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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A Presidential Protest Vote in Brazil?

September 11, 2014

Danielle Renwick – Council on Foreign Relations, 09/10/2014

Brazil’s latest opinion surveys show President Dilma Rousseff and Socialist Party candidate Marina Silva tied in the first round of presidential election voting, on October 5, and place Silva ahead of Rousseff in the second round. Silva seems to be raising hopes that she can more effectively respond to rising criticism about public services, corruption, and inequality, says expert Matias Spektor. Whomever is elected president, he says, will likely continue to rein back Brazil’s ambitious foreign policy as charted by Rousseff’s predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Polls show President Dilma Rousseff and challenger Marina Silva tied in their bids for president. What are the differences in their campaign platforms?

There is a sense that Marina will try to respond to the demands that came about with the protests in June last year. These demands are relatively broad and do not refer to Brazil’s economic performance even [though] this month we’ve entered a recession.

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Dreams on hold, Brazil’s ‘new middle class’ turns on Rousseff

September 9, 2014

Asher Levine – Reuters, 09/08/2014

The streets of Jardim São Luis, a poor and violent neighborhood near the edge of São Paulo, have not been this quiet in years. And that is exactly why Valeria Rocha is so worried.

Arms folded, she scans the racks of baby clothes in her small store before flicking a glance towards the empty sidewalk. “Just a year ago this area used to be packed with shoppers but nowadays it’s all empty, my store included,” she said.

After a decade of economic growth and welfare policies that lifted more than 30 million Brazilians out of poverty, Jardim São Luis and other tough neighborhoods across Brazil had high hopes for the future. But a faltering economy and mounting frustration over poor public services are dimming the outlook for Brazil’s “new middle class.”

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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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Political Chameleon Marina Silva is all things to all people, which is why she is rising

September 3, 2014

That can surely be different in government if she wins — a scenario that is less and less unlikely. But so far presidential candidate Marina Silva has one important advantage over her competitors: she can make many Brazilians from opposite backgrounds believe that she actually represents their best interests and hopes. That is an asset she shares with hugely popular former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, unlike incumbent Dilma Rousseff and opposition’s Aécio Neves. The former Environment Minister’s victory depends on keeping that fresh air sensation for almost two months, despite having little time on TV. Although experts say she is likely to win, my experience covering politics for 10 years says this won’t be an easy ride.

If you are a liberal, Silva’s civil rights platform could be very forward thinking (if she got rid of some radical religious leaders). If you are a fiscal conservative, your eyes will twinkle with promises of an independent Central Bank and zero tolerance with inflation. If you believe social programs are essential, she is the living proof they are important. A hardcore evangelical faithful herself, she defends the State has to be lay.

Some will notice the 56-year-old is a walking contradiction, weak on debating specifics and even a risk since she doesn’t the have willingness to negotiate with politicians in Congress. But as of now the two things that seem to matter to a big chunk of the electorate is to beat the Worker’s Party (PT) after 12 years and to try someone new.

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Brazil’s vote, Marina Silva’s chance

September 3, 2014

Arthur Ituassu – Open Democracy, 09/02/2014

The airplane crash on 13 August 2014 that killed the Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos transformed the context of the election to be held 5 October (with a second round run-off, if needed, on 18 October). The sense of tragedy was accentuated by the fact that Campos, whose grandfather was Miguel Arraes, a major left-wing politician from Brazil’s northeast and a prominent opponent of the military regime (1964-85), was only 49 years old and seemed to have a bright political future ahead.

Before the disaster, the incumbent Dilma Rousseff was showing 35% at the polls, well ahead of both her rivals: Aécio Neves in the 20s, and Eduardo Campos himself at 10%. A second round thus looked almost certain, and again one that – as in 1994, 2002, 2006, and 2010 – would pit a representative of the Workers’ Party (PT) against one from the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB).

Dilma’s predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) fought the first three of these election for the PT, winning in 2002 and then being re-elected in 2006, before Dilma herself – who had worked closely with Lula and was his favourite to succeed him – won against the PSDB’s José Serra in 2010. The exception to this recent pattern was 1998, when the PSDB’s Fernando Henrique Cardoso won outright in the first round, a success owed to the popularity of the dramatic currency reorganisation (Plano Real) which annihilated the hyperinflation that since the end of the 1980s had inflicted huge debt and social pain on the country.

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