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The Brazilian press are today focusing on, or perhaps I should say, celebrating, the condemnation of Jose Dirceu, Lula’s former chief of staff who was this week found guilty of corruption in Brazil’s mensalao trial.

The focus for foreign journalists is quite different. We are writing about what this means.

Here’s my piece in today’s It’s perhaps best summed up by this quote, from Christopher Garman of the Eurasia consultancy group.

“The mere fact that you have a trial like this is part of a bigger story. The bigger story is that Brazil is starting to implement greater checks and balances and more oversight of public officials when it comes to  corruption and misuse of public funds.”

Another good piece well worth a read is by Simon Romero of the NYT. His piece is here and deals with the mensalao and Brazil’s justice system in general.

Meanwhile, this piece on Reuters deals with what this means to (the once teflon?) Lula.


I was a bit apprehensive about meeting André Esteves last week. Not because he is a billionaire or has a fearsome reputation as a ‘shark’ who devours his rivals.

More because I was writing for The New York Times on banking, which is hardly my specialised subject. It was a lot to learn in a short time.

My story, a profile of him and his bank BTG Pactual, came out today as part of a Dealbook special on emerging markets.

The interview was brief but good. Esteves was friendly and there was little sign of the cut throat capitalist I had heard so much about.

We spoke in English at first and although his English was good, he obviously didn’t feel 100 % confident. When we switched to Portuguese he was a whole different guy. He was funny and charming and I even teased him a bit. He laughed easily while the photographer took his picture. Maybe it is the Carioca in him but when the microphone was turned off he didn’t take himself too seriously.

The moment he left the room, however, he was all business, refusing even to have his picture taken in the foyer in case it looked bad in front of a visiting client.

It’s been more than two years since I wrote a business story for the NYT. The paper’s  financial troubles and their lack of a business editor who truly understood what is going on in Brazil meant they showed little interest in covering the business story, even though Brazil’s economy was – and is – booming.

Hopefully this piece means is the first sign they are starting to wake up to what is happening down here. And hopefully that will mean more work for me…

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