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For a self confident Brazil

Governor Mário Covas always knew that you cannot create a country without science and technology

It is understandable that in the hundreds of texts produced about Governor Mário Covas since the 6th of March, or better, after the worsening of his state of health and consequent internment at Incor, on the 25th of February, practically no words were written about his influence in the recent history of Brazilian scientific and technological research.

In the end, in the fine biography of the person there are so many emblematic elements to compose the profile of someone who devoted himself entirely to Politics (with a capital P), those aspects – which are not exactly of lesser importance, but a little more discrete, or less valued by those who try to report, day after day, the story of politics in the country – end up remaining under a certain shadow.

Nonetheless, Governor Mário Covas, did not only give sufficient proof of a strategic vision in the managing of science and technology, but developed lots of concrete actions beneficial to this area, to the point of deserving from the President of FAPESP Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz and from the Scientific Director of FAPESP José Fernando Perez, in a recent article, the epitaph of “Research Governor”.

Clearly, the medal of Scientific and Technological Merit which he instituted in March of 2000 and distributed to the two hundred scientists responsible for the sequencing of X. fastidiosa in a memorable celebration, and the trophy Tree of Puzzles (a sculpture by Elvio Becheroni), created on the same occasion and handed out to the 35 laboratories in which the project was developed, are in a certain manner only the more visible products of lots of his acts in favor of science and technology at the head of the government of the State of São Paulo.

In the article by Drs. Brito and Perez, several other instances of support to the area of research by the Governor are registered. In a workshop on the 13th of May at the Federation of Societies of Experimental Biology, the Scientific Director recalled that on announcing, in October past, the names of the first ten support centers through the program of Research Centers, Innovation and Diffusion (Cepid), Governor Covas declared himself disposed to increase in 20% the endowment that is destined to FAPESP.

The magazine Pesquisa FAPESP, joining the publications which paid homage to the Governor, recalls this side of Governor Covas, his sensibility in relation to the area of Science and Technology, manifested also when, as a Senator, he presided over the Mixed Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry in 1991, about the causes of the technological backwardness of the country. It is on this theme that the article of his collaborator of so many years, Gerson Ferreira Filho, lays emphasis. Dr. Ferreira is the coordinator of the Strategic Management Unit of the Secretary of the government of the State of São Paulo.

On the paths of knowledge

Gerson Ferreira Filho

We are writing these words on the seventh day after the death of Governor Mário Covas. Consequently, we have had the opportunity to read and to listen to the many words which were spoken about the honesty, the coherence, the daily exercising of dignity, of the courage in the face of adversity, of the credibility of he who did not lie, did not promise the improbable, and who could dispense with conditional support.

What was not said, however, is that there was something which transcended all of this: Mário Covas had an extreme love for his country. He loved it more than he loved himself, and much more than his Santos Football Club. However, his country clearly was not only the one we see on maps and measure it with statistics. In his passionate vision Brazil was the coming together of all of us and thus, in its geographical unity, Brazil was also each one of us. For him, each citizen was a piece of his country; and those who really loved their neighbor, in the context of difficulties, and in the perspective of a more ample national sentiment, had no escape: They had to be honest, candid and decent.

Did he want to be President? We believe the answer is yes, but not at any price, and only to advance his point of views on issues. He wanted to be for a stronger country, more solid, and for sure, more self-confident. For him it was enough to be helpful in the area which the country needed help; in all of his life, power was always a mean to serve and nothing else.

On behalf of great causes, however, he was conscious of the urgency of a collective effort, and more than that, differentiated. For a self confident country, today more than ever, one has to tread over the paths of knowledge. This is the explanation which gives us the intuition for the so large esteem which Governor Mário Covas had for the sciences. To love your science (and whenever possible, use it as a springboard) appears to us to be an intelligent form that the scientist prescribes for the love of his neighbor and also of his country.

We believe, therefore, that we don’t run any risk in thanking, in his name, FAPESP and its scientists, for what they have been doing in this direction; we are witnesses that the public recognition of the participants in the adventure of the Genome Xylella was for Governor Mário Covas one of the moments of his greatest personal happiness during his government. However, we feel, as well, that he wanted to tag that event as benchmark in favor of creativity, of solidarity and of persistence.