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Take a Tour of the Planalto Palace, Workplace of President Rousseff

12/17/2015 - 09h39

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IVAN FINOTTI
SPECIAL ENVOY TO BRASÍLIA

Of all the famous buildings in Brasília, there is none more important than the Planalto Palace. After all, it is the official workplace of the President of Brazil, the leader of a nation of more than 200 million people (140 million of them voters).

The palace, which was designed by the architect Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012), has a series of columns with impressive curves along its exterior, with a ramp, up which newly elected presidents ascend every four years.

At the top, there are two members of the Presidential Guard, who alternate every two hours. Like the Royal Guards in London, they remain immobile, though in Brasília they are much further from visitors so unfortunately it isn't possible to try and make them smile by messing around and cracking jokes.

Visits are on Sundays only. Reservations are not required; visitors may go straight to the ground floor and ask for a tour. There is no dress code - many turn up in shorts and baseball caps. On the Sunday Folha took the tour (06/12), there was no wait. There were many elderly people and children, and a few families.

The guides separate visitors into groups of 50 and take them through X-ray scanners, like at the airport. This is the only security procedure required, as not even names and identity documents are requested.

"I thought it would be really swanky, but it isn't so much, right?", whispers the accountant Sonia Veloso, as she enters the West Room, where President Rousseff gave a speech to the press two weeks ago, after being informed about the impeachment request against her.

A resident of Brasília, Sonia spent Sunday showing the palace to her sister and niece, who were visiting from Minas Gerais.

Though she was unimpressed by the large interiors, the Guatemalan tourist Jorge Soto had a different reaction. An employee at Guatemala's banking watchdog and a frequent traveler, Soto was delighted by the architecture.

"Through my work I've visited every seat of government in the Americas apart from Canada, many in Europe and a few in Asia. But nothing like this. What a concept! What space!" he purred.

While children took photos of models with their phones, the guide pointed out paintings (Djanira da Motta e Silva, Di Cavalcanti), sculptures (Frans Krajcberg, Zezinho de Tracunhaém) and furniture (Oscar Niemeyer, Sérgio Rodrigues).

All these works have been elegantly arranged in the Noble Hall, more commonly known as the Hall of Mirrors, due to the long wall of mirrors it contains.

The group goes up to the mezzanine, where there are many ornate chairs and corridors leading away to important rooms. Or at least, they have imposing names: Supreme Meeting Room (also known as the secret room, because the press is not permitted) and The Cabinet.

Unfortunately, we are not permitted to enter The Cabinet. I imagine moving amongst the 1940s furniture and reading notes left forgotten on President Rousseff's desk. Perhaps I could discover a big political scoop for Folha there. But no!

We can only look through the door, perhaps take a selfie. But it has to be quick, because there are another 40 people behind us who want to take a look.

As we leave, the sister of the accountant Sonia gives her verdict. "I'm from the countryside, you know? I love my country. But I was expecting a snack here at the end"

Translated by TOM GATEHOUSE

Read the article in the original language

Alan Marques/Folhapress
Of all the famous buildings in Brasília, there is none more important than the Planalto Presidential Palace
Of all the famous buildings in Brasília, there is none more important than the Planalto Presidential Palace

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