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Two Women, Two Styles, Two Great Countries

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Dilma Rousseff and Cristina Kirchner are two strong women. Both are presidents of two powerful Latin American countries, Brazil and Argentina, respectively. Argentina used to be culturally more developed than Brazil but, today Rousseff beats Kirchner in terms of economic power.

Both women met in Brasilia on the December 6, 2012 for the Mercosur summit. A photo of two reflects better than a thousand words the differences between the two.

Different gestures and different metaphors.

“É sempre preferível o ruído da imprensa livre do que o silêncio da ditadura.” (“The noise of free press is always preferred to the silence of the dictatorships.”) – Dilma Rousseff

Rousseff stated the above sentence – similar to Thomas Jefferson’s comment on free press* – for the first time during her acceptance speech in January 2010 and after that, it has become a mantra for the Brazilian president.

At the same time, former President Nestor Kirchner and his wife Cristina after got involved in an epic battle between Argentina’s two reigning powers – the presidency and media giant Grupo Clarín. In Brasilia, Cristina Kirchner used an odd metaphor comparing her government with a salmon who is swimming upstream to lay his eggs. Reporters wanted to know if he was referring to her fight against the rule of Clarín. Kirchner said no, and explained the metaphor:

“It means that you can go against the liberal model that produces disasters and succeed at the same time.”

Rousseff did not talk about the issue, because everyone knows she has always departed from her party who would like to control the media in Brazil. Nevertheless, she has another famous saying about media freedom. When coming into power, she was asked if she was in favor of  “social media monitoring,” supported by some of her party members. Rousseff smiled and replied:

“The truth is the only media control that I know is the TV remote control.”

In fact, discussions on the regulatory framework for the media sector in Brazil prohibit monopolies and give priority to regional and independent production. Even with the huge media coverage of the biggest corruption trial, the Mensalão, Rousseff’s government seemed keep the position not to promote regulation of the sector.

Meanwhile, the Argentinian press is polarized on one side with Clarín, which controls 47 percent of the Argentinian market and, on the other, with the newspapers and the governmental machinery composed by news agencies, national radios and public TV stations. Kirchner’s government and its journals have used official channels to convey the hegemonic discourse sustained by the mainstream media.

Two women. Two styles. Two great countries with the power to create most of the present and future advances, which must happen in this wonderful part of the world

*”The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” – Thomas Jefferson (from The Founders’ Constitution, Volume 5, Amendment I (Speech and Press), Document 8)

Veronica Barranco is a Global Fellow for Edelman in São Paulo, from Madrid.

Image by Blog do Planalto.

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