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Restoring the Media Latifundio: The Bitter End of Argentina’s 678


Sources | Carta Maior, Blue Bus (Brazil)

Restoring the media latifundio in Argentina: This is apparently one of the first priorities of the shock politics the new conservative administration intends to establish in Argentina over the next 100 days, along with other repressive measures in the areas of politics, economics and the administration of justice.

One of the first announcements of the government, even before the swearing in of Mauricio Macri … was that the television program 678, broadcast in prime time by state-owned TV Publica and competing with commercial media groups, would be discontinued.

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Deep Float | Petrobras Underwater, Fire

A napkin outline of the Pasadena scheme

A back of the napkin outline of the Pasadena scheme


There is curiosity today as to the identity of a “deep throat” witness in the Petrobras corruption megascandal.

One month after Operation Car Wash was carried out, in the middle of this year, a career public servant with 30 years of service approached federal agents in charge of the task force and denounced Petrobras for ignoring “signs of criminal behavior” and “intentional mismanagement” inside the state-run petroleum giant “in order to divert funds without awakening the suspicions of auditors and inspectors.”

Together with the acquisition of the Pasadena Refinery in the U.S. – the most emblematic of the charges involving the case — the witness named former Mines and Energy minister Edson Lobão as the “godfather” of one of the suspects and [alleged that] current Petrobras CEO Graça Foster was responsible for the nomination of two other senior executives in the foreign trade division, supposedly responsible for a sale of assets to Nigeria that had led to losses for the company.


Was it a note with awful grammar from some General Nigeriano Ubuntu offering you a handsome sum for laundering some huge amount of cash through your account?

This is the Nigerian Third World Corruption scam. Purge it from your e-mail client. A variant is the wealthy but oppressed damsel in distress, for those more responsive to an emotional stimulus, and might be called the Rwandan Woman in Fear for her Life gambit.

During a four-hour closed session held on April 28 in Rio de Janeiro, – the transcript was appended to the Car Wash case file on Tuesday — the «informant», whose name will not be released during continuing investigations, described six cases of alleged criminal misconduct, chief among them the acquisition of  Pasadena, initiated in 2005. The deal, valued at US$ 359 million at the outset, wound up cost US$ 1,2 bilhão, causing Petrobras to suffer a US$ 793 million, according to the federal accounting tribunal (TCU).

[ … translation to come …]

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«40 Questions for Yoani Sánchez»


Opera Mundi relays 40 questions for Yoani Sánchez concerning her current world tour, posed by Salim Lamrani of the Université Paris-Est Marnes-la-Vallé.

I offer you a completely draft-quality, madly dashed off, translation of the item.  Continue reading

«Vivendi Sells Off GVT»


Source:  Portal ClippingMP.

BTG Pactual, the investment bank led by André Esteves, has dropped out of the running for Brazilian telephone company GVT, controlled since 2009 by the French communications and entertainment groupo Vivendi.

At the outset, the company was pursued by four suitors, but that number fell to three when BTG, due to a combination of factors, including … price, as Valor discovered. BTG has no comment on the story. It is believed that Esteves could rethink the company’s offer and rejoin the fray.

The sale of GVT is in its “data room” phase, opening its books to interested parties. Binding offers are expected in February, but in the meantime, the company’s data has undergone constant, though minor, adjustments.

The three groups still in the running are (1) the consortium comprising the American fund KKR, the Brazilian asset manager Gávea —  founded by former Brazilian central bank chairman Armínio Fraga — and Cambuhy Investimentos; (2) Apax, a Brazilian private equity partnership; and (3) the American DirecTV.

GVT has been valued at some R$16 billion. When it decided to sell off its Brazilian holdings, Vivendi decided to offer  between €7 billion e €9 billion for GVT. As soon as bidding began, Vivendi showed signs of a willingness to accept R$19 bilhões, or €6.3 billion.

In 2009, a Vivendi invested R$ 7.5 billion in the purchase of 100% of GVT after disputing the deal with Telefónica.

The value of  GVT as estimated by the interested parties places it above its competitor, Oi, with its R$15 billion in market capital. The Telefonica-Vivo group has a market value of R$55.7 on the São Paulo Stock Exchange | Bovespa.

I wish it were easier to call up share price data from the Web site of the BMF-Bovespa.

Brazilian blog Fusões e Acquisições has been tracking the deal since June of last year.

Vivendi began to consider divesting itself of  GVT after a failed attempt to sell off Activision Blizzard, its digital gaming unit. Sources say, however, that the company was not willing to pay the offer price. “Selling off GVT is no longer a taboo subject and is being discussed internally,”said one source. But Vivendi has not yet hired an investment bank to sell the company off.

Vivendi, a conglomerate whose holdings range from telecom to entertainment, is reviewing its internal structure in order to shore up its falling share price.  Investment banks have submitted investment plans that provide for the sale of business units or the complete dismembering of the Vivendi group.

Valued at  [?]20.5 billion, Vivendi is led by board chairman Jean-René Fourtou, 72, who took over after former CEO Jean-Bernard Levy announced he was leaving last month, citing a falling out among board members over how best to restructure the group.

Vivendi’s share price has recovered somewhat in the meantime, from €13.63 to €17.

Start-Up Brasil | Acorns to Oaks


«… solving the problems of an industry or a corporation is not a sexy way to make a living»

Source: Folha de S. Paulo | Brasilianas.Org
By: Reinaldo Chaves
Translation: C. Brayton

The Start-Up Brasil program, launched by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in November of last year, is an attempt to replicate international success stories in support for start-ups — fledgling companies in the IT sector — based on a joint effort by government and the private sector.

Chile founded a similar program two years ago and has already attended 397 companies and 888 entrepreneurs. The annual budget of Start-Up Chile is US$ 14 million. Israel has invested heavily in start-ups since the 1990s, mostly in the areas of military, energy and aerospace technologies. The University of Jerusalem receives annual funding of more than US$ 1 billion.

The Brazilian program calls for investing R$ 40 million in three years in at least 150 companies. At the outset, six accelerators will be selected to service the selected start-ups.

The accelerators will create incubators and provide research and consulting — see the «Mission Statement», below. Continue reading

FUD | Anti-Chávez and the Art of the Opinion Poll

Luiz Carlos Azenha of Viomundo, on the upcoming Venezuelan election, urges the poll-follower to beware.

I would say that last-minute opinion polls should be greeted with extreme skepticism.

The recall election of 2004 should not be forgotten: 58.25% of voters supported maintaining Chavez in power and 41,54% to remove him, based on a constitutional clause that permits recall elections two years into a term in office.

An exit poll by U.S. market research firm Penn, Schoen & Berland, hired by an opposition group Súmate, announced that Chavez would lose by a 60%-40% margin.

Because Venezuelan law bans the release of exit poll results while polls remain open, the numbers were published in New York and retransmitted all over the world.

This sort of juridictional arbitrage is also seen in Brazil, whose election laws provide for strict controls — almost unenforceably strict, in fact — over electioneering content.

If such a message is order taken down, it can simply be moved to an offshore server in, say, Palo Alto and in this way sneak back in over the Paraguayan border.

In Venezuela, polls were still open and the publication of these contradictory results may have had a triple objective: demoralize Chavez voters who had not yet voted, encourage opposition voters, and lay the groundwork for protests questioning the legitimacy of results.

The technical term for this strategy is FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

Somewhere here I have an excellent study of poll manipulation as a political strategy. Tweaking the numbers to maintain a state of «technical tie» is one example.

Recall  the world-class FUD storm surrounding the 2000 elections in Florida.

We also saw FUD at work in Mexico in 2006 — Nielsen Net Ratings and political marketers Dick Morris and Rob Allyn played a central role — and we are now seeing a chronic technical tie in most but far from all polling organizations in the São Paulo mayoral race this year.

In recent days, Capriles has claimed that unpublished polling results show him in the lead, Published polls show Chavez with a 10- to 20-point lead. 

A source to keep an eye on for viral marketing of UDN-style screaming propaganda of this sort is ORVEX, the Organization of Venezuelan Exiles.

Jadson Oliveira of Fazendo Media draws similar conclusions:

With elections ten days away, an enthusiastic popular movement in the streets and opinion polls pointing to a stable scenario of easy victory, Chavez’s main challenge is not to win, but to win by a wide margin.  Chavists say that only in this way can the charges of fraud that will be made as votes are tallied be discredited, despite the powerful international «media terrorism» network — so-called — organized by the CIA.

Capriles, an attorney and sitting governor of Miranda state, has spared no expense in the effort to disassociate himself from such labels as «bourgeois», «conservative» and «right wing», as Chavez and his supporters call him.

The spectre of Cold War black propaganda may well be the product of exaggeration and moral panic among Bolivarian supporters, but tell that to the Marines: there is verisimilitude to the charges against old Uncle Sam and its Sam’s own fault.

In Caracas, Capriles is holding well-attended campaign rallies to present his plan of government, organized by theme. Topics include a «zero hunger» program like that put in place by the Lula government in Brazil. «Our farmers will have easy credit and the shantytowns, which belong to the people, will be improved».

Heir to one of his nation’s largest fortunes, Capriles insists that his victory will represent «the will of the people» and that, as the governor who invested most in education, he is a «progressive». His speeches often site the PT government in Brazil for having «created 16 million jobs and lifted 20 million Brazilians out of poverty. ».

He sounds a bit like a Venezuelan Mike Bloomberg, doesn’t he? Bloomberg has also praised and studied the Brazilian program.

Sambodian Elections 2012 | Addressing Grampa’s Gripes

In a nicely illustrated Folha de S.Paulo Sunday magazine package on elder care options in the greater Sambodian metro megalopolis, I discover an inconvenient truth: The older I get, the more like Grandpa Simpson I become.

Recall Abe’s outraged complaint to the FCC and advertisers in Season One, Episode Five, «Bart the General».

Dear Advertisers,

I am disgusted with the way old people are depicted on television. We are not all vibrant, fun-loving sex maniacs. Many of us are bitter, resentful individuals who remember the good old days when entertainment was bland and inoffensive. The following is a list of words I never want to hear on television again. Number one: Bra. Number two: Horny. Number three: Family Jewels.

More specifically, in the Folha‘s poll of São Paulo senior citizens shown above, I discover that I share many of the same gripes as folks of my mother-in-law’s generation, such as,

  1. Insecurity and urban violence
  2. Inadequate street lighting
  3. Inadequate street and road signage
  4. Sidewalks in poor condition
  5. Lack of public restrooms
  6. Lack of accessible cultural and sporting activities

Seniors comprise some 8% of voters, a number that has doubled in recent years. The importance of this demographic is reflected in the campaign messages, such as the item above from Serra’s TV time.

An interesting aside: one of the seniors interviewed in the campaign video — the guitar-strumming Cassiano dos Santos Neto, 66  — also turns up as an interview subject in the Folha’s coverage of programs for the elderly. Are political marketers and journalists working hand in hand on these pautas?

Against that backdrop, consider the most recent electioneering videos aired by two of the three front-running candidates, Serra (PSDB) and Haddad (PT), who appear to be slugging it out for a spot in the runoff election with TV personality Celso Russomanno.

Serra’s pitch tends to minimize the sensation that anything is lacking in our beloved city, piling up numbers of cinema screens and business events and commercial outlets and so on.

But how do these numbers compare with other cities, prorated by population? How do transportation and education stats, in particular, compare with what voters feel and experts say is needed to make the system easier to use and the city more open to free flows of human beings?

It would take a complete fact check to be able to comment on the numbers marshalled here, but one example might be the progress made toward the goal of expanding the subway system.

Building 2 km of subway and 5 km of commuter train trackes per year, as a matter of historical average,  São Paulo state will have to build 8 km of subway and 10 km of CMPT per year in order to meet its goal for 2012-2015. The state had foreseen building 32 km of subway and 40 km of commuter rail in that time period.

Serra and his party also presided over the Great Smoking Hole of 2006 — the collapse of a huge excavation at the new Pinheiros station on the Yellow Line. The turnkey contracting model was questioned by engineers and experts.

«I, Meme, Me My

In short, the basic meme of the pro-Serra campaign is something like «São Paulo is already great, we love it the way it is and we owe it all to Serra».

If I were the specter of Mário Covas, F.H. Cardoso or Geraldo Alckmin — founding figures of the PSDB — I might feel slighted by this claim.

I cannot help feeling that Serra is beating a dead horse by adopting the discourse of autohagiographic moral integrity in this piece, which feels anachronistic and tired.

It is too soon to forget the downfall of PSDB political ally Demóstenes Torres, a self-proclaimed champion of public morality who fell hard from grace in a case not disimilar to the Tom DeLay affair.

The ethos appeal of Serra’s «my humble origins» speech recalls Nixon’s invocation of a dog named Checkers. Serra would do better — IMHO — to stick to past accomplishments and the need for continuity in technical policy areas and public works projects.

I would take Piauí magazine’s August report on the PSDB’s involvement in the «big monthly allowance» scandal as an indication that hip, informed young voters no longer view the affair through the lens of a Manichean allegory.

It is generally admitted, even in the pro-opposition press, that the PSDB and PT were simply two consecutive passengers in the black-market Tijuana taxi of the Marcos Valério money laundering scheme.

Take the one-woman polling sample who wakes me when I snore: A dyed in the wool petista, she still reacts positively to the Serra who dealt with AIDS and generic medicines during his time as federal health minister.

The problem Serra is having, according to reliable local political handicappers of various creeds, is voter rejection of the municipal administration formed by Serra’s deputy when Serra ran for governor. Kassab was a municipal secretary in the crooked, post-Malufist PSDB City Hall of Celso Pitta.

The Haddad Express

The PT has outspent the PSDB by a factor of two in spending on the current campaign, and that whole amount is reflected in its Web site and social media campaign — even if its viral videos are not racking up the volume of likes and twitteds an election manager might wish.

Seriously, the Haddad site is actually more sophisticated in its information architecture and wealth of churn-generating strategies than those of Obama and Romney. João Santana is in charge of the campaign — he would make an interesting interview for a PR industry trade magazine like O’Dwyer’s.

I believe I read that the party had recorded up to 2,000 mini-spots with ex-president Lula endorsing local candidates from across Brazil.

I think the Haddad piece speaks for itself, and its central thesis is provided by a back-slapping Lula when he says, «Dilma was an unknown but I got her elected based on her accomplishments; the same will happen with Haddad.»

Haddad himself is something of a mirror image of ex-governor Neves of Minas Gerais: Youthful, technocratic, wonkish. The «him and her» hosts of both messages mirror this age category, with Serra appealing directly to the black community.

The soundtrack appeals to current trends in youthful musical genres — rap, in particular, with a message from Emicida, and new directions in samba. Production values are remarkable.

The Russomanno Factor

Russomanno remains an unknown quantity to me, although local media heads explain that his years as presenter of the rabble-rousing Balanço Geral SP explain his name recognition.

Curiously, one reads very little in the way of explanation for the man’s leadership in the polls.

The «Power» page of today’s Folha reports on evidence of a link between the Russomanno campaign and IURD — the politically powerful, national TV network-owning Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.

As in the States, churches may not engage in electioneering and risk losing tax-exempt status if they do.

In this case, the Folha team observed the comings and going of Russomanno sound vans and «sticker trucks» from a IURD parking structure, and were even offered a job: US$ 75 per six-day week by campaign workers emerging from a religious service.

Since Russomanno has only declared a tenth of the donations as reported by the PT, it makes sense to wonder whether the Israelites are not being fed by manna from heaven.