by Juan Pérez Cabral
OCTOBER 20, 2002. Economic advisers to Brazil's leftist presidential front-runner, Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva, are already holding talks with the IMF about the handling of the country's external debt and adjustment policies, the Buenos Aires daily Clarín reported yesterday.
Brazil's currency, the real, has lost almost 40 percent of its value this year. Much of the drop is due to market jitters as Lula, the Workers Party (PT) candidate, picked up steam. Since Lula narrowly missed winning outright in the first round of the elections two weeks ago, he has been busy trying to reassure big business that he's no wild-eyed revolutionary.
Brazil's voters believe him. The latest polls predict that Lula will win in a landslide with as much as 66 percent of next Sunday's second round vote. His rival, the governing party's José Serra, will be lucky to get a piddling 34 percent.
A panicky Serra is only adding fuel to the economic fire. He can't stop talking about Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. Lula is a closet Chávez who'll ruin Brazil, he warns voters. When he's not running against Chávez, Serra, who has a doctorate in economics from Cornell University in the U.S., questions the competence of Lula, a former metallurgical union leader who never finished grade school.
The scare tactics don't seem to be working, judging by Serra's plummeting support and high negatives (58 percent of voters actively dislike him, compared to Lula's 28 percent).
Among other groups, Lula's Workers Party has made significant inroads with gay voters, perhaps by default more than by deeds. As a member of Congress, the candidate himself once supported a gay civil union bill that has gone nowhere. And his party, or his presidential campaign (at this point, they're hard to tell apart), has recently acquired a queer caucus, at least on paper.
The group met in São Paulo this summer, around Pride, but their page within the Lula campaign site has remained empty and there is no trace of them or their ideas in the candidate's campaign. And then there are Lula's electoral alliances with evangelicals and others who are not precisely fans of the gay community. "The Workers Party needs to come out of the closet," the gay activist and writer João Silvério Trevisan told São Paulo's Jornal da Tarde earlier this year. Will it, now that power is within its grasp?
For Newsweek International's sobering Brazil: Can Lula Lead?.
For Long Will Live Free Markets. Why many Brazilian businesspeople deserted Serra to back Lula.
Color and Cash
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