Tag Archives: lula da silva

What Italy’s Tangentopoli in 1992 political trauma can teach Brazil in 2016

Interim president Michel Temer was booed at the opening ceremony for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. (Facebook)
Interim president Michel Temer was booed at the opening ceremony for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. (Facebook)

Given ancient Rome’s delight in all things Hellenistic, it’s perhaps surprising that it took until 1960 for the Italian capital to win its turn hosting the Summer Olympic Games.brazilItaly Flag Icon

Those 1960 Games, however, showcased a Rome that, in barely more than a decade, rose from the ashes of World War II’s devastation. Under the guidance of U.S. and western allies and under the aegis of the Catholic, conservative Democrazia Cristiana (Christian Democrats), the 1960 Games forecast a competent and determined Italy that would, for the next three decades, leap forward economically in surprising and creative ways.

Though Italy today seems often trapped in sclerotic and tradition-bound ways, it wasn’t outlandish to say that Italy in 1960 was still a country of the future.  

That evergreen label, too, is affixed to Brazil. It’s the country of the future, the old chestnut goes… and it always will be.

When Rio de Janeiro was awarded the Olympic Games in 2009, it looked like that future, always just beyond the horizon, was finally within reach. In 2010, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva marked the last of eight years in power. With GDP growth of 7.5%, the frothiest Brazilian economy in a quarter-century, and with extreme poverty nearly eliminated across Brazil through a series of social welfare, transfer and educational programs, it was a victory lap for a figure who had become the most mythic colossus of the Latin American left. Though Brazil’s 2010 boom was part of a short-lived emerging economies bubble, things were still looking up for Brazil as recently as 2014, when Lula da Silva’s hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff, narrowly won reelection – the fourth consecutive term for the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party), defeating both Marina Silva, a charismatic third-way economic leftist and evangelical Christian who would have been Brazil’s first leader of African descent, and conservative Aécio Neves, a telegenic and well-regarded senator and successful former governor of Minas Gerais.

Even then, it was still possible to regard the historic 2016 Games, the first to be held in South America, as notice that at long last, Brazil would be a country of the present. Instead, the country today is in political and economic crisis. Far from announcing Brazil as a major economic power, the Rio Games themselves have become a symbol of economic inequality and government misrule. At best, they have been an opportunity (as much for Brazilians as for Trump-weary and Clinton-fatigued Americans) to forget politics for two weeks.   Continue reading What Italy’s Tangentopoli in 1992 political trauma can teach Brazil in 2016

After vote to impeach Rousseff, what happens next?

The fight over whether to impeach Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff has left the country deeply divided. (Renato S. Cerqueira/Futura Press/Folhapress)
The fight over whether to impeach Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff has left the country deeply divided. (Renato S. Cerqueira/Futura Press/Folhapress)

No one has accused Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, of any personal impropriety in the sweeping investigations of kickbacks to politicians in Brazil from the state oil company, Petrobras.brazil

Nevertheless, a two-thirds majority of the Câmara dos Deputados (Chamber of Deputies) decided to impeach Rousseff anyway, based on an obscure theory — that Rousseff fudged the budget numbers in the lead-up to the 2014 election to hide the  precarious condition of Brazil’s budget deficit and reduce the need to cut spending in an election year.

No one had any doubts in 2014 that the country’s increasing debt burden was weighing down its economic outlook and even Rousseff, after her reelection, shook up her cabinet, bringing in Joaquim Levy as finance minister, and Nelson Barbosa, now Levy’s successor, to introduce greater budget discipline as the country sinks further into recession.

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RELATED: Collor faced Brazilian impeachment crucible
25 years before Dilma

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In reality, it’s the Petrobras scandal that’s swept up Rousseff, along with nearly 320 members of the Brazilian congress. Operation Car Wash has uncovered a wide-ranging scheme whereby leading politicians accepted kickbacks on the basis of inflated public contracts granted from Petrobras. The scandal implicates Rousseff’s own Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers Party), but it has also snared politicians from across the ideological spectrum. The scandal took an even sharper turn this spring when former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Rousseff’s mentor who first won power in 2002, was also accused of taking kickbacks. The speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, among many, many others, are also under investigation. Brazilians refer to the scandal as the petrolão, which translates to the ‘big oily.’

The battle moves to Brazil’s Senate

Complicating the impeachment vote is the fact that Rousseff herself is personally and politically unpopular. A collapsing economy has left her with an approval rating in the teens. In one sense, Rousseff was impeached on Sunday because she’s so widely reviled by Brazilians. Rousseff’s opponents, even though many of them are under investigation themselves, blatantly admit that they supported impeachment just to remove her from office for political reasons. The Brazilian right has lost four consecutive elections to either Lula or to Rousseff, though Rousseff only narrowly won reelection in October 2014.

The nakedly political considerations involved explain why Rousseff and her left-leaning supporters have been quick to label the impeachment vote as an undemocratic coup. But it’s more complicated than either side would like to admit. Rousseff is correct when she argues that the Brazilian media is, largely, anti-PT, and the business elite has increasingly turned against her and Lula.

But Rousseff herself served as the chairwoman of the Petrobras board between 2003 and 2010, and her critics believe it’s risible that she knew nothing about the kickbacks. Moreover, she blatantly attempted to appoint Lula to her cabinet last month as a way of offering him immunity from prosecution. (Rousseff’s supporters subsequently attacked the lead prosecutor, Sérgio Moro, for releasing the audio recording of a conversation between Lula and Rousseff).

Rousseff is now almost certain to face a prolonged trial before the upper house of the Brazilian Congress. With just a majority vote in the 81-member Senado (Senate), she can be suspended for office for 180 days. Her vice president, Michel Temer, the 75-year-old leader of the Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party), will almost certainly take over temporarily and, if not impeached himself, will take over if Rousseff is formally removed. The next elections are scheduled for 2018.

Temer and the PMDB broke with Rousseff earlier this month, in a step that now seems likely to have doomed Rousseff’s fate. Temer has already indicated that, as Brazil’s new president, he will pursue a much more center-right orientation that will look to assure markets and business elites. He has also indicated that he might attempt to rein in the Petrobras investigations that have thoroughly discredited a country’s worth of institutions. The PMDB is a ‘big tent’ party whose sole ideology seems to be proximity to power — it has provided support to every sitting Brazilian government, of the center-right or the center-left, since 1994. Temer, Cunha and other leading pemedebistas are under the same clouds of corruption as many of the leading petistas, so a Temer presidency would not wipe the political slate clean. 

Rousseff will, however, survive if she can muster more than one-third of Brazil’s senators in a trial that might not begin until May.

Her removal isn’t a fait accompli.

Note, however, that Rousseff (and Temer, as her 2014 running mate) still faces the possibility that her reelection will be vacated by Brazil’s supreme electoral court, which is reviewing whether the Rousseff campaign received illegal campaign funds. If the court decides to vacate the election, Cunha (the scandal-plagued speaker of the Chamber of Deputies) will temporarily replace Temer as president before a fresh presidential vote later this year.

Brazil’s hyper-partisan future looks grim

The legacies of Lula and Dilma are now bound together through the high-stake impeachment process. (Facebook)
The legacies of Lula and Dilma are now bound together through the high-stake impeachment process. (Facebook)

Even if Rousseff survives the Senate trial, she will have virtually no power as a wildly unpopular lame-duck president — just the second in modern Brazilian democracy to be impeached. Rousseff will continue fighting to protect the legacy of lulismo and the PT’s four terms in power, most notably the massive programs that have reduced extreme poverty and inequality that have made Lula, Rousseff and the PT extremely popular among Brazil’s poor. Moreover, even as Lula himself faces criminal liability for his own possible role in the Petrobras scandal, he remains extremely popular in Brazil (much more so than Rousseff) and on the Latin American left, generally.

Indeed, if an election were held today, Lula would be competitive to win, as incredible as it seems. He’s essentially tied with the other top-tier contenders from the 2014 election, Marina Silva (an alternative leftist with socially conservative positions on abortion of LGBT rights and with roots in Brazil’s green movement) and Aécio Neves, a Brazilian senator and the former two-term governor of the state of Minas Gerais. Neves today is the leader of Brazil’s main center-right opposition party, the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB, Brazilian Social Democracy Party), which has long supported Rousseff’s removal.

But the impeachment process and its aftermath are already making Brazil’s hyperpartisan divide even worse. A small glimpse of the ugliness came on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies Sunday night when one member, Jair Bolsonaro, who also hopes to run for president in 2018, dedicated his vote in favor of impeachment to the leader of a torture unit during Brazil’s military dictatorship whose victims included, among others, Rousseff herself. Other far-right deputies also voiced praise Sunday night for some of the leaders of Brazil’s military dictatorship from 1964 through 1985.

Though a majority of Brazilians (including both wealthy and poor Brazilians) supported Rousseff’s impeachment, the battle has left many voters divided sharply. Moreover, a compromised Temer-led interim presidency also seems unlikely to unite a country that still faces incredible challenges, including a nasty economic downturn, the rising threat of the Zika virus and the difficulty of hosting the first Summer Olympics in South American history later in 2016.

Brazil’s democracy has already survived one impeachment, when former president Fernando Collor resigned a day before the Brazilian senate voted formally to remove him from office in December 1992. But Collor, at the time, was more personally and, potentially, criminally implicated in the corruption scandal that spurred his impeachment, which the Chamber of Deputies passed in a near-unanimous vote. In contrast, the impeachment battle against Rousseff has been far more colored by partisan opinion.

Collor faced Brazilian impeachment crucible 25 years before Dilma

Fernando Collor de Mello left office in January 2013 after his removal as president by the Brazilian Senate (O Globo / Roberto Stuckert Filho)
Fernando Collor de Mello left office in January 2013 after his removal as president by the Brazilian Senate (O Globo / Roberto Stuckert Filho)

As Brazil’s congress votes on president Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment today, it’s not the first time that the Câmara dos Deputados (Chamber of Deputies) will consider a president’s impeachment.brazil

It’s not even the first impeachment since the return of civilian, democratic rule in the 1980s.

Before Rousseff, there was Fernando Collor de Mello, who was impeached nearly a quarter-century ago, and who resigned a day before a formal vote to remove him from office.

Commentators ruefully said during Collor’s impeachment crisis that the process showed Brazil’s institutions, from its media to its judiciary, were robust enough to stop impunity in a newly democratic Brazil, even when corruption went all the way to the presidential palace.

But as Operation Car Wash wreaks havoc on the entire spectrum of Brazilian politics, and commentators are saying the same thing today, the corruption within the Collor administration now seems quaint compared to the current scandal, which involves massive kickbacks from Petróleo Brasileiro SA, the state oil company, to hundreds of politicians within many Brazilian parties.

If anything, the lessons of the Collor impeachment viewed in the context of the current Petrobras scandal — informally nicknamed , ‘petrolão’ (the ‘big oily’) — show just how tenacious the roots of corruption are in Brazil, as much today as 20 or 30 years ago. Continue reading Collor faced Brazilian impeachment crucible 25 years before Dilma

Brazil might not be better off in a post-Dilma world

Michel Temer, Brazil’s vice president, comes from an ideology-free party devoted primarily to remaining in power. (Facebook)

It’s looking increasingly likely that Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff might not make it through the end of her term in January 2019.brazil

On March 12, Rousseff’s main coalition partner, the Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party) announced that it would take a full month to reconsider its support for Rousseff, currently in her second term and what amounts to the fourth consecutive term of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers Party) that began with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s 2002 election victory.

Since mid-March, the drive to impeach Rousseff has only intensified, with prosecutors seeking to interview and possibly detain Lula da Silva himself, the godfather of not just the Brazilian left but the entire Latin American left. Rousseff attempted to appoint Lula da Silva as her chief of staff to give him the kind of ministerial role that he would need to evade potential investigation, though Brazil’s supreme court blocking the appointment in short order. Though Rousseff herself has not been personally implicated in the Petrobras scandal (whereby officials gave kickbacks to politicians in exchange for inflated construction contracts), investigators believe that Lula da Silva might be more deeply involved.

Lula da Silva, incredibly, might be arrested at any moment, which would almost certainly accelerate the push to impeach Rousseff on obscure charges about obfuscation of Brazil’s state finances during the 2014 election campaign. Also, incredibly, impeachment isn’t the only way that Rousseff might be forced from office. If it emerges that she won the 2014 presidential election through illicit money, she and the vice president could be removed through the cassação process that could vacated the election altogether.

Either way, the presidency would end up in either the hands of the PMDB: in the case of impeachment, vice president Michel Temer or, in the case that the 2014 election is annulled, the speaker of the Brazilian congress’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies (Câmara dos Deputados), Eduardo Cunha.

Neither result would give Brazilians much comfort about the state of their country’s government.
Continue reading Brazil might not be better off in a post-Dilma world

What are the chances of Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment?


Despite headlines that are raising eyebrows both in Brazil and abroad, talk of Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment is still more smoke than fire.brazil

But the risk of impeachment proceedings will only increase as the corruption scandal surrounding Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (‘Petrobras’), the state oil company, intensifies. Though impeachment talk may be premature today, it will not be so farfetched if Rousseff is  personally linked to the Petrobras kickbacks or if it’s found that illegal funds financed Rousseff’s reelection campaign last year.

Nearly two million Brazilians have now signed a petition demanding her impeachment, and rising protests throughout a handful of Brazilian cities could spread more widely — perhaps even to levels seen during the 2013 protests.

As Brazil readies to host the first-ever South American Summer Olympics in 2016, Rousseff will brace for more criticism that the country can ill afford new stadiums at a time when many Brazilians, especially in Rio de Janeiro and its largest cities, still live in poverty. The real‘s value has dropped by more than 25% in the last year, inflation is rising, GDP growth is expected to stall in 2015 and Rousseff has committed to new austerity policies to allay fears in the bond markets about Brazil’s budget. More ominously, as her approval ratings plummet, and she faces emboldened domestic opposition, Brazilians have a ready precedent in the impeachment of Fernando Collor 23 years ago.

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RELATED: Petrobras scandal highlights 12 years of Brazilian corruption

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Rousseff, who narrowly won reelection last October, served as Brazil’s minister for mines and energy between 2003 and 2005, when the alleged corruption abuses are said to have begun. Even if Rousseff doesn’t face formal impeachment hearings, the whiff of scandal surrounding her adds to the sense that Rousseff and her party, the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers Party), now in its fourth consecutive term in power, have become hopelessly corrupt. That could undermine Rousseff’s efforts to accomplish much in her second presidential term, including efforts to turn around Brazil’s stumbling economy. It could also complicate any efforts by beloved former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (pictured above with Rousseff) to make a comeback bid in 2018. Continue reading What are the chances of Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment?

Video of the day: Brazil needs a ‘Straight Pride’?

It was something of an odd remark by the new president of Brazil’s Câmara dos Deputados (Chamber of Deputies), Eduardo Cunha, whose elevation to the top post in the lower house of the Brazilian congress came just three weeks ago.brazil

Typically described as either a tough insider in the vein of Frank Underwood, the protagonist of House of Cards, or an independent-minded speaker sure to challenge beleaguered Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, Cunha’s off-hand comments that December 3 should be celebrated as ‘straight pride’ day have backfired, causing one response (embedded above) to go viral, first in Brazil and now globally.

Though same-sex marriage has been legal since 2013, when the country’s top court issued a ruling to that effect, Brazil remains a country where homophobia remains a problem, especially in its more rural and conservative enclaves. Former presidential candidate Marina Silva, who surged in the polls late last summer, started to tumble after backtracking on her support for gay marriage. In 2010, Rousseff stumbled when her opponent, José Serra, suggested she was too pro-abortion. With a growing number of evangelicals (including both Cunha and Silva) and a strong base of Catholics, Brazil is still a deeply religion country. Rousseff, for the record, still opposes full marriage equality as well, though she supports civil unions, and she pledged her support for an anti-homophobia bill — an initiative that seems unlikely now that Cunha controls Brazil’s lower house.


Cunha (pictured above) is a member of the Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party), a big-party tent that played a role in promoting democracy during military rule in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. Today, though, it’s something of an ally of convenience — the PMDB boosts Rousseff’s government in power just as it did for Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva before her and for the more conservative Fernando Henrique Cardoso. It’s generally viewed on the more corrupt side of the political spectrum, and it includes all sorts of ideologies (like most of Brazil’s political parties, large and small).

So officials like Cunha, ostensibly allies, are far more conservative than Rousseff or the political mainstream on social issues, even though he’s likely to block her administration’s moves to cut spending to reduce the country’s budget deficit in her second term. Realistically, though the PMDB is Rousseff’s ally, Cunha personally opposes much of Rousseff’s agenda, and his elevation as Chamber president essentially means that Rousseff will face an unfriendly legislative branch in her second term — at least as long as her political popularity continues to sink.

That Cunha was elected in the first place came as a shock within Rousseff’s Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers’ Party). Though Rousseff recently won reelection last October, a corruption scandal at the state oil company, Petrobras, and a deepening recession (exacerbating by falling global oil prices) have hurt Rousseff politically, even while Lula da Silva contemplates a comeback to the Brazilian presidency in 2018.

Cunha’s remarks should come as no surprise, though. It’s not even the first time he has pontificated aloud over a ‘Straight Pride’ day. He’s also staunchly anti-abortion, and he said shortly after his election as Chamber president that a law to liberalize Brazil’s tight abortion restrictions would pass only ‘over his dead body.’

Brazil election results: What to expect from Dilma’s second term


It was the closest presidential race since the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship in 1985.brazil

Ultimately, the benefits of incumbency and the track record of poverty reduction were enough to push Dilma Rousseff to reelection against an alliance between her center-right opponent, Aécio Neves, and former candidate Marina Silva, who finished third in the October 5 first-round vote.

Rousseff narrowly defeated Neves by a margin of 51.52% to 48.38% in Sunday’s vote, giving the center-left Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers Party) a fourth consecutive term in power.

Neves, the candidate of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB, Brazilian Social Democracy Party), came from behind to win a spot in the runoff after Silva’s candidacy imploded earlier this year. Silva, a former environmental minister who assumed the presidential nomination of the Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB, Brazilian Socialist Party), after its initial candidate, former Pernambuco governor Eduardo Campos, died in an airplane crash in mid-August.

Neves, who served as a highly regarded governor of Minas Gerais, Brazil’s second-most populous state, from 2002 to 2010, is a member of the Brazilian Senado (Senate), and he challenged Rousseff aggressively for several high-profile corruption cases, most recently revelations of kickbacks to PT politicians and their allies from Petrobras, the state-owned oil company.

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RELATED: Petrobras scandal highlights 12 years of Brazilian corruption

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The electorate predictably split between the PT’s supporters in the relatively poorer northeast and the PSDB’s more conservative base in the relatively wealthier southeast. Rousseff narrowly won the crucial battlegrounds of Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, though the PT’s support dropped sharply from its levels in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 elections.

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Nevertheless, Rousseff’s PT-led coalition will enjoy a large congressional majority. Voters chose all 513 members of the lower house of the Brazilian congress, the Câmara dos Deputados (Chamber of Deputies) in the October 5 round.

That’s notwithstanding moderate losses for the PT and its largest partner, the ideologically vapid Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, PMDB), largely at the hands of the Partido Social Democrático (PSD, Social Democratic Party), a party formed in 2011 by former São Paulo mayor Gilberto Kassab and a handful of PSDB and other centrist dissenters, who are also part of Rousseff’s coalition.

brazil chamber

So what does Rousseff’s reelection mean for Brazil and for the wider Latin American region? Continue reading Brazil election results: What to expect from Dilma’s second term

Four things Dilma must do to win the Brazilian presidency


Plagued by corruption scandals, a sinking Brazilian economy, protests from young voters who scorn politics as usual and howls from an investor class that has lost faith in her ability to govern effectively, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff could become the first president to lose reelection since the return of democracy to Brazil in 1985.brazil

In the first round of the Brazilian elections on October 5, she led the presidential vote against her center-right rival Aécio Neves by a margin of 41.59% to 33.55%, and she effectively vanquished former environmental minister Marina Silva, who emerged in late August as the chief threat to Rousseff’s reelection.

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RELATED: Five things Neves must do to win the Brazilian presidency

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Rousseff now faces a united opposition front — Silva earlier this week endorsed Neves, the candidate of the opposition Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB, Brazilian Social Democracy Party). Notably, Rousseff’s governing Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers Party) lost 18 seats in the lower house of the Brazilian national congress.

Accordingly, Rousseff faces a tough fight against Neves, the popular former Minas Gerais governor, and polls show that she very narrowly trails Neves in the October 26 runoff.

As in any election, however, an incumbent like Rousseff has a strong case. Here are the four things she must do to maximize her bid for reelection and a fourth term for the PT. Continue reading Four things Dilma must do to win the Brazilian presidency

Five things Neves must do to win the Brazilian presidency


Fresh off a surprising victory in the first round of Brazil’s presidential election, Aécio Neves suddenly seems like a man with a real chance at leading the first center-right administration in 12 years. brazil

As Brazilian voters focus on the campaign for the October 26 runoff, the second post-election Datafolha poll gives Neves, the former governor of Minas Gerais and the candidate of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB, Brazilian Social Democracy Party), a slight lead of 45% to 43%.

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RELATED: Four things Dilma must do to win the Brazilian presidency

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It’s not the first time, however, that a poll has showed a challenger leading incumbent Dilma Rousseff, who is hoping to win a fourth consecutive term for her governing, center-left Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers Party). For much of the month and a half preceding the October 5 vote, Rousseff trailed Marina Silva, who unexpectedly finished in third place after vaunting to the top of polls, when she suddenly replaced Eduardo Campos, who died in an August 13 airplane crash. As the presidential candidate of the Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB, Brazilian Socialist Party), Silva hoped to thread a third way between the traditional left and right.

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RELATED: Five reasons why one-time frontrunner Silva tanked

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But a steady stream of negative advertising successfully beat back the Silva challenge, and Rousseff is now counting on the same machine to defeat Neves. Unlike in the first round, however, Neves will enjoy equal access to television airtime, so he’ll be on much more solid footing against Rousseff than Silva was.

Fresh off their first debate, however, Neves is still very much in the game. Here are the five things he needs to do between now and October 26 to become Brazil’s next president.

Continue reading Five things Neves must do to win the Brazilian presidency

Brazil election results: Five reasons why one-time frontrunner Silva tanked

silvalosesPhoto credit to Pedro Ladeira/Folhapress.

What the hell happened to Marina Silva’s presidential campaign?brazil

In the 2010 presidential election, Silva came out of nowhere to win 19.33% of the vote.

In 2014, she looked like she might win it all.

Instead, she blew what seemed like an insurmountable path to the October 26 runoff, falling into third place with just 21.32% of the vote, more than 10% behind the second-place finisher. That’s just under 2% more than she won four years ago.

When Brazilians choose their next president in three weeks, they’ll choose between the incumbent, Dilma Rousseff, and the center-right former governor of Minas Gerais, Aécio Neves. Silva, now a two-time presidential loser, will be watching from the sidelines (though she’ll have at least some power as a kingmaker in what could be the closest presidential runoff in Brazilian politics since 1989).

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RELATED: In Depth — Brazil

RELATED: Neves will face Rousseff in runoff

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Fate — in the form of a tragic airplane crash — initially brought her into the 2014 presidential race, when her running mate Eduardo Campos’s plane crashed on the southern Brazilian coast on August 13.

Silva had wanted to make a second presidential bid all along, and polls showed that she was the most popular of Rousseff’s potential opponents. When her attempts to form a new party failed, Silva partnered with Campos, joining his center-left Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB, Brazilian Socialist Party) and serving as the party’s vice presidential candidate. In mid-August, she became the only clear choice to replace Campos on such short notice.

She peaked in late August, when a Datafolha poll showed Silva tied in the first round with Rousseff at 34%, Neves trailing with just 15%, and leading Rousseff with a nearly double-digit margin in a potential runoff.

Despite leading in the polls, despite having the support of a much stronger party organization in 2014, despite running a much more disciplined and politically moderate campaign and despite the sympathy of Brazilians mourning Campos, Silva failed.

So what happened? Here are five reasons that explain just why Silva will be sitting out the next round. Continue reading Brazil election results: Five reasons why one-time frontrunner Silva tanked

Brazil election results: Neves will face Rousseff in runoff

dilmaaecioPhoto credit to Ricardo Moraes/Reuters.

It’s a stunning resurrection for a politician who spent most of the past two months languishing in third place.brazil

But Aécio Neves, a Brazilian senator and the center-right candidate of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB, Brazilian Social Democracy Party), will face incumbent president Dilma Rousseff, the candidate of the center-left governing Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers Party), in an October 26 runoff.

Rousseff led with around 41.5% of the vote to just 33.5% for Neves and 21% for Marina Silva, the one-time frontrunner and the candidate of the Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB, Brazilian Socialist Party). Silva became the party’s presidential candidate only in late August after her original running mate, former Pernambuco governor Eduardo Campos, died in an airplane crash on August 13.

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RELATED: In Depth — Brazil

RELATED: Will Marina Silva be squeezed out of the Brazilian runoff?

RELATEDNeves struggles to puncture the Dilma-Marina Show

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In the days and weeks after Campos’s death, Silva, a former environmental minister and a one-time Rousseff ally, vaunted to the top of the polls, which showed for weeks that she would easily advance to the runoff against Rousseff, and that she had a shot at defeating Rousseff in a one-on-one contest.


Instead, Rousseff will face Neves, the former governor of Minas Gerais, who suddenly seems to have the best chance of unseating the PT in the 12 years since it first came to power under the still popular former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Continue reading Brazil election results: Neves will face Rousseff in runoff

Will Marina Silva be squeezed out of the Brazilian runoff?

nevesdilmaPhoto credit to Miguel Schincariol, AFP/File.

On the Friday before Brazil’s first-round general election, the biggest story is that the runoff that everyone expected — a showdown between incumbent president Dilma Rousseff and former environmental minister and presidential candidate Marina Silva — may not actually happen.brazil

It’s a stunning turn of events. Silva, the candidate of the Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB, Brazilian Socialist Party), is still the favorite to advance to a runoff against Rousseff, the candidate of the governing Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers Party), which has led Brazil since the 2002 election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

But it’s going to be a lot closer than anyone thought for the past six weeks, while Silva benefited from the sympathy of being the candidate to replace her late running mate, former Pernambuco governor Eduardo Campos, who died in a plane crash on August 13.

Can anyone guarantee, 48 hours out from election day, what will happen?

In a word, no.

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RELATED: In Depth — Brazil

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The latest Datafolha poll, taken between October 1 and 2, shows Rousseff, the candidate of the governing  with 40% of the vote to just 24% for Silva, and 21% for Aécio Neves (pictured above with Rouseff). When all undecided voters are allocated or eliminated, Rousseff wins 47% of the vote — just short of a stunning outright victory on Sunday. Rousseff would win a runoff against Silva by a margin of 48% to 41%.

Neves, a senator and the former governor of Minas Gerais, the candidate of the center-right Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB, Brazilian Social Democracy Party), could actually pip Silva to the runoff.

It’s not likely, but it’s a much more possible outcome than anyone believed even earlier this week.  Continue reading Will Marina Silva be squeezed out of the Brazilian runoff?

How Marina Silva became Brazil’s leading conservative candidate


On the eve of Sunday’s Brazilian general election, I write in The National Interest on Friday that Marina Silva, the candidate of the Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB, Brazilian Socialist Party), has become in many ways the most conservative candidate in the three-way presidential race.brazil

Though her poll numbers have dipped since she took a narrow lead in August and early September, she’s still expected to advance to an October 26 runoff against the incumbent, Dilma Rousseff. The latest Datafolha poll shows Rousseff with 40%, Silva with 25% and center-right challenger Aécio Neves with 20%. That’s a far different story than an August 28-29 survey that showed Rousseff and Silva tied at 34% each, with just 15% for Neves. That’s to be expected, perhaps, given that the sympathy for her party’s former candidate, Eduardo Campos, has subsided. Campos was killed in an airplane crash in early August.

Rousseff also leads in the runoff by a 49% to 41% margin. But Silva’s conservatism could help narrow that gap, especially with equalized financing for television advertising in the three weeks between the first round and the runoff. If Neves and his party, the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB, Brazilian Social Democracy Party) endorse Silva in the runoff, expect the polls to tighten again.

A member of Brazil’s growing evangelical community, Silva is anti-abortion and recently flip-flopped on same-sex marriage. But for a former environmental activist and the 2010 candidate of the Partido Verde (Green Party, PV) was, she has also become surprisingly conservative on economic policy, which has heartened Brazil’s business and investor class: Continue reading How Marina Silva became Brazil’s leading conservative candidate

Petrobras scandal highlights 12 years of Brazilian corruption

petrobrasPhoto credit to Geraldo Geraldo Falcão.

The most striking thing the latest sensational scandal involving Brazil’s state oil company is that president Dilma Rousseff’s poll standing has actually increased since the story broke three weeks ago.brazil

If Rousseff, as polls predict, wins the first round presidential vote on October 5, it will be largely because Brazilian voters have shrugged off the latest scandal involving Petrobras and several leading Brazilian figures, along with 12 years of scandals that have now accumulated after three consecutive terms of rule by Rousseff’s Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers Party).

Former Petrobras executive Paulo Roberto Costa, who was arrested in the spring during an investigation into money laundering, has allegedly testified that dozens of top officials, mostly within Rousseff’s own party, routinely took a 3% kickback on some of the company’s contracts dating back to 2004, when Rousseff, then the minister for energy and mines, technically oversaw Petrobras’s operations.

Among the politicians that Costa singled out was former Pernambuco governor Eduardo Campos, the former presidential candidate who died in a plane crash in August; Henrique Eduardo Alves, the president of the Câmara dos Deputados (Chamber of Deputies), the lower house of the Brazilian congress; and Edison Lobão, the minister for energy and mines, and a member of the centrist Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB, Brazilian Democratic Movement Party).

Campos’s alleged involvement may be why the allegations haven’t apparently hurt Rousseff’s ratings against Marina Silva, Campos’s former running mate and now the candidate of the Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB, Brazilian Socialist Party). Campos’s party spent much of the past 12 years supporting the governments of both Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Marina Silva, then a member of the Workers Party, served for five years as environmental minister.

But Rousseff’s other major rival, former Minas Gerais governor Aécio Neves, the candidate of the center-right Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB, Brazilian Social Democracy Party), has been unable to generate much success by emphasizing the scandal. Neves generally trails both Rousseff and Silva in polls ahead of Sunday’s first-round presidential vote. If, as expected, no candidate wins 50% of the vote, the top two candidates will advance to a runoff on October 26.

But as audacious as the Petrobras scandal could turn out to be, it will take its place under a penumbra of troubling corruption that dates back to Lula da Silva’s first term as president. Continue reading Petrobras scandal highlights 12 years of Brazilian corruption

Neves struggles to puncture the Dilma-Marina show


A month and a half ago, when Brazil’s investor class proclaimed its doubts about the reelection of president Dilma Rousseff, no one stood to gain more than Aécio Neves.minasgeraisbrazil

The grandson of a distinguished pro-democracy activist, Neves (pictured above) represents the next, post-lulista generation of Brazil’s center-right politics. Three decades younger than Brazil’s last conservative president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and more charismatic than former São Paulo governor and mayor José Serra, Neves brought to the race a strong pedigree and an accomplished record as an economic reformer as the two-term governor of the powerful, sprawling state of Minas Gerais.

That was before the airplane crash that killed former presidential candidate Eduardo Campos, which suddenly catapulted his running mate, the popular Marina Silva, into the presidential race.

Where Neves once had credible hopes of becoming Brazil’s next president, he now seems likelier to play a kingmaker role in what’s shaping up to be a fiercely contested runoff between Rousseff and Dilma.

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RELATED: Why Marina Silva must now step up for the Brazilian left

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Within days, Silva leapt to the lead in polls for the race to become Brazil’s next president. Though Rousseff has now recovered a first-round lead in many polls, Neves is still languishing in third place, far behind both Rousseff and Silva, a reverse from the summer, when Neves held a solid second-place position against the late Campos, who was leading a coalition anchored by the Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB, Brazilian Socialist Party) that, until recently, supported the Rousseff government.

Polls show that the October 26 runoff will be incredibly tight between the two women, and many officials within Neves’s party, the center-right Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB, Brazilian Social Democracy Party), popularly known as the tucanos (‘toucans’) was already talking a month ago about how they’ll support Silva, a former environmental minister under Rousseff’s mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in the runoff. Armino Fraga, a former central bank president known for stabilizing the Brazilian real in the early 2000s, who returned to the fray to help elect Neves, is now being floated instead as a possible finance minister in a potential Silva administration. Fraga, for now, refuses to serve in any administration other than Neves’s.  Continue reading Neves struggles to puncture the Dilma-Marina show