Brazil’s President Election Pt. 3

José Serra (PSDB – Party of Social Democracy of Brazil, center-to-right wing) is the only man out of the three main candidates to president. Born in the town of São Paulo, he comes from a lower middle class family, son of italian immigrants. Just like rival Dilma Rousseff (PT), Serra was an active leftist militant against Brazil’s 1964’s military coup. Unlike Dilma Rousseff, he didn’t stand for an armed action. But to the then military commanders-in-chief the only good opposition was no opposition. José Serra was captured and oustered by them, interrupting his study of civil engineering and later graduating as an economist. Unlike Dilma Rousseff, José Serra accumulates a vast roll of political posts, from mayor of São Paulo to senator of the Republic. He was also Minister of Health during the mandate of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Last year – before President Lula came out to publicly endorse the candidacy of Dilma Rousseff – Serra started out well ahead in the polls. That has changed drastically and the latest polls have shown a continuous downfall, being that now Serra has only 25-27% of vote intentions, against 52% of Dilma Rousseff.

In the Brazilian electoral process it’s normal to have one candidate using denounces of corruption as a petard against the opposition candidate. First we had Dilma Rousseff’s allies digging deep into José Serra’s daughter life to try to find anything that could be thrown against the fan. Then in the past two weeks an avalanche of denounces of corruption coming from Serra’s allies brought down Lula’s current chief of staff, Erenice Guerra.  She has a direct relationship with Dilma Rousseff, since Dilma was the previous chief of staff. Yet, nothing seems to tarnish Dilma Roussef’s candidacy, she will remain untouched as long as she’s armored with Lula’s unbreakable shield of popularity.

Election happens in October 3rd, 2010, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., -3 GMT.

Brazilians vote via computers developped exclusively for this purpose, called “e-ballots”. In 2010 Brazil will start implementing, in test mode, vote by biometric scan and the printing of a receipt with the name of the voted candidate. Those are measures to increase safety and avoid electoral fraud. 


Today’s candidate is Dilma Rousseff.

Dilma Rousseff (PT – Partido dos Trabalhadores – Worker’s Party) is Lula’s sweetheart. Previously to candidacy she had been the Chief of Staff of Brazil – from 2005 until 2010 – in Lula’s mandate. In spite of having an administrative position of public notoriety, she had been living in the shadowy limbo of political (and public) oblivion until President Lula openly endorsed her candidacy around the middle of 2009.  Before President Lula openly and shamelessly* advocated for her, hardly any average Brazilian citizen knew exactly who Dilma Rousseff was or what she did. Back then she would always be 10 points behind in the polls, runner up to candidate José Serra (PMDB – Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira – Party of the Brazilian Social Democracy). After President Lula started openly campaigning for and with her, she started climbing all the way up on the polls, and is now about 10 points in front of candidate José Serra.

Dilma Rousseff never ran for any public post in her life. She is essencially an administrator who was fabricated into the ideal politician stereotype, based solely on Lula’s gigantic and astonishing popularity and public appeal. This article says exactly what I am talking about: My Name is Dilma Rousseff and I’m Running Again for President, Says Brazil’s Lula

All the above said, I am not saying here that Dilma would be a bad president simply because she never ran for office before.

Unlike her female concurrent Marina Silva, who had a poor life background in the Amazon forrest, Dilma Roussef is a urban, high middle class woman, born in the town of Belo Horizonte, capital of the state of Minas Gerais. Already in her youth – 16 years old – she became interested in Marxism. Later while in college (UFMG, where she started a major in Economics,  later finished in another college, UFRGS, in the town of Porto Alegre.) she became a member of the socialist armed militia VAR-Palmares, one of the many youth groups that fought against the abuses of the ongoing military dictatorship (which started in 1964 with a coup d’etat). Dilma Rousseff was arrested and tortured by the military during three years of her life. After the end of military dictatorship she started her career in a number of administrative posts, always related with public administration and politics, and so on, until she became Lula’s Chief of Staff.

Dilma Rousseff, together with Marina Silva, is a good example of Brazil’s best: diversity. Both come from opposite backgrounds, one is a brown skinned, formerly illitarate child of the Amazon; the other is white, daughter of a rich European immigrant. Both are Brazilian. They have very different stories, but what they have in common is that both somehow involve suffering and giving yourself over to something bigger. Both are women. Both are candidates to president.

*The electoral law of Brazil determines that there is only so much the current chief of state can do to campaign in favor of his successor. President Lula crossed that line shamelessly many and many times, and has been fined in several thousands of Brazilian Reais for that, yet, he pays the fine and goes on breaking the law. The situation got to the curious point that Dilma will never pose with her Vice (and I’m afraid no one actually even knows who her vice is: Michel Temer, PMDB, President of the Brazilian Congress.)
I only mention this funny detail because undue campaign is something Lula vehemently condemned before he became president. Now he changed his mind, it seems.

Brazil’s Presidential Run 2010 – Pt.1

The Brazilian presidential election is starting to heat up, and it’s with great joy that I announce this: out of the three main candidates to President of Brazil, two are women.  I will present them in different posts. Today I’ll introduce you to Marina Silva.

Marina Silva (@silva_marina, PV – Green Party) was the first to officially register her candidacy with the Electoral Supreme Court. Marina’s vice-president is Guilherme Leal,  co-founder and director of  Natura, a Brazilian (and Latin American) cosmetics giant. Leal also takes part in the Brazilian WWF, Funbio (Brazilian Fund for Biodiversity), Abrinq Foundation and Arapyau Institute (an organization for education and sustainable development).

Marina is currently a Senator for the state of Acre, in the Amazon. She used as well to be President Lula’s Environment Minister. She left PT (Worker’s Party) to join the Green Party as she strongly disapproved Lula’s environmental and agrarian reform policies. A child of the Amazon, born in poverty and victim childhood labor, Marina learned to read only when she was 18 years old, and was persistent enough with studying to get a college degree in History and post-graduation. She’s a winner, a hard working exemplary Brazilian citizen.

Marina Silva has conservative opinions about gay marriage and abortion (which is illegal in Brazil). She is a religious person, nearly became a nun. Her statements about creationism and teaching religion in schools have been a recurrent cause of embarrassment, as reporters and TV anchors love to misquote her by making out of context citations.  It’s an irony that her vice-president is the owner of the biggest cosmetics company in Latin America: Marina Silva wears zero make-up. “I’m too allergic”, she says. Religion again was the cause of a recent Twitter polemic involving her followers, when Marina’s tweets about José Saramago‘s death were largely misinterpreted.

Make no mistakes though: her religiousness doesen’t get in the way of her politics. She’s no zealot. In Brazil religion and politics don’t mix. The easiest way to lose an election in Brazil is if you appeal strongly to religion. The latest polls indicate her popularity is growing, and she went from 8% to 10% of vote intentions. Two percent means a lot for the underdog with a low budget and virtually zero space in the media, when compared to the main opponents. Dilma Rousseff (PT) and José Serra (PMDB), the topdogs, lead the polls technically tied, with percentages that vary from 34% to 40% of votes (for both of them). Debates have yet to take place, but it’s likely that Marina will be present since her candidacy has been gaining popularity.

Official website:

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