Magazine article Newsweek International

'Che Guevara in Tweed'; as He'd Be the First to Say, Cardoso Made Brazil a Better Country

Magazine article Newsweek International

'Che Guevara in Tweed'; as He'd Be the First to Say, Cardoso Made Brazil a Better Country

Article excerpt

Byline: Mac Margolis

His hair is shot with gray now and age creases his forehead. But three years after stepping down from what might be Latin America's most punishing job, former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso is holding up remarkably well. Today, pushing 75, he travels as relentlessly as ever--though instead of seeking bailouts and trade pacts, it's prizes, honorary degrees and keynote speeches that keep him on the move. "Nothing gives me more satisfaction than having put Brazil on the right path," he often says, with his Cheshire-cat smile.

That contentment is stamped all over "The Accidental President of Brazil" (291 pages. Public Affairs), a candid, sometimes brilliant but thoroughly readable autobiography. Although there are few revelations, these memoirs offer an intimate glimpse into an extraordinary moment: when one of Latin America's most creative minds took on one of the world's most promising and vexing countries.

Cardoso describes in rich detail the blended life of scholarship and politics that took him on a circuitous route to the top. An accomplished sociologist, he was banished from the classroom at the University of So Paulo after the 1964 coup. So he packed off to a relatively comfortable exile job at a think tank in Chile (where he drew a fat salary and drove a Mercedes) and then on to lecture in France. "Here I was, a professor on the run," he writes, "transformed overnight into some kind of Che Guevara in a tweed jacket. …

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