H.J. – The Economist, 09/18/2014
Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, who is hoping to be granted a second term in next month’s elections, has claimed that only a vote for her can ensure the continuation of the country’s best-known anti-poverty programme, the Bolsa Família. Since 30m people out of an electorate of around 140m are directly or indirectly dependent on the programme’s cash handouts, this is potentially enormously damaging to her opponents, of whom Marina Silva is the best placed in the polls.
Ms Silva’s response was broadcast on television in her electoral advertising on September 16th. To feel the full force of her words, you need to know that she was born in the Seringal Bagaço, a poor, rural part of the Amazonian state of Acre, to parents who were rubber-tappers. Unlike almost anyone else in Brazilian politics, she knows how hunger feels. The video below is in Portuguese, subtitled. Our translation into English is underneath—but if you want to understand why this woman, who was not even a presidential candidate until her running mate, Eduardo Campos, died in a plane crash on August 13th, has a strong chance of becoming Brazil’s next president, you should watch the video with the sound turned up. It’s only two minutes long.
“Dilma! Know that I’m not going to fight you with your weapons. I’m going to fight you with our truth. With our respect. And with our policies. We are going to keep the Bolsa Família. Do you know why? Because I was born in the Seringal Bagaço, and I know what it is to go hungry. All that my mother used to have for eight children was an egg and a bit of flour and salt, and some chopped onion. I remember looking at my father and mother and asking: Are you not going to eat? And my mother answered… my mother answered: We are not hungry. And a child believed that. But afterwards, I understood that for yet another day, they had nothing to eat. Someone who has lived through that will never end the Bolsa Familia. This is not a speech. It is a life.”