Brazilians like audacity. Perhaps it is a feature of the amiability that has featured in Brazilian culture for so long. Nobody likes to take offence and nobody imagines giving offence. The consequent audacity reveals itself in the arrogance of criminals and the size of the skimpy bikinis on the beaches. Argentina is supposedly different, the people still like fun but they are quieter than the Brazilians. The Argentineans invaded the Falklands slowly and in stages. At first, nobody noticed. The Brazilians would have marched in behind a parade. Everybody would have had fun, and the Brazilian girls would have soon led the middle aged Falkland males astray. The lustre of Thatcher may have bridged a cold Atlantic but she would have been obliterated by the Samba.
There is a fine crime novel set in Argentina that is written by Stuart Cohen. The book is called ‘The Stone Angels’ and it begins with the murder of an American State employee. The corrupt Buenos Aires policeman worries about an international scandal. He fears American protest and an international investigation into the interference of the Argentinean Government in criminal investigations. Dictatorships and oppression have made the Argentineans wary.
In Rio they react with more aplomb. A fortnight ago Victoria Tcaciuc was found dead in a hotel in Rio. The US Consulate in Rio stated that the 38 year-old Tcaciuc was a contract employee. She was planning to visit four more Brazilian cities before returning to the States. No other information has been provided about the murder victim. There has been no outcry from the Americans, and their response is particularly muted. The official statement is brief. The Americans say that they are deeply saddened and add that they have passed on their condolences to relatives and friends. If there is an international scandal buried in the details of this murder, we will not be told it by the Americans. Of course, it helps when the suspected murderer walks past the CCTV. The arrested man is called Alessandro Rufino Oliveira Carvalho. He denies the murder. He says he did visit the hotel but that they merely watched television while Tcaciuc smoked a cigarette. He left the hotel room with the American State employee still alive. According to Carvalho, he met the American woman at a craft fair. This is hardly satisfying neo-noir. When Carvalho insists he did not have sex with Tcaciuc, it is tempting to believe him. But who knows what to think. Brazilian hotels provide free contraceptives for hotel guests. A hotel room is not the place to take a stranger and think you can remain chaste. Some Brazilian men have been critical of Carvalho. They consider him a poor and too timid example of Brazilian manhood. And who wanders around craft fairs buying jars of marmalade and picking up foreign women so they can take you back to their hotel room and let you watch them smoke toasted tobacco. This does not happen at the craft fairs of rural Britain.
These days South Americans are neither impressed nor intimidated by the USA. Admittedly, oil is important but there is a belief in Brazil that the American obsession with the Middle East reflects not only US strategic interests but also their decline in power. Scandals are now home grown and shock does not require dead visitors from once powerful countries. Thuane Nunes Ferreira has been arrested for using artificial limbs to trick a biometric machine built to record the attendance of staff. Instead of using real fingers to leave fingerprints with the machine, Ferreira signed people into work with artificial limbs. The police received an anonymous tip. Whether the phone call was made with a real or silicone finger has not been revealed. The police say that they have uncovered a fraud that involves 11 doctors and 20 nurses. They suspect, though, that the fraud is more widespread. The police think as many as 300 fictitious civil servants have been created using artificial fingers, ‘ghost workers’ who never appear in work. Before making arrests, the police observed the hospital for 2 weeks. The mathematics was simple. Count the number of people passing by on the CCTV and subtract the number in the building. The difference equals the missing artificial fingers, except the fingers used may not be from hospital stock. The police have only found six and are reluctant to say that they know how they have been made. The manufacturers of the tricked and less than perfect biometric machine have been coy. Ms Ferreira has admitted guilt but has said that she had no choice. Signing in ‘ghost workers’ with synthetic limbs was a condition of her employment. Imagine telling Mum and Dad about that job interview. Her boss, Jorge Cury, has insisted that the claims of Ferreira are ‘absurd’.
‘I knew nothing about it,’ he said. ‘I have been a health official for 25 years.’
Critics of the public services are not surprised. They believe that once everything is privatised staff will become dedicated and beyond reproach. They claim that civil servants lack either talent or inspiration and that this makes them prone to corruption.
Bruno Fernandes had plenty of talent. He was the former captain of Flamengo, a football team from Rio de Janeiro, and he was expected to play for Brazil in 2014. Flamengo is one of the most successful teams in Brazil. Fernandes has enjoyed money and fame but he was not particularly adept at domesticity. Fernandes was sentenced to 22 years for murdering his lover. The relationship tormented him, he said, and he either agreed with friends to murder Eliza Samudio or, if you listen to Bruno, simply failed to protest when his friends killed her. They could stand seeing him suffer no more.
‘I didn’t know,’ said Bruno. ‘I didn’t ask for it but I accepted it.’
Fernandes made this statement in court while he held a bible. His lawyer has been watching too many Brazilian ‘telenovellas’. Bible or cheap trick the judge was not impressed. The
revelation that Bruno fed the remains of his wife to the dog did not help the accused. In these circumstances the name Bruno is interesting. The dog that ate part of the murdered woman has not been named. The ex-wife of Fernandes was also charged in the conspiracy to murder. She was acquitted. She offered consolation and understanding to her ex-husband in what must have been a difficult period in his life.
Bruno is appealing against the decision but there will be more than one governor who is already revising his or her plans for the prison football team. The woman who was murdered leaves a four-month-old orphan. According to friends, the arrival of the child affected the relationship badly. Fernandes said that he was not the father of the child. The mother insisted that he was and that he should be making some maintenance payments from his not inconsiderable footballer’s pension. The civil servants in Brazil who administer child maintenance are not surprised. A lifetime in what is often difficult work, whatever the country, can disillusion even the most talented of civil servants. Some of them even become cynical.
As Howard jackson is touring in Argentina at the moment, this blog is being used as a blast from the past.
Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism. If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.