Brazil: “The Sex Senator Bares All!”

“They asked me here in Brazil why they [the press] could not manage to bring down the government, as happened in Watergate. I do not get involved in questions of other nations, but I answered that the press does not bring down governments. That is not its job. .. What can be said is that in the Watergate case, the entire system functioned. Other courageous persons were needed, from the judiciary, from the political realm, for all of this to have ended the way it did.” — U.S. journalist Carl Bernstein, recently cited by Luis Nassif.

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O Globo daily (Rio de Janeiro), front-page editorial cartoon, October 8. Lula: “I am convinced that never in the history of Brazil have the long-term, the mid-term and the short-term been so well represented in Brazilian politics.” Shown: Renan Calheiros (with tits), some other guy (Mangabeira Unger, probably). A pithy, apothegematic front-page editorial reads, “The naked babe in the magazine is old and tired, the thing now is the scandal of the palimony payments. Not the rear end, but the relationship with the lobbyist.” The “Sex senator” was cleared last month, in an impeachment trial, for “conduct unbecoming” on those charges, but faces four others.

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G1/Globo photo feature, October 10: Lawmaker reads Playboy Brasil (Grupo Abril) with Mônica Veloso at his desk on the House floor. We all now know what Monica has tattooed on her ass.

TV Globo talking head and political marketer for hire Mônica Veloso finally bares all in this month’s Playboy Brasil (Editora Abril)!

The amazing thing is that the source for Veja magazine’s (sole and anonymous) source for the charge that Calheiros had his palimony payments paid by a lobbyist was the woman’s palimony lawyer — who reportedly also negotiated his client’s photo spread with Veja‘s sister publication at the Editora Abril. For an undisclosed but whispered to be princely sum.

A true masterstroke of innovation cross-marketing!


O Globo, by the way, regularly and systematically editorializes in the news hole like this: The editorial cartoon occupies the same right-hand boxed column with news briefs.

To briefly recap: Veja accused the “sex Senator” of having his palimony payments to the former TV Globo journalist turned political marketer paid by a lobbyist for Mendes Junior, a public-works contractor.

Where it all began:

“Straight-razor to the quick: the thread of the anticorruption operation [focused on the Gautama civil engineering firm] has already [chopped off the head] of [the owner of Gautama] and [the minister of Mines and Energy] and now is nearing the neck of the President of the Senate.” Violent imagery straight from the media playbook of Mexico’s Gente Nueva. The article does not accuse the Senator of any relationship to Gautama, however. It accuses him of accepting money from a big construction firm, Mendes Junior, which was not involved in the “Straight-Razor” case. Also in this issue: “Why Dubai is an island of progress in the Middle East.” But see also UAE: Draft Labor Law Violates International Standards (Human Rights Watch, March 25, 2007). You’ve seen Syriana, right?

In testimony to the Senate Ethics Committee, the palimony lawyer denied that he had ordered expert authentication and transcripts of recordings the “journalist” had made of her conversations with the sexy Senator during their private moments.

You heard me. The journalist secretly recorded the Senator’s pillow-talk, according to the Band TV network. With equipment from her political marketing production company.

The palimony lawyer appears to have been perjuring himself, although in his defense he has been quoted as saying that the tapes and transcripts in the possession of journalists have been “doctored,” and that “adulterated versions are floating around.” [Cue spooky theremin music.]

The Senator, memorably, said that he was the victim of a “moral death squad.” I have commented that the Senator has generally avoided hysterical shrieking in favor of calm, factually-oriented flat denials in this incident. But apparently his flacks decided a blood and guts metaphor was needed at this point.

I find this strategic issue fascinating: When you should oppose hysterical shrieking with more hysterical shrieking, and when should you try to seize the high ground by communicating in the guise of a calm, resposible adult?

A proposal to create a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the legality of Abril’s sale of a controlling stake in TVA, a São Paulo cable operator, to Telefónica, has garnered the required number of signatures.

Abril — Brazil’s leading exponent of moral panic about the unfathomably evil ways of the lobbying brigades — has lobbied its tattooed ass off in a bid to forestall any such investigation of the deal, which still faces authorization by CADE, Brazil’s antitrust regulator. See

Calheiros is also subject to a federal police inquiry, on which will be based a decision on whether or not to indict him. If the indictment were accepted, he would be tried by the Supreme Court.

A recent poll showed the federal police as the most credible government institution in Brazil.

You see a notable campaign underway to undermine that image, using a noise-machine campaign according to which the federal police is a “politicized Gestapo” and is engaged in a massive cover-up to “protect” Lula, “the Teflon president.” Lula=a New York mafioso.

In 2004, an FBI agent formerly attached to the embassy in Brazil gave interviews to local journalists in which he said that various Brazilian news organization coordinated their coverage with U.S. officials from the “press section.” See

The State Dept. described the agent as a “disgruntled ex-employee.’

I was looking the other day to see if I could find recent State Dept. budget items and contracts for “media outreach” and “public diplomacy.” I could not. They seem to have not been made available since 2004. Have they “gone black”? What’s the deal here? Still checking.

All of which makes me wonder: How are my tax dollars being spent down here, anyway?

In literary terms — aside from the constant assertion that this, that, or the other scandal is “a Brazilian Watergate” (see also Brazil: “Lula is the Teflon President!”) the main themes of this political soap opera are, I think:

  1. The folklore of corruption x the folklore of the evil corporation
  2. “We are all prostitutes; everyone has their price”
  3. “Our institutions are rotten to the core! Only the morally worthy can purge the nation of its sins!”

On (3), see also

On (2) — which you often hear being championed, serially or near-simultaneously, by the most passionate proponents of (3), weirdly and incoherently enough — see also:

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Omitted from broadcast commentary as posted to YouTube — is it really the version that aired? — but published in the
O Povo newspaper: “When Lula pointed to corruption under Cardoso …Lula is a whore! (And so was Cardoso!)” “We are all prostitutes!” Compare Larry Rohter Leaves Brazil: “I Feel Like a Prostitute Lynched by Hypocrites”

It has eerie similarities, from a technical PR point of view, with the Clinton blow-job filibuster, with its simultaneous (1) shrieks of hysterical moral virginity and (2) luridly detailed accounts of the innovative sexual applications of (Cuban?) cigars.

I think. I think if you read enough in the literature of the so-called “narrative journalism,” you see that these sorts of people tend to think in terms of “masterplots,” and tend to leave their fingerprints on the masterplots they deploy.

Sex scandals being tops of the pops.


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