The World of Paulo Guedes

Folha's sharp criticism of other ministers seems to always miss the minister of the economy

The Covid inquiry into President Bolsonaro and the 400,000 deaths from the coronavirus were the top news times of the week.

Amid the most solemn moment of the health crisis so far, the commission installed by the Senate on Tuesday (27) wants to clarify how the Jair Bolsonaro government managed the pandemic.

Senators wouldn't have to struggle to understand what has happened if they had followed the work of the press since Covid's first case was registered in Brazil in February 2020.

Some of the more recent "scoops" that Folha has published have covered involve Bolsonaro's effort to mobilize ministries in the distribution of chloroquine, ineffective against Covid, and the government's incompetence in responding to the crisis in Manaus, as well as the rejection, in the last year of a proposal by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer to supply 70 million doses of vaccines.

It is surprising that amid such heavy news, a minister, with his speeches, managed to stand out.

On the same day that the CPI was installed and without knowing it was recorded, Paulo Guedes, Minister of Economy, said that the Chinese invented the coronavirus and promoted a voucher (a kind of scholarship that would be given to low-income families to pay for their medical and hospital spending) resolution of access to health services—which, in your imagination, would include Albert Einstein hospital among the two possible options.

When speaking about the effects of the population's high life expectancy on the future of the health sector, he said that "everyone wants to live 100, 120, 130 years." And, to support criticism of Fies (a program that attracted students to private colleges with cheaper credit), he told the story of the porter of his building, whose son attended university with abysmal grades.

At Folha, the prejudiced farce of the "Chinese virus" was well explored, as well as the diplomatic consequences of the declarations. However, there was no explanation for the rest: is it possible for someone with a zero average to pass Fies? What are the problems with the program? And what kind of magic would allow a voucher given to the poorest people to offer access to the most exclusive hotels in the country?

It is also worth investigating why the minister sees problems with porter's children at university or domestic workers at Disney.

On Friday (30), Folha ended up interviewing Guedes himself about the episode. He said that Fies and other social programs created in the PT era are part of a "beautiful job" and that his criticisms are focused on what he called excesses. Echoing the president, he also said that his lines were distorted.

On the same day, the newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo did better, which contextualized the information and, with the audio copy, published new excerpts of speech, which speak of teaching sex to 5-year-old children and the use of drinks and drugs inside the university.

In journalistic terms, Folha gets it right by giving the minister a voice, trying to dismiss what he said when he was protected by a closed meeting.

However, in the way the coverage was made, the minister gained a chance to rehash the speech, but the reader remains unsure whether Guedes' speech about Fies or health vouchers makes any sense because the text does not enter into this merit - which makes the content incomplete.

It is not new that readers see the condescension as part of the press in the coverage of Minister Guedes and his team. The coverage of the statements reinforces the impression.

In response to the column, the director of the Brasília branch, Leandro Colon, and the market editor, Alexa Salomão, say "that the premise of 'condescension' does not fit Folha. There is no journalistic standard for this. Just search and read the latest newspaper reports. Folha's economic coverage is the most critical among the media regarding governments, companies, financial institutions, and their respective leaders, including Minister Paulo Guedes, who has already complained, many times, about our reports".

It is not a question of calling into question the work of complete coverage, but pointing out flaws at important moments.

In May 2019, the theme of this column was the coverage of another crazy speech by Guedes, also without explanation, in which he said Brazil's retirement regime would lead to more suicides than the Chilean one. In September of the same year, I returned to the subject of Guedes after he cursed the first lady of France. He had already failed to deliver on promises made during an electoral campaign - such as obtaining R $ 1 trillion with privatizations, to close the gap Budget in the first year or reduce the price of gas.

Although made by a minister whose firepower has been questioned, Guedes' statements need to be scrutinized by the press because, with a strong appeal to common sense, they have effects on public opinion and, in particular, repercussions on government policies.

The coverage that the press does of Paulo Guedes is still, in style and tone, different from that made on the speeches of Minister Damares Alves, or of the former minister.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon