Congressman Alexandre Frota

In October of 2018, in the wake of Brazil’s general elections, pundits on 24-hour news channel Globo News gathered to discuss the main takeaways from the vote. Anchor Cristiana Lôbo pointed out that “traditional politicians” had lost the election, with “pastors, majors, and commanders” taking their place.

Visually troubled, long-time political pundit Merval Pereira piped up. “A porn actor,” he interjected. “A porn actor was elected, too.” An awkward silence ensued in the studio.

</p> <p>The &#8220;porn actor&#8221; to which Mr. Pereira was referring to is Alexandre Frota, the 55-year-old first-time member of Congress who was elected at the polls last year, receiving 155,622 votes in the state of São Paulo and representing the far-right Social Liberal Party (PSL).</p> <p>Before politics, Mr. Frota made his name as a television and film actor, starring in several soap operas on TV Globo. In 2004, he moved into the adult film industry, featuring in productions such as &#8220;Beauty and the Prisoner,&#8221; &#8220;Pure Desire,&#8221; and &#8220;Frota&#8217;s Christmas Special.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;I&#8217;m amazed people still talk about it today,&#8221; the member of Congress told <em>Veja </em>magazine last month. &#8220;It&#8217;s a sign that I was good at it.&#8221;</p> <h2>In at the deep end</h2> <p>To the surprise of many—Merval Pereira included, no doubt—after seven months in office, Alexandre Frota has become one of the most relevant political actors in Congress.</p> <p>As a member of Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s PSL, he was recently called up to help coordinate the approval of the pension reform in the House of Representatives, a surprisingly important role for a first-term representative.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the process of the pension reform being voted through the lower house, he has managed to gain the trust of Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, and House Speaker Rodrigo Maia—arguably the biggest power broker in Brazilian politics today.</p> <p>Allies talked of Mr. Frota&#8217;s strategies to control proceedings in committee hearings and floor sessions, for which the representative borrowed tactics from American football in order to neutralize the opposition&#8217;s influence and help sessions flow freely.&nbsp;</p> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/alexandre-frota.jpg" alt="alexandre frota" class="wp-image-22188" srcset="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/alexandre-frota.jpg 700w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/alexandre-frota-300x193.jpg 300w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/alexandre-frota-610x392.jpg 610w" sizes="(max-width: 700px) 100vw, 700px" /><figcaption>Former porn start Alexandre Frota as a conservative candidate</figcaption></figure> <p>&#8220;[Mr.] Frota was a true gladiator and helped us maintain calm in the committee,&#8221; said Major Vitor Hugo, the government&#8217;s whip in Congress. His influence was such that he earned the nickname &#8220;Coach Frota.&#8221;</p> <p>However, his first seven months in Congress have not been immune from scandal.</p> <p>Despite being a member of Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s party, Mr. Frota has been one of the president&#8217;s most vocal critics. Which has put his position within the PSL at risk.</p> <p>Very quickly, Mr. Frota has put space between him and the president, gravitating instead toward House Speaker Rodrigo Maia. The member of Congress echoed Mr. Maia&#8217;s criticism of the Executive branch during the pension reform process, claiming that the president had to take more of an active role in negotiations.</p> <p>Mr. Frota has also been critical of the president&#8217;s use of social media, another bugbear of Rodrigo Maia, saying that &#8220;we only had peace twice: when Twitter went down, and when [Mr.] Bolsonaro had a tooth removed.&#8221;</p> <p>Last month, in a radio interview, he gave Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s government a rating of &#8220;four&#8221; out of ten, and said the president was his &#8220;biggest disappointment.&#8221;</p> <p>This behaviour has not gone unnoticed by his colleagues in the PSL. The dominant forces in the party&#8217;s São Paulo wing—led by representatives Eduardo Bolsonaro and Carla Zambelli, and the motor-mouthed senator Major Olimpio—called for Alexandre Frota to be expelled from the PSL, a decision made final this afternoon.</p> <h2>Toucans in disguise</h2> <p>His party adversaries have claimed that Mr. Frota is trying to bring down the government, with Ms. Zambelli suggesting there are &#8220;people in the PSL who are actually <em>tucanos</em> in disguise.&#8221; <em>Tucano</em>, or &#8220;toucan,&#8221; is a reference to members of the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB). This is an indirect dig at Mr. Frota and one of his allies, fellow member of Congress Joice Hasselmann, who is closely linked to São Paulo governor and PSDB leader João Doria.</p> <p>Expelled from the PSL, it is certain that Mr. Frota (and Ms. Hasselmann) will have no shortage of suitors. In fact, João Doria himself sent an audio message to Mr. Frota last week, extending an invite to join his party.&nbsp;</p> <p>Movements such as these from João Doria, Rodrigo Maia, Alexandre Frota, and Joice Hasselmann have stoked rumors of an impending <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/07/28/room-brazilian-politics-moderate-centrist/">center-right populist coalition</a> to take on Jair Bolsonaro at the 2022 election. Mr. Doria is already <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/07/09/f1-grand-prix-premature-battle-2022-election/">positioning himself as a candidate-in-waiting</a>.</p> <p>The first test of this theory will come in next year&#8217;s municipal elections, where it is rumored that Ms. Hasselmann intends to stand for mayor of São Paulo, in a split from the PSL.</p> <p>The expulsion of Alexandre Frota could be the first step in this direction.

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PowerAug 13, 2019

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BY Euan Marshall

Euan Marshall is a Scottish journalist living in São Paulo. He is co-author of A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.