Brazil: The Tupi Hank Paulson Says He Did Not Say What the Estadão Says He Said

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/ad/Guido_mantega.jpg/404px-Guido_mantega.jpg
Mantega: Italo-Tupi Hank Paulson

The minister’s statement said the newspaper erred in “attributing statements to the minister that he never made,” which, the press office said, led to “various negative reactions at a sensitive moment in negotiations.”

Mantega nega ter afirmado a jornal paulista que defende uma nova CPMF: Mantega, Minister of the Treasury, denies having told a São Paulo newspaper he defends the creation of a new [provisional “check tax.”]

Top headline in the Estado de S. Paulo today is something like “Opposition heroically resists the recreation of the [check tax].”

I am exaggerating for effect there, but my ears pricked up when I read about this dispute.

Lately I have been more and more interested in a specific narrative trope that I am calling “heroic resistance against a phantom menace.”

The traditional terminology for this is a “straw-man argument.”

But why stick to traditional terminology when you can invent a sexier new term for it and claim to have innovated it yourself?

See, for example:

The Treasury minister makes a very serious charge, and does not mince words: “The Estadão attributed statements to me that I did not make.”

Is that true?

BRASÍLIA – O ministro da Fazenda, Guido Mantega, divulgou neste domingo uma nota, por meio de sua assessoria de imprensa, na qual afirma não ter declarado ao jornal “O Estado de S.Paulo” que quer um novo imposto nos moldes da Contribuição Provisória sobre Movimentação Financeira (CPMF), rejeitada na semana passada pelo Senado Federal.

Treasury minister Mantega released a statement on Sunday through his press office in which he states that he did not tell the Estado de S. Paulo that he wants a new tax modeled after the Provisional Contribution on Financial Transactions (CPMF), [whose renewal] was rejected last week by [a minority of] the Federal Senate.

Mantega também nega que tenha defendido a criação, por meio de medida provisória (MP), do tributo ainda este ano para financiar a Saúde. A entrevista foi publicada na edição de ontem do jornal paulista.

Mantega also denies that he defended the creation, through an executive order [executive provisional measure, MP], of the tax before the end of this year in order to finance public health services. The interview was published in yesterday’s edition of the São Paulo daily.

As I understand it, his objection is not to the interview itself — in which he says he says what he said — but to the news story based on the interview, which says he said something in the interview  he says he did not say.

“A saúde não sobrevive sem recursos adicionais. É preciso pensar em outra medida no ano que vem, para suprir o que faltou. Mas agora não será tributo provisório. Não queremos saber mais de CPMF. Terá que ser um tributo permanente, todo voltado para a saúde, e que não tenha que ser rediscutido. E tem de ser sobre movimentação financeira. Porque, senão, não teremos como controlar a sonegação”, diz a nota.

“Health care cannot survive without additional funds. We need to think of another measure next year to make up for the shortfall. But it cannot be a provisional tax. We do not want to hear another word about the CPMF. It will have to be a permanent tax, dedicated to health care, one that will not have to be redebated. And it will have to be a tax on financial transactions. If not, we will have no way of controlling tax evasion,” the statement said.

O texto afirma que o jornal errou, “atribuindo ao ministro declarações que não o fez”, o que, de acordo com a assessoria do ministro, provocou “diversas reações contrárias, num momento sensível de negociações”.

The minister’s statement said the newspaper erred in “attributing statements to the minister that he never made,” which, the press office said, led to “various contrary reactions at a sensitive moment in negotiations.”

“O ministro Guido Mantega lamenta o uso equivocado de sua entrevista e reafirma que a discussão sobre um novo tributo permanente voltado exclusivamente para a saúde terá que passar por uma ampla discussão dentro do governo e com o Congresso Nacional”, acrescenta o documento.

“The minister laments the erroneious use of his interview and states again that the debate over a new, permanent tax dedicated to health care will have to be amply debated within the government and with the National Congress,” the document adds.

Em entrevista neste domingo à imprensa, o presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva disse que o ministro vai precisar convencê-lo da necessidade da criação do imposto.

In an interview this Sunday with journalists, [President Squid] said the minister will have to convince him of the need to create the tax.”

Which tax? The one Mantega says he did not propose, or the one he says he does advocate?

There is confusion on this point in the Sunday papers as well.

“Ele falou para vocês [jornalistas], agora vai ter que colocar na minha mesa e eu vou decidir se vamos ou não vamos, se precisamos ou não precisamos. Eu quero ver todas as contas”, afirmou o presidente, após votar na eleição que vai escolher o novo presidente do Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT).

“He spoke to the press, now he will have to put it on my desk and I will decide if we are going to or not, if we need to or not. I want to look at all the [accounting ledgers],” said the president, after voting in an internal election to select the new president of his party.

Último Segundo had described the Estadão story yesterday in its “press synopsis” thus:

Segundo Mantega, a contribuição seria nos mesmos moldes da CPMF, ou seja, sobre movimentação financeira, com a diferença de ser permanente e voltada apenas para a área da saúde.

According to Mantega, the tax would have to be modeled after the CPMF, that is, a tax on financial transactions, with the difference that it would be permanent and dedicated to funding public healthcare.

“The same, except different.”

The headline: “Mantega wants to recreate the CPMF.”

The p in CPMF stands for provisional.

Are we just quibbling over the parsing of words here?

“It will be just like the old journalism, except that it will not involve the rigorous checking of facts before publication.”

In what sense is the product of this “recreation” of journalism really journalism at all? See

Mantega says the Estadão attributed statements to him that he did not make.

This is a very serious accusation.
Is the opposition reacting to a phantom menace created by mis- or disinformation?

Or is Mantega leveling an exaggerated or specious charge against the Estadão?

It is hard to judge the issue when news reporting on it — in this case, Último Segundo reprinting a wire service story from Agência Brasil — does not reproduce the statements in question.

Which means I am going to have to read the Estado interview and the Mantega press release for myself, to see if they shed any light on the issue.

Which is more work for me. I tend to feel my news service ought to do this work for me. I would gladly pay them a reasonable fee to do so. I have a lot of other things to do, after all.

Was the Mantega release personal or institutional? If institutional, it has not been posted to the Fazenda press release wire yet.

But the again, e-government does not always exactly operate at Internet speed, either.

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