Presidential election: continuity for Rio de Janeiro; challenges remain

Unbeatable pattern, so far

All social change in Brazil has occurred under pressure, gradually and late. This is why, despite the fact that José Serra’s PSDB has greatly benefited the country’s excluded population, his arguments and promises are less convincing than those of Lula’s candidate, Dilma Rousseff. It’s very likely she’ll win on October 31.

This will be good news for Rio de Janeiro, since recently reelected governor Sérgio Cabral and his party, the PMDB, are strong PT allies. Dilma’s vice-presidential candidate, Michel Temer, is also a PMDB member.

Brazilian politics count ever more heavily on this kind of alliance. For Rio, the question on Nov. 1 will be if the PT-PMDB marriage will last beyond the honeymoon.

Rio de Janeiro governor Sérgio Cabral was re-elected Oct. 3 by a record 66% percent of valid votes, demonstrating massive support for his public safety program, based on the UPPs, the Police Pacification Units that have been set up in 12 favelas so far. Cabral promised to expand the program and to continue to give it top priority. He is expected to continue to work hand in hand with current mayor Eduardo Paes, as municipal elections will take place only in 2012. The state government has also been closely allied with the federal government, where the presidency is still up for grabs since no one candidate got more than 50% of the vote and a second round of voting will be held Oct. 31. Cabral supports Workers’ Party candidate Dilma Rousseff, but observers at an Oct.4 OsteRio panel to analyze election results concurred that in the case of an opposition win by PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party) presidential candidate José Serra, harmony will still reign. “Cabral talks to Serra every day,” said newly elected state legislator Aspásia Camargo, of the Green Party. Analysts, who included political scientists Fabiano Santos e Ricardo Ismael, said that the somewhat changed makeup of the state legislature won’t affect Cabral’s policies, since he enacted most major reforms in his first term, with a docile assembly.

Easier said than done

Those present at the panel admired Cabral’s political capability; Rio’s politics are such that governors must capture both the “popular” (i.e. those vulnerable to populists such as former governor Anthony Garotinho) and the middle and upper class vote. No one could recall a public safety secretary who had stayed in office an entire term, as has been the case with the much-lauded José Mariano Beltrame– who will stay on for Cabral’s second term.

Success for Cabral’s public safety policy depends on a great deal more than politics, of course. In Portuguese there’s a saying about people who make all kinds of plans and then “forget to let the Russians know”; in this case the “Russians” are the drug traffickers and paramilitary groups who must still be fully wiped off the carioca map– and most likely off that of neighboring contiguous cities as well, such as São Gonçalo, Niterói and Duque de Caxias. Also the social UPPs must follow close on the police “pacification”, with jobs and health clinics and land titles and so much else.

And the areas of health and education need attention in the state of Rio. Cabral said this week that these areas will receive greater investment than in his first term, as will transportation and infrastructure. Tuesday, Cabral announced the name of his new education secretary, economist Wilson Risolia, whose profile indicates a focus on adminstrative improvements. The state also authorized the temporary hiring of 1,600 teachers this week, just months before the end of the Brazilian school year in December.

Cabral also said that his political career will end in 2014– believe it or not.

About Rio real

American journalist, writer, editor who's lived in Rio de Janeiro for 20 years.
This entry was posted in Transformation of Rio de Janeiro / Transformação do Rio de Janeiro and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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