Key elections to shape Latin America’s future

October 20, 2014

Buenos Aires Herald, 10/20/2014

Brazilians will go as one to the polls this Sunday to select the nation’s next leader, where they will be asked to choose between President Dilma Rousseff and challenger Aécio Neves — but that’s where the unity will end, say experts, with the country split in two.

Neves, of the opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), currently has a two-percentage-point lead over Rousseff, from the ruling Workers’ Party (PT), but that falls within most polls’ margin of error, effectively putting the candidates neck-and-neck. Recent surveys however show that support may have peaked for Neves, the markets’ favourite, and his disapproval numbers are rising amid a barrage of attacks from the Rousseff campaign.

The number of Brazilians who say they would never vote for Neves rose four percentage points this week to 38 percent, according to a survey by the Datafolha polling firm, while Rousseff’s rejection rate came down one point to 42 percent, suggesting the incumbent is gaining momentum ahead of election day. But with most voters having already made up their mind, the two are now focusing their fight on the support of two key demographics — the millions of Brazilian who were lifted from poverty during 12 years of PT rule and undecided female voters.

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Conservatives Gaining Force in Brazil Congress

October 20, 2014

AP – ABC News, 10/18/2014

With its Carnival reputation and skin-baring beach life, Brazil may look like a liberal bastion. But unease over a worsening economy and deteriorating public safety, plus a backlash against recent gay-rights gains, are propelling a conservative rise that will shape the next administration, regardless of who wins the presidency.

The general election held earlier this month saw a greater share of Brazil’s National Congress seats go to various conservative caucuses, which now control nearly 60 percent of the 513 seats in the lower house. They include evangelical lawmakers who oppose gay marriage or access to abortion; the “ruralistas” whose pro-agriculture positions counter environmentalists and indigenous groups; and a law-and-order faction that demands a crackdown on crime.

Ahead of the presidential runoff Oct. 26, there’s no doubt such conservatives are giving greater support to center-right challenger Aecio Neves over left-leaning President Dilma Rousseff. But it’s also clear that neither presidential candidate is as socially conservative as the increasingly powerful elements of Congress.

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Brazil’s Rousseff Admits There Was Wrongdoing at Petrobras

October 20, 2014

Paulo Trevisani – The Wall Street Journal, 10/19/2014

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said Saturday that there was embezzlement at government-controlled oil producer Petróleo Brasileiro SA .

The company, known as Petrobras, has been at the center of a corruption scandal allegedly involving people connected to Mr. Rousseff’s Workers Party, or PT.

“I will do all I can to reimburse the country,” Ms. Rousseff said during a news conference at the presidential residence late in the afternoon. “There was” deviation of public money, she said according to a transcript of the interview published on her official campaign website.

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Scandal Over Brazilian Oil Company Adds Turmoil to the Presidential Race

October 20, 2014

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 10/19/2014

Paulo Roberto Costa was living an oilman’s dream.

He had a house in a luxurious gated community here. He bought a yacht and drove an armored Range Rover. He had more than $25 million stashed in bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.

But that dream evaporated recently when the police arrested Mr. Costa and charged him with orchestrating a bribery scheme on an epic scale at Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil company, and funneling the proceeds to the governing Workers Party and its allies while enriching himself.

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Brazil election candidates spar over corruption, nepotism

October 15, 2014

Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 10/15/2014

Brazil’s two presidential candidates traded accusations of lies, corruption and nepotism on Tuesday night in a bruising television debate that had no clear winner ahead of the hotly contested Oct. 26 election runoff. Leftist incumbent President Dilma Rousseff warned Brazilians that the election of her pro-business challenger Aecio Neves would lead to unemployment and put at risk social benefits gained under 12 years of rule by her Workers’ Party.

Neves charged that the Rousseff campaign propaganda was a pack of lies that had misinformed voters that he was planning to end cash transfer programs and privatize state banks. The senator and former state governor hammered Rousseff for allowing state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA to be allegedly used to channel money from bribes to the Workers’ Party and its allies in the governing coalition.

Rousseff retorted by pointing to an airport Neves built adjacent to an uncle’s farm when he was governor of Minas Gerais state, and she accused him of nepotism by giving government jobs to a sister, uncles and cousins. At the end of each round of the debate, aides rushed to help the candidates like seconds tending fighters in a boxing ring.

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Brazil Must Choose Between Change and Continuity

October 15, 2014

Maria Fernanda Castillo – PanAm Post, 10/14/2014

So far, the Brazilian presidential elections have truly been a roller coaster ride. Over the past few months, three candidates appeared to have the distinct possibility of winning. Despite the momentum that carried Marina Silva through the initial stages of the election, a strong campaign from the Workers’ Party (PT) derailed her in the first round.

Silva’s defeat left current President Dilma Rousseff to face off against Aécio Neves for the presidency, despite the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) candidate having spent the majority of the campaign in third place.

Although Rousseff has left Marina Silva behind, it would be a mistake to say that the president has secured reelection, and now a classic battle between the PT and the PSDB is shaping up to be one of the hardest fought runoffs in recent years.

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Brazil’s presidential race: Restarting the rollercoaster

October 10, 2014

The Economist (print edition), 10/11/2014

If a clever pundit had taken a bet on the first-round result in Brazil’s presidential contest three months ago, just as the campaign got cracking, the prediction would probably have been spot-on. In the ballot on October 5th the left-wing incumbent, Dilma Rousseff, got 42% of valid votes, eight points more than Aécio Neves of the Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), the main centre-right opposition, but not enough to escape a run-off on October 26th. The candidate of the centrist Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) came third, with a respectable 21%. Now, as then, Ms Rousseff is the favourite to win.

But the race went through amazing twists and turns to end up where it had begun (see chart). Days before the election Mr Neves was polling third, with the support of less than one in five voters. His status as the putative pretender had been usurped by Marina Silva, who catapulted to the top of the PSB ticket—and to stratospheric poll ratings—after the party’s original candidate, Eduardo Campos, died in an air crash in mid-August.

At the time Mr Neves dismissed Ms Silva’s surge as “a passing wave”. For weeks it kept rolling. Then she got caught between two breakwaters. Mr Neves, a successful former state governor, convinced some voters that she was unprepared to be president. He added that, as a member of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT) for 25 years before she left, Ms Silva was too much like Ms Rousseff to ensure real change. The PT, for its part, embarked on a shamelessly negative campaign. Most damagingly, it alleged, falsely, that Ms Silva planned to cut social programmes. With its ample resources, the PT devoted money and airtime to stressing Ms Rousseff’s successes.

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