When I started to become more active in the online UFO community, people in English-speaking countries tended to approach me, because they were curious about how the phenomenon was treated both in my nation (Mexico) as well as other regions of Latin America. “Does the topic carry the same negative stigma (i.e. ‘the giggle factor’) in those parts of the world, too?” they would ask me, “or is it more accepted in their society?”
I always tried to give the best answer I could from my somewhat limited perspective –meaning not as an academic or an investigative journalist who’s traveled all around the globe, but from the POV of a private citizen with a life-long interest in the subject, who’s tried to keep his ears on the ground. Hence from my modest vantage point I can honestly say that, while UFOs still have a long way to go before they are officially acknowledged south of the Rio Grande, they are not actively ridiculed in the Latin American press in the same manner their American, Canadian and English colleagues tend to do – or at least used to until last December’s revelations, although it’s still unclear if this ‘change of heart’ will be permanent or not…
A good example of this more open attitude toward UFOs is the recent appearance of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who was the president of Brazil from 1995 to 2003, on the late-night TV talk show Conversa com Bial (‘Chat with Bial’).
Most of the 1-hour interview was devoted to other topics, like the current situation in Brazil and the many economic and political scandals currently afflicting this South American nation; but by the end of the show the host Pedro Bial asked former president Cardoso about a UFO sighting he had during a trip to the coastal city of Fortaleza, in the northern state of Ceará back in 1979, when he was accompanied by his wife Ruth, and ambassador Celso Furtado, who was a very important economist and one of the biggest intellectuals in the history of Brazil – Cardoso himself is a sociologist and a well known professor, and he even taught at the French university of the Sorbonne and other prestigious schools.
In the video below – which unfortunately does not have English subtitles – Bial runs an old TV clip from 1982 showing Furtado, accompanied by a young Cardoso and his wife, describing the close encounter the three of them had when they were riding a taxi cab taking them to Fortaleza. Furtado further described the object, which was hovering over the sea, as self-illuminating but not too bright, which made him think initially it was just a helicopter, until it performed a very abrupt vertical elevation, followed by an horizontal displacement, for which they had no explanation.
At the end of the clip Cardoso confirms the event, explaining that they were all returning from a reunion of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science when the sighting took place. He admits the object did not move in a conventional manner, but clarifies that his wife Ruth – “who was more skeptic than us” – didn’t get to see it; an interesting detail which wouldn’t surprise seasoned students of the phenomenon, who no doubt have read numerous encounter reports in which some witnesses get to see the UFO, while others are unable to – even if it was allegedly right in front of them!
Both Furtado and Ruth Cardoso have passed away since, and are no longer available to give more details on this case.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this video, which is not necessarily a ‘breaking news’ because the sighting happened a long time ago – and it doesn’t seem to be the first time it was mentioned in Brazilian television – is the reaction from the public when Cardoso candidly reiterates “Me and Celso saw the flying disk.” No laughter from neither the public nor Pedro Bial the host, despite the fact Bial did tease Cardoso at some point for having had a “close encounters with extraterrestrials”. From a cursory online research I did about this case, though, it doesn’t seem Cardoso accepts the ET angle for whatever it is he saw in ’79, just like President Jimmy Carter with his own UFO sighting in 1969.
So what? some might be thinking. After all, we’ve all seen president Clinton on the Jimmy Kimmel show talk about he tried to find the truth about the Roswell incident; his wife Hillary was also given the chance to express interest in the topic and her savvy use of the lingo (“Jimmy if you talk about UFOs, people think you’re nuts – you have to use the term UAP)”.
And while it’s definitely easier for retired politicians like Cardoso to talk about these kind of fringe experiences now that they are out of office, we need to look at the big picture: The ’79 sighting was publicly revealed in 1982, right about when Cardoso was starting his political career and became senator from Sao Paolo (according to his Wikipedia page). Who could ever forget the debate in the Democratic primaries back in 2008, when Dennis Kucinich was MOCKED by the moderator AND the audience, because of the UFO sighting he had while in the company of Shirley McLaine?
Right there and then, every American politician understood the lesson: UFOs are toxic. But that doesn’t seem to have been the case with Cardoso, who didn’t see his career hindered and was even able to climb to the highest office in Brazil; and let’s not also forget that he was also an academician, so in America he would have had to combat ridicule from two different fronts, instead of just one.
Will we ever get to see another American candidate readily admitting an active interest in the UFO topic during a debate –or even better, disclosing a personal encounter– without seeing their political aspirations going down the drain?
It’s 2018 and a lot has changed since the days of Jimmy Carter. Let me blunt: The United States is no longer the leader of the free world. And if its elected officials and major institutions continue to ignore or downplay thorny problems like the UFO phenomenon, the USA not only risks staying behind other younger and more dynamic nations like Brazil, Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Argentina (who all have official departments studying UFOs) in this and many other challenges facing humanity in the XXIst century –it risks fading into the yellowing pages of history.