

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Ecce Veja: Nassif “The Thief” On Debt Relief

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Veja magazine, March 2002: “The Dossier Wars: Politicians and spies have set up a slander industry in Brazil.” Right: And Veja has evolved into that industry’s Yoyodyne. Ask Veja about the work that Jairo Martins later did for it (and testified to a congressional committee about).

Luis Nassif is a Brazilian business journalist who runs a business news agency called Dinheiro Vivo — not a hugely successful one, apparently, but one that has survived for a number of years. He also writes a syndicated column for the local Diário do Grande ABC, and appears as a (fairly run of the mill, but competent enough) economics pundit on São Paulo’s TV Cultura.

I believe he also comments for Canal Rural (a very interesting business news channel for hicks from the sticks who grow stuff; I enjoy watching it.)

Nassif has been publishing a series of articles on the state of journalistic malpractice at Veja magazine (Grupo Abril) — the opening salvo I translated as Nassif the Thief: “Editor-Shill Bodes Ill for Abril” — as a continuation of a book released in 2000 titled something like Brazilian Journalism in the 1990s. Interesting book. You can download a proof in PDF format for free from his Web site.

He claims to have been the victim of a filthy smear campaign as a result of his criticisms.

This is an entirely plausible claim, I think.

Veja, for example, lost a civil libel suit last year over a report in which it claimed that a rival publication (circulation 75,000, compared with Veja’s self-reported 4 million) benefited from favoritism in government advertising in exchange for coverage favoring the current federal government’s policies.

Veja “designated blogger” Reinaldo Azevedo was the editor of [the failed] Primeira Leitura, which was subjected to similar accusations in the Nossa Caixa affair, involving alleged that government advertising buys deliberately favored publications controlled by political cronies of the Alckmin governorship.

(PL was founded published by the Minister of Communications of the Cardoso administration, Luiz Carlos Mendonça de Barro, who advised the Alckmin presidential campaign on economic policy.)

Whether true or not, who knows? The affair was never fully investigated.

In any event, in the civil suit, Veja was found to have reported a nonexistent fact with actual malice — and, in fact, to have received more federal government advertising in some of its issues than the rival magazine did.

See

Veja lies. This is a conclusion I have come to on my own, and I have talked to quite a few journalists here who say the same thing (albeit in whispers.) Its approach to the reputational risks presented by getting caught lying tends to be to distract attention from the beam in its own eye to alleged motes in the eyes of its critics. See, for example:

I have been translating chapters of the Nassif Brief on Veja because I have been reading the thing with a critical eye for some years now myself, and have reached similar conclusions. The content that comes down the pipeline is not fit for human consumption, marketed under the rubric of “toxic sludge is good for you.”

Which is why I no longer read it. And I think Nassif is really onto something when he refers to Veja journalism as “an attempt to import the neocon style [from the U.S.]”

When the Jack Abramoff, Tom De Lay, and “Scooter” Libby affairs were making headlines, for example, the likes of George Will published innumerable columns screaming that the opposition party was “corrupt.”

It is the “I am rubber and you are glue” school of crisis communications. If it seems infantile, that is because the magazine views its readership that way, and does its damnedest to further infantilize it with moral panic over phantom menaces and other fairy tales.

Nassif today:

Antes de começar a série sobre Veja, minha primeira providência foi informar (aqui) sobre renegociação da dívida da minha empresa com o BNDES – em cima de um financiamento contratado na década passada.

Before I began my series on Veja, the first precaution I took was to disclose ([URL]) my renegotiation of my company’s debt with the Brazilian Development Bank [BNDES] with respect to a financing contract signed in the 1990s.

Imaginem se a seguinte situação é verossímil: o BNDES perdoa parte relevante da dívida, um escândalo para ninguém botar defeito, capaz de atrair as atenções do TCU, Ministério Público e companhia. Com essa tremenda vulnerabilidade, inicio uma série contra o esquema mais barra-pesada que a imprensa conheceu, o da revista Veja. Aí, em um assomo de insanidade, antes de começar a série informo, através do Blog, que renegociei a minha dívida. Ou seja, jogo um farol em cima de um suposto ilícito. Começo a série, a revista vai atrás da tal renegociação e não dá uma matéria sequer.

Ask yourself if the following scenario makes any sense: BNDES forgives a significant portion of that debt, which would be an unquestionable scandal liable to attract the attention of the federal prosecutor, the federal independent auditor, and so on. Despite that tremendous vulnerability, I embark on a serious denouncing the most hardcore scheme the Brazilian press has ever known, the game being run at Veja magazine. Then, in a fit of insanity, before I start this series, I disclose on my blog that I have renegotiated my debts. That is to say, I shine a spotlight on supposedly illicit dealings of mine. I start publishing the series, the magazine goes after this renegotiation, but never publishes an article about it.

Como interpretar tudo isso? É fácil: essa denúncia do tal “perdão” da dívida é falsa.

How to interpret all this? Easy: The charge that the debt was “forgiven” is false.

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Non-Event of the Month: BrT-Oi Merger?

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Telecom is strategic: Brasil Telecom. Click to zoom.

Para presidente da Portugal Telecom no Brasil, divergências com sócios da Vivo estão superadas: “According to president of Portugal Telecom in Brazil, disagreements with Vivo partners have been overcome.” O Globo reports.

Last week, we read that the merger between Brasil Telecom and Oi (former Telemar) would be officially announced by the end of the week.

This week, we read that an ANATEL decision green-lighting amendments to the General Plan of Concessions (PGO) that would be required in order for the deal to go through would be forthcoming, and that the deal announcement would be forthcoming.

Neither has occurred, although there’s one business day remaining in the current week.

ANATEL met on April 16, and has another meeting scheduled for April 23.

The matter was not on this week’s agenda, nor is it on agenda announced for the next meeting. Anatel president Sardenberg has been quoted as saying things that sound vaguely favorable to the deal — the watchword is “competition that benefits the consumer” — and the amendment to the PGO, provided that the parties make certain (unspecified) concessions.

Rumors swirl.

Confident prognostications, based on inside dope from anonymous “persons close to the negotiations,” fail.

It was rumored, for example, that a major hurdle to the merger — ongoing litigation between Citi and Opportunity — would be cleared through a settlement in New York federal court, deadline April 11.

I cannot access the court records right now (you have to pay $0.08 per page, and my new Mastercard has a number in a different format which the PACER Web site does not recognize as a valid card number), but it is rumored that the settlement fell through.

Today, Portugal Telecom is out in the press saying that barriers to a deal have been overcome. A Tarde, meanwhile, reports (picking up reporting from the Agência Estado) that Oi will have to indemnify BrT if the deal falls through.

I will have to see what Elvira Lobato of the Folha de S. Paulo is reporting. Ms. Lobato is an advanced student of the Brazilian telecom wars.

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Record TV Journalist: “I Was Filmed Doing Lines At Gunpoint”

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Cutucando a onça com vara curta: The Brazilian Brian Williams and the woman who says she is his lover — and his contact with the leadership of the PCC criminal faction. He says she forced him to snort lines at gunpoint while filming him with her cell-phone. Classic videoscandal scenario — or another triumph for “citizen journalism”?

Pernambuco.com carries today’s wire service reporting on Roberto Cabrini, a very well-known and proverbially award-winning TV journalist arrested for drug trafficking this week.

A woman claiming to be Cabrini’s lover reportedly showed police cell-phone video showing Cabrini consuming cocaine.

Cabrini reportedly says the woman literally put a gun to his head and forced him to snuffle up the marching powder.

Cabrini has been released on his own recognizance, or the local equivalent. His network, Record, and the São Paulo journalists union have supported his claims of innocence. See also

Cabrini foi preso no estacionamento de uma padaria, na saída de uma favela no Jardim Herculano. Ele estava dentro do seu carro, um Citröen C5 preto, acompanhado de Nadir Domingos Dias, de 49 anos, conhecida como Nádia. Ela afirmou ser amante do jornalista e que os dois estavam a caminho da chácara dela.

Cabrini was arrested in the parking lot of a bakery near the entrance to the Jardim Herculano shantytown. He was inside his black Citroen C5 with Nadir “Nádia” Domingos Dias, 49. She said she is the journalist’s lover and that the two were on their way to her country house.

O jornalista, no entanto, afirmou que não sabia que a droga estava no carro. Ele disse ainda que Nádia era uma de suas principais fontes com a cúpula de uma facção criminosa e que havia marcado o encontro na favela porque ela lhe prometera três DVDs – um com imagens de maus-tratos em presídios e dois com depoimentos do líder da facção criminosa.

The journalist said he had no idea the drugs were in the car, and that Nádia was one of his principal contacts with the leadership of the PCC criminal faction and had scheduled the meeting at the shantytown in order to turn over three DVDs — one showing ill-treatment of prisoners and another with statements by the leader of the faction.

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Brazil: Universal Pictures Play to Empty Local Houses

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The WordPress-powered MiniC dot gov dot Brazil: Leprechauns refighting the war with Paraguay, but information is hard to access.

Source: Relatório reservado nº3360 17/04/2008

O susto levado no ano passado, com a redução no número de espectadores nas salas de cinema, fez a Universal Pictures rever o seu modelo de negócios no Brasil. A companhia norte-americana vai investir na comercialização de filmes pela internet a partir deste ano. Será lançado um site para a venda de conteúdo, que deverá disponibilizar um acervo com mais de mil títulos. O grupo negocia parceria com a Americanas.com para que o site fique hospedado no portal da rede de varejo. A Universal Pictures aposta que a venda virtual vá representar em dois anos de 5% a 7% do faturamento da companhia no Brasil.

The scare suffered last year, which saw the number of Brazilian moviegoers decline, has Universal Pictures rethinking its business model for Brazil. The U.S. company will invest in marketing films over the Internet starting this year. A Web site for selling its content, due to make available a collection of ore than 1,000 titles, will be launched. The group is negotiating a partnership with the retail chain Americas to host the portal on its Web portal. Universal Pictures is betting that virtual sales will represent 5% to 7% of its revenues in Brazil within two years.

I mention it because I got interested a year or so back in a program by the Ministry of Culture here to stimulate the growth of national movie theater chains at popular prices.

I think I can offer a plauible hypothesis as to why moviegoing is off: Rent-seeking behavior that borders on Attila the Hun plundering the cities of the Italian peninsula.

The price of movie tickets in Sâo Paulo, for example, had risen steadily to the point where you pay as much, or more, in absolute terms for movie tickets than you do in San Francisco or New York.

Our last evening at the movies here — Shine a Light, Martin Scorcese’s Rolling Stones concert film — cost us R$38 for two persons, for example, or about US$11 per ticket. The Rose Cinemas at the Brooklyn Academy of Music: $11. The auditorium, at the El Dorado megamall, might have been 15% occupied.

Our last visit to the movies in San Francisco cost $8.50 per ticket.

Relative to local earning power, the cost of movies is simply obscene.

So what happened to the Ministry of Culture’s program to make the movies a mass market? Curiously, after yet another redesign, the MiniC’s Web site no longer contains information on that program — much less information on the results of that program.

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