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Brazil | Clicktivism and the Impeachment Question


It is being reported widely here in  Brazil that turnout for this past weekend’s pro-impeachment demonstrations was markedly lower — by  200% or more in the most visible of urban congregations — than that of the March impeachment rallies, themselves inflated by fancy  camera angles from news photographers.

Some 500 marchers turned out to call for the downfall of the Rousas much asseff government in Salvador, Bahia, for example — an electoral redoubt of the Workers Party since the defeat of Carlismo — a sort of regional Brazilian version of Mexico’s PRI — in recent elections.

The Radar column of Veja magazine suggests that this lack of activism be weighed against what is treated as a significant volume of supporting «clicktivist» chatter on «the social networks» …

But beware the clicktivist fallacy: the notion that computer and network users represent a segment of the population proportional to support for a given proposition.

Factor in the digital divide, in other words.

For example, if 52% of the population uses the Internet, including mobile Internet — 103 million Brazilians — and 48% does not, how representative are half a million Internauts discussing impeachment for good or ill?

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Nassif on Car Wash | The Tipping Point?

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Operation Car Wash is on its way to becoming a pivotal moment in the political history of Brazil, decisively dismantling a political, judicial and economic model that flourished over the past four decades.

Starting with the financial liberalization of the 1970s, an enormous gray zone of banks in fiscal paradises sprouted up, fed with the proceeds of financial crimes, narcotraffic, the trafficking of persons, political corruption — an enormous archipelago of corruption from which investment banks, currency traders and offshore funds pontificated [on matters financial].


In this period, various forms of public corruption germinated, the crudest of which had always to do with tenders for public works and government spending.

More sophisticated schemes were practiced during the era of privatization, with the manipulation of municipal bonds, the exchange of privileged information on currency and tax rates as part of [“pump and dump”] operations in  the stock market.

An ecosystem flourished in which all the political and governmental groups could feed their appetites. Denouncing these schemes only made the headlines in the service of opportunistic political games — all in all, a vast spectacle of hypocrisy.


The reaction to this trend had its beginnings in the central nations, with their anti-money laundering (AML) and corporate corruption laws.

In order to arrive at our own Operation Car Wash, we had to run a veritable obstacle course, with previous operations that were aborted by the powerful influence of special interests in all branches of the government — the executive, the judiciary, the legislative and the establishment media.

The congressional inquiry (CPI) of the Municipal Bonds ended in a cozy deal, as did the CPIs of Banestado,  Satiagraha and Sand Castles, because they would have exposed politicians of all political parties, powerful corporate lobbies, and financiers.


The status quo changed little with the inauguration of Lula in 2003.

Major investment banks continued profiting from their participation in municipal fixed-income contracts, betting on new world champions, while the strategy of the PT was to assign its best operators to negotiate with the underworld behind the grandest business groups which, to date, had only opened its wallets for the PSDB.


Whether the needs of governability really required this strategy, future historians will have to say.

What is important is that Car Wash has broken the cycle of impunity under the current way of doing politics.

None of the major parties will escape this web of corruption. There is no room for opportunistic maneuvers. The leading figures of the PSDB are just as involved as the operators of the PT. The advent of the social networks has put an end to the heavy armor the party has reliably provided it.

I was shocked when I read that a Supreme Court Justice criticized by Nassif and the staff of Carta Capital had taken the time out of the official reading of his decision in the ratification of campaign accounts to personally assail Nassif.

I am an occasional Web interlocutor of Nassif — I have read his “The Spreadsheet Heads” and his series on the corruption of journalistic ethics at Veja magazine — but I have to say it: His site is a little unsightly and does not look like an A-list blog. It is mostly just another Ning community of the kind your local children’s soccer team might set up in 15 minutes. But it works.

And so it is a grand day here in Sambodia when the little boy tells his mother that the emperor wears no clothes. Your character, the character of your enemy, that sort of thing.


Here, then, some complex paradoxes arise.

If it is partial (partisan) and not complete, and if it permits opportunism, the results of the operation will be less trusted.

If it heats up the iron and investigates everyone, no matter who gets hurt, it will shut down national politics.


It is not up to prosecutors and police officials to define the limits of the Car Wash affair. It is the prerogative of political actors to offer ways out of the grandest political impasse in the democratic history of Brazil.

It is urgent that these proceedings result in radical proposals in election law, the criminal code, and the Constitution itself.

May the gods of wisdom guide attorney-general Geral Rodrigo Janot and his courageous team through the Car Wash case.


You can also read about Watch Dog Journalism in South America for a much more reasonable price.

Grupo Abril | Required Reading Requisition


The Abril publishing and media group has a long, proud history of adherence to that Golden Rule of the mainstream Brazilian media: “For our friends, anything; for our enemies, the Law.”

It began its life franchising Walt Disney content for Portuguese-speaking readers, which makes for an interesting but at the moment irrelevant story.

The group has been diversifying through M&A in recent years and months,  including the purchase of two  major schoolbook titles and a (rumored) relationship with the Huffington Post  (news item) to assist it with its Web operations (which badly need some purely technical attention, if I may say so). Sometime in the last few years it sold 30% of itself to the South African Naspers — a factory for churned out apartheid presidents in South Africa for decades — a couple of years ago.

Fazendo Media, a modest Ford Foundation-funded watchdog project, explains how politics and the press walk hand in hand like Tweedle Dum and Dee. See also:

Source:  Rede Brasil Atual, Fazendo Media

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Truth Commission SP | Who the Hell Was Halliwell?

MPF responsabiliza ex-chefes do Doi-Codi por torturas, mortes e desaparecimentos

I read it in the Estadão.

Ongoing work by federal and state truth commissions related to the military dictatorship of 1964-1985 has turned up the log entries of persons entering and exiting the notorious torture facilities of São Paulo — among them a U.S. diplomat who was a frequent visitor.

U.S. citizen  Claris Halliwell, identified as a regular visitor to S. Paulo’s Department of Social and Political Order — DOPS — during the military dictatorship, was a diplomat working out of the São Paulo consulate as a political attaché.

According to a telegram dispatched in 1973 by the U.S. Embassy to the Department of State, he began to receive threats because of his activities.

The name Halliwell came to light after  a series of  log books or sign-in registers were found in the archives of the defunct department — one of the most significant centers of political repression in Brazil during the 1970s.

A state-sponsored study of these records showed Halliwell spending time at the DOPS building between April 1971 and November 1973. Identifying himself as a “consul,” in 1971 he visited the site twice a month, on average, meeting directly with frontline agents of the political repression, many of them accused of torturing political prisoners.

Contacted for comment by the Estado, representatives of the Consulate São Paulo said they could not confirm Halliwell’s stay in São Paulo because they did not keep records from that far back in time. They might be found, however, in the U.S. National Archive.

But it will not be easy. A preliminary search turns up only a declassified exchange of messages between Brazil and State, detailing the threatening calls targeting Halliwell.



Still, there are a substantial number of results from the 1970s on the keyword “DEOPS.” Download for later reading.

Vi O Mundo provides more detail — although I think is no correct to call Halliwell a «consul». He was one of those attaché sorts of people.  Continue reading

Brazilian Curriculum Wars | Testing Wordfast


An excellent new tool — well, not so new, as many friends have sung its praises, the Wordfast online translation and translation memory is one my list of things to tinker with. Maybe it is time to abandon OmegaT.

The main drawback is that all local versions work only with MS Word running on WINE. They say this works well, but why pay for Word when there is Open Office, capable of handling a brigade of document formats.

As an example translation, PT>EN-US and using Wordfast Anywhere, follows.

CNV due to investigate textbooks at military schools

By Lair Amaro

Historical omissions mark books used in military schools.

Textbooks used to teach Brazilian history in military schools omit information essential to the understanding of certain episodes of the military dictatorship (1964-1985).

Narrating the 1964 «revolution», for example, one volume of the Trompowsky Marshal collection argues that the coup was planned, promoted and carried out by moderate, law-abiding groups.

The book goes on to say that the Congress declared the Presidency vacant before choosing general Castello Branco as president, not long after the coup. It omits the fact that the deposed president had not fled the jurisdiction and was still in Brazil.

Another book, «500 years of History of Brazil», says that the Guerrilla of the Araguaia (1972-1975) was defeated “when its leaders fled,” ignoring the executions and disappearance captured by the Army.

Brazil has 12 military academies. Each offers 6 years of elementary schooling of basic education and 3 years middle school education and have 14,000 students, many of them children of military personnel.

The coordinator of the National Truth Commission, Claude Fonteles, affirmed that these textbooks could be targeted for recommendations by the commission, which was instituted to investigation human rights abuses during the dictatorship.

“This is a proper subject for inclusion in our recommendations,” Fonteles said. It is necessary to respect the autonomy of the military schools, but schools cannot simply ignore the curricula adopted by other schools, both public and private schools.

UFRJ history professor Carlos Fico says the government should promote a general inspection and reform of military school curricula. “We know nothing about how the the schools for officers are run, says Fico. It is not a military issue. It directly affects public safety.
The National Association of History intends to ask the Ministries of Education and Defense to evaluate textbooks adopted in the military schools.

Editorial Reply

In a note, the Ministry of the Education said that it cannot interfere with the curriculum of military schools. For its part, the Ministry of the Defense informed that it only monitors the curriculum of institutions dedicated to training officers and enlisted men.

Gen. Jose Carlos Dos Santos — curator of the Marshal Trompowsky collection and commander of the Army’ DEPA training program — had no comment and suggested that further questions be addressed to the press relations office of the Army.

In a note of its own, the Army informed that it had cost three years of research to produce the standard curriculum and that its textbooks are reviewed annually, but declined to answer more specific questions.

A common point of disgreement in the history textbooks is the presentation of the categories «ideal socialism» and «actual socialism» — Stalin, Lenin and the like –in contrast with “ideal capitalism” and “actual capitalism». The theory is vintage Weber.

My high school Advanced Placement exams in history, I recall, used a similar approach — colleges are not interested in candidates who fear midnight kidnappings by North Korean brainwashing squads.

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.


Teletime | Toward a Brazilian FCC

TELETIME News — put out by some of the journalists who helped found CartaCapital magazine — can generally be relied upon for fine, independent coverage of the Brazilian telecoms sector. I would subscribe if I could afford to.

The Teletimers recently provided a sneak peek at a forthcoming telecoms and media bill, in the context of past attempts at creating something like a Brazilian FCC.

I will translate some excerpts.

In the last 12 years,the various proposals for amending the regulatory framework for the media have had two things in common: they all died young and they were all heavily criticized by media groups .So it was for the minutes of the Mass Media Law proposed by  Fernando Henrique Cardoso in 1998 and 2001, for the Ancinav proposal elaborated by former cabinet minister Pedro Parente in 2001 (which led to MP 2.228/2001, creativing Ancine), and for the Ancinav proposal put forth by Culture Minister Gilberto Gil em 2004.

Ancince is the National Film Agency.

Ancinav would have been a broader independent agency overseeing the development of the industry and market for all audiovisual content.

In the next few days, yet another proposed bill will be issued by the Social Communications Secretariate of the Presidency (Secom), headed by Franklin Martins,  for consideration by president-elect Dilma Rousseff and future Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo.

Martins has complained lately that his remarks have been transcribed inaccurately by the Folha de S. Paulo. He is a former Globo journalist fired by the network and invited to head Secom — a sort of beefed-up presidential spokesman who also controls the federal advertising budget.

Bernardo was Minister of Planning under Silva, and unlike his predecessor — a former Globo exec — does not have a professional background in the media industry.

The minutes of the proposed bill are confidential and not yet in circulation. Only a few members of the working group assigned to the bill have read it, in strict privacy. This secrecy does not necessarily indicate, however, that the bill will be stricter or more interventionist than previous proposals discussed above. On the contrary. As Teletime was able to learn, the difference is that the Secom bill is more comprehensive, covering both the electronic spectrum and mass communications, and is based on previous discussions.

The draft bill deals with subjects already defined in previous bills. One of these is the recuperate the power of the Ministry of Communications to grant concessions. This was a notion introduced in Bill 3,337/04 in 2004 and would once again make the Minicom a significant actor in spectrum concessions, enabling it to delegate  Anatel as its agent in minor cases, such as licenses for private services. In this new structure,the Minicom’s current role as the agency in charge of spectrum concessions, with congressional approval, would be solidified. Mas o rito técnico poderia ser feito pela agência.

Another topic is the amendment of the rules governing Fust, a topic broached in Bill 1481/07 of 2007, to allow the Universalization of Telecommunications Fund — FUST –to assign resources to private service providers such as broadband connectivity providers.

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