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Alckmin | Water Politics and Media Wars

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Source: Luis Nassif | GGN:

A recent report by the Folha de S. Paulo does a good job portraying the management style of Geraldo Alckmin. He is one of those managers who cannot see the forest for the trees.

The item also makes for an interesting glimpse into the use of government advertising budgets as strategic public relations assets.

TV here, for instance, is deluged lately with an awe-inspiring spot singing the praises of Petrobras as a historic company that has faced many challenges and will face many more — a reference to its current governance problems, or am I gone tone-deaf? It hammers on the tried and true patriotic catchphrase O Petróleo É Nosso –«The Oil Is Ours»

The campaign from which the placard shown above was produced by the prominent PR shop Loducca. — winner of the 2014 Abril Publicity Prize — in the early Oughts.

Was it Loducca sitting in on the meeting described below, attended by “four cabinet secretaries and a marketer”?

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Translation of the Nassif comentary (excerpt)

Over the course of a year, water levels in the Cantareira system fell from 22.4% to 5.1% — the latter number includes the two quotas of dead volume already activated. During the recent election campaign, Alckmin denied there was a need for rationing.

“Even with less the average rainfall, we will overcome a new dry spell. We have other dams, which are full, and we are developing systems of substitution, and there is also the technical reserve,” he told the Folha in September of last year. On January 14, when used term “rationing” for the first time in reference to a reduction in the capturing of water, he was accused of “electoral fraud” by his rival, Alexandre Padilha (PT).

‘POLITICAL WARFARE’

This week, aides observed a turnaround in Alckmin’s strategy, motivated by two factors: (1) The sense that he alone is paying the political price for what he considers a national crisis, and (2) the statements of President Dilma Rousseff last Tuesday (27).

Dilma said that her administration “has supported, is supporting, and will support the state governments responsible under the Constitution for maintaining the water supply,” a statement taken to imply that the states are to blame.

Afterwards, Alckmin called his vice-governor, four secretaries and a marketing specialist. “There is a war going on, a political war, a media war, and we are losing,” said vice-governor Márcio França (PSB) according to reports.

Two decisions emerged from the meeting: that water is “a structural issue for the entire government.” “Schools will hold campaigns [?]; Sabesp will launch new advertisements; and the publicity will serve as a “public accounting” [of efforts undertaken by the state government.]”

These were the first measures of a reaction to what is called “the hailstorm of the opposition and the press. Alckmin wants to insist on the version that he reacted more quickly than other state governors.

Alckmin ordered his cabinet secretaries to sally forth in defense of his actions as a manager and requested studies that show how much the federal government has invested in water supply in the Southeast. “We are going to anticipate the political attacks,” said an aide.

According to the government, the fact that Rio, Minas and Espírito Santo have also adopted measures to contain the use of water allows São Paulo a chance to distribute responsibility.

“It seems as though [Rio governor] Pezão found out just yesterday that the water had run dry. And where was the National Water Agency (ANA) when the entire Southeast was beset by drought and only São Paulo blamed?” a member of the government said.

The accusations that Alckmin stood by apathetically as the reservoirs empty are what irritate the governor the most.

Alckmin had already criticized the “politization já havia criticado a “politicization of the crise” during the last eletion. A fair portion of the political airtime of President Dilma on October 19 was dedicated to the lack of water in the state as a indicator of an inability to plan on the part of the PSDB and its candidates.

This preoccupation with the crisis, described by allies as “obsessive,” has its reasons: the end game will determine whether Alckmin has the stature to run for President in 2018. Currently, within the PSDB, his name carries equal weight as that of [former presidential candidate] Senator Aécio Neves (MG).

If he can steer clear of the crisis, he could emerge more powerful than when he entered the fray, shifting the balance of internal party politics. Failure would have an opposite effect. For the time being, Alckmin is stuck between the forest and the trees.

[Petrobras advertisements]