[Marxism] A Brazilian Senator Could Exact Revenge (WSJ)
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Tue Aug 1 06:37:47 MDT 2006
A Brazilian Senator Could Exact
Revenge in Presidential Election
By GERALDO SAMOR
August 1, 2006; Page A6
RIO DE JANEIRO -- In late 2003, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula
da Silva's allies kicked Sen. Heloisa Helena out of the ruling
Workers Party for being a doctrinaire leftist. Among her sins: she
called Mr. da Silva's government "reactionary" for allegedly cozying
up to international investors.
Ms. Helena wept copiously at the decision, complained that she had
been judged by "an inquisition tribunal" and went on to found a new
Now, she may get a measure of revenge.
Running for president in Brazil's Oct. 1 election as an "ethical
alternative" to Mr. da Silva's scandal-plagued party, Ms. Helena has
been garnering enough support that she may deprive Mr. da Silva of
the majority he needs to win outright in the first round and avoid a
In the latest survey by Datafolha, an independent polling group,
taken in mid-July, Ms. Helena and her tiny Socialism and Freedom
Party have the support of 10% of Brazilians. Mr. da Silva leads with
44%, comfortably ahead of former São Paulo state Gov. Geraldo
Alckmin, who has 28%.
Ms. Helena's rise has been a godsend to Mr. Alckmin, who has been
struggling to add momentum to his campaign agenda of revamping
government. If she maintains her current standing in the polls, Mr.
Alckmin will likely go to a runoff against Mr. da Silva, allowing him
more time to debate the president and perhaps erode his lead.
"Her candidacy is a measure of national indignation, so she still has
room to grow," says Paulo Guedes, an economist in Rio de Janeiro.
"But in order to win, she would have to do what Lula did and say that
everything she believes in when it comes to economics is wrong."
Mr. da Silva is responding to Ms. Helena's challenge by firing up his
rhetoric. During the weekend, he said some people "are trying to sell
the idea that they are ethical and we are not." His message to his
party loyalists: "Don't let them kick your heels."
The 44-year-old Ms. Helena rose to prominence as a member of a
congressional committee investigating a money-for-votes scandal
orchestrated by the Workers Party. She often appeared on the nightly
news, looking apoplectic as she denounced the wrongdoings of her
former party. Now, she has become the favorite of some Brazilians who
are tired of politics as usual.
Her message resonated further when, in a more recent scandal, more
than 100 lawmakers from several parties came under investigation for
allegedly taking kickbacks in the sale of ambulances to cities across
Ms. Helena leads a cash-strapped campaign that looks to burnish her
image as a straight arrow. She carries her clothes in a backpack and
stays at fellow party members' homes to save on hotel bills. When an
aide at her congressional office was recently caught using her
office's email to send out her campaign schedule, she fired him on
Still, most analysts think she will soon hit the ceiling in the
polls, in part because she is also pushing a leftist economic agenda
that strikes many as unrealistic. For instance, she proposes ordering
the central bank's monetary-policy committee to cut by half Brazil's
interest rates, which are among the highest in the world at about
15%. Far from believing that such action could reignite inflation,
she would also boost government spending to promote industries such
as tourism and agribusiness, which she says are engines of growth.
César Benjamin, Ms. Helena's running mate, says he isn't worried
about capital flight if interest rates are cut on a whim. "We are
going to bring a little turbulence to the financial markets so that
we can bring some order to the real economy," Mr. Benjamin said.
Because of her schedule, aides said the senator wasn't available for
On the off chance Ms. Helena were to win, it is unlikely she would be
able to govern as she preaches. Brazil's political system affords
Congress a lot of say in what presidents can do, and leaders can't
get their agendas through unless they are able to form working
coalitions, said Carlos Lopes, an analyst with Santafé Idéias, a
political-consulting firm in Brasilia.
Write to Geraldo Samor at geraldo.samor at wsj.com
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