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Why Sean Goldman is on a jet to the US

Analysis: The custody battle over Sean Goldman reflects the ups and downs of US-Brazil relations.

"It would have been convenient for Sean's grandmother to travel to the United States," Tostes said Wednesday night in his home. "It would make the transition as smooth as possible, not just for the boy but for the benefit of David Goldman."

Before the impasse, which occurred in a meeting between lawyers from both sides, Tostes said the families had agreed to have Sean's maternal grandmother meet David Goldman, to tell him about Sean's likes and dislikes, habits, and some medical issues. He is, for example, allergic to shellfish. That did not happen, although it is unclear whether the families discussed these issues inside the consulate.

The media circus was a plan, Tostes said, to combat what he said would be a hero's welcome for Sean when he arrived in the United States. He wished to have a farewell in front of everyone seen on the front page of papers in the U.S. and all over the world.

It might make the front pages, but perhaps not with the intended result. After the hubbub died down, many Americans and Brazilians who witnessed the scene live and on television were outraged at the family for creating an unnecessary spectacle.

This was only the latest in the twists and turns in the case since Bianchi died from complications during the birth of her second child last year and Rio de Janeiro state courts granted Sean's stepfather custody of him. The case went through multiple levels of state family courts and then shifted to federal courts, until the chief justice of the Federal Supreme Court cleared the way on Tuesday for David Goldman to take Sean home to Tinton Falls, N.J.

By the end, the case had become in many ways a reflection of the ups and downs of U.S.-Brazilian relations and the challenges Brazil faces as it strives to become a legitimate world power and mature democracy.

First, there was the vast difference in how the story was covered. American media — from the "Today Show" to the tiny Asbury Park Press in New Jersey — adopted one storyline: “Kidnapped American Kid Held In Brazil,” portraying Goldman as a valiant superdad and the Brazilian family as evil kidnappers.

The Brazilian press was more mixed, generally sympathetic to the Brazilian family, focusing on their togetherness, the tragedy they had suffered when Bruna died, and Sean’s privileged and (reportedly) happy life in Brazil.

Then there were the geopolitical implications. American politicians’ intervention on Goldman’s behalf struck many Brazilians as old bully Uncle Sam messing in hemispheric affairs again. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was momentarily villainized, and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) made it a defining issue of his office, traveling with Goldman to Brazil several times. And then there was Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who held up a trade bill benefitting Brazil until the final court decision on Tuesday.