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Da Silva’s candidate vows to be his own man in Brazil

September 13, 2018

SAO PAULO (AP) — In his first full day as the presidential candidate for Brazil’s Workers’ Party, Fernando Haddad pledged Wednesday to be his own man if elected and not bow to financial markets or the interests of other countries, including the United States.

His promise to be his own man came a day after he replaced former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as the left-leaning party’s candidate in October’s election and apparently was directed at perceptions that he will be beholden to his jailed friend and political ally.

Da Silva was barred from running because of a corruption conviction and on Tuesday his Workers’ Party officially chose Haddad, who was to have been da Silva’s vice presidential running mate, to lead its ticket.

Haddad’s comment about not bowing to financial markets came after Brazil’s main stock exchange fell whenever da Silva improved his position in the polls and jumped after his presidential bid was barred.

They want a president “to whom the financial markets can say what they want and what they don’t want. What (U.S. President Donald) Trump wants or what Trump doesn’t want,” said the 55-year-old former mayor of Sao Paulo to a crowd.

Haddad said unpopular President Michel Temer did not have the authority to stand up to U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who visited the South American nation in August. “The American secretary came here to tell our government what to do,” Haddad said.

Haddad spoke at a meeting with beneficiaries of education programs started during da Silva’s presidency, between 2003 and 2010. The presidential hopeful was Brazil’s education minister from 2005 to 2012, the year he was elected mayor. Four years later he lost re-election by a landslide.

Asked about the influence da Silva would have if he wins, Haddad said the former president is “an inspiration,” but called his party’s program for the 2018 election of “our Gospel.” “It has my signature and it has Lula’s too,” he said.

While da Silva has publicly endorsed Haddad as the Workers’ Party presidential candidate, many wonder whether supporters of da Silva — who had held a clear lead in all polls — will actually listen and back Haddad, who until now had relatively little appeal?

The designation of Haddad comes only four weeks before Brazil’s first round of voting on Oct.7. If none of the candidates reaches 50 percent plus one vote – as is expected – there will be a runoff on Oct.28.

A Datafolha poll published on Monday shows Haddad in fourth place, favored by just 9 percent of those surveyed. That was a rise of 5 percentage points in just a few weeks, but still behind rightist congressman Jair Bolsonaro’s 24 percent, left-leaning Ciro Gomes’ 13 percent, centrist Marina Silva’s 11 percent and right-leaning Geraldo Alckmin’s 10 percent.

The poll had a margin of error of 2 percentage points. All the 2,804 voters sampled were interviewed on Monday, days after da Silva’s candidacy was barred by the electoral court and Bolsonaro was stabbed in an incident that might put him in hospital until election day.

Da Silva is serving a 12-year sentence for trading favors with construction company Grupo OAS for the promise of a beachfront apartment. The former president has always denied wrongdoing, arguing this case and several others pending against him are meant to keep him off the ballot.

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Brazil’s da Silva names successor, but will voters follow?

September 12, 2018

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — In a letter from his jail cell, former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called on tens of millions of supporters to vote for the man he named to lead his Workers’ Party ticket in October’s presidential election.

“I want everyone who would vote for me to vote for Fernando Haddad for president of Brazil,” da Silva, who Brazilians universally call Lula, said on Tuesday, the deadline for the party to pick another candidate after da Silva’s candidacy was barred. “From now on he will be Lula for millions of Brazilians.”

While long anticipated, the formal designation of Haddad both settled one question and launched another: Will da Silva’s supporters actually listen? The two men are close in their political views and said to be friends, but for many voters in Latin America’s largest nation they are also very different.

While da Silva is easily the country’s most recognizable politician after being president between 2003 and 2010, Haddad is largely unknown outside of Sao Paulo, where he was governor four years, a liability in a nation slightly larger than the continental U.S. While da Silva is charismatic and has an every-man touch, Haddad is a political science professor turned education minister who comes off as professorial. He also got trounced in his re-election bid as mayor in 2016, raising questions about how well he is at winning over voters.

Haddad, 55, also only begins his campaign in earnest on Wednesday, less than four weeks before voters go to the polls. Carlos Melo, a political science professor at Insper university, believes the strength of the party and da Silva’s endorsement will be enough to help Haddad get to a second round of voting. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent on Oct. 7, as expected, the top two finishers will meet in an Oct. 28 runoff.

“He was introduced as the candidate very late, we have to see if there is time for him to get all the votes he needs,” Melo said. Before running for mayor in 2012, Haddad served as education minister under da Silva and his predecessor, President Dilma Rousseff.

He was confirmed as the replacement to da Silva on Tuesday after a meeting of his party’s executive committee in the southern city of Curitiba, where the former president is jailed for a corruption conviction. He will be joined on the ticket by Manuela D’Avila, a member of Brazil’s Communist Party.

Recent polls show Haddad with less than 10 percent of voter intentions, but the party hopes he will now rise with da Silva’s endorsement. The current poll leader is far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro.

A Datafolha poll published on Monday shows Haddad in fourth place, favored by 9 percent support. That was a rise of 5 percentage points in just a few weeks, but still behind Bolsonaro’s 24 percent, left-leaning Ciro Gomes’ 13 percent, centrist Marina Silva’s 11 percent and right-leaning Geraldo Alckmin’s 10 percent.

The poll had a margin of error of 2 percentage points. All the 2,804 voters sampled were interviewed on Monday, days after da Silva’s candidacy was barred by the electoral court and Bolsonaro was stabbed in an incident that might put him in hospital until election day.

The move to put Haddad on the top of the ticket was an acknowledgement that the left-leaning party could not get da Silva on the ballot despite numerous attempts in the courts. One of the last appeals of the former president was denied by Brazil’s top court after Haddad was announced as his replacement.

Haddad met with da Silva after the decision, then delivered his first speech as the candidate in front the federal police building where da Silva is jailed. “I feel the pain of many Brazilians who won’t be able to vote for who they want,” he said, standing next to D’Avila and other Workers’ Party heavyweights. “But now is not the time to have your head down.”

Da Silva is serving a 12-year sentence for trading favors with construction company Grupo OAS for the promise of a beachfront apartment. The former president has always denied wrongdoing, arguing this case and several others pending against him are meant to keep him off the ballot.

Da Silva led polls for more than a year, but his candidacy was recently barred by the country’s top electoral court. The strategy of holding on to da Silva’s candidacy until the last minute caused much internal fighting within the party. Many believed that leaving Haddad so little time to present his case to voters was risky, while others thought it was best to keep da Silva front and center as long as possible.

Since the beginning of the year the Workers’ Party hinted Haddad could be the candidate. When he was named candidate for vice president in mid-August the choice became obvious. “Haddad and I are like Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez,” da Silva once said, referring to superstar teammates on FC Barcelona’s soccer club. “We play together and we don’t even need to look at each other to know what the other is doing.”

Brazil race begins in earnest with da Silva off party ticket

September 11, 2018

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s Workers’ Party on Tuesday replaced jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as its candidate for October’s general election, clarifying one of the biggest question marks hanging over the vote to lead Latin America’s largest nation.

The party confirmed the move after a meeting of its executive committee in the southern city of Curitiba, where da Silva is jailed. Fernando Haddad, a former Sao Paulo mayor, will lead the ticket and be joined by Manuela D’Avila, a member of Brazil’s Communist Party.

The move, while long expected, was an acknowledgement that the party could not get da Silva, who Brazilians universally call Lula, on the ballot despite numerous attempts in the courts. “The struggle has just begun. Let’s go, Haddad! Haddad is Lula!” the Workers’ Party Twitter account said. “He was a Lula minister, he is a Lula attorney and best of all: he is a friend of Lula’s.”

The political science professor turned education minister and later politician met with da Silva Tuesday after the decision, then delivered his first speech as the candidate in front of hundreds of supporters in front the federal police building where da Silva is jailed.

“I feel the pain of many Brazilians who won’t be able to vote for who they want,” said Haddad, standing next to D’Avila and other Workers’ Party heavyweights. “But now is not the time to have your head down.”

Da Silva is serving a 12-year sentence for trading favors with construction company Grupo OAS for the promise of a beachfront apartment. The former president, who governed between 2003 and 2010, has always denied wrongdoing, arguing this case and several others pending against him are meant to keep him off the ballot.

Da Silva led polls for more than a year, but his candidacy was recently barred by the country’s top electoral court. The court gave the party until Tuesday to replace da Silva. In a lengthy letter distributed by the Workers’ Party, da Silva recounted what he called “lies and persecution” that he and his family had suffered and urged supporters to vote for Haddad.

“Today and going forward, Fernando Haddad will be Lula for millions of Brazilians,” wrote da Silva. The strategy of holding on to da Silva’s candidacy until the absolute last minute caused much internal fighting within the party. Many believed that leaving Haddad so little time to present his case to voters was risky, while others thought it was best to keep da Silva front and center as long as possible.

“Haddad and I are like Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez,” da Silva once said, referring to super star teammates on FC Barcelona’s soccer club. “We play together and we don’t even need to look at each other to know what the other is doing.”

Rival candidates have frequently taken shots at Haddad, attacking the centerpiece of the party’s strategy: his dependence on da Silva. Brazil will have “a little president” if Haddad is elected, said left-leaning candidate Ciro Gomes last month.

“The theater of the Workers’ Party is over,” right-leaning Geraldo Alckmin said Tuesday. Recent polls show Haddad far behind, but the party hopes he will now rise with da Silva’s endorsement. The current poll leader is far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro, consistently over 20 percent in a race that puts several candidates at around 10 percent.

Haddad was education minister under da Silva and his successor, Dilma Rousseff. In 2012 he was elected mayor of Sao Paulo, the most populous city in South America, but failed to get re-elected four years later.

A Datafolha poll published on Monday shows Haddad in fourth place, favored by 9 percent. That was a rise of five percentage points in just a few weeks, but still behind Bolsonaro’s 24, Gomes’ 13, centrist Marina Silva’s 11 and Alckmin’s 10 percent.

The poll had a margin of error of 2 percentage points. All the 2,804 voters sampled were interviewed on Monday, days after da Silva’s candidacy was barred by the electoral court and Bolsonaro was stabbed in an incident that might put him in hospital until election day.

If no candidate gets more than 50 percent on Oct. 7, a runoff will be held on Oct. 28. Political science professor Alberto Almeida, who has written several books on Brazilian polls, believes Haddad has a lot of potential to gain popularity, despite the little time for his campaign.

“By next week, it is possible that Haddad grows enough to see Marina and Ciro behind him. That was predictable because of Lula’s high support at around 40 percent in the polls,” Almeida said, adding: “The race is clearer now.”

After Rio museum fire, questions about cause, what survived

September 04, 2018

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Forensic investigators and researchers awaited access Tuesday to the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro, gutted in a fire, to find out how the blaze began and what remains of the 20 million artifacts that made the museum one of the most important in Latin America.

After a fire tore through the museum Sunday, engineers were doing tests on the structure to make sure it wouldn’t collapse. Authorities had expressed concern Monday that internal walls and parts of the roof were weak.

The museum held Latin America’s largest collection of historical and scientific artifacts, and officials suggested that the damage could be catastrophic, with one official telling a Brazilian news outlet that as much as 90 percent may have been destroyed.

The cause of the fire was not known. Federal police will investigate since the museum was part of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. But protesters, commentators and museum directors themselves said years of government neglect had left the museum so underfunded that its staff had turn to crowdfunding sites to open exhibitions. In another example of struggling public services, firefighters initially struggled to contain it because the hydrants closest to the museum did not work. Instead, trucks had to gather water from a nearby lake.

Roberto Leher, rector of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said it was well known that the building was vulnerable to fire and in need of extensive repairs. In fact, the institution had recently secured approval for nearly $5 million for a planned renovation, including an upgrade of the fire-prevention system, but the money had not yet been disbursed.

On Monday, officials promised $2.4 million to shore up the building and promised to rebuild the museum. “Those saying that the museum will be rebuilt are not telling the truth,” said Luiz Philippe de Orleans e Braganca, an heir to Brazil’s last emperor. “The building could be rebuilt, but the collection will never again be rebuilt. Two hundred years, workers, researchers, professors that dedicated in body and soul (to the museum) … the work of their life burned due to the negligence of the Brazilian state.”

The museum, whose main building was once home to the royal family, had extensive paleontological, anthropological and biological specimens. It also contained a skull called Luzia that was among the oldest fossils ever found in the Americas. It held an Egyptian mummy and the largest meteorite ever discovered in Brazil — one of the few objects that officials could confirm had survived. Some parts of the collection were held at others sites and thus spared.

Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte, the museum’s deputy director, said that anything held in the main building was likely destroyed, and Cristiana Serejo, a vice-director of the museum, told the G1 news portal that maybe around 10 percent of the collection had survived.

For many in Brazil, the state of the 200-year-old natural history museum quickly became a metaphor for what they see as the gutting of Brazilian culture and life during years of corruption, economic collapse and poor governance.

Brazil has struggled to emerge from a two-year recession and seen its political and corporate elite jailed in Latin America’s largest corruption investigation. The country has been riven with deep political divisions following the impeachment and removal of former President Dilma Rousseff.

DiLorenzo reported from Sao Paulo.

Brazil leftist party insists on banned candidate da Silva

September 02, 2018

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil’s main leftist party said Saturday it’s sticking with former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as its presidential candidate even though the electoral court has thrown him off the ballot for an election just five weeks away.

Da Silva’s vice presidential running mate, former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad told reporters the Workers Party will continue pushing to somehow get da Silva, 72, who easily leads in the polls, back on the ballot.

“The people are sovereign regarding the party’s candidate. And that candidate is Lula,” Haddad said. That strategy would keep da Silva in the spotlight until the absolute last minute, perhaps rallying support from backers that could then be transferred to a stand-in, likely Haddad, who is much less popular or charismatic.

The electoral court voted 6-1 early Saturday to reject da Silva’s candidacy because of a corruption conviction that has been upheld on appeal. Da Silva and the party are appealing both the conviction and the electoral court ruling.

The ruling had been widely expected and there were no immediate street protests of the sort that occurred when the former president was initially arrested. Da Silva, who was wildly popular when he left office on Jan. 1, 2011, is now a sharply polarizing figure. Many Brazilians still revere him for pulling millions from poverty during his eight years in power.

But he and the Workers’ Party have lost much of that appeal over the last several years due to a stumbling economy under his hand-picked successor Dilma Rousseff and a sprawling corruption probe that has ensnared many top businessmen and politicians, including da Silva.

That division was clear in the reaction to the electoral court ruling. “We have a big debt with Lula,” said Thiago Renato, a 39-year-old IT specialist in the northeastern city of Recife. “We trust him here. I will vote for whoever he endorses because then I will know who will have the biggest impact for the poor,” he added. “I know Haddad, but I don’t know him well. If he is the candidate, he will have my vote.”

At a Sao Paulo coffee shop, Alexandre Fonseca- 21 year old medical student, called the court decision an “unfortunate and fully expected ruling,” one unlikely to be overturned on appeal. “The party must unite behind Haddad or whoever will replace Lula, to win the elections and give continuity to his legacy,” he said.

But Virginia Toledo, a 37-year-old housewife in Sao Paulo, said da Silva’s ouster means “we have another reason to celebrate.” “First he was jailed and now his chances of returning to power have been eliminated,” she said, while buying ice cream for her 10-year-old daughter

“We have to pray that Haddad or whoever the Workers’ Party chooses as its candidate for president does not win the election,” she added The former president is serving a 12-year-sentence for corruption and money laundering after being convicted of trading favors with construction company Grupo OAS in exchange for the promise of a beach house apartment.

As part of the ruling, Justice Luis Roberto Barroso said the Workers’ Party should replace da Silva within 10 days, and that he should not appear as a presidential candidate in free airtime that is given to political parties on nationwide TV and radio.

However the party used the first day of free campaign TV airtime on Saturday to denounce the electoral court ruling in a spot that featured filed footage of da Silva. Left-leaning candidate Ciro Gomes of the Democratic Labor Party said the electoral court’s ruling was “not a good thing for Brazil.”

“No matter how much Lula is detested in some sectors and no matter how he is idolized in others, to prohibit the country’s biggest popular leader from taking part in the electoral process is traumatic.”

Lula da Silva barred from running for Brazil’s presidency

September 01, 2018

SAO PAULO (AP) — Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been barred from Brazil’s October presidential election by the country’s electoral court despite easily leading in the polls — a ruling that adds uncertainty to the race to lead Latin America’s largest nation, leaving no clear favorites.

In a session that stretched into the early hours of Saturday, the justices voted 6-1 against the once hugely popular president, who is imprisoned on a corruption conviction he claims is a sham. Da Silva’s left-leaning Workers’ Party issued a statement vowing to appeal, but there appeared to be scant chance it would succeed. That would seem to leave the party’s fortunes in the hands of its current vice presidential candidate Fernando Haddad, a former Sao Paulo mayor who so far has polled in single digits and would have to count on the borrowed charisma of da Silva to succeed.

Supreme Court Justice Luis Roberto Barroso cast the first vote against da Silva, saying the ruling was “very simple” because the law forbids candidates whose conviction has been upheld on appeal. “There is no margin here for the electoral court to make any other evaluation but the one showing there is a conviction, and that conviction matters in the candidate’s eligibility,” Barroso said.

Justice Edson Fachin disagreed, citing a recent call by a U.N. human rights committee calling for da Silva to be allowed to run while he further appeals his conviction. Even as the justices were debating, the Workers’ Party put out ads on social media channels featuring da Silva, holding fast to a strategy to keep the former president front and center as long as possible.

The former firebrand union leader led Brazil during a booming period from 2003 and 2010, promoting social policies that pulled millions from poverty. U.S. President Barack Obama once called him the “most popular politician on earth.”

But da Silva and party have lost much of that appeal over the last several years due to a stumbling economy under his hand-picked successor Dilma Rousseff and a sprawling corruption probe that has ensnared many top businessmen and politicians, including da Silva.

The 72-year-old ex-president is serving a 12-year-sentence for corruption and money laundering after being convicted of trading favors with construction company Grupo OAS in exchange for the promise of a beach house apartment.

Justice Barroso said the Workers’ Party should replace da Silva within 10 days, and that he should not appear as a presidential candidate in free airtime that is given to political parties on nationwide TV and radio starting on Saturday.

In a statement late Friday, the Workers’ Party said it would appeal the electoral court ruling, just as da Silva is fighting to overturn his corruption conviction. With da Silva out of the race, Haddad was expected to take his place on the Workers’ Party ticket. Polls show tepid support for his bid, but the party hopes da Silva’s popularity could boost the former mayor’s hopes.

On Saturday, Haddad was scheduled to visit Garanhuns, a city in Brazil’s impoverished Northeast where da Silva was born.

Brazil party names jailed leader as presidential nominee

August 05, 2018

SAO PAULO (AP) — The Workers’ Party in Brazil named jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Saturday as its nominee for the country’s top job in October’s election. Delegates of the left-leaning party confirmed da Silva, who served two terms as Brazil’s president between 2003 and 2010, with enthusiastic approval at a convention in Sao Paulo.

The former president is likely to be barred by Brazil’s electoral court, though. Since April, the former president has been jailed on a corruption conviction, but he denies any wrongdoing and claims he is being politically persecuted.

Da Silva leads polls for the office by a large margin, and surveys show voters would lend their support to another Workers’ Party candidate if he cannot participate. The party is not expected to name his running mate until Monday.

In a recorded message to the convention, da Silva said that “it is those that sentenced me that are jailed in a lie.” “Brazil needs to restore its democracy, find itself and be happy again,” he said. “They might lock me up, shut me up, but I will keep my faith in the Brazilian people.”

After his nomination was approved, another message written by da Silva was read aloud. “They already brought down a president that was elected and now they want to veto the right of the people to elect their next president. They want to invent a democracy without people,” he said.

Meanwhile, other candidates criticized da Silva and his party. “It pains my heart, but I don’t expect anything from them now,” said left-leaning presidential hopeful Ciro Gomes, of the Democratic Labor Party.

Conservative Geraldo Alckmin, who was named by the Social Democracy Party as its presidential nominee Saturday, cast blame for the country’s 13 million unemployed. “It was the lies and the radicalism that created the chain of events that is the tragic heritage of the Workers’ Party,” he said.

Workers’ Party chairwoman Gleisi Hoffmann, who is trying to lure other left-leaning parties to the ticket, addressed supporters at the convention after two fringe parties endorsed da Silva’s run. “They tried to exclude Lula from the political discussion,” she said. “There is no political discussion in Brazil without Lula and the Workers’ Party.”

Centrist Marina Silva was also nominated by the Rede party on Saturday. Polling third, Silva will bid for the presidency for a third time. But this time her campaign isn’t nearly as structured as in previous opportunies.

“We are here maybe in a much harder situation, but we trust that this time our position will beat the establishment,” she said at the convention of her Rede party.

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