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Leandro Fortes: “Toucans Beware”

Privateering2

Source: Leandro Fortes

The Prince and His Misadventures

Launched: A 400-page book on the purchase of votes in favor of the Constitutional amendment allowing the reelection of FHC, and the media handling of a scandal involving a supposed love affairof FHC.

The book arrives in book stores on Saturday, August 31, but even before its publiciation it has preoccupied the nest of Toucans.  Luiz Fernando Emediato, publisher of Geração Editorial, which published the book, has been receiving messages. The last message, a few days ago, was direct: A ranking PSDB leader telephone to request that the book not be published, warning that the party had hired a lawyer to prevent the publication, in case the request was not granted.

At the center of all the commotion is the launch of The Prince of Privateering –- The secret story of how Brazil lost its wealth and Fernando Henrique Cardoso gained reeelection, by journalist Palmério Dória.

The title plays on FHC’s nickname, “Prince of the Sociologists,”  sugested by friends of the ex-president, and the term privataria, a reference to the process of privatization commanded by the PSDB in the 1990s and made famous by another release by Geração Editorial, , by Amaury Ribeiro Jr.

Allies of FHC have reason to worry. In the book, Dória recounts a matter that Toucans would like to see buried: the buying of votes in favor of  the amendment that allowed FHC a second term. It details the left him a hostage to Globo in particular and the rest of the media during both his terms as President.

The Revelations of Mister X

The most significant news in the book is the identification of Mister X, an anonymous source responsible for charges of vote-buying in favor of reelection. Fformer federal deputy Narciso Mendes, of the PP of Acre, after suffering a life and death situation after a major surgery  agreed to identify himself and recount fresh details of the scheme.

The operation, as Mendes describes in the book, was set up to guarantee Cardoso a second term and realize the 20-year plan of the Toucans. To this end, the ex-deputy says, bribes were paid to hundreds of legislators, and not just the half a dozen alley cats identified by journalist Fernando Rodrigues, of Folha de São Paulo, author of news articles in 1997 that introduced the recordings Mister X made  …

The leaders of the operation that paid R$ 200,000 to each deputy bought, says Mister X, were the late Sergio Motta, former minister of Communications and Luís Eduardo Magalhães, son of Antonio Carlos Magalhães and president of the federal lower house at the time. In May 1997, the Folha published the first article based on the transcripts of the recordings, a conversation with legislators Ronivon Santiago and João Maia, both members of the PFL in Acre.

On the tape, the two confess their having received money to vote in favor of the amendment. At that point, the amendment had been approved by the lower house and had been forwarded to the Senate for its deliberations.

At the time, the opposition, led by the Workers Party (PT) tried to installa parliamentary inquiry (CPI) into vote buying. Mendes recounts  the events to Dória and journalist Mylton Severiano, who participated in the interviews with Mister X que participou das entrevistas com o ex-deputado em Rio Branco: Sérgio Motta did not want a CPI, FHC did not want a CPI and Luis Eduardo Magalhães did not want a CPI. No one wanted a CPI. They knew that once established, impeachment hearings, or at a minimum the annulment of the amendment would result, because there was undeniable evidence of bribe-taking.

And so that is  what happened. The allegation was analyzed by a single oversight committee in the Contres, which produced a report contrary to the installation of a CPI. The case was forwarded to the federal prosecutor (MPF), led at the time by Geraldo Brindeiro. The procurator was true to his nickname: “the Postponer-General”, a reputation reflecting his leniency in corruption cases in the FHC government. The MP never investigated, the media did not exhibit the investigative fury of the Lula years , and the Congress approved the amendment, fraudulent or not.

***

Fortes goes on to recapitulate the confused episode involving a supposed out-of-wedlock child  borne by a Globo journalist. It is a painful and confusing episode. We return to the story as the press tries to “armor” FHC against blows to his reputation.

In the end, the effort to protect the reputation of FHC proved to be pathetic. Only after the death of Ruth Cardoso, in 2008, did the former president decide to assume the paternity of the child. But then, a DNA test demanded by the ex-president’s relatives, proved that the child was not his.

***

Dória interviewed any number of public igures, among then ex-president Itamar Franco, former minister and ex-governor of Ceará Ciro Gomes and Senator Pedro Simon, do PMDB. The three men, for various reasons, made controversial statements about FHC and the Brazilian political scene> There are other, not quite so trustworthy, statements about the conduct of the ex-president.

The book also deals with the process of privatization — the attempt to sell Petrobras and the plan to sell the Caixa Econômica Federal and the Banco do Brasil to the private sector loom large.

“The book shows that the history of FHC is in an ongoing crime,” its author says.

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