Ricardo Nunes

Image: Raphael Brasileiro


An illustrious unknown who sums up the worst of both worlds

Every São Paulo resident knows that the worst approval in the history of the city's mayors comes from Celso Pitta – secretary and nominated by Paulo Maluf to succeed him at city hall. Paulo Maluf started what I will call here the three “waves of relegation” of the city of São Paulo, where local administration and the city's problems were negotiated for broader and more general projects, putting the city's problems in the background. This relationship is established with unfinished mandates, exchanges of city hall positions for state governments and the search for presidential elections and the attempt to convince voters with marketing strategies and transfers of prestige to successors. The nomination of vice-presidents starts with Paulo Maluf, then comes José Serra and, in the third wave: João Dória.

Celso Pitta succeeded Paulo Maluf. Paulo Maluf sponsored his government secretary in the political succession when there was still no re-election for mayors. Celso Pitta did so badly that, in addition to having a short political career after his disastrous stint in City Hall, he also took away from Paulo Maluf any possibility of being elected to an executive position. Paulo Maluf himself said: “If Pitta is not a good mayor, never vote for me again”. And it was persuasive enough that part of his voters followed his lead.

The second worst approval in São Paulo city hall comes from another vice president, promoted to mayor: Gilberto Kassab finished his “second” term after being nominated as José Serra's vice president, creating a political party to have national influence and leaving city hall aside and local problems. Gilberto Kassab left city hall with low approval ratings; José Serra left city hall to run and be elected governor of the state after signing a letter that he would not do so.

The third wave of bad omens comes with João Dória. Still victorious in the first round, taking advantage of Fernando Haddad's exhaustion with the 2013 demonstrations and bad decisions regarding the price of bus tickets, João Dória is elected and gains space among the electorate, but abandons the position to his vice president to run for state government. Bruno Covas, as happened with Serra/Kassab, takes over and governs for most of the term.

After these cases of abandonment, Bruno Covas did not have the weight of the past condemning him for two reasons that did not leave him in a disadvantageous position: firstly, he came from a political tradition, being the grandson of the former governor and president of the PSDB, Mário Covas – who enjoyed a lot of political capital. Secondly, his fragile health condition aroused strong empathy even during the election campaign.

Because Bruno Covas did not finish his second term and did not begin his first, the issue initiated by João Dória's resignation continues to this day in São Paulo city hall. Bruno Covas chose Ricardo Nunes as his vice due to local compositions and agreements that took into account that the vice could take over the government at some point. Once again, the person elected did not hand over the position or run for re-election, but received it through arrangements that took place in offices that had nothing to do with the elections.

Ricardo Nunes who doesn't let us escape the fate of the vice president and the spurious alliances. However, unlike other figures of alleged state or national prominence, he seems to be aware of his reduced political size, inferior even to what the position of mayor of a city the size of São Paulo requires. Perhaps this is where his political sagacity lies: the self-awareness that there are no reasons that support him in office. However, being ambitious, Ricardo Nunes intends to use whatever is within his reach to establish himself politically.

For reasons of space and not to abuse the reader's patience, I draw attention to just three of the various moves that the current mayor makes to remain in office. First: its relationship with the local press, specifically the Folha de S. Paul and the State St. Paul. Then, with governor Tarcísio de Freitas, who leads the state's Bolsonarism; and, finally, with the extreme right ideology that takes over public power through NGOs and associations such as churches and the third sector.

Let's start with Paulo Motoryn's report for the website Intercept Brazil. There were almost 3 million in advertising contracted by the city hall for the newspaper Folha de S. Paul. The advertising content published in the newspaper, on the internet and promoted on the company's social networks Sheet generated controversy and the ombudsman himself, José Henrique Mariante, published the column: “This is not an advertisement – Sheet is accused of not distinguishing sponsored content from editorial product” to defend her employer and make an honorable version of the story. Buying advertising is not a crime; The conditions of the contracts are the responsibility of the Public Prosecutor's Office to supervise. But, put as this is the relationship between Sheet and City Hall is not only immoral but also compromises the integrity of the press outlet.

There are several legal ways to give veiled political support. Another of them is the prospecting and dissemination of electoral research such as, for example, the latest Datafolha. Two tricks can be used in this case to disguise results in favor of the mayor. First, the Datafolha selection works on a single scenario that is totally favorable to the candidacy of the current mayor of São Paulo: without a Bolsonarista to compete with the votes of the extreme right and with Tabata Amaral to divide the votes of the center (right and left) of the prime areas of the city. But, how can we guarantee that Bolsonarism (and, mainly, the PL) can maintain negotiations over the next six months so as not to launch candidates? – is unlikely, but it would be honest to discuss this scenario as well.

How honest would it be to present a scenario without Tabata herself? Amaral. Because, it is an interest and part of the PT's strategy to be with Guilherme Boulos in São Paulo and be part of his administration. It is reasonable to demand that support for the PSB for the mayor of João Campos in Recife also complies with the consistency of, in exchange for the partnership, giving up a non-competitive candidacy in São Paulo. It is a very reasonable and likely scenario, but it is not in the research published by Sheet.

Thus, in the scenario with Tabata Amaral and without root Bolsonarism, the mayor gains electoral space. Scenario that allows the mayor's position to be inflated. Unlike other scenarios that would expose his electoral fragility.

As well as facilitating choices, it is possible to create a sample design where the presence of the current mayor is most felt. There is no need to manipulate the data. The data speak for themselves, but they are also reflections of the research design. Datafolha works with data collection on the streets, it is easy to redesign the route to be more generous with the greater presence of the city hall and the knowledge of the current mayor.

Electoral surveys so far from the elections evaluate potential. Placing the mayor in a position of potential is essential so that what you want becomes what actually happens. If I want to put a person in the spotlight, I increase their potential and facilitate their path for that potential to be realized. In sociology, Robert Merton called this a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” With the mayor presented with the potential to win, he facilitates agreements, gets competitors out of the way and opens up space for financiers.

In addition to the media support that the mayor has sought, which has the support of the Estadão from the liberal conservative alliance against the left and the Sheet In his traditional fifth column position, the mayor works with Milton Leite (his strongest political henchman) to reach an agreement with the various political forces and internal fissures. By negotiating with Tarcísio de Freitas for the government's political support, SABESP has been facilitated by the state government's privatization project.

To carry out its SABESP privatization proposal, large municipalities must support the state measure. In the current water supply system in large cities there is a clause that cancels the service contract if share control of the company is transferred to the private sector. The city of São Paulo alone is responsible for 44% of the company's revenue. If the city does not align with privatization, the state's intention has a great chance of sinking.

The harmony and alliance between Ricardo Nunes and Tarcísio de Freitas will certainly involve the issue of water and the mayor is already in the process of facilitating any initiative by the state government in favor of political support for re-election. Regardless of the damage that any of these initiatives may represent to voters. It will be a true tragedy if the city's water and sewage management passes into the hands of the private sector. More expensive and dubiously executed essential services. 

Another element of this debate is the mayor's agreements with the social right. The Metropolitan Civil Guard of São Paulo receives training in human rights from the Universal Church. Nurseries, nurseries and children's schools that do not require school regulation are often supported by the city hall via Social Organizations (OS's) and are directly related to churches on the outskirts of the city. The city hall pays churches to welcome children that public institutions do not have space for or are unable to accommodate. The strategy for this can often reduce the presence of the public to increase the alliance with religious and local organizations that have private and ideological interests.

As we have seen; The fact that the mayor does not have his own political capital does not make him less articulate. On the other hand, his movements consist of the worst of the Centrão's alliance with the right. The mayor and his origins in the physiological center of politics have no shame about spending to increase his alliances with patrimonial values ​​at the forefront. On the other hand, it adds to initiatives to ideologically equip security and education initiatives for supporters of far-right ideology.

Ricardo Nunes is the synthesis of the alliance that makes Brazil at risk of becoming religious fundamentalist and impoverished. And the most dangerous thing is that many of the opinion makers, scholars and public policy makers are submerged in the national debate, without realizing that the next trench, municipal, is as worrying as the general one, and that in a few days, it will become the debate on the agenda.

*Luis Fernando Vitagliano political scientist and university professor.


“Ricardo Nunes has already spent almost R$3 million on advertisements disguised as journalism on Folha” – Paulo Motoryn – https://www.intercept.com.br/2023/08/23/ricardo-nunes-propagandas-jornalismo-folha/

“This is not an advertisement – ​​Folha is accused of not distinguishing sponsored content from editorial product” – by José Henrique Mariante.

“See the documents that detail Ricardo Nunes’ million-dollar payments to Folha” – Tatiana Dias.

“Datafolha: Boulos has 32%, and Nunes, 24% for São Paulo City Hall” – Igor Gielow – https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2023/08/datafolha-boulos-tem-32-e-nunes-24-para-prefeitura-de-sao-paulo.shtml

 “Universal Church uses 20 thousand pastors to indoctrinate police officers in Brazil” – Chico Alves – https://www.pragmatismopolitico.com.br/2023/06/igreja-universal-usa-mil-pastores-doutrinar-policias-brasil.html

“Uniformed and Consecrated: how the Universal Church is indoctrinating Brazil’s police forces – and governments turn a blind eye” – Giberto Nascimento and Tatiana Dias.

“SP City Hall hires NGO linked to Pastor Everaldo’s corruption scheme in RJ for R$335 million” – by Gilberto Nascimento – https://www.intercept.com.br/2022/10/24/prefeitura-de-sp-contrata-por-r-335-milhoes-ong-ligada-a-esquema-de-corrupcao-de-pastor-everaldo-no-rj/

“City Hall delays replacement of organizations suspected of fraud and children are left without daycare in the extreme south of SP” – by Gustavo Galvão and Laura Cassano.

PF carries out operation against organization suspected of embezzling funds from the City of SP intended for early childhood education – G1 São Paulo.

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