Soul food and feijoada
Brazilian cuisine functions as a metonym that usefully represents the country’s hybrid character, adding, as it does, African and Amerindian and Northern European elements to a Mediterranean base. Cookery here is as eclectic as it gets. You may find yourself eating dendê oil with roast ground manioc and rice and beans—and French fries on the side. The national dish, a rich, dark stew of pork and beans called feijoada, is an illustration of the profound symbolic importance of certain kinds of food in national life. The origin of feijoada—its mythical origin at least—is the discarded pig’s innards and extremities given to slaves, after the finer cuts of meat had gone to the master’s house. The equivalent in the United States would be chitlings, the dish of small intestines that is a cornerstone of the soul food menu, and which is also said to have its historical origin in the discards from the slave owner’s kitchen.
A significant difference between the two countries—the US and Brazil—as the anthropologist Peter Fry has pointed out, can be discerned in the contrasting fate of chitlings and feijoada. In the United States, a taste for chitlings has been historically largely confined to African Americans, whereas feijoada is eaten by all Brazilians without regard to race or class. In the same way, it may be argued, the ruling elite in Brazil has assimilated key features of the culture of black Brazilians—but without ceding significant political or economic space to them.
The American edition of A Death in Brazil bears a subtitle, “A Book of Omissions”, and there are indeed some surprising gaps in it. Given that food and sex are such important themes in the book, it is strange that Robb does not mention a telling convergence in the language. In Brazilian Portuguese the everyday term for eating is also used as a common term for having sex. To be precise, comer (to eat) and dar (to give) are the words in general use for the penetrative and receptive roles in sex— for pitching and for catching. Another omission from the book—still more surprising—is any consideration of the richness of Brazilian popular music and dance, their ubiquity and consummate artistry, and their historically significant role in national life.
Darkness in the presidential palace
What there is plenty of in the book, after literature and food, is politics. The death referred to in the title of the book is a specific one: that of the businessman Paulo César Farias. P.C.Farias was a close associate of Fernando Collor de Mello, who was President of Brazil from 1990 until his forced resignation in 1992. And it is ex-President Collor who turns out to be the central figure in A Death in Brazil. For Robb, the death of P.C.Farias, in the aftermath of the corruption scandal that culminated in Collor’s disgrace and departure from government, is emblematic of the darkness at the heart of power in Brazilian politics.
The story of Collor’s rise and fall has been told in several recent books by Brazilian journalists; Robb does a reasonable job of summarising these accounts. Collor was the first directly elected President of the country, and came to power as a populist new broom, but he turned out to be enmeshed in financial corruption on a scale shocking even to Brazilians—who do not have high expectations of their politicians. It was P.C. Farias, acting as Collor’s private financial adviser, who siphoned off and laundered billions of dollars on Collor’s behalf, mostly connected to the drug trade. Robb aptly compares Collor’s rise and fall to the storyline of a telenovela, one of the television soap operas for which Brazil is celebrated, lavish with sexual intrigue and extravagant turns of plot.
From top: Roseane and Fernando Collor, Paolo César Farias, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, incumbent President of Brazil, 2004
As a Presidential candidate Collor seemed made for the medium. Youthful and camera-friendly, the scion of a family that conveniently owned the local franchise for Rede Globo, Brazil’s major TV channel, he managed to give a convincing impression of a reform-minded candidate, one who would get to grips with inflation, the greatest problem facing Brazil at the time. Collor’s opponent was the perennial candidate of the left, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The Brazilian oligarchs, alarmed by the prospect of a victory by Lula, united behind Collor, and he won the 1992 election by a narrow margin.
Collor was eventually unmasked, in a truly telenovelesque twist, because of a family quarrel. Sexual jealousy and a dispute over ownership of the family’s media interests led to a breakdown in relations between him and his brother, Pedro. In May 1992, Pedro Collor gave an interview to Veja, Brazil’s leading news magazine, accusing P.C.Farias of money laundering, and implicating his brother. For good measure, he also accused the latter of various misdemeanours involving drugs and sex.
Their mother, Dona Leda, failing to resolve the differences between her sons, fell into a coma. And Pedro, fearing assassination, fled to Florida. He died of cancer a year later. Fernando Collor resigned under threat of impeachment and was banned from politics for eight years. His wife, Roseane, was convicted of various offences, but her convictions were subsequently overturned. P.C.Farias, their associate, served time in jail. Then, shortly after his release in 1996, P.C.Farias was shot to death in mysterious circumstances, with his young girlfriend. In this respect recent politics in Brazil does seem to conform to the lurid stereotypes promulgated in current Brazilian arts and letters.
(A declaration of interest: in 1990, shortly after his election and eighteen months before his brother’s revelations, I wrote a profile of President Collor in the Sunday Times of London that mentioned some of the allegations that were then beginning to circulate. Collor brought a libel suit against the Sunday Times and myself. The paper, regrettably, settled out of court.)
It is perhaps unfair to imply, as Robb seems to do, that Fernando Collor is typical of the Brazilian political class today. A product of Alagoas, one of the poorest and most corrupt of Brazilian states, Collor was heir to a particular strand of national politics: that is to say, the diehard, but even then slowly eroding tradition of coronelismo, the violent rule of landed autocrats that the inhabitants of Canudos had tried to resist a century before. In this he took after his father, who, in 1963, shot and killed a rival senator on the floor of the Senate and got away with it.
Fernando Collor did not kill anybody; his offence was rather to betray the Brazilian electorate. And the fact that he did not get away with this is a sign of positive political change in Brazil. Lula’s victory in last year’s Presidential election may be another sign. (So also, more debatably, Lula’s apparent transformation from a hard-left trade unionist to a neoliberal lauded by the IMF.) Unchanged, still, however, are the deeper political problems of the country, the source of the violence that thrills and horrifies outsiders such as Peter Robb.
President Collor himself described these problems with some clarity in an interview I conducted with him shortly after he took office, in 1990.
“Violence in Brazil”, President Collor said then, “is a symptom of the unacceptably low level at which millions and millions of Brazilians live. The State, which has the responsibility of providing health care, education and food, has failed in its obligations. That is the problem.”
This was well put, if not so deeply felt as it appeared. The challenge in Brazil—a country, it hardly needs to be said, of extraordinarily bountiful natural wealth—is to overcome the huge disparity between rich and poor. This is what lies at the root of the violence in the country. It plays its part in the sexual economy as well. The shame is that Collor himself turned out to be part of the problem.
The current President of Brazil, Collor’s old opponent, Lula, faces a similar challenge as his predecessors. This time, though, it is violence and unemployment rather than violence and inflation that constitute the main threat to Brazilians’ well-being. Peter Robb ends A Death in Brazil on a note of hope, but his book was completed while Lula was still in his honeymoon period. Today, with unemployment in double figures, and violence in the country showing no sign of diminution, there is a noticeable degree of disillusion among Lula’s erstwhile supporters.
Still, it seems that Brazil’s new government is trying to get something done. A general ban on gun ownership, initiated by the previous administration of President Fernando Enrique Cardoso, came into force in June. And Brazil’s long-established public health programme, which provides, inter alia, free treatment for patients with HIV/Aids, is, in this area at least, a model of its kind, having put limits on the spread of HIV infection in a country where it was as great a threat as anywhere in the world. In Brazil there is always hope. Violence, idealism, cynicism and cultural plenitude are constant, if paradoxical factors in national life. The country will never be dull or uncontested; and neither will the books that are written about it.
The original version of this review of Death in Brazil was the lead article in the 16 July 2004 issue of the TLS and featured on the cover. Unfortunately, as Darlene J. Sandler noted in her Brazil Imagined: 1500 to the Present (2008), “the sensationalism of Robb’s account was rivalled only by the Times Literary Supplement’s cover image”. Occupying the magazine’s front page, she noted, was “a photograph of a young black woman on the beach in a white bikini-thong with the accompanying caption: Brazil Now.” While this image may have been in the spirit of the book, it was hardly in the spirit of the review.
But publication of the review became the occasion for a different controversy. In a letter to the TLS, the author of A Death in Brazil was accused of plagiarism by two Brazilian journalists. The TLS ran an abbreviated version of a letter from one of them, Mario Sergio Conti, the author of the best-known account of the Collor affair, Notícias do Planalto: A imprensa e Fernando Collor (News From the Planalto: The press and Fernando Collor). This was followed by a reply from Peter Robb and a riposte from Mario Sergio Conti, with a list of passages he suggested had been copied or paraphrased from his book.
The paperback edition of A Death in Brazil, published in 2005, silently added a list of the passages in question, noting their origin in Conti’s book. On the first page, though, under the heading “Praise for A Death in Brazil”, an endorsement of the book was wrongly attributed to the Times Literary Supplement: “Brilliant social and literary history, travel writing and political reportage. Marvellous”. These words did not appear in my review, or anywhere else in the paper.
The letters below are copyright © their respective authors, Mario Sergio Conti and Peter Robb.
Letter in the TLS from Mario Sergio Conti, 3 September 2004
Sir: I read with interest the review by John Ryle of the book entitled A Death in Brazil (July 15, 2004).
I have also researched one of the subjects with which A Death in Brazil deals, namely the election, government and impeachment of Fernando Collor, ex-president of Brazil. From 1991 to 1997 I was managing editor at Veja, the magazine with the widest circulation in Brazil, which played an influential role in bringing about Collor’s impeachment. In 1992 I received the Editor of the Year Award from the World Press Review for Veja’s coverage during the period.
At the end of 1999, after almost two years of full-time writing, I finished my 720-page book on the subject, entitled Notícias do Planalto: A imprensa e Fernando Collor (News From the Planalto: the Press and Fernando Collor). In writing the book I interviewed 140 people and read more than a hundred books. Notícias do Planalto was a bestseller in Brazil, selling more than 80,000 copies.
Peter Robb, the author of A Death in Brazil, invited me to lunch in Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of 2001. Robb praised Notícias do Planalto and told me of his plans to write a book about Brazil, Fernando Collor and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. I recommended that he read certain books and gave him phone numbers for both Collor and Lula da Silva. I never heard from him again.
When I read A Death in Brazil I was shocked. Peter Robb copied nineteen passages from Notícias do Planalto without giving any indication of this to the reader. What we are dealing with here is not simply use of information, as is normal in intellectual work. The fact is that entire sentences, lines of reasoning and images were copied with only few words changed. I have prepared translated transcripts of the passages in question from Notícias do Planalto and the corresponding passages from Robb’s A Death in Brazil.
Peter Robb only mentions my book once in A Death in Brazil. On page 313, in the section “Sources and readings”, he says that Notícias do Planalto is a “very fluid and complete account of Fernando’s fast rise and faster fall as seen by the journalists of Brazilian press and television, not least of whom is the author”. This mention in no way justifies the use Robb made of my book. One wonders if he would have copied so freely from my book had it been published in English.
Mario Sergio Conti, 3 Rue de L’Essai, Paris 75005, France
Letter in the TLS from Peter Robb
Sir: In his letter to the TLS of September 3, Mario Sergio Conti claims that in A Death in Brazil I covertly copied nineteen passages from his work on the press and the Collor presidency in Brazil, Notícias do Planalto: a Imprensa e Fernando Collor. I did not. I drew on his work, a highly valuable source of information, and acknowledged it. The closing section of A Death in Brazil describes its published sources in English and Portuguese. On the rise and fall of Collor and his money man PC Farias, Conti’s book, being the most careful and detailed account of that episode in Brazilian history, is mentioned first among the sources, and so is his own role as a journalistic protagonist.
I have seen Conti’s list of instances where he alleges plagiarism. No passage is longer than a few lines and several are very short isolated sentences about the careers of Collor and PC Farias. Contrary to his claim, Conti’s prose contains here no “lines of reasoning and images”, just simple statements of fact. This instance from Conti’s list is typical:
He started to get involved in politics at university; getting elected president of the Students’ Union, supporting the coup of 1964 and serving as orator at his class’s graduation. Student and Business representatives voted in the indirect elections for state governor in 1966. In the name of the students PC voted for Lamenha Filho, a cousin of his father, who, once elected, invited the young lawyer to be his secretary [translated by MSC from Notícias do Planalto, page 285]
PC began his career as militant of the right. As president of the students’ organization, PC was one of the few allowed to vote in the indirect election for state governor of Alagoas, the only kind of election the military allowed, and in 1966 he voted for the winning candidate, who was a cousin of his father’s [A Death in Brazil, page 71]
No book springs fully armed from the head of its author. Everyone builds on the work of predecessors and Conti too used material from previously published accounts in his book. But since Conti feels his own substantial work has had insufficiently direct recognition in A Death in Brazil, I’d like to thank him now.
Peter Robb, Box 1073, Potts Point NSW 1335, Australia
Letter in the TLS from Mario Sergio Conti
Sir: Peter Robb claims (Letters, September 3) that none of the passages from Notícias do Planalto (News from the Planalto) which he used in A Death in Brazil are “longer than a few lines”.
Well, in pages 70 to 74 of his book Robb condenses pages 284 to 300 from mine. In my calculation, these add to 140 lines of A Death in Brazil in a single passage. Quite “a few lines”. And nine of these lines, on page 73, are literally copied from Notícias do Planalto, which, however, have been attributed to “someone from the Southeast”.
Robb also states that he has used “just simple statements of fact” from my book and not “lines of reasoning and images”. Well, here is an example:
“Despite never having seen so much money in his life, Farias was to see it in the most varied forms during the campaign. Bills of exchange, shares, cash checks, bank checks, checks from account holders who didn’t exist, dollar notes, dollars deposited in offshore accounts, he saw it all. With big Brazilian industrialist donors as his masters, Paulo César Farias learned new ways of laundering money, of keeping it hidden abroad, of creating and generating parallel accounts. He opened companies and accounts in the Caribbean, the United States, France and Switzerland”. Notícias do Planalto, page 294.
“He had to manage letters of credit, stocks and shares, cash checks, bank checks, checks from account holders who didn’t exist, bills of exchange, dollars notes, dollars hold in offshore accounts. (…) PC learned a lot from the big industrialists who had given the money – new ways of money laundering, new ways of keeping the money hidden inside Brazil and offshore, refinements in the methodology of keeping parallel accounts. He set up new offshore companies and opened bank accounts in the Caribbean, the United States, France and Switzerland”. A Death in Brazil, page 49.
And another one:
“Arnon, who had once shone in ‘looking good’ in Rio was dragged down into the brutality of the land he came from. His social rise was stopped in its tracks”. Notícias do Planalto, page 27
“The man who had once shone in looking good in Rio was dragged down to the brutality of the land he came from. His social rise was stopped in its tracks”. A Death in Brazil, page 102
In order to write Notícias do Planalto, I interviewed Fernando Collor and Paulo César Farias dozens of times along several years. I talked to their relatives, friends, political allies and adversaries to understand them and to write their profiles.
Peter Robb in his turn has simply sat in front of his computer and has opened my book next to the keyboard.
Mario Sergio Conti, 3 Rue de L’Essai, Paris 75005, France
Passages from Notícias Do Planalto and corresponding passages from A Death In Brazil, provided to the TLS by Mario Sergio Conti
Of the 160 million dollars he had taken in, only 60 were left.
“What am I going to do with these 60 million dollars, Fernando? Farias asked the president elect.
“Manage the money” (…)
In six months PC and Collor had taken more than 2 million dollars to cover the president’s family and domestic expenses (…) Despite never having seen so much money in his life, Farias was to see it in the most varied forms during the campaign. Bills of exchange, shares, cash checks, bank checks, checks from account holders who didn’t exist, dollar notes, dollars deposited in offshore accounts, he saw it all. With big Brazilian industrialist donors as his masters, Paulo César Farias learned new ways of laundering money, of keeping it hidden abroad, of creating and generating parallel accounts. He opened companies and accounts in the Caribbean, the United States, France and Switzerland. (Notícias do Planalto, page 294)
PC had raked in $ 160 million and had only spent $ 100 million on getting Fernando elected. ‘What am I going to do with these sixty million dollars, Fernando?’ PC had asked. PC had never seen so much money in his life (…).
“Manage it”, Fernando told PC of the $ 60 million (…)
He had to manage letter of credit, stocks and shares, cash checks, bank checks, checks from account holders who didn’t exist, bills of exchange, dollars notes, dollars hold in offshore accounts (…) PC managed to manage the money and in the months after the election he paid out $ 2 million of it for Fernando’s personal and family expenses. PC learned a lot from the big industrialists who had given the money – new ways of money laudering, new ways of keeping the money hidden inside Brazil and offshore, refinements in the methodolgy of keeping paralell accounts. He set up new offshore companies and opened bank accounts in the Caribbean, the United States, France and Switzerland. (A Death in Brazil, page 49)
In sharing out the money Paulo César Farias did not leave himself out. He finished building his house on the slopes of São Domingos. Built beside a shantytown and valued at 5 million dollars, the house was a fortress of exposed concrete. The main suite alone was 50 meters-squared. The decoration was a confusion of baroque statues and oratories from Minas Gerais, paintings by modern Brazilian artists, Persian rugs, Chinese, Japanese and Alagoan ornaments, glass and wooden tables, upholstered armchairs and wicker chairs, aluminum friezes and marble floors. Farias also bought himself a new jet shortly after the election, and then another a little later. He paid 10.5 million dollars for the two. (Notícias do Planalto, page 295)
The commonality of goods meant there was something for PC in the surplus. He paid himself back the two million from his Panama account. He finished off the the house he was building, a $ 5 million concrete fortress on a hilltop whose interior was done out with priceless baroque religious carvings, cotemporary designer kitsch and things PC had picked up on his travels, and whose master bedroom suite took up fifty square meters. PC also spent $ 10,5 million on a couple of jets for himself. (A Death in Brazil, page 51)
Jorge Bandeira flew the jet that traveled from Rio de Janeiro to Havana. On board were Paulo César Farias, Hildeberto Aleluia, Sérgio Andrade and José Maurício Bicalho Dias, also director of Andrade Gutierrez (…) The contractors and Farias were received by Fidel Castro at a dinner. Andrade Gutierrez wanted to discuss the construction of floating oil platforms in Cuba with the dictator. Farias wanted to import vaccines and nourished the dream of building hotels in Havana (…) At the end of the dinner the dictator presented Farias with a box of cigars, each with a personalized seal that read ‘Don Pablo’ (…) From then on the Cuban embassy in Brasília would regularly send boxes of cigars to two of the most important men in Brazil: Fernando Collor and Don Pablo. (Notícias do Planalto, page 300)
In one of his planes PC flew his biggest giver, Sergio Andrade, from Rio to Havana. The Andrade Guttierrez group was interested in building floating oil platforms for Cuba and PC himself wanted to do business with Havana. Fidel Castro took them to dinner and gave PC a box of cigars personalized with the name Don Pablo on the band of each.. From then on PC received regular supplies of these from the Cuban embassy in Brasilia. (A Death in Brazil, page 51)
“I’m staking everything I’ve got on this. I just won’t risk the companies. I have two million dollars in a BNP account in Panama and I’m going to put it all on the campaign”, he replied (PC to his brother, Luís Romero)
“But this is an adventure, Paulo, you’re crazy”. (Notícias do Planalto, page 284)
Quite early in the campaign, when all was still in doubt, PC had gambled $2 million of his own money—a lot for him in those days—held in a Panama bank, on Fernando election. “I’m staking everything I’ve got on this”, he told his incredulous brother. (A Death in Brazil, page 51)
Paulo César Farias visited the president of Petrobras twice and called him more than ten times to talk about the financing of VASP. He said, “Motta Veiga, you are creating a lot of difficulties” (…) Marcos Coimbra called Motta Veiga (…) “the President’s office has a lot of interest in seeing the VASP privatization go ahead”, he affirmed (…) PC called the hotel many times. The lawyer’s wife, following his orders, said that he was out jogging in Central Park. Annoyed, Collor’s treasurer said that Motta Veiga did not want to take his calls. (Notícias do Planalto, page 404)
PC called him a dozen times and visited his office twice. “You’re creating a lot of difficulties”, PC said. Then Fernando’s chief of cabinet, who was his brother-in-law, rang to express the president’s ‘great interest in the VASP privatization’s go ahead”. On a visit to New York, the head of Petrobras started getting calls from PC at his Park Avenue hotel. He refused to take the calls and his wife told PC he was jogging in Central Park. PC got annoyed. (A Death in Brazil, page 68)
Paulo César Cavalcanti de Farias was born on September 20, 1945 in Murici in the outback of Alagoas. His father, Gilberto Lopes de Farias, an Inland Revenue tax collector, was a simple, hardworking man and breadwinner. He left early in the morning and came back at dinnertime. His mother, Joselita Holanda Cavalcanti de Farias, looked after the eight kids (six boys and two girls). Deeply religious, she was well respected by the neighbors, who called her ‘dona Nita’ and asked for her help to settle disputes. She made the children’s clothes, made them study, did the cooking and cleaned the house. (Notícias do Planalto, page 284)
Paulo César Cavalcanti de Farias was an honest tax man’s son from the interior of Northeast. There were six boys and two girls and PC was the eldest of the eight. He was born in 1945 in the outback of Alagoas. Their father, whom the children respectfully adressed as Collector, worked all day in the local tax office and their mother made the childrens clothes, kept house and did the cooking. She was deeply religious and helped even poorer neighbors and kept her children’s noses to their school books. At meal times they only spoke with their parent’s permission. (A Death in Brazil, page 70)
At the end of the 40s the family, which was lower-middle class, moved to Maceió (…) The boys slept all together in the attic. Ana and Eleuza, the girls, had a room of their own, and Joselita and Gilberto, who the kids called Collector, slept in another room on the ground floor. All of the couple’s children studied at Marista College, a half-hour’s walk down Cristóvão Colombo Street. The boys played in a nearby square, playing football and shuttlecock. The family dined together (…) The children only spoke at mealtimes with their parents’ permission. Joselita wanted one of her sons to be a priest, another a lawyer and a third a doctor, and enrolled the eldest, Paulo César, at the Maceió Regional Seminary, where he learned Latin and French. (Notícias do Planalto, page 285)
Toward the end of the 1940’s the family moved to the state capital, Maceió. The Farias boys all slept together in the attic of a little house and in the daytime they studied at the Marist Brothers college, half an hour’s walk up the road, and played football in the street. Their mother wanted one of her boys to be a priest, another a lawyer and a third a doctor. When he was nine PC was enrolled in the seminary at Maceió to learn French and Latin and to prepare to serve God. (A Death in Brazil, page 71)
He started to get involved in politics at university; getting elected president of the Students’ Union, supporting the coup of 1964 and serving as orator at his class’s graduation. Student and Business representatives voted in the indirect elections for state governor in 1966. In the name of the students PC voted for Lamenha Filho, a cousin of his father, who, once elected, invited the young lawyer to be his secretary. (Notícias do Planalto, page 285)
PC began his career as militant of the right. As president’s of the student’s organization, PC was one of the few allowed to vote in the indirect election for state governor of Alagoas, the only kind of election the military allowed, and in 1966 he voted for the winning candidate, who was a cousin of his father’s. (A Death in Brazil, page 71)
He defended cases in the Alagoan countryside, receiving crates of fruit and poultry in payment. He bought a jeep and drove through the state offering extension plans from the Alagoas Telephone Company; he earned a percentage cut on each line he sold. He presented himself as secretary and friend of the Governor, Lamenha Filho, and sold countless phones. (Notícias do Planalto, page 285)
He did some outback legal work in the criminal area, and was paid for his service in crates of fruit and poultry from his subsistence farmer clients. He started selling telephone lines to drylands settlements on commission for the telephone company and discovered his talent as a salesman. He sold a lot of telephones and started making money. Being known, as PC made sure he always was, as a personal friend of the state governor was a big help in signing up new telephone subscribers as PC worked his way through the towns of the interior. (A Death in Brazil, page 71)
He was also a disk jockey at Radio Palmares of Alagoas, owned by the Archbishop. The studio was by the cathedral in the Assembly Square, where used cars were bought and sold. The car trade so fascinated the disk jockey that it earned him the nickname of “Little Paulie Gasoline”. He spent the best part of his time in the square dealing cars, accepting wristwatches in payment and getting mixed up in all kinds of things. While he was out wheeling and dealing he left a tape running in the studio replaying old programs. (Notícias do Planalto, page 286)
PC used the same talking skills as an announcer on a local radio stadion owned by the church. The studio was just by the cathedral in Maceió, on a square where people bought and sold used cars. PC and used cars were made for each other, and PC snuck away from the microphone to hang around the car mart. He left an old radio program tape playing on an eternal loop in the studio while he went off wheeling and dealing, trading cars for wristwatches. This was when they started calling him Little Paulie Gasoline. (A Death in Brazil, page 71)
Adelmo Machado, the bishop of Maceió, always snoozed after lunch and then went to work in the cathedral, where he listened to Radio Palmares. One afternoon he noticed that the programs were repetitive and went to see what was happening at the broadcaster. He discovered Farias’ trick and wanted to fire him. “Please don’t do this, D. Adelmo”, said PC, who secured the Bishop’s pardon and went on dealing cars. He set up a dealership of his own and made a lot of money. (Notícias do Planalto, page 286)
The bishop of Maceió turned on Radio Palmares for background music during his snoozes after lunch, and realized after a while that he was hearing the same annoucements and the same music over and over again. PC talked his way out of dismissal, obtained the bishop’s pardon and went on dealing in used cars and working on the radio. Then he went on a serious used car dealership. (A Death in Brazil, page 72)
Almost all of the Farias siblings worked in one of his companies, and he treated them like any other employee. He even fired some of them, but his mother made him take them back (…) “Shut your mouth and do what I am telling you” she demanded (…) With his help Luís Romero was able to go to medical school in Rio and specialization course in California. (Notícias do Planalto, page 288)
PC’s mother made sure he gave jobs to all his siblings, even when he wanted to sack them. “Shut your big mouth, Paulo. And do what I’m telling you”, his mother said, and PC did. He put one of his brothers through medical school in Rio and specialization course in California. (A Death in Brazil, page 73)
The businessman agreed to the meeting. The treasurer talked about the candidate’s program, about how the campaign was being conducted, mentioned the financial difficulties of organizing it and, subtly, asked for a financial contribution. Marinho commented at length on everything his interlocutor had said except the request for money. The fundraiser returned to the theme and the owner of Globo responded by changing the subject, and so the two went through all the steps of a verbal ballet. Pretending not to have understood the Alagoan’s intentions, Roberto Marinho won out in the end, refusing to meet the request without actually explicitly saying no. (Notícias do Planalto, page 291)
Marinho agreed to see him readily enough, and listened intently as PC held forth on the candidate, the program, the campaign and the heavy costs of the campaign, and indeed Marinho had a great deal to say himself on these matters and offered his opinions generously. But whenever PC wanted to talk about money the conversation seemed to slither away into another channel. From his meeting with one of Brazil’s richest men PC came away empty-handed, without actually having been refused and indeed without having been able to get around to making his request. (A Death in Brazil)
He was the first candidate to use posters in full color. Eye-catching, they were stuck to the walls of shacks as decoration. He handed out to the electorate a story in comic-book format, also with a colorful cover, telling of the successes of this poor lad from Rio Largo in the federal capital. He also distributed calendars, pencils and photographs with his name on them. He used the radio, the papers and ran films in the open air. (Notícias do Planalto, page 21)
Arnon de Mello arrived with a snappy jingle and the state’s first ever election posters in full color; meet and greet and baby kissing in country towns where once candidates went with bullwhips; a comic strip campaign calendars, campaign pencils, signed campaign photos, as the loudspeakers belted out the campaign jingle. He was in the papers, he was in the wireless. He ran campaign film shows in the sharp dry open air of the outback towns. (A Death in Brazil, page 101)
He went about the countryside villages distributing hoes, machetes and knives in exchange for votes. He always made sure he left a large sewing machine in view on the back of the truck he used as a platform. (Notícias do Planalto, page 21)
He bought votes with spades, hoes, knives and the promise of the Singer sewing machine which went around with the candidate on the back of the campaign truck. (A Death in Brazil, page 101)
Arnon, who had once shone in “looking good” in Rio was dragged down into the brutality of the land he came from. His social rise was stopped in its tracks. (Notícias do Planalto, page 27)
The man who had once shone in looking good in Rio was dragged down to the brutality of the land he came from. His social rise was stopped in its tracks. (A Death in Brazil, page 102)
According to the news, suspicious that his wife was cheating on him, the plant owner João Lyra, father-in-law of the director of “Gazeta”, had put a clandestine tap on Solange’s telephone, the woman with whom he had been married for 36 years, and recorded a conversation between she and Sergeant Silva. “Just look at what your mother has been up to”, said the plant owner as he played the family the recording. At the same time he was being accused of having had the sergeant killed, the press also revealed that João Lyra had himself been having an affair with a woman 20 years younger than he was, a woman named Laura, his nephew Tadeu Lyra’s wife. (Notícias do Planalto, page 466)
Lyra had put a tap on his wife’s phone because after thirty-six years of marriage he thought she was having an affair. He played the family a recording of her conversation with the sergeant. “Just look what your mother’s planning to do”, he told them. The sergeant’s killing caused some indignation locally because João Lyra himself was known to be having an affair of his own at this time with his nephew’s wife, who was twenty years younger than he was. (A Death in Brazil, page 104)
Collor disappeared for nearly two months. He went traveling in Europe with his wife, Rosane. From abroad he arranged that his return to Maceió be orchestrated to appear an apotheosis. Under a mid-day Northeastern summer sun, thousands of people awaited him at Palmares Airport. Standards bore his face. Flags, banners, fireworks and a musical band were there to greet him. When the airplane door opened, the president elect emerged with his right fist clenched in a gesture of strength and victory. The multitude invaded the runway, there was a lot of pushing and shoving and shouting. Collor was hoisted onto the back of a truck transformed into an improvised platform. He yelled: “All of us here are the children of hope”, and the crowd responded with screams and applause. He was the only one wearing a dark suit. Standing six feet tall, he seemed taller than all the rest. The strongest. The athlete. Perhaps he would have been the only person in Alagoas capable of passing a screen test for the leading man of a TV soap. He was white in a sea of the dark-skinned, the colonizer among the natives. (Notícias do Planalto, page 14)
He took off with Rosane for a two-month holiday in Europe. He came back in 1987 to a triumphant and carefully orchestrated landing in Alagoas. Bands played, flags waved, fireworks exploded and Fernando spoke from the back of a truck at Maceió airport. The crowd that had been ferried to the airport was dark skinned and short. Fernando was athletic, white and six feet tall, with longish black hair and a born-to-rule nose. He alone, in the stifling heat of that late summer afternoon in Maceió, wore a suit and tie. “All of us here”, he told his listeners, “are the children of hope”. (A Death in Brazil, page 145)
Brazil was in recession. The gross domestic product had fallen 4.3% in 1990, risen 1% the following year and fallen again by 0.5% in 1992. That September unemployment reached fifteen percent of the economically active population of the São Paulo metropolitan region. Inflation, which Collor had promised to defeat with one swift blow, had now been above twenty percent per month for the last sixteen months. The confiscation of current and savings accounts had sent the lives of the population into turmoil, but had done nothing to improve the national economic situation. In August the last repayment installment of the confiscated money would be liberated, though with a thirty percent loss due to inflation. The president had said he would put an end to corruption, but throughout his thirty months in power the press had reported two hundred ninety different cases of corruption in the federal, state and municipal spheres. None of Collor’s modernization projects had come to fruition. Brazil was still the same as ever: swamped in underdevelopment. (Notícias do Planalto, page 664)
Ordinary Brazilians had only lately retrieved their much dismissed personal savings and the seizure have done nothing for the economy. For a year and a half inflation had been running at twenty percent a month. “Rouba, mas faz”, Brazilians had always said of their more competent politicians. “On the take but gets things done”. Fernando had got nothing done. Brazil had been in recession all through his presidency. The gross domestic product had fallen nearly five percent in his first year in office and was still falling. Fifteen percent of the active population of São Paulo—the economic powerhouse of South America, with an economy bigger than Argentina’s—was out of work. Two hundred and ninety cases of corruption in government were reported during Fernando’s presidency. Brazil was sinking deeper into the swamp of underdevelopment. (A Death in Brazil, page 235)