Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Fernando Lugo, Paraguay’s President, who (because he used to be a Jesuit Priest?) is much craftier than both La Presidenta (Argentina) and El Presidente for Life (Venezuela), came to São Paulo a few years ago, had his cancer treatment, is back in his home country and (apparently) none the worse off (politically or medically) for having had his treatment, and for having allowed doctors to tell reporters what he had and what he (and the doctors) were going to do about it.
Compare, for a second or two, the behavior of La Presidenta, whose Argentine doctors said she had cancer. She declined an invitation from A Presidenta (Dilma) to come to São Paulo to be treated. Treated she was, in Bs.As., her thyroid was duly extirpated from wherever it was lurking…oops! quite harmlessly! No cancer, no problem! Rejoicing in the streets! Evita! Evita! Evita!
Compare, for a nano-second or two, the behavior of El Presidente for Life, whose Venezuelan doctors said he had cancer. He too was invited (by Lula, O Presidente Olímpico) to come to São Paulo and be treated. He declined, and fled to Cuba, where someone (he claims) removed a grapefruit-sized tumor from some undisclosed part of his anatomy.
No publicity, no prognosis, no proof. Did he have cancer? Almost certainly, because recent photographs show him 30 kilos heavier than before his operation, hairless, moon-faced from steroids, all of which indicate his cancer is much more serious than he will admit.
Clearly, both Chavez and Kirchner took wrong political decisions—they thought it was better to hide the truth. They were convinced that in Brazil, the media were insatiable and irrepressible, so their true condition would be known to millions instantly—and neither of them wanted that.
They were both wrong. Brazilian medics and Brazilian journalists are very, very good at hiding the true state of populist patients. Do you really believe that Lula is doing fine? Well, he’s not—he coughs a lot, he has a tickle in his throat. Yes, he smiles and waves but…he’s 20 kilos heavier, hairless, moon-faced from steroids… Brazilian doctors are clearly hiding the seriousness of Lula’s illness; that is their medical duty. The newspapers are also hiding this.
But we have digressed from Paraguay. Many of us in Brazil treat Paraguayans as inferiors. A third of the population speaks only Guarany, an indigenous language regarded as uncultured by all Iberians, who “know” that half-naked savages couldn’t possibly have invented a language that was as “cultured” as Spanish or Portuguese. This is linguistic rubbish: the fact is (ask any linguist) that most American indigenous languages are far more complex than European languages.
The Puritans didn’t learn to speak Narragansett or any of the indigenous languages, because they simply couldn’t. Simple folk, of simple English background, they were cozened by the lingual variety of the native tongues. The “Indians”, having phonological and morphological knowledge far superior to anything English had to offer, were nothing daunted, and learned to speak English almost immediately, while being enslaved.
But we digress (once again). In praise of Paraguayan men, their President, Fernando Lugo (who may or may not speak Guarany) has come to Brazil, been treated, returned, and has led a life of comparative quiet. In this, he reflects Dilma, who has also had cancer treatment, done the needful and gone home without making a big populist deal out of it. May they both have long lives!
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)