Interview with Brazilian blogger Ricardo Serran Lobo

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ricardo Serran Lobo is a Brazilian blogger who writes about his famous neighbor, the politician Roberto Jefferson, head of the Brazilian Labor Party in the Brazilian Congress of Deputies. Jefferson has become a major figure in the ongoing Brazilian mensalão scandal revolving around corruption and bribery.

Vizinho do Jefferson [1] quickly became very popular among Brazilians, describing the routine of Jefferson, while providing information about politics and fresh news about the scandal. Lobo's blog got third place in the Best Of Blogs contest run by Deutsche Welle International.

Lobo gets an intimate look at the center of Brazilian politics by living in Brasilia, near residences of parliamentarians (including Roberto Jefferson), public buildings and the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies. Or, as he says in his blog: "near the eye of the hurricane," a reference to the recent political crisis.

At first, Lobo began describing the daily activities of his famous neighbor deputy Roberto Jefferson. As the crisis moved on, he began to describe the political events regarding it. His writings evolved to not only what is going on with Jefferson, but what is going on in Brazilian Congress, and has interviewed politicians, including Roberto Jefferson himself.

The blog tries to be informative, with a lot of humour (common with Brazilians), and some protests against the bad habits of Brazilian politics in general.

Jefferson's neighbor, the blog, is an example of citizen journalism and it shows that ordinary people can compete with professional media.


Personal questions

Wikinews: Our interviewee is the Brazilian Ricardo Serran Lobo. He is usually known as the Vizinho do Jefferson (Jefferson's neighbor), because of his personal weblog about politics, which became very popular during the "mensalão" crisis in Brasil.
Ricardo Lobo: Good afternoon! My name is Ricardo, I am a publicity man and teacher of web writing, and speaker of the Information Era and Digital Communication, 44.
Wikinews: Are you from Brasília?
Ricardo Lobo: No. I am from São Paulo and from Santa Catarina in my heart.
Wikinews: How long have you been living in Brasília?
Ricardo Lobo: I have been living for five years in Brasília. All these years I have been a neighbor of the ex-deputy Roberto Jefferson.

The blog

Wikinews: What was your aim at starting a blog
Ricardo Lobo: The blog was born without any aim. In fact it was a joke with a college friend of mine and my cousin. They knew that I lived next door to the deputy [Roberto Jefferson] and they asked me every day about the journalists staying out in front of his door at his building.
Ricardo Lobo: So, I began to write the blog, it was closer to the "making of" a journalistic coverture, describing the confusion and the changes of routine caused by the journalists who staying under my window, waiting for something happens.
Wikinews: Is this your first international interview? What newspapers or magazines have been in contact with you?
Ricardo Lobo: Actually this is the second international interview. At the beginning of the blog, Bloomberg Channel from New York interviewed me too. In Brazil, I have been interviewed by the main vehicles for communication. Only the Rede Globo didn't interview me because of the denouncements that I have made against it: the 2.8 billions reals loan from BNDES [Brazilian Development Bank] and its daily manipulation of information.
Wikinews: Did you expect that your blog would become so famous?
Ricardo Lobo: I wasn't expecting fame. Besides, I was expecting anything. I have laughed a lot because of all the repercussion caused by the blog, however the main subject, as I see, it was the changes in the behaviours of the main personages of this crisis which were caused by the blog. In the media and in the parlamentarians.
Wikinews: Do you receive a lot of emails?
Ricardo Lobo: I've already received many, about 300 emails per day at the peak of the crisis and popularity of the blog. In July, I could sleep only 3 hours by night. I answered everyone. At present time, there are usually 20 emails by day. I love that. (laughs)


Wikinews: Do you know about citizen journalism in Portuguese?
Ricardo Lobo: No. This practice is not common in my country. The blog Vizinho do Jefferson (Jefferson's neighbor) opened a great discussion about this subject, since journalistic occupation is reserved to the ones who have a diploma of journalism. The first unofficial and "outlaw" vehicle [of communication] which really worked with citizen journalism was my blog. It is called "independent press" here.
Wikinews: Is there any threat of working as an "independent press" since you do not have a journalist diploma?
Ricardo Lobo: Yes, the journalist union can sue me anytime. However I am not taking any job.
Wikinews: You said that your blog caused some repercussions among some people. Can you cite some cases ?
Ricardo Lobo: About this subject, I would like to say too that the journalism elite likes my work and finds it of great importance. Only minor journalists are criticizing me and trying to disturb my work.
Wikinews: Have you read the Portuguese-language Wikinews coverage about the scandal? What do you think about it?
Ricardo Lobo: Unfortunately not. Excuse me, but I have to work on my blog 24 hours by day, getting and checking the information; some other histories are investigative.
Wikinews: You are invited to follow the Wikinews coverture about the crisis. A lot of articles have already been written.
Wikinews: Do you think that the internet has changed something in the relationship between Brazilian people and the press?
Ricardo Lobo: Yes, sure. The blog "Vizinho do Jefferson" brought many readers to online journalism. Everybody wanted to know what the blog was and what the Vizinho's blog was, since the spread about it in traditional media was big. At present time it is usually only the people reading political blogs and anything else. Many blogs have appeared since the "Vizinho do Jefferson" blog, every important journalist from the country has a blog today; however they are just starting.
Wikinews: Do you think that Brazilian media has been controlled by Workers Party sympathizers?
Ricardo Lobo: Very good question. Yes. Several times the Brazilian media has been controlled by Workers Party sympathizers when the party was not in power. At present time, journalists are a littile lost and they are not able to talk about the insanity in Lula's government.
Wikinews: The Brazilian press have covered the scandal with a lot of detail. Did it redeem itself?
Ricardo Lobo: But in this case you have the blog influence over the press. How can you not write about it if someone else is talking about the subject?

Brazilian politics in general

Wikinews: What, if any, are your political affiliations, and do they influence the material you choose to include in your blog?
Ricardo Lobo: Yes, I am from the Green Party. It doesn't influence my work; on the contrary, my work influenced my political life.
Wikinews: Have you run for a political post?
Ricardo Lobo: The national president of my party asked me to be federal deputy candidate in the next elections. I have been with the national executive of the Green Pary this year—before the blog—asking for a moratorium on the deforestation exploitation. I've always been a very active environmentalist.
Wikinews: Are Brazilian politicians more corrupt now than before?
Ricardo Lobo: I think that they are less discreet. Politics and corruption walk together in any country of the world. There are many interests involved in any part of the planet.

The scandal

Wikinews: Political scandals like this have happened before in Brazil?
Ricardo Lobo: Not at this proportion. The volume of money involved is huge. The problem is that the 3 Brazilian powers: Legislative, Executive and Judicial were exposed to the population. Every Ministry had problems of inefficiency and the ruling party, which always represented the ethics and morals, was caught literally with dollars inside his underwear. (laughs)
Wikinews:How far does the corruption go? Does it [the crisis] continue?
Ricardo Lobo: The crisis will continue, sure, there are a lot of things that must be explained. The great doubt is if Lula knew or not. Sure, he knew about the existence of the bribery of parliamentarians by the government using the scheme called "mensalão".
Wikinews: Does the "mensalão" continue?
Ricardo Lobo: Not in the exact manner it was managed before, however I believe that it still exists. The election of Aldo [Aldo Rebelo (PCdoB)] for the Presidency of Congress is an example.
Wikinews: Do you believe Lula did know about the mensalão?
Ricardo Lobo: Certainly he knew and he is part of the ruling and creation of the scheme. Otherwise he will enter to History as the most ignorant among all of the Brazilian presidents.
Wikinews: What was the role of the ex-minister and deputy José Dirceu, in you opinion?
Ricardo Lobo: Operator, chief of government and chief of its strategies. He and Lula created the scheme of "mensalão". He, Lula, Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro created a scheme to turn out South America as a huge continent for the world-wide left. The first step was Lula in Brazil, next Evo Morales in Bolivia, and so on. Jose Dirceu was a part of that.
Wikinews: Do you think that the corruption scandal will end "much ado about nothing" or "pizza" as it is said in Brazil?
Ricardo Lobo: Actually there are a lot of "pizzas". One has already being served: the Vote Buying CPI. They are still trying to serve the others. But I think that it will end in nothing; they, the politicians, are very cooperative with each other.
Ricardo Lobo: They [the deputies] know that their days are numbered, mainly the ones from big cities. As for the ones from provincial and small cities; they don't even know what a computer is and they didn't realize the severity of the problem. They think that if their name didn't appear in the newspaper, their names are not in any place. Perhaps I'll create a site closer to the elections, when I will put the names of all incompetent ones from the National Congress.
Wikinews: What will end in nothing? The investigations or the scandal?
Ricardo Lobo: The investigations will continue until an acceptable limit is reached by the major parties: the Workers Party and the Social Democracy Party. Then they must stop when it is "enough" for the population.
Wikinews: In the streets, how do ordinary Brazilian people see this issue?
Ricardo Lobo: Everybody is disappointed because people thought that everything (corruption, politicians etc) would change. And it really changed, but for the worse. The amateur behaviour of the communications team of President Lula contributed very much to this also; it lacked professionalism.
Wikinews: Are the people who live in Brasilia too upset?
Ricardo Lobo: Nobody gets very upset about the government in Brasilia. Most of the town population works for the federal government, so this is a unique city, really. And it is beautiful.
Wikinewss: But some Brazilians still trust in President Lula, right?
Ricardo Lobo: This number gets smaller each day. But there are people who still believe in Santa Claus. (laugh) You excuse me but I dont know how to speak about Lula without joking. (laugh)

Roberto Jefferson

Wikinews: Why did Roberto Jefferson expose the scandal, in your opinion?
Ricardo Lobo: Good question. He had a rope around his neck. Actually he detonated an atomic bomb, without knowing who was attacking him. Actually the people who attacked him were his party mates and not José Dirceu. This is related to those 4 millions reals and the sharing amongst them. There were a lot of more money, but only 4 [million] were shared. This is the root of the crisis detonated by him.
Wikinews: It seems that you got close to the ex-deputy Roberto Jefferson. Could you tell us something about it? What does he think about your blog?
Ricardo Lobo: We became friends and he was thankful for my correction, with him and with his family. He said that I am very competent and that I am one of the best products of the whole crisis.
Wikinews: There is some deputy from the Workers Party (PT) who is a neighbor of Roberto Jefferson?
Ricardo Lobo: Yes, all of them live over there. By example: deputy Greenhalg [Luiz Eduardo Greenhalg] from PT lives there, next door too. Rebelo [Aldo Rebelo], the President of the Congress, too. Almost all of them live at 302 North.
Wikinews: Is that a pretty wealthy neighborhood?
Ricardo Lobo: Brasília is different from other cities in the world; it is formed by blocks and not streets. I am a neighbor of a block where there are only federal deputies, among them, Roberto Jefferson. Deputies are very rich, sure. Politics in Brazil makes people rich. (laugh)
Wikinews: Is Roberto Jefferson still having instructions about singing? What does he like to sing?
Ricardo Lobo: He continues. Now he is having instructions with a baritone from the Municipial Theatre of Rio de Janeiro. He is instructed in the afternoon, when he is in the city. He likes romantic singers and lyrical songs. He sings: My Way, Io che amo solo te, Dio come ti amo and other Italian songs like the one of Andrea Bocelli.
Wikinews: Would Roberto Jefferson accept to take part in a interview in Wikinews?
Ricardo Lobo: I believe so, he is very open-minded person, to everything. The trouble is that he has litle experience with the keyboard. Another day he wrote a post in my blog and he had a hard time to find himself with the keyboard. However someone could type for him, that is a solution.
Wikinews: Obviously we need to work on our tech for interviews, we'd like to interview people who aren't familiar with technology and may have telephone interview facilities in the future.

Final remarks

Wikinews: Well we would like to thanks your presence here. Feel free to make your final remarks.
Ricardo Lobo: The Brazilian crisis is showing that the young Brazilian democracy is at the right course. Besides all the problems brought by this scandal to us Brazilians, one thing has been demonstrated: the political maturity of the population. What we need now is maturity for the politicians, who are still living past two centuries. The blog Vizinho do Jefferson (Jefferson's neighbor) brought a new approach to the politics coverture and the Brazilian press grew up too. We all were influenciated, each other.
Ricardo Lobo: I would like thank everyone for their patience. It was a honour and a great satisfaction to be the first interviewee for the year for Wikinews.

Wikinews: Thank you very much, Mr Lobo.
Ricardo Lobo: An embrace to all of you and thank you for your interest in my country. Brazil is expecting your visit. This country is delicious. Thank you.
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

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