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Neologisms Today | Petrolão


Source: José Antônio Lima | GGN

The Federal Police operation and the opinion of the Federal Public Ministry in the Car Wash case leave little room for doubt as to how thoroughly tangled up the Workers’ Party is in this investigation.

The treasurer of the party, João Vaccari Neto, is often cited and at least two ex-Petrobras executives  – Renato Duque and Pedro Barusco – are pointed to as PT go-betweens in a scheme to embezzle public funds.

Other subsidiaries of the partially state-owned oil company, according to the PF and the MPF,  were in the hands of the Progressive Party and the PMDB, revealing how the company was divided into fiefdoms by allied political forces.

There is no way to deny any of this, but an unfortunate result is that, in its eagerness to denounce the corruption of the PT, a number of news organizations are neglecting parts of the Car Wash and in doing so, are neglecting the truth.

The eagerness to frame the PT in this case, for example, is visible in the use of the term «petrolão» [… a reference to the «mensalão», the coinage has also been used to refer, for example, to the «trensalão», a huge cartel case involving São Paulo public transit. It is the tropical version of sticking a «gate» on everything  hinky.]

It seems the expression was coined by federal deputy Antônio Imbassahy (PSDB-BA), the opposition leader, but was adopted by part of the news media — Veja and Época magazine, for example — and certain columnists to refer to Car Wash.

From what I read, the federal police have dubbed subsequent stages of the Car Wash case as “Final Justice” and “Apocalypse.”

The connection may have been made without any critical thought behind it, but it may also have to do with a specific political end in view — to reinforce the image, based on partial depictions of reality, that the PT is the only corrupt party in Brazil.

Petrolão” fulfills this taks for two reasons: It is an allusion to the «mensalão», which sent party members to prison, and because it shines a spotlight on Petrobras, which has been run by the PT for the past 12 years.

It is not exactly news that there was a political dispute underlying the term. A significant fraction of the mainstream press is dedicated to proving the thesis of the PT as the owner of a monopoly on corruption. Questioning this “reality” inside the newsroom is never easy. For reporters and editors, it is a very sensitive matter, dealt with delicately, where  possible. For the columnists, it opens the floodgates of personal attacks, as a recent episode demonstrated.

After all, any journalist who reports facts that reflect positively on the PT must be receiving dirty money, right?

On November 21, business executive Ricardo Semler, a PSDB founding member and former MIT professor, published in the Folha de S.Paulo an article  “Never Before Has So Little Been Robbed,” in which he ponders corruption in Brazil. Semler said it was impossible to do business with Petrobras without paying a bribe, that he did not vote for Dilma and that “the process of creating a cure for corruption” involves all Brazilians and not only political parties.

The following day, in the same Folha, the essayist Demetrio Magnoli, whose favorite target is the PT, included Semler in a list of “courtiers” who want to “normalize the scandal,” insinuating that the author received space in the paper because he has a contract with the Postal Service.