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Son of a Preacher Man | Barbosa’s Conflict of Interest


Brazilian journalism is undergoing one of its intermittent bouts of moralism, in this case focusing on the abuse of offical privileges — more specifically, the abuse of executive jets.

The presidents of the House and Senate have been fustigated for giving rides to family and friends on journeys only nebulously connected to official functions. Letters from angry readers pour in, complaining of all sorts of waste, fraud and abuse, both great and small, such as the cost of Dilma’s beauty treatments. On the «social networks», the opposition click-farming latifúndio  is measurably much more hacktive.

And so the factoid becomes the meme and the meme becomes the overarching narrative: “all politicians are corrupt and alienated from the voters they represent,” painted with the broadest possible brush. This is what is technically known as a “moral panic.”

Above, for example, Veja magazine portrays the «political class» as a horde of aliens.

What better example is there, literally, of the alienation effect desired? If it seems crude and reactionary, that is exactly the tone aspired to.

In response to the government’s determination to hold a plebiscite on political reform, for example, Veja humorously questions the capacity of the «political class» to reform itself using a constitutional mechanism.  As usual, the situation is pilloried and the opposition, spared. 

The Last Honest Man in Brazil

Another instance of a moral-panic campaign is the following jeremiad on the President of the Supreme Court, Barbosa.

Over the past couple of years, nedia organizations have built up an image of  the rapporteur in the “payola” case as The Last Honest Man in Brazil, with a not insignificant degree of support in the most recent spontaneous presidential polls.

«The poor boy who changed Brazil»

«The poor boy who changed Brazil»

By: Paulo Nogueira

Source: Observatório da Imprensa, July 9.

Translation: C. Brayton

Topic: Globo network, lobbying

Globo and Joaquim Barbosa must think we are idiots.

There is no other explanation.

How can Globo hire a son of the chief justice of the Supreme Court? And how can Barbosa allow this to happen?

In this exact moment, Globo faces a multimillion-dollar charge levied by the tax authority.  Documents leaked by a source at the tax authority – it took a lot of time for these to come to light — tell a scandalous tale.

These documents represent, and let us use the right word here, the story of a swindle. Using a fiscal paradise, Globo pretended to be doing one thing and not another when it acquired the broadcast rights to World Cup 2002.

Globo admitted responsibility for the fine levied against it by the tax authority. In a note, it says that it has cleared the debt.

But out tax authority insider says this is not true. O Cafezinho, which broke the story, has challenged Globo to produce the receipt for payment.

It refused, although it admitted its liability.

The money owed by Globo could be building schools, hospitals, ports, airports, and so on and so forth.

Unpaid, it winds up in the pockets of shareholders.

Furthermore, a fiscal paradise was used — something that is yielding jail time in Europe nowadays.

Given these facts, let us suppose that one of these issues comes before the Supreme Court (STF).

Is Barbosa impartial enough to judge the case?

A friendly company involved in the case employs his son.

Can he judge the case?

And what are the effects on society?


I like to cite one of the greatest journalists of all time,Joe Pulitzer. In all the teams I have commanded, I have constantly cited a maxim that is indispensable by good journalism.

“A journalist has no friends,” Pulitzer wrote.

What he meant was that if you have friends, you are not going to treat them with the proper neutrality as a reporter or editor.

Globo has many, many friends, which is why its journalism is so corrupt and its owners so rich.

The friendships of Barbosa, however, are even more worrying, given the office he occupies.

The Supremes and the Lobbies

The state of the Brazilian justice system is a dramatic issue. Recently, Brazilians learned about the close ties between supreme court minister Fux and one of Rio’s largest law firms.

His lawyer daughter is employed by this firm. Can Fux judge a case involving this law firm?

He cannot.

There is an obvious conflict of interest.

The same goes for Joaquim Barbosa.

If you think he is not aware of the conflict represented by his son’s employment by Globo, think again.

It is such an indefensible act that Globo initially denied the story, written by Keila Jimenez of the Folha de S. Paulo. Contacted for comment, the Folha says that Globo denied hiring the minister’s son.  It said that Barbosa’s son was “merely visiting Projac”.

Projac is Globo’s prodigious production center in Jacarepaguá, reminiscent of CBS Television City, if anyone is old enough to remember that. It was located in West Hollywood, I think.

Only later was the hire admitted.

Historic Error

The story is particularly revolting when one recalls the severity with which Barbosa commanded the trial in the “payola” scandal.

With his screeds against corruption, he posed as a sort of Catonian figure, leaving a strong impression on many Brazilians belonging to what might be called the class of useful innocents.

If he were the real Cato, however, he would not allow his son to work at Globo. He would not use public funds to pay– as the Diário revealed – the airfare of a Globo journalist to Costa Rica for the sole purpose of attracting positive coverage of the minor event in the newspaper.

He would not, as we now find out, use public funds to watch a football match in a private box set aside for — who else? — Globo TV personalities.

The son works for Luciano Huck on his popular late afternoon “auditorium” show. Barbosa supposedly used an official aircraft to travel to Rio for the match in question.

And it is unlikely that Cato would spend R$ 90,000 in public funds for the renovation of a house.

More specifically, the renovation of a bathroom, as Exame reports, noting:

As president of the STF, Barbosa is known for calling on the court to minimize expenditures.

A National Calamity

Joaquim Barbosa lacks the moral authority for the post he occupies: sadly, the facts are clear on this point.

It is a drama, a national calamity.

Seneca once said that it was easier to begin a wrong action than to resolve it later.

The nomination of Barbosa by Lula — who wanted a black minister on the court – was a monumental mistake.

Resolving it now is an enormous and tragic difficulty.