I was in Chile in 2017; an unpretentious tour with family and a group of friends. But a journalist’s eyes are never on vacation and of course I was taking note of the paths taken by our South American neighbour. At a fork, decades ago (1990 and 2000) the Chilean people opted for an independent market, a floating exchange rate and a less interventionist state. They did this by choosing a liberal government at the polls. If they had taken the attitude of electing a similar Bolivarian regime, perhaps they would currently be suffering the same misery as the Venezuelans, without food, without infrastructure, without perspectives.
I needed to buy some pesos and at one of these bureaux de change places that operate at every corner of Santiago, I took some dollars out of my pocket and also some reals that had been forgotten in my wallet. The clerk had an impeccable hairstyle and her uniform had been carefully ironed – I believe by herself, early in the morning, before setting off to work. The place was very clean, with no cigarette butts on the floor and the glass that separated us was crystal clean.
She refused my 50-real note. It was not fake. It was in rough shape. Crumpled, half torn at the ends, just ugly. With a look of disgust on her face, she handed it back to me.
That attendant is Latin American, just like me. Colonized by Europeans, just like me. Our countries are of similar age – just over 500 years – and geographic and climatic characteristics, that for much of the year, resemble each other. But we do not have the same attitude towards our assets.
In that fraction of a second in which we interacted, I realized how distant we are in terms of valuing the concept of “Our”. She had a Chilean note that made her proud. It was not a dollar or a pound sterling, but it was part of the patrimony of her country, which is taking big strides as an emerging, modern, pulsating nation, with difficulties of course, but with objectives.
In Curitiba, Brazil, Lula has been in prison since April, when he began serving a 12-year sentence convicted of passive corruption and money laundering in the Guarujá triplex case. The man who was once singled out by Obama as “The Guy,” is behind bars with his assets blocked, unable to run in the elections, and half a dozen lawsuits in the waiting that could result in many more penalties. Lula is not Mandela, Lula is not Martin Luther King, but his followers exaggerate in their efforts to turn him into a wronged political prisoner. In the eyes of the law, he is just a political prisoner. A politician who made serious mistakes.
And because of this overwhelming desire to express themselves, those who look at idols, sympathizers of the former president had the insane idea of stamping Real banknotes with the slogan “Free Lula.”
The bank note. The Real. The Brazilian patrimony. And we Brazilians have put stamps on them. What would the Chilean attendant say about my note with a red stamp on it?
Rogério Silva is director of journalism for TV Paranaíba affiliated to Record TV in Minas Gerais and Educadora FM. He is also professor of Journalism at the School of Administration, Marketing and Communication – ESAMC.