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Brazil: More sympathy for David Goldman?

The tide of public opinion in the Sean Goldman custody battle may be shifting.

When the case has hit the news before, comments were more split, with arguments on the Brazilian side often taking an anti-American tone, especially against politicans like Smith and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who were involved in the case. But as Brazilian courts continuously came down on the side of the father, only to have their decisions overturned or delayed by legal maneuvering, people here seem to be recognizing an all-too-familiar pattern: the wealthy and well-connected getting their way.  

Some real Brazilians with identities beyond online handles felt the same way.

“Unfortunately, justice in Brazil is biased,” said Jose Vicente, a 69-year-old lawyer who was devouring corn porridge in the Cinelandia area of Rio de Janeiro. “The system is represented by someone with a blindfold on, who sometimes doesn’t even try to see.”

The porridge salesman, Joison Silva Paulo, agreed. “Justice favors the rich,” he said.

Not everyone, of course, has taken Goldman’s side. At a nearby outdoor table at the Amarelinho Bar, four service workers and a Franciscan priest relaxed with beers after work. They had a more diverse set of opinions on the issue.

“He’s got a father,” said Juliana Feitosa, 32.

“So he should go with the father,” said Rayane Miranda, 26.

“The child should decide,” said Rodrigo Vale Silva, 21.

The priest, Father James Girardi, stayed on the fence, feeling there must be a way to work out joint custody. Only 54-year-old Ruth Ferreira de Matos wasn’t sure. But her decision-making process spoke volumes about Brazilian society.  

“I think he should stay with the father,” she said. “The father will be able to give him everything. The family here is poor, right? No? They’re rich? Well, then I need to give it some more thought.”

As he spoke to the mostly Brazilian reporters outside his hotel, Goldman himself acknowledged the growing number of Brazilians on his side. “I thank all of the Brazilian citizens who see the right of a parent and a child,” he said. “It’s not a difficult thing to imagine. Sean is my family, Sean is my son. I’m his dad. Not ‘he’s Brazilian,’ not ‘he’s American,’ not ‘he’s from anywhere.’ He’s my son.”

Sergio Tostes, the Brazilian family’s lawyer, did not return calls to his cell phone and office.

Plenty of Brazilians still want Sean to stay put. But Goldman’s uphill battle against an intimidating legal system and an opponent that knows it inside and out has struck a chord. Or, as an O Globo website commenter called AndreThomazFilho put it:

“It’s impressive how the Lins e Silva family achieved an almost unheard of feat in this country: it united the great majority of the Brazilian population in favor of an American! Who would have thought?”