Brazil: “The Sex Senator Loses His Head!” (While All Around Him Are Keeping Theirs)

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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.

Renan se licencia da presidência do Senado: The embattled “sex Senator” — subject of an intense campaign in the yellow press to oust him from the presidency of the Senate over a series of ethics charges — will take a leave of absence from his leadership post while he defends himself in other “conduct unbecoming” matters.

Opposition senators reportedly threatened to delay a vote on the continuation of a strategic “check tax” unless the senator gave up the chair — “starving the beast” of tax revenue for social and economic development programs, as the Gingrich mob used to say.

Why do I keep mentioning it? I can’t even explain it to myself.

It’s like a soap opera, or cigarettes: You swear you are not interested, but then you watch one episode and find yourself hooked. Hating yourself for it, but hooked.

But I warn you: I make absolutely no claims to comprehending the political dynamics of the affair. Can anyone? I guess I am am principally interested in the affair as a case study in folklore-driven “literary journalism.” Naked TVGlobo journalists turned political marketers “reveal all”! Spies and mafias! We are all prostitutes! Hysterical virginity! The evil corporation! Democracy simply doesn’t work!

“Na noite de hoje decidi me licenciar da presidência do Senado Federal pelo prazo de 45 dias, a fim de demonstrar de forma cabal e respeitosa à nação e a todos os ilustres senadores de que não precisaria do cargo de presidente do Senado Federal para me defender”, afirmou Renan.

“This evening I decided to take a leave from presiding over the federal senate for 45 days, in order to demonstrate in a thoroughgoing and respectful way to the nation and all the illustrious senators that I do not need the powers of the presidency to defend myself,” Renan said.

“Agindo assim, afasto de uma vez por todas o mais recente e injusto pretexto usado para tentar dar corpo às inconsistências das representações, enviadas sem qualquer indício ou prova ao Conselho de Ética do Senado Federal”, disse. “Com este meu gesto, que é unilateral, quero preservar a harmonia no Senado.”

“With this action, I am dispelling once and for all the most recent, extremely unjust pretext used to try to substantiate the inconsistencies of the charges made against me without any indication or evidence to the ethics commissions of the Senate,” he said. “With this gesture, which is a unilateral one, I seek to preserve harmony in the Senate.”

I still maintain that whatever you think of the sex Senator’s conduct — and I cannot say I know anyone, of any political persuasion, who goes around wearing a “Free Renan” T-shirt these days, though it is also true that almost no one can tell you, from reading the papers, exactly what it was the guy actually supposedly did — the guy is getting competent crisis communication advice.

His systematic attention — with some extemporaneous lapses (“I am the victim of a moral death squad!”) — to fighting hysterical virginity with appeals to rationality and due process is striking, I think.

Neste período, ele exerce normalmente o mandato parlamentar, mas não preside a Casa. O substituto natural é o primeiro vice-presidente do Senado, Tião Viana (PT-AC).

During this period, Renan will continue to serve normally as a senator from Alagoas, but will not preside over the house. His natural substitute is the first vice-president, Tião Viana (PT-AC).

Diz aí, Tião.

Renan resolveu licenciar-se depois de uma longa conversa com o líder do governo, Romero Jucá (PMDB-RR), e com o senador José Sarney (PMDB-AP), na noite desta quarta-feira (10).

Renan decided to take leave after a long talk with the leader of the government alliance, Jucá, and Senator [and ex-president] Sarney, on Wednesday evening.

Jucá and Sarney are both targets of accusations of monopolizing broadcast media and using that monopoly to promote “electronic machine politics” in their rural constituencies.

The Sarney clan, for example, was awarded a Globo retransmission facility by Minister of Communications Magalhães in the late 1980s, just before the new constitution took effect.

The principal shareholders in the Globo affiliate TV Bahia are all named Magalhães, last I checked. The general manager is the wife of the late Toninho Malvadezas.

One analysis I read suggested that this temporary resolution to the affair will open the space for two new stories to occupy the headlines: (1) The Belo Horizonte Baldy case involving Senator Azeredo of Minas Gerais; and (2) the CPI of Abril-Telefónica, probing the legality of a deal allegedly transferring effective control of a São Paulo cable TV operator, TVA, to a foreign firm.

On (1), see:

  • [tktktk]

On (2), see:

  • [tktktk]

Let me venture a bit of half-assed analysis anyway — recalling that I warned you I cannot for the life of me grok most of this.

The next charge the sex Senator faces in the ethics committee is having illegally owned two radio stations in Alagoas, through fronts.

This is against the law, formally speaking, but dozens of politicians from both the government and opposition blocs do it, with gusto.

The sex Senator’s defense is that if he is to be borked for this infraction, then it is only fair that all the other lawmakers in the same situation should be borked.

Early on, he suggested that the proper way to resolve the case might be a congressional inquiry leading to legislation that would close loopholes and take those concessions away from the lawmakers whose job it is to vote on the awarding of broadcast concessions.

There is a proposal in a subcommittee of the science and technology subcommittee in the lower house for doing just that. An interesting one: I was just reading it.

So in a funny way, the vision of Globo journalist Mônica Veloso baring her ass on the cover of Abril’s Playboy Brasil this week — one of the interesting cultural differences with its gringo counterpart is that, where ours is strongly breast-oriented, PB is systematically bunda-oriented — could possibly launch a thousand shitstorms in the armed media monopoly wars down here.

That could be interesting.

Weather forecast: Look for the media-driven “we are all prostitutes” — known here as “thieves denouncing thieves as thieves” — FUD strategy to continue as a method of preventing straight up or down votes on such reform measures from taking place.

The strategy tends to be to offer up individual scapegoats to public opinion while leaving structural elements that facilitate the misconduct untouched.

The hysterical virgins in the Renan case, for example, pretty much invented the media-ownership gambit he is to be sacrificed for.

Much as the so-called valerioduto appears to have originated in an opposition machine-politics scheme in Minas before some members of the current governing bloc allegedly availed themselves of it.

It’s exactly like the Clinton blow-job scandal: “There oughta be a law” gets filibustered away and neutralized by transforming the legislature into a (kangaroo) court of law on specific cases.

And Mayor Cesar “Chairman” Maia, whose son leads the DEM-PFL in the lower house, is very fond of quoting Dick Morris.

Curious, is it not? Watching these tactics play out here in Brazil constant gives me a powerful itch of deja vu from the 2000 and 2004 campaigns back in Gringoland, with their echoes of Nixonian ratfinks and Reaganite crusades against the mythical “welfare queen.”

One of these days, I think we gringos are going to want to mount a CPI of our own: The CPI of the National Endowment for Democracy.

What exactly do our tax dollars get spent on outside our borders?

Besides “blogging for democracy,” I mean?

Because you know a lot of these people think we gringos are still meddling in their internal affairs, right? Distorting their democratic processes and development?

This could be bad for our national brand, don’t you think?

Say it ain’t so, Condi.

You might even have to mean it this time. And fire Karen “den mother to the Great Unwashed” Hughes.

I mean, Doha? Hello?

In the last round, we dispatched Moonies and Bush Rangers to negotiate that? And they screwed the pooch? Maybe it’s time to dispatch the results-oriented, responsible-adult career professionals from the reality-based community?


HEADS ROLL: “Straight-razor to the quick: the thread of the anticorruption operations 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. 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?

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