Brazil’s presidential election: The battle for Brazil

September 26, 2014

The Economist (print edition), 9/27/2014

To describe the final weeks of Brazil’s presidential campaign as dramatic would be putting it mildly. There was tragedy, when Eduardo Campos, leader and candidate of the centrist Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), perished in an aeroplane crash in mid-August. There were tears: Marina Silva, Mr Campos’s running-mate-turned-candidate, broke down after being criticised by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in whose cabinet she had once served as environment minister but whose protégée and successor, Dilma Rousseff, is seeking a second term. This being Brazil, there was also scandal, as a former executive at Petrobras, the statecontrolled oil firm, alleged that politicians from Ms Rousseff’s left-wing Workers’ Party (PT) and some coalition allies were involved in a kickback scheme there.

The twists and turns have led to lots of head-scratching among pollsters and pundits. With days to go before the first round of voting on October 5th, firm predictions are scarce. Mauro Paulino, boss of Datafolha, a big polling company, says the way the campaign as a whole has unfurled is “incomparable”. And not just with any prior Brazilian election, but with anything that has happened anywhere in the world, at least in living memory, according to José Toledo of Estadão Dados, a data website.

The prediction that commands most confidence is that Ms Rousseff will not secure an outright majority in the first round and that the election will go to a run-off on October 26th. There she will almost certainly face Ms Silva, who in the weeks following Mr Campos’s death has surged past Aécio Neves, the candidate of the centre-right Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB). The latest second-round simulations show Ms Rousseff and Ms Silva running neck and neck.

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Brazil’s Biggest City Is Running Dry

September 25, 2014

Mac Margolis – Bloomberg, 09/24/2014

God, the natives like to say, is Brazilian. So with the country weathering its worst drought in decades, it’s no surprise that officials in the worst-hit regions are pleading force majeure. Geraldo Alckmin, governor of water-stressed Sao Paulo, chalked up the emptying reservoirs to “exceptional” and “unimaginable” drought.

But Saint Peter, the national patron saint of rain, gets a bum rap. The great Brazilian dry spell is as predictable as Sunday mass, and this year’s is no exception. Sao Paulo owes its skyline in large part to the hands of men and women who fled the parched backlands of the northeast to become bricklayers and steelworkers in the country’s biggest metropolis. One of them was Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who wet his whistle with politics and became a rebel union leader and then president.

Now the problem has migrated, too. Sao Paulo, the nation’s most prosperous state, is facing its worst dry snap in four generations. Last week, the water level in the region’s biggest reservoir, the Cantareira complex, dropped to just 8 percent. The state sanitation authority, Sabesp, is offering fat discounts to consumers who slash their yearly water use by at least 20 percent. Dozens of cities are already rationing water.

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Like Lula, Marina Silva can refresh Brazil’s tired politics

September 22, 2014

Misha Glenny – Financial Times, 9/22/2014

Brazilian elections often produce the unexpected on the day but this presidential campaign looks like it might top them all. In the space of a month, President Dilma Rousseff has gone from shoe-in to fighting for her political life in the October poll.

What makes the election even more extraordinary in this conservative country is that the other frontrunner, like the president, is a woman. Both candidates have overcome adversity. Ms Rousseff was tortured as a political prisoner under the military dictatorship in the 1970s. Her rival is Marina Silva. Illiterate until the age 16, she then rose from poverty through civic activism to the post of environment minister under Ms Rousseff’s predecessor.

The two served together in the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, the great symbol of the Workers’ party. But, although both are nominally leftwing, there are big differences in policy and style, accentuated by a mutual personal disdain.

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Challenger Upends Brazilian Race for Presidency

September 16, 2014

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 09/15/2014

When Dilma Rousseff and Marina Silva were both cabinet ministers, they clashed on everything from building nuclear power plants to licensing huge dams in the Amazon.

Ms. Rousseff came out on top, emerging as the political heir to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and ultimately succeeding him as president. But she now finds herself locked in a heated race with Ms. Silva, an environmental icon who is jockeying for the lead in polling ahead of the Oct. 5 election as an insurgent candidate repudiating the power structure she helped assemble.

Ms. Silva’s upending of the presidential race is a symbol of the antiestablishment sentiment that has roiled Brazil, including anxiety over a sluggish economy and fatigue with political corruption. Her rising popularity also taps into shifts in society like the rising clout of evangelical Christian voters and a growing disquiet with policies that have raised incomes while doing little to improve the quality of life in Brazilian cities.

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The Silva surger

September 5, 2014

The Economist (print edition), 9/6/2014

Her rise has been extraordinary. In August Marina Silva was propelled from running-mate to the top of the centrist Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) ticket after the death in a plane crash of its leader, Eduardo Campos. Since then Ms Silva has taken support from both the left-wing incumbent, Dilma Rousseff, and Aécio Neves of the centre-right Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), once the presumptive challenger in presidential elections in October. In a run-off she would beat Ms Rousseff by seven percentage points, according to polls published on September 3rd.

Ms Silva’s appeal stems partly from her endless fortitude and her humble origins—she is the daughter of poor rubber-tappers from Acre, a state in Brazil’s Amazon region. Her ethereal silhouette—not short, just extremely thin—is explained by hunger and disease, including malaria and mercury poisoning, endured in childhood. She taught herself to read at 16, before going on to become a history teacher.

In the early 1980s, during the military dictatorship, she spearheaded Brazil’s green movement. Later she helped Ms Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to found the Workers’ Party (PT). She served as a senator and, from 2003 to 2008, as Lula’s environment minister, before quitting the government, and subsequently the PT, over the ungreen polices pursued by others in the cabinet.

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Exclusive: Volkswagen spied on Lula, other Brazilian workers in 1980s

September 5, 2014

Brian Winter – Reuters, 9/5/2014

Volkswagen AG spied on Brazilian union activists in the 1980s and passed sensitive information about wage demands and other private discussions to the country’s military dictatorship, according to newly uncovered documents seen by Reuters.

The company covertly monitored its own workers as well as prominent union leaders of the era. One of VW’s targets was Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who went on to become Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010 and remains one of its most influential politicians.

The documents were recently discovered in government archives by a special “truth commission” that, at the request of Brazil’s current president, Dilma Rousseff, is investigating abuses that occurred during the 1964-1985 regime.

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