Anthony William "Garotinho" Matheus de Oliveira (born in Campos dos Goytacazes, Rio de Janeiro, 1960) is a Brazilian politician. He started as a radio presenter and changed his name legally to Garotinho - which means "Little Boy" - after it brought him success in his early career as a football commentator. He is often seen as a populist and, nowadays, more as a liberal than as a socialist.
He is also one of the best known Brazilian evangelical politicians. Garotinho believes he was reborn as an evangelical Christian following a car crash in 1994. He is married to Rosinha Matheus and has nine children, of which five are adopted.
A popular radio anchorman, fond of amateur theater, Garotinho entered politics through grassroots activism, joining the Brazilian Communist Party and helping to reorganize the sugar-cane workers' union in Campos. He entered electoral politics in 1982, presenting himself as candidate for a councilman seat in the same city on the Workers' Party ticket, failing to be elected because the party's list of candidates didn't achieve the necessary threshold of ballots to have a representation in the Municipal Chamber. Afterwards, he joined the Democratic Labour Party (PDT), being elected for the State Legislature (1986) and winning the Campos mayoral elections in 1988. After his term as mayor of Campos (1989–1992), during which he took some measures to support small producers and to develop alternatives to sugar cane monoculture, as well as supported MST settler projects, he was chosen by Governor Leonel Brizola as State Secretary of Agriculture (1993–1994), presenting himself as the PDT's candidate for Governor in the 1994 elections, being defeated by Marcelo Alencar (PSDB). After being reelected for mayor in 1996, he was eventually elected Governor of Rio de Janeiro State in 1998, for the 1999-2002 term of office, posing himself as the "crown prince" for Brizola, who had already entered a process of political decay and loss of charisma and personal influence.
Governor of Rio de Janeiro State
At the time already a conservative described by an American historian as a "responsible young man" with whom President Fernando Henrique Cardoso "could work", as governor, Garotinho nevertheless targeted the poor by providing subsidized meals for R$ 1.00 (at the time equivalent to US$ 0.30) at "people's restaurants" (soup kitchens kept by private contractors), building 35,000 affordable homes and giving, - since 1999 - badly-off families a monthly "citizen's check" (actually, a R$ 100.00 coupon that could be used to purchase food and personal hygiene items at stores) - eligibility to whom was decided by a network of 807 religious organizations, mostly (82%) of them evangelical, specially from the Assembleias de Deus movement. At the same time, he balanced the State budget and renegotiated Rio's public debts. He won high approval ratings, but his time in office was also marked by serious corruption allegations.
From what he presented as his miraculous conversion to Protestantism in 1994, Garotinho, although not himself a Pentecostalist - he is member of a Presbyterian Church - came to stand as a spearhead of the constantly growing involvement of the Pentecostalist Churches in Brazilian politics, as well as of their bid for the Federal Executive itself. Given the notorious ties between Pentecostalism and the urban unorganized poor - for which a conversion to Pentecostalism tends to stand for a newly found sense of community as well as for an aspiration at upward social mobility - one could say that Garotinho stood for the preferential social connections created by his political mentor Leonel Brizola, differing from him in that he gave such connections a more politically conservative hue, by means of a kind of Right-wing populism in what is seem by many as simply pandering for the bare needs of the poor by means of a shallow philanthropy reduced to the concrete minimum. Others, however, consider that, conversely, one could also say that Garotinho gave evangelical politics a leftist slant, in that his evangelicism is the personal choice of a recent and enthusiastic convert, who therefore acknowledges the most destitute ones by means not only of offering munificence, but of a shared identity.
Early during his gubernatorial term, Garotinho made a try at striking a progressive note on his public security policies, based on a think-tank of social researchers - who ghost-wrote Garotinho's electoral public security programme - led by the university professor of Anthropology and Political Science Luis Eduardo Soares, who was made assistant secretary of public security. Police stations were made Internet-friendly, in what was called a program for "legal (cool) stations" (Programa Delegacia Legal). However, Garotinho eventually dismissed Soares in March 2000, which was seen as a serious setback for upholding human rights, according to Human Rights Watch. Garotinho insisted that Soares' removal was legitimate, but the circumstances suggested that he was removed due to pressure from the Rio police, with whose corrupt and violent elements Soares had been coming increasingly into conflict. Due to allegedly threats received by him and his family, Soares went abroad for a time, becoming a "neoexile".
State secretary for Public Security
He moved to the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) due to problems with the PDT leader, Leonel Brizola, and was the party's presidential candidate at the October 2002 presidential elections. Garotinho stepped down nine months early to run for president and reached 18% of the votes. He backed Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for the second round. He helped his wife Rosinha Matheus to be re-elected as governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro. She appointed Garotinho as State secretary for Public Security.
In August 2003 he left the PSB to join the historical Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB), that supported President Lula. The move was seen as an attempt to secure federal funds for his wife's tenure as governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro and increase Garotinho's chances to run for President of Brazil in future elections.
Hunger strike and later setbacks
As the 2006 presidential elections approached, Garotinho, intent on maintaining a candidacy that his party tended to turn down for supporting Lula's bid for reelection, announced on May 1, 2006 a hunger strike, allegedly in protest of what he called unjust treatment by the Brazilian media, after unanswered accusations of illegal campaign funding - mostly about his wife's spending of some R$ 120 million in contracts with various shadowy NGOs for providing undelivered services to the State's government, in what was seem by the media as a way of diverting funds to an incoming electoral campaign. He later stopped his hunger strike, leaving charges unanswered- and his presidential candidacy turned down. The whole hunger strike scheme was a failure that ended in ridicule: the Brazilian press writing Garotinho off as a "clown" and a failing politician parading himself as a caricature of "a crucified Jesus Christ". Many satirists took advantage of the opprtunity to declare that they supported Garotinho to go on with the strike "to the very end".
On May 29, 2008 the Brazilian Federal Police issued an arrest warrant against Garotinho for "mobstering" (formação de quadrilha) for his association to Rio's former plainsclothes (civil) police chief Alvaro Lins, now a Congressperson for Rio de Janeiro, who was charged with money laundering, criminal association, corruption and facilitating smuggling. According to the federal attorney's office, Garotinho had "offered political backing for Lins' group to stay at the head of civil police.".
In May 2010, the State (Regional) Electoral Court rendered Garotinho and his wife Rosinha ineligible for three years from 2008 on, for engaging in electoral corruption during the 2008 mayoral elections in Campos, where Garotinho had canvassed for votes for his wife, who was running for mayor. Such a condemnation by a collegiate court would have rendered Garotinho ineligible for the ensuing 2010 national election, but the Federal Electoral Court decided to grant him the right to run for the Federal Legislative on the Partido da República ticket, pending an appeal to the said court.
- Anthony Garotinho: Evangelical 'sniper', BBC News, September 18, 2002
- The hunger strike of Antony Garotinho, The Guardian, May 12, 2006
- Paul Freston, ed. Evangelical Christianity and democracy in Latin America. Oxford University Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-19-517476-2 , page 168
- Yves Fauré & Lia Hasenclever, eds., Novos Rumos para a Economia Fluminense: Oprtunidades e Desafios para o Crescimento do Interior. Rio de Janeiro, e-papers, 2008, ISBN 978-85-7650-154-1 , page 121
- Helena Lewin, ed., Uma Nova Abordagem da Questão da Terra no Brasil: O Caso do MST em Campos dos Goitacazes. Rio de Janeiro, 7 Letras/FAPERJ, 2005, ISBN 85-7577-170-1
- Cf. Gilberto Velho,ed., Rio de Janeiro: cultura, política e conflito . Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor, 2007, ISBN 978-85-378-0033-1 ,page 77
- Camille Goirand, La politique des favélas . Paris: Khartala , ISBN 2-84586-123-0 page 102
- Ted George Goertzel, Fernando Henrique Cardoso: reinventing democracy in Brazil. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1999, ISBN 1-55587-831-8, page 191
- Ananya Roy & Nezar Al Sayyad, eds., Urban informality: transnational perspectives from the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia, Oxford: Lexington Books, ISBN 0-7391-0741-0 , page 127
- Dulce Chaves Pandolfi, ed. A Favela Fala, Rio de Janeiro, Fundação Getúlio Vargas, 2003, ISBN 85-225-0430-X , page 189.
- Cf. Maria das Dores Campos Machado, Política e religião: a participação dos evangélicos nas eleições . Rio de Janeiro: Fundação Getúlio Vargas, 2006, ISBN 85-225-0571-3, page 61
- Cesar Romero Jacob, Atlas da filiação religiosa e indicadores sociais no Brasil, São Paulo: Edições Loyola,2003, ISBN 85-15-02719-4, p. 39.
- Le Monde Diplomatique, Brazilian Edition, April 2005, available at
- Cf. Candido Mendes, Lula: a opção mais que o voto. Rio de Janeiro: Garammond, 2003, ISBN 85-86435-81-3 ,page 249
- John Anderson, ed. Religion, democracy and democratization. New York: Routledge, 2006, ISBN 0-415-35537-0 ,page 35
- Paul Freston, Evangelicals and Politics in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-521-60429-X, p. 50
- Kees Koonings & Dirk Kruijt, eds., Fractured cities: social exclusion, urban violence and contested spaces in Latin America. London, Zed Books, 2007, ISBN 978-1-84277-730-5, p. 35
- Enrique Desmond Arias, Drugs & democracy in Rio de Janeiro: trafficking, social networks, & public security. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-8078-5774-8 , page 36
- Merhi Daychoum, Gerência de Projetos - Programa Delegacia Legal . Rio de Janeiro, Brasport, 2005, ISBN 85-7452-240-6
- World Report 2001, Human Human Rights Watch, December 2000
- Brazil police row leads to sacking, BBC News, March 18, 2000
- Inés González Bombal & Rodrigo Vilar, eds., Organizaciones de la sociedad civil e incidencia en politicas públicas. Buenos Aires: Libros del Zorzal, 2003, ISBN 987-1081-39-1, p. 68
- As Crime and Politics Collide in Rio, City Cowers in Fear, The New York Times, May 8, 2003
- (Portuguese) Garotinho "arrasta" 12 deputados para o PMDB e "esvazia" PSB, Folha online, August 19, 2003
- (Portuguese) Quanto riso, oh, quanta alegria, Veja, August 27, 2003
- "Garotinho inicia greve de fome contra 'perseguição'". Terra News, 30th. April 2006, available at 
- Observatório da Imprensa, 2nd. May 2006, available at
- (Portuguese) PF: Operação Segurança Pública S/A prende deputado Álvaro Lins, O Dia, May 29, 2008
- Former Rio police chief arrested, ex-governor charged in corruption scandal, Associated Press, May 29, 2008
- O Globo, 27 May 2010.
- O Globo, 28 July 2010
- (Portuguese) Blog do Garotinho