São Paulo Diary: “Moral Panic” Over Sino-Paraguayan Smuggling Bust Was Well-Handled, Expert Says

Para expert, Kassab achou alvo ideal: Alexssander Soares of the Estadão analyzes a TV moment from São Paulo mayor Gilberto Kassab yesterday, one that we saw running in heavy rotation on Globo News last night.

The local anti-organized crime prosecutor, GAECO, and police had shown up at a downtown shopping mall being opened by Law King (or Law Kin) Chong, the reputed king of Brazilian smugglers.

Accompanied by TV cameras — I was reminded of Geraldo Rivera’s opening of Al Capone’s secret vault, remember that? — they used heavy equipment to open the door of what was described as “hidden, secret” storeroom containing contraband goods.

The mayor then showed up and gave his famous “You, sir, are a bandit! Leave town!” speech. See also

If “experts agree” that the moment was a moment of political marketing brilliance, as Soares reports, the initial reaction from the Subprefecture of Mooco was, however, somewhat less inspiring of confidence in the iron determination of the city government to clean up organized crime here.

There was no mention, in that first report,for example, that the city had fined the man’s new shopping mall heavily, as reported yesterday.

Quite the contrary: It said it was waiting for the shopping mall to submit the rest of its paperwork.

If the press had not reported on the man’s new venture, would we even be having this conversation?

O tom duro do discurso contra Law Kin Chong pode não ter sido ensaiado, mas o script era a oportunidade dos sonhos para um candidato à reeleição, na avaliação do especialista em marketing político Chico Santa Rita. Para ele, sentado sobre uma pilha de produtos piratas, o prefeito Gilberto Kassab conseguiu produzir uma cena perfeita para o horário eleitoral.

The harsh tone of the speech against Law Kin Chong may not have been rehearsed, but the script was a dream opportunity for a candidate for reelection, in the evaluation of political market specialist Chico Santa Rita.

Author of the memoir Batalhas Políticas. From the blurb:

Chico Santa Rita, jornalista de prestígio – trabalhou na Editora Abril e na Rede Globo – ingressou no marketing político quando esta atividade ainda engatinhava no Brasil. Foi ele quem levou ao governo de São Paulo, numa campanha memorável, o obstinado Orestes Quércia, que estava em último lugar nas pesquisas, em 1986. Chico elegeu também o sucessor de Quércia, Luiz Antonio Fleury, ex-secretário de Segurança, sem nenhuma experiência política, numa virada espetacular contra Paulo Maluf.

Chico, a prestigious journalist — he worked for Editoral Abril and Rede Globo — got into political marketing when this field was still in its infancy in Brazil. It was he who took the stubborn Orestes Quércia to the governorship of São Paulo, in a memorable campaign in which Quércia was in last place in the polls. Chico also elected his successor, Luiz Antonio Fleury, former state security secretary, a man who lacked all political experience, in a spectacular turnabout against Paulo Maluf.


On another well-known journalist turned political marketer who worked for Globo and Abril, appeared on the cover of (Abril’s) Playboy Brasil, and is due to launch an autohagiographical book in time for Christmas, see also

Fleury presided over the Carandiru massacre, Quercia over the wild and wooly Banespa affair.

I have actually met someone who worked on one of those campaigns.

It was a great job, this person told me, because they paid you really well, on time, off the books, in cash.

A guy would arrive at the work site — a private home, one of many scattered around the city — with a big old honking suitcase full of money.

I omit the identity of the source because they asked me to. Embarassing and potentially risky. But it is not like this sort of story would shock anyone who heard it recounted in bar conversation here.

Na avaliação de Santa Rita, o discurso com termos como “bandido” ou “sair no camburão” sobre um empresário apontado como o maior contrabandista do País, preso por tentar subornar um deputado federal, foi uma aposta sem riscos. Mais sensata do que chamar de “vagabundo” um trabalhador autônomo – Kaiser Silva, expulso aos berros pelo prefeito de um posto de saúde em Pirituba, zona oeste, em fevereiro.

In Santa Rita’s view, the speech, with phrases like “You, sir, are a bandit!” and “Leave, or we will haul you away in a Black Maria” regarding a businessman pointed to as the nation’s biggest smuggler, arrested for trying to bribe a federal lawmaker, was a no-risk bet, and more sensible than when he called a worker “a bum” — Kaiser Silva, expelled with loud roars by the mayor from a health clinic in Pirituba in February.

He was protesting a city ordinance limiting open-air advertising and signage.

A measure that sort of seems like polishing the patient’s boots as he dies of a massive coronoary, as another local wag opined once over chopp.

“Ele tem uma condição privilegiada na disputa eleitoral, mas precisa aprovar sua administração para se viabilizar eleitoralmente – seja por atos administrativos, realizando obras e serviços para a população, seja aproveitando todas as oportunidades que o exercício do cargo oferece, como aparecer perante a opinião pública em situações extremamente favoráveis”, disse Santa Rita.

“He occupies a privileged position in the coming campaign, but needs to win approval for his administration in order to make himself a viable candidate, likely by taking advantage of all the opportunities the office offers, such as appearing before public opinion in extremely favorable circumstances,” said Santa Rita.

The 25 de Março Shopping Center, as far as I know, has continued to operate full steam ahead under Kassab’s administration.

A frequent newspaper photo opportunity here is the standard “1 million shoppers throng” the downtown shopping district.

A análise do marqueteiro é compartilhada por todos os aliados do prefeito – menos pelo próprio Kassab. Ele não admite publicamente sua candidatura à reeleição. Mas trabalha nos bastidores para viabilizá-la e vê o mês de março como decisivo para as suas pretensões eleitorais.

The analysis by the marketer is shared by all of the mayor’s allies — except the mayor himself. He does not admit publicly that he is a candidate for reelection. But he is working backstage to make a go of his candicacy, as sees the month of March as decisive for his reelection chances.

Nesse xadrez político, é vital a simpatia do governador José Serra pela candidatura Kassab, ratificando de uma vez a aliança PSDB-DEM na capital. “Até março, todos os passos do Kassab serão guiados por seus marqueteiros e um conselho de tucanos”, revelou um de seus colaboradores.

In this political context, it is vital that Governor Serra show sympathy for a Kassab candidacy, ratificying once and for all the PSDB-DEM alliance in the capital city. “Until March, all of his moves will be guided by his marketers and an advisory council of Toucans (the PSDB),” revealed one of his collaborators.

Who is Chico working for in the middle of all this?

Kassab vem crescendo nas pesquisas de intenção de voto, aguardando o fim do primeiro trimestre de 2008 para medir forças com o ex-governador Geraldo Alckmin, provável pré-candidato tucano. Se a diferença entre os dois nas pesquisas for pequena, o passo seguinte do prefeito e seus estrategistas será argumentar que a gestão atual é aprovada pelos paulistanos. A idéia é tirar de Alckmin argumentos para emplacar a candidatura, caracterizando-a como um projeto político pessoal.

Kassab has been growing in the polls, and is waiting for the first quarter of 2008 to measure his strength against former governor Alckmin, a likely candidate for the PSDB. If the difference betwen the two is small, the next step for the mayor and his strategists will be to argue that the current administration is approved by city voters. The idea is to rob Alckmin of arguments in favor of his candidacy, characterizing it as a personal political project.

The last approval numbers I saw for Kassab were abysmal.

How far has he progressed since then? To a roar of unanimity behind his name?

I, after all, just marked amazing gains in my daily output of push-ups within a short time.

Yesterday I did none.

Today, I did one.

That is to say, my output has increased to an infinite degree.

Let me see if I can find some hard numbers on the subject, since the Estadão does not see fit to provide any.


Politics and miniskirts

25 de Janeiro de 2007: Após participar da missa de aniversário pela comemoração dos 453 anos de fundação de São Paulo, Kassab é interrompido por um protesto de sem-teto enquanto inaugurava a reforma da Praça da Sé. Em resposta aos manifestantes, puxa o coro “São Paulo, São Paulo!”

January 25, 2007: After attending a mass commemorating the 453rd anniversary of the city of São Paulo, Kassab is interrupted by homeless protestors as he inaugurates a renovation project for the Cathedral Square. In response to the demonstrators, he leads a chorus of “São Paulo! São Paulo!”

On Cathedral Square, see also

5 de Fevereiro de 2007: “Sai, sai daqui! Vagabundo! Vagabundo!” Foi dessa forma que Kassab expulsou aos berros o autônomo Kaiser Paiva Celestino da Silva, de 47 anos, que protestava na porta da unidade de Assistência Médica Ambulatorial (AMA) Pereira Barreto, na zona oeste.

February 5, 2007: “Get outta here you bum! You bum!” That was how Kassab expelled a 47-year-old worker who was protesting at a medical clinic in the Western Zone.

Kassab was holding a live press conference at the time.

The assault was not purely verbal, either: He also physically pursued the guy into the street. I am not sure that an egregious ass-kicking, in the great tradition of Rowdy Roddy Piper, was not also explicitly mentioned, but let me check again.

A memorable TV moment, in any event.

9 de Junho de 2007: Durante vistoria de obras no Hospital do Tatuapé, na zona leste, Kassab discutiu com Marizete Mantovani (foto). “O senhor foi ao 8.º andar ver as camas quebradas? O senhor tem de ir lá ver”, dizia. Kassab disparou: “Não me interrompa! Seja educada.”

June 9, 2007: During an inspection of work on the Tatuapé Hospital, Kassab argued with Marizete Mantovani. “Did you go up to the eighth floor to see the busted bed? You really ought to see that,” she said. Kassab shot back: “Don’t interrupt me! Have some manners!”

26 de Julho de 2007: Na caça aos imóveis irregulares ao redor de Congonhas, o prefeito interditou o Oscar?s Hotel, a 600 metros do aeroporto. O dono do edifício, Oscar Maroni Filho (foto), disse a Kassab: “Não me chame de vagabundo! Sou trabalhador.” O prefeito disse não ter ouvido Maroni.

July 26, 2007: Hunting for irregular real estate develoments around Congonhas, the mayor closed Oscar’s Hotel, 600 meters from the airport. The owner told Kassab: “Don’t call me a bum! I am a worker!” The mayor said he had not hear Maroni.

This is actually kind of a limited list, it seems to me. See also

Look, I don’t vote in São Paulo (though I do pay IPTU up the wazoo), and never will.

I am not from here, so it is none of my business.

Paulistas can elect anyone they like — Toucan, petista, the PTB (to which Senator Tuma recently defected), the True Sons of Brizola, Stedile, whatever — and I will watch with interest.

Still, I do find it hard to resist begging friends of various political persuasions: Please, anyone but the two candidates just mentioned.

For one thing, an excavation on the Yellow Line subway project collapsed into a smoking hole earlier this year. After promises to deliver it on time nevertheless, the project will now be delivered a year later than scheduled.

Whose brother do you think is head of “new projects” at the Metrô authority? No one ever comments on that. Which surprises me.

And for what it is worth, I would bet you a beer that the likelihood of maintaining the PSDB-DEM alliance here is practically nil.

Nor are you likely to hear candidates in that election promising to continue the shining legacy of Quércia and Fleury, either.

Não semos tatu.

Why do I say all that? Really, I do not have anything but a hunch to go on, so you should probably not pay no attention at all to my punditry on the subject.

It’s just that the current Toucan governor is not given to extreme outbursts of moral panic, for one thing. Unlike his predecessor:

Which I tend to appreciate, at a minimum.

I am, after all, a New Yorker and 9/11 eyewitness who has been subjected to extreme outbursts of gabbling moral panic myself, by the likes of Tom Ridge and the New York Post.

And I do not like it. It tends to ruin the peace and quiet of my commute. Bloomberg as a policy promoter has his upside and his downside, to me, personally, but he is not a gabbling, antidemocratic Moonie, at least. I see a lot of similarities between the Rudy-Bloomie succession and here, in fact.

On the Post, most recently, see also

And there is progress on the completion of the Rodoanel, too — one of those Malufian-Fleuryian “half-sunk, a shatter’d visage lies” boondoggles that are the subject of so many bitter jokes here. The biggest of them all, really.

Serra said we should measure his administration on how much he gets done. And politics aside, the guy at least shows credible signs of actually meaning this.

So I think it would be self-defeating to wish the guy ill on this specific subject, anyway, no matter what your political persuasion. Traffic here is — it is no exaggeration to say this, I think — a nightmare.


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