Sen. John McCain's senior foreign policy adviser cites a steamy romance 50 years ago with a Brazilian babe among the things that illustrate McCain's decades-long interest in Latin America.
Speaking at an Americas Conference panel discussion Friday on the next U.S. president's Latin American policy, McCain adviser Richard Fontaine started out by mentioning an old Brazilian flame of McCain's, who recently emerged in the press.
''Talking a little about his personal experience, he was famously born in Panama and has traveled all over the hemisphere for many years.'' Fontaine said. "In fact, I saw, I guess it was last week, that his old girlfriend in Brazil has been found from his early days when he was in the Navy and was interviewed. She's a somewhat older woman now than she was then, but it sorta speaks to the long experience he has had in the region -- in the most positive terms.''
Fontaine was referring to former model Maria Gracinda Teixeira de Jesus, who recently gave an interview to O Globo saying the former sailor was quite the kisser. According to McCain's memoirs, "Faith of My Fathers," they met in 1957, when his ship, the USS Hunt, docked in Brazil.
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''I called him John but also my darling and my sweet coconut,'' she said. "He was a great kisser. I liked it so much that I bought a book to learn how to kiss myself.''
Asked afterward about whether he was suggesting that McCain's fling with a Latin hottie counted as Latin America foreign policy experience, Fontaine said: ''The only thing I was trying to convey was that his experience goes back a long way.''
"He was born in Panama, which illustrates a lifetime spent in Latin America. He has known a lot of people. The thing about the Brazilian girlfriend was in his first memoir, and it stuck in my brain. Look at the two candidates and contrast his extensive experience. That's the only point I was trying to make.''
For her part, Teixeira said McCain wasn't just good at smooching. She recalled details of their Rio romp and how she'd pick him up in her turquoise blue Cadillac El Dorado convertible. McCain's book remembers it being a Mercedes Benz.
''He was not only a good kisser, he was good at everything,'' she said. ``He was a great love of mine. But he left and it ended. Otherwise, I would be up there with him. Only that our lives were different, I was a model and he was a military man who traveled a lot. I'll never forget him, and I would never have imagined that he would write a book and talk about me.''
If he wins the White House race, she says she will send a telegram congratulating him. She'll sign it, ``your great Brazilian love.''
Miami Herald special correspondents Alejandra Labanca and Francisco Maradiaga contributed to this report.