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The Accidental President of Brazil: A Memoir Paperback – Illustrated, March 27, 2007
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"In his acclaimed memoir, Cardoso gives an engaging account of his presidency, and the political history of Brazil." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 28, 2007
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The book, translated with the help of Brian Winter, is quite skinny on details. Only 280 pages, the book deals little with the realities that Cardoso inevitably faced in his stint as the leader of modern democracy: legislative battles, ideological compromises, political in-fighting, administrative setbacks.
In Cardoso's recount of his Presidency, we are not afforded a look into the former President's heart as he waged these political battles. We are made unaware of any ideological compromises he may have had to make. We are only encouraged to believe that "if nothing else, Brazil's stability is an overwhelming sign that the ideas of [Cardoso's] government should endure." This may indeed be true, but it would be nice if the reader were allowed to draw this conclusion on their own based upon a fair presentation of the facts, rather than having Cardoso tell us this much.
If you are looking for a detailed play-by-play of Cardoso's eight years in power, this book will prove disappointing (you will have to look to Cardoso's more extensive memoir written in Portuguese for that). Much more of the book is focused on the "Accidental" rather than the "President" part of the book's title.
Cardoso provides a hearty background and detail of his family history, and how he went from child in a privileged Brazilian family to a Sociology Professor at the University of Sao Paulo to ultimately the President of Brazil. Cardoso ultimately reduces his rise to power to little more than "luck and circumstance".
Cardoso takes great pains to frame himself as a wonkish Sociology professor, in love with policy and indifferent to power, who happens to rise through the political ranks (after a period of exile) in a happenstance way.
Although, what also becomes clear in Cardoso's memoir is his gentile nature, administrative acumen, and his genuine desire to make Brazil a better and more prosperous country. The The Accidental President of Brazil: A Memoir gives the impression that Cardoso's desire to cement the legacy of his presidency is less for personal reasons, and more to legitimize Brazil as a stable and worthy country- one whose presidents write memoirs and build Presidential Libraries, and one that will ultimately gain admittance into the G7.
Cardoso also provides some interesting insights into his impressions of United States political leaders, as well as of others around the world. Of Clinton (who wrote the preface of this book), Cardoso writes, "His eye for detail, his passion for policy, and his extraordinary personal skills, made Clinton, without a doubt, the most impressive all-around politician I have ever seen."
Of Bush, Cardoso recounts how Bush asked Cardoso, "Do you have blacks in Brazil?" (Brazil has one of the world's largest population of blacks). Cardoso also portrays Bush as a leader who, during his administration, was obsessed- rightly or wrongly- with only his own nation's response to the attacks of September 11th, and who reduced the diplomatic demands of Latin America to only a question of energy. "All he wanted to discuss was energy in Venezuela, and especially who was friends with the Venezuelan government and who was not."
This stark contrast between Cardoso's impressions of Clinton and Bush present an important truth about United States-Latin American diplomatic relations: Latin America, and particularly Brazil, is interested, as is any nation, of achieving an equal footing in international and diplomatic talks with the United States and other world powers.
Any leader of the United States who makes Brazil feel as if they are merely a pawn, or place of untapped economic resources to be utilized, is likely to estrange a country- that if it can maintain stable leadership (like that of Cardoso's administration)- will only rise to evermore prominence on the world stage.
In his memoir, Fernando Henrique Cardoso describes a brief History of Brazil and his incredible life story. During the military goverment, Cardoso was a sociology professor. Within twenty-one years of military dictatorship, he was forced to go in exile, moving to Chile and France, continuing his career as a professor. At the end of the military goverment, Cardoso returned to Brazil and started his career in politics. He was elected Senator of the State of São Paulo. He also worked as foreing minister under President Itamar Franco. Surprisingly, Cardoso was named as financial minister, considered a nightmare job because Brazil had a hyperinflation that made prices of basic goods double in the same day. He was responsible for the Real Plan, the currency that saved Brazil from inflation. Cardoso decided to be a presidential candidate in 1994 and was elected for two terms.
While reading this book, I cried with his beautiful life history and I laughed with his good sense of humor. It inspired me and made me believe in a better future even if you're living in a tough time. Fernando Henrique Cardoso has done a lot to Brazil and I think all Brazilians and people who likes Brazil should know about him. Although I was incapable to vote when he was candidate for president of Brazil because I was under 16, I he is definitely the best president of my generation in my opinion.
He is a respected intellectual, author of numerous publications, and this book shows that he is also and entertaining writer.
With the power of his intellect, he predicted in this 2006 book that: "The foundation for a richer, more prosperous country - and perhaps, one day, a world power - seems to be firmly in place ". With our naked eyes at the present, we have reason to be less optimistic. Should his prophecy be fulfilled, it will not be without big bounces back and forth.
Top international reviews
This is a clear choice for those trying to understand where Brazil has come from in recent times. It is also a somewhat ironic one, as throughout FHC decries the so-called 'elite' in Brazil and its nepotism, and all the while it is clear that many of the protagonists that shaped (and shape) the country are all of the same network, as well as his own pedigree in Brazilian politics, stretching back to the end of the monarchy.
A good book that deserves to be read by a wide audience.
The book was ghost written, but the personal input of Mr. Cardoso makes it distinctly personal and charming.