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Opus Dei & The Mistress of Lula


PCdoB journalist Altamiro Borges complains of a disinformation scheme designed to spread false rumors about the former Brazilian president.

Borges is probably right: the digital strategy and the rhetorical tactics in play here are similar to those used by Vlademiro Montesino and J. J. Rendón to assassinate the character of targeted adversaries in Peru and Colombia, respectively.

It gets so that you can start to recognize campaigns of this kind by recognizing its playbook..

In an article published on December 10 in the Estado de S. Paulo, journalist and consultant Carlos Alberto Di Franco, a founder and senior leader of the fascist sect Opus Dei in Brasil, reinforces arguments in favor of the recent crusade against ex-President Lula.

In doing so, he does not hesitate for a single moment to use arguments of a moral nature — the typical ploy of phony moralists.

In his editorial, which calls for an end to the privacy of public figures, di Franco states that it can no longer be concealed that Rosemary Noronha, former chief of staff of the presidency in São Paulo, was “Lula’s lover.”

Facts not in evidence. There is actually very little coverage of the fact assumed but not in evidence here: That a long-time Lula aide and the ex-president were romantically involved.

The Estado had written a leak-based story about

The ESP does not, however, draw a single conclusion about the nature of the relationship between the two. It writes,

The federal police recorded  122 phone calls between the ex-president and Rose between March  2011 and October 201, according to a story reported by the daily Metro. There were 5 such calls a day on average.

Based on a quick googled tour through the turbulent waters of this meme, the impetus of the rumor appears comes from heavy, SEO-enhanced blogging by the likes of Veja. Augusto Nunes leads the way.

Di Franco relies on such sources to reason consistently as though the love-affair trope were established fact:

Frequently insinuated in the press coverage of the case, the love affair between  Rosemary Nóvoa de Noronha, former presidential chief of staff for São Paulo, and her former boss,  Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has finally been brought out into the open in a recent edition of the Folha de S.Paulo: «Aide’s power flowed from initimate relation with Lula», ran the front-page headline.

Journalist Suzana Singer, ombudsman of the Folha, provided a fitting analysis  of the case: While avoiding the term “lover,” the Folha reported on the 23 international events in which Rosemary accompanied Lula, whose wife never came along. According to the Folha, a special scheme was in place that gave Rose access to the presidential suite during these visits. It was a relationship going back 19 years, to when  she was a bank union member and he a defeated presidential candidate. “Did the Folha invade the privacy of Lula? Yes. Did it need to? Yes.” I agree whole-heartedly with Suzana’s analysis.

Not entirely. Singer recommends giving the story its proper weight and notes that the facts assumed as evidence by Di Franco are unproven. She writes:

The work is not finished yet. It was relevant to show the reader where Rosemary acquired her influence, but from here on out, bedroom episodes, tempting as they are, and not interesting any longer.

What matters is to investigate whether Lula was involved in an alleged influence-peddling scheme created by his aide.

If nothing is found, it is time to let the small fish go … and focus attention on the major companies investigated in the Porto Seguro case. As Deep Throat advised to Woodstein, “Follow the money.”

Unlike U.S. papers, for example, the Brazilian press tends to spare the private life of public personalities. The hijinks of ex-presidents Juscelino Kubitschek and João Figueiredo were well-known and often discussed among journalists of the day,

The same might be said of the press in its relation to  Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who had a son out of wedlock. The media knew about the affair but chose to remain silent. The incident was reported by the Folha de S.Paulo when Cardoso, now a widower and ex-president, recognized the boy as his own. Such episodes can therefore be “interesting” to the public — they awaken curiosity — without speaking to “the public interest.” Public funds were not involved.   All of these episode could be considered “interesting” to the public — they provoke curiosity — but not necessarily “in the public interest.”

The Lula case is quite different. Polícia Federal say that Rosemary was able, among other things, to place corrupt friends in the federal government and that these friends sold technical certifications and legal opinions favorable to certain business owners.

While still president, Lula — although he may not have been aware of the fact –afforded favors to the group led by Rose, who used her influence to name the brothers Paulo and Rubens Vieira to direct the National Water Agency  (ANA) the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC). Once inside the government, the brothers sold favors to business owners whose fate depended on federal action.

Rose, boasting of her intimate relation with Lula, exerted  influence over the Banco do Brasil (BB). She lobbied for the appointment of BB CEO Aldemir Bendine and nominated bank directors.

How was it possible for the former PT secretary to accumulate such power, to the point of touching upon such extremely sensitive questions?  All of this is unquestionably a matter of public interest, and received the proper profile thanks to the work of the press.

These facts alone would be sufficient to invade the privacy of ex-president Lula. The right to privacy cannot be used to impeded a criminal investigation and the publication of facts of significant public interest. …

Di Franco goes on — and on, and on — to compare the current state of  Brazilian journalism with the Republican ideas of Rui Barbosa.  I skip over that part.

The ideas of Rui Barbosa and the current customs of Brazilian public life could not be farther apart. Important journalistic information is often considered abusive or absurd. … public figures invoke the right to privacy as a means to escape from public scrutiny, but as I see it, that right is not absolute. … Aspects of private life affecting the public interest in a prominent figure should not be censored on grounds of right to privacy.

But  should they not be banned from publication for being untrue or unproven? I want to hear genuine pillow talk between Lula and Rose before I buy into this cockeyed theory.

There can be no schizophrenia between private and public life. Actions performed  in private may be predictors of conduct in the public sphere. The reader and the voter have the right to know what these are. …  And there is private information  — the  Rose-Lula love affair is is emblematic — involving both private and public information. The press has not only the right but the duty to invade the private life of the public man. It is a clear case of the public interest.

Borges saves his big guns for the alleged influence of Opus Dei over the current scandal. It is a fact, on the record, that di Franco is an Opus Dei prelate and spiritual adviser to the S. Paulo state governor, Alckmin.

The leader of this shadowy sect believes Lula should have his personal life completely open to the media.  …

 Now that he is so concerned with transparency, the Opus Dei leader might agree to reveal its own masochistic and medieval practices, and who among politicians, judges and journalists are its members. What sort of masses are said in the Governor’s Palace with  Geraldo Alckmin? How did this organization participate in the 1964 coup? As di Franco himself says, “there is information on private life that demonstrate a direct relationship between the public and the private.