On Friday Wikileaks published a number of cables revealing a Hillary Clinton transfixed by the spectacle of a woman almost exactly her age, Dilma Rousseff, in the process of becoming Brazil's first woman president and wanting to learn everything she could about how Rousseff did it.  --  Wikileaks revealed that in July 2009 Clinton wrote to praise the "U.S. Embassy Brasilia political section" for its "consistently thorough and timely reporting on domestic political issues in Brazil."[1]  --  Clinton particularly praised "valuable insights into the prospects for presumptive Workers' Party presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff."  --  Three months earlier, Clinton sent a similar set of congratulatory notes, praising analysts and implicitly asking for more of the same.[2]  --  Indeed, it seems Clinton couldn't get enough.  --  She told personnel in Brasilia:  "We especially value information on leaders' operating styles, demeanors, motivations, strengths and weaknesses, relationships with superiors, sensitivities, worldviews, hobbies, and foreign language proficiency."  --  (Interesting she should mention "relationships with superiors.")  --  In 2005, when Dilma Rousseff became President Lula's chief of staff, then U.S. Ambassador John Danilovich, a wealthy businessman, wrote a long cable stressing Rousseff's radical leftist past, pointing out that she is a former bank robber and was once known as the "Joan of Arc of Subversion" who was tortured by electro-shock for 22 days.[3]  --  But when Clinton became secretary of state that angle disappeared, and U.S. Ambassador Clifford M. Sobel was obviously catering to Clinton's interest when in June 2009 he explored at great length the possibility that Rousseff's lymphatic cancer might prevent her from running for and winning the presidency.[4]  --  The most recent Wikileaks cable from Brasilia, written early in 2010, shows U.S. Ambassador Thomas Shannon sending Clinton a breathless analysis of the presidential campaign[5] that would eventually see Dilma Rousseff win on Oct. 31 with 56% of a run-off vote....


1.

KUDOS FOR POLITICAL REPORTING

[By Secretary of State Hillary Clinton]

[July 24, 2009]

http://213.251.145.96/cable/2009/07/09STATE77662.html


VZCZCXYZ0020
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C O N F I D E N T I A L STATE 077662

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/24/2034
TAGS: PINR PGOV BR
SUBJECT: (U) KUDOS FOR POLITICAL REPORTING (C-AL9-01632)

REF: A. BRASILIA 000905
¶B. BRASILIA 000799
¶C. BRASILIA 000791

Classified By: MICHAEL P. OWENS, ACTING DIR, INR/OPS. REASON: 1.4(C).

¶1. (C/NF) KUDOS TO US EMBASSY BRASILIA POLITICAL SECTION FROM WASHINGTON ANALYSTS FOR CONSISTENTLY THOROUGH AND TIMELY REPORTING ON DOMESTIC POLITICAL ISSUES IN BRAZIL. REFTELS A-C ARE THE LATEST EXAMPLES OF REPORTING THAT WE HAVE USED AND WILL CONTINUE TO USE IN OUR ASSESSMENTS AS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS APPROACH. BRASILIA 000905 PROVIDED A SOLID PRIMER FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS NEXT OCTOBER; INSIGHTS WILL INFORM A FORTHCOMING ASSESSMENT TO ADDRESS POLICYMAKER INTEREST IN THE ELECTION OF PRESIDENT LULA'S SUCCESSOR. BRASILIA 000799 GAVE UNIQUE INSIGHT INTO THE CORRUPTION SCANDAL IN THE BRAZILIAN SENATE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS IN COUNTRY. BRASILIA 000791 PROVIDED VALUABLE INSIGHTS INTO THE PROSPECTS FOR PRESUMPTIVE WORKERS' PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE DILMA ROUSSEFF, WHICH WE WERE ABLE TO CITE IN HIGH-LEVEL BRIEFINGS AND WRITTEN PRODUCTION FOR POLICYMAKERS, INCLUDING THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY. SPECIAL THANKS TO POLITICAL OFFICER DALE PRINCE, WHOSE UNIQUE INSIGHTS INTO BRAZIL'S OFTENTIMES BYZANTINE POLITICAL SYSTEM HAVE PROVEN CENTRAL TO OUR ANALYSIS.

CLINTON

2.

KUDOS FOR BRAZIL REPORTING


[By Secretary of State Hillary Clinton]

[April 23, 2009]

http://213.251.145.96/cable/2009/04/09STATE41025.html


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RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 0268

C O N F I D E N T I A L STATE 041025

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/23/2034
TAGS: PINR PGOV PREL BR
SUBJECT: (U) KUDOS FOR BRAZIL REPORTING (C-AL9-00886)

REF: A. SAO PAULO 000090
¶B. SAO PAULO 000679
¶C. BRASILIA 000202
¶D. BRASILIA 000681
¶E. BRASILIA 000855
¶F. BRASILIA 00158
¶G. BRASILIA 000388
¶H. BRASILIA 000128

Classified By: SUZANNE MCCORMICK, DIR., INR/OPS. REASON: 1.4(C).

¶1. (C/NF) INR/B OFFICERS GREATLY APPRECIATE POST'S CABLES THAT CONTAIN IN-DEPTH PROFILES ON, AND THE POLITICAL STRATEGIES OF, LIKELY CONTENDERS IN THE 2010 PRESIDENTIAL RACE, PARTICULARLY THE STELLAR REPORTING ON SAO PAULO STATE GOVERNOR AND PRESIDENTIAL FRONTRUNNER JOSE SERRA, AS NOTED IN REFS A AND B.  THE INFORMATION AND ANALYSIS ALREADY HAVE BEEN USED IN BRIEFINGS AND BIOGRAPHIC PRODUCTS FOR KEY CUSTOMERS, AND WILL BE INCORPORATED INTO OTHER ANALYSES AS THE ELECTION NEARS.

¶2. (C/NF) INR/B OFFICERS HAVE BENEFITED FROM POST'S INCLUSION OF BIOGRAPHIC PARAGRAPHS ON ENVIRONMENT MINISTER CARLOS MINC AND ITAMARATY'S RECENTLY-APPOINTED POINT-PERSON ON CLIMATE CHANGE, VERA MACHADO, AS NOTED IN REFS C AND D.  THIS INFORMATION HELPS TO FILL BIOGRAPHIC GAPS ON KEY PLAYERS ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY -- A KEY BILATERAL ISSUE -- AND WILL BE INTEGRATED INTO PENDING BIOS FOR US OFFICIALS AND OTHER PRODUCTS.  BIOGRAPHIC OFFICERS COMMEND POST FOR ITS COMMITMENT TO INCLUDING THESE USEFUL PIECES OF INFORMATION IN CABLES WHENEVER POSSIBLE.  WE ESPECIALLY VALUE INFORMATION ON LEADERS' OPERATING STYLES, DEMEANORS, MOTIVATIONS, STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES, RELATIONSHIPS WITH SUPERIORS, SENSITIVITIES, WORLDVIEWS, HOBBIES, AND FOREIGN LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY.

¶3. (C/NF) INR/B OFFICERS HAVE ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS INCLUDED INFORMATION IN BIOS AND OTHER PRODUCTS FROM POST'S IN-DEPTH REPORTING ON CORRUPTION CASES, AS NOTED IN REF E.  BIOGRAPHIC OFFICERS WOULD WELCOME FRESH UPDATES, PARTICULARLY AS THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION NEARS, AS SCANDALS RISK UNDERMINING CANDIDATES' CAMPAIGNS.

¶4. (C/NF) INR/B OFFICERS HAVE WELCOMED REPORTING THAT ADDRESSES INTERACTIONS INVOLVING, AND CLEAVAGES BETWEEN, BRAZILIAN LEADERS ON KEY ECONOMIC, FOREIGN POLICY, AND POLITICAL ISSUES.  MUCH OF THIS REPORTING PROVIDES INSIGHTS INTO POSSIBLE OPPORTUNITIES FOR US OFFICIALS TO IDENTIFY FAVORABLE INTERLOCUTORS (OR OBSTACLES) TO US OBJECTIVES ON PRIORITY ISSUES, SUCH AS ENERGY AND TRADE/PROTECTIONISM, AS NOTED IN REFS F AND H.  BIOGRAPHIC OFFICERS WOULD APPRECIATE FURTHER REPORTING ON DIVISIONS INSIDE PRESIDENT LULA'S ECONOMIC INNER CIRCLE ON POLICIES AIMED AT TACKLING BRAZIL'S ECONOMIC WOES -- PARTICULARLY THOSE THAT WOULD AFFECT MULTILATERAL AND US-BRAZIL TRADE POLICIES.  WE WOULD ALSO WELCOME INFORMATION ON THE RELATIVE INFLUENCE OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS, THEIR NEGOTIATING STYLES, AND THEIR LEVELS AND BREADTH OF AUTHORITY.

¶5. (C/NF) INR/B OFFICERS APPRECIATE REPORTING THAT IDENTIFIES KEY POLICIES THAT ORIGINATE IN PLANALTO PALACE RATHER THAN IN TRADITIONALLY-POWERFUL MINISTRIES, SUCH AS THE FOREIGN MINISTRY, AS NOTED IN REF G.  BIOGRAPHIC OFFICERS WOULD WELCOME ADDITIONAL DETAILS ON THE IDENTITIES OF PLANALTO OFFICIALS BEHIND SPECIFIED INITIATIVES, AS SUCH INFORMATION HELPS THEM TO ASSESS THE INFLUENCE, WORLDVIEWS, AND POLICY STANCES OF KEY LEADERS.  MANY THANKS AGAIN, AND REGARDS FROM WASHINGTON.

CLINTON

3.

LULA'S RIGHT-HAND WOMAN -- DILMA ROUSSEFF BECOMES CHIEF OF STAFF

[By John J. Danilovich]

[June 22, 2005]

http://213.251.145.96/cable/2005/06/05BRASILIA1660.html


This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRASILIA 001660

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL ECON BR
SUBJECT: LULA'S RIGHT-HAND WOMAN -- DILMA ROUSSEFF BECOMES CHIEF OF STAFF

REF:  BRASILIA 1631

¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY.  On June 21, Brazilian President Lula da Silva named Minister of Mines and Energy Dilma Rousseff to be his new Chief of Staff, replacing Jose Dirceu, who resigned last week amid an unfolding corruption scandal.  Rousseff was an opposition militant who was jailed and tortured by Brazil's military regime.  She earned degrees in economics and spent years in senior posts in city and state governments in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.  Rousseff joined Lula's Workers' Party in 2001 and worked on Lula's 2002 transition team.  She is a blunt and demanding manager who will seek to improve the administration's policy implementation.  She will be far less of a political lightning rod than Dirceu, more focused on pushing the bureaucracy than political infighting.  More cabinet moves are expected in the coming days, with the allied PMDB party likely to get a larger role in the administration. END SUMMARY.

"JOAN OF ARC OF SUBVERSION" BECOMES CHIEF OF STAFF --------------------------------------------- -----

¶2. (SBU) On July 21, President Lula named Mines & Energy Minister Dilma Rousseff, 57, as his new Chief of Staff ("Minister-Chief of the Civilian Household").  She replaces Jose Dirceu, who stepped down last week because of an ongoing corruption scandal (reftel).  Dirceu was deeply involved in all the administration's political strategies, but Rousseff announced at her swearing-in ceremony that she intends to focus more on moving the administration's policy agenda forward.  She noted that -- contrary to press assessments -- this does not mean she is a technocrat.  "This is not a technical job, but a political one", she announced, "Political in the best sense of the word. I am no longer an executor (at the Ministry of Mines and Energy) but a facilitator of the projects of my cabinet colleagues."

¶3. (SBU) Dilma Vana Rousseff Linhares was born 14 December 1947 in the state of Minas Gerais.  Her father was a Bulgarian attorney who had naturalized Brazilian citizenship.  She became actively involved in opposition to the military dictatorship in 1967, at age 19, while studying economics in Minas Gerais.  Joining various underground groups, she organized three bank robberies and then co-founded the guerilla group "Armed Revolutionary Vanguard of Palmares."  In 1969, she planned a legendary robbery popularized as the "Theft of Adhemar's Safe."  The operation broke into the Rio apartment of the lover of former-Sao Paulo Governor Adhemar de Barros, netting US$2.5 million that Adhemar had stashed there.  Rousseff separated from her first husband, Claudio Linhares, who in January 1970 hijacked a plane to Cuba and remained there.  That same month, she was captured by the regime and jailed for over three years (the prosecutor called her "the Joan of Arc of Subversion"), including 22 days of brutal electro-shock torture.

¶4. (SBU) Freed in late 1973, Rousseff moved to the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.  When her rights were restored by the 1979 general amnesty, she joined the PDT party of leftist leader Leonel Brizola, serving in various city and state positions:  Secretary of Finance of the city of Porto Alegre (1986-1988); President of the Economy and Statistics Foundation of the state of Rio Grande do Sul (1991-1993); State Secretary of Energy, Mines and Communications (1993-1994).  She served again as State Secretary of Mines under Workers' Party (PT) Governor Olivio Dutra (1999-2002), and switched to the PT in 2001.  She was a key member of Lula's transition team in the weeks before he took office in January 2003, and Lula named her Minister of Mines & Energy days after his inauguration.

¶5. (SBU) Rousseff has a Masters degree in economic theory from the University of Campinas and an uncompleted doctorate in economics.  In 1992, she participated in an International Visitor program in the U.S.  She is now separated from her second husband (who was also an opposition militant).  She has a daughter, Paula, in Porto Alegre, where she spends her weekends.  She enjoys movies and classical music.  She has lost weight recently, reportedly after adopting President Lula's diet.

NO-NONSENSE STYLE -----------------

¶6. (SBU) With her technical background and no-nonsense style, Rousseff has earned grudging respect from the energy sector.  While U.S. companies were initially wary when she was appointed Energy Minister, they now admit that she has done a competent job.  In particular, they praise her for her willingness to listen and respond to their views, even when she is inclined to a different conclusion.  She has a reputation as being stubborn, a tough negotiator, and detail-oriented.  Adjectives used here by those who know her include "demanding" and "workaholic."  Her greatest accomplishment as Minister has been the development of Brazil's new "Electricity Sector Model," which seeks to reduce consumer prices by establishing long-term supply contracts between generators and distributors.  Other programs developed during her tenure include "Lights for Everyone" and a focus on biodiesel development.  Unlike Jose Dirceu, Rousseff never held elective office and her contacts in Congress are limited, which suggests the administration's political coordination will be handled by others.  The press notes that Lula hopes she will produce a "management shock" within the administration, which -- because of managerial inefficiencies, bureaucratic gridlock, and most recently because of the raft of corruption scandals -- finds its agenda treading water.

¶7. (SBU) Some in Congress complain that Rousseff does not understand party politics.  In April, the Senate rejected her nominee to head the national oil agency in retaliation for her opposition to a nominee from the allied PMDB party to head a subsidiary of Eletrobras, the state-owned electricity company.  (Rousseff instead opted to give the position to Adhemar Palocci, brother of FinMin Antonio Palocci.)  Her senior advisors tell us that she sometimes disregards hierarchy, directly tasking technical employees, bypassing their supervisors.  In addition, they note, her event horizon at the Ministry has been no more than two to three weeks in the future, thus making long (or even medium) term planning difficult.

COMMENT: MAKING ROOM FOR THE PMDB ---------------------------------

8.(SBU) The large allied PMDB party is likely to get a higher profile in the Lula administration as the cabinet shuffle continues to unfold in the coming days.  One rumor has Rousseff being replaced at Mines & Energy by Silas Rondeau, currently the president of Eletrobras, whose political sponsor is influential PMDB Senator Jose Sarney.  As for Lula's office, with Rousseff as Chief of Staff, it is unclear what will happen with the separate cabinet-level position of Political Coordinator.  The incumbent, Aldo Rebelo, has not been successful in pushing the administration's agenda in Congress or unifying the fractious coalition.  He is expected to step down and return to his congressional seat.  Thus, Lula may either replace Rebelo or fold his duties into another office, such as that of Economic and Social Development Secretary Jaques Wagner.

DANILOVICH

4,

HOW SICK IS DILMA ROUSSEFF?

[By U.S. Ambassador Clifford M. Sobel]

[June 19, 2009]

 

http://213.251.145.96/cable/2009/06/09BRASILIA791.html

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RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 4244
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BRASILIA 000791

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2019
TAGS: PGOV BR
SUBJECT: HOW SICK IS DILMA ROUSSEFF?

Classified By: Acting DCM Marie Damour, reasons 1.4 b and d.

¶1. (C) Summary.  Dilma Rousseff, President Lula's choice to succeed him as president in January 2011, cast doubt over her viability as a presidential candidate when doctors discovered in March that she has lymphatic cancer.  Observers say the Presidential Palace is being transparent about her condition and she will be able to run for president next year.  With no good alternative PT candidate in sight, the PT stands to lose the election should Rousseff withdraw.  Some believe her illness provides an opening for President Lula to seek a third consecutive term, despite his repeated avowals not to.  Dilma looks well and if she can continue to look like a fighter and winner, it could help her win the election in October 2010.  End summary.

¶2. (C) Dilma Rousseff, minister-chief of the civilian household and President Lula's top aide on domestic policy, was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in March.  Her doctors stated that her cancer was caught early and she has a 90 percent chance of a full recovery.  She had lymph nodes under her left arm removed and began what was originally scheduled as a four month program of chemotherapy in April.  In late May, she was briefly hospitalized on an emergency basis with pain in her legs, which was later attributed to an abrupt cessation of medication associated with the chemotherapy.  Doctors said in the future she will taper off those drugs to avoid a recurrence.  In the meantime, Rousseff said she would cut back on her schedule.  By early June she had completed three chemotherapy sessions.  In a June 18 meeting with a Washington visitor (septel), Rousseff looked well with good natural color and light make-up, and a top aide told the Ambassador that Rousseff was responding so well to chemotherapy that her sessions would be reduced from six to four, ending in late June.

¶3. (C) Journalists, analysts, and politicians tend to agree that the Presidential Palace is not hiding information related to her illness and is trying to be as transparent as possible but might be overly optimistic about her prognosis.  Still, her illness has provoked speculation about who might replace her as the Workers' Party candidate in 2010 should she be too sick to run.

¶4. (C) Senator Tiao Viana (PT, of Acre), who is a physician, told poloff on June 9 that Dilma's illness is exactly what the GOB says it is:  a case of lymphatic cancer caught early with a 90 percent chance of being fully cured.  Viana also said that when her chemotherapy program is finished she should be considered cancer-free for five years.  She will be able to campaign without restriction and should be fit enough for all the exertions that a national campaign will require, he said.  Possible scenarios

¶5. (C) Several possible scenarios could emerge from Dilma's cancer.  In one scenario, she and the PT inner circle might already know that she is much sicker than publicly revealed and too sick to be the candidate.  In another, she might be well enough now to become the candidate but later be weakened by the illness and unable to campaign effectively.  Another scenario, in harmony with the public statements by the GOB and Rousseff's doctors, is that she will respond well to chemotherapy and her cancer can be considered cured, or at least in remission.

¶6. (C) The first scenario seems less likely, since the PT gains no advantage by waiting to select and groom another candidate only 14 months before the election.  In the absence of another strong contender, the longer the party waits to put forth another candidate, the harder it becomes to build him or her up and gain national name recognition.  If Rousseff were too sick to run successfully, Lula and his inner circle would quickly move to put forth a viable alternative, although PT choices may be limited.  Without an alternative within the PT, Lula would choose to delay replacing Rousseff if her recovery is slower than expected.

¶7. (C) The second scenario poses the greatest danger to the PT's desire to retain the presidency, and if chemotherapy is successful this scenario will not occur.  But given the estimates that Rousseff's lymphoma has a 90 percent chance of  being cured now, there is still a ten percent chance that Rousseff will face this scenario, and it would probably mean the loss of the presidency for the Workers' Party in 2010.  Nonetheless, Lula and the PT may be choosing to believe the most optimistic prognosis when the reality could be a range of possibilities, with the 90/10 prognosis at the sunny end.

¶8. (C) The third scenario seems the most likely. Again, using the medical estimates, assuming the doctors are both correct and honest in their public statements, there is a 90% chance the cancer will be cured and Rousseff will be physically able to mount a strong campaign.  Some analysts have noted that a "victory" over cancer will play in her favor and foster an image of her as a fighter and winner.  Conversely, if she looks weak and defeated next year, voter support will flag.  On June 18, poloff spoke with Paulo Delgado, a former five-term federal deputy for the PT (1987-2007), now a political consultant with the Federation of Industries of Sao Paulo (FIESP) and a monthly guest columnist for national daily O Globo.  He suspects the presidential palace is uncertain about her condition but hopes she will be well enough to go the distance.  Rousseff will have plenty of time to recover from the effects of chemotherapy before the October 2010 elections. In the wings

¶9. (C) What if Rousseff is no longer a viable candidate?  Senator Viana said the most likely alternatives are Federal Deputy Antonio Palocci, the former finance minister who resigned in a scandal, and Gilberto Carvalho, the president's chief of staff.  The Supreme Court is to decide this month whether to allow federal prosecutors to bring a case against Palocci in the Supreme Court. In this case, he would not be a viable candidate unless acquitted after trial, which could take a long time.  Carvalho is not nationally known, and the PT would face an uphill battle to build name recognition. In his current portfolio he lacks a vehicle to put him before the public, unlike Rousseff, who as the "mother of the PAC," (the Accelerated Growth Program, a massive public works program) is regularly seen in a leading role at public works inaugurations.  Other than Carvalho and Palocci, there are no obvious alternatives from within the Workers' Party.  Although there are five governors from the PT, none is now widely viewed as presidential material, and PT members of congress would all be very dark horses starting from the back of the pack.  Occasionally the name of Patrus Ananias, the minister for Social Development and the Combat against Hunger, is mentioned. Like Carvalho, he is not well-known, but has the advantage of administering the Bolsa Familia (Family Stipend) program, the flagship social program of the Lula administration with national name recognition. Governor Neves to the rescue?

¶10. (C) The wild card in everyone's calculations is Governor Aecio Neves (PSDB, opposition), of Minas Gerais. Speculation about Neves's presidential ambitions has long been rife, often focusing on a possible switch to the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB, a non-ideological party in the government coalition).  Delgado said another scenario is more likely: should Rousseff not be able to run, Neves could move to the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) or the Green Party (PV) and run with the support of the Workers' Party.  Neves has been careful to maintain good relations with Lula and the PT, and PT support for his candidacy is plausible, especially to beat Sao Paulo Governor Jose Serra (PSDB), who now has an edge over all other possible candidates in early polls.  However, there is also speculation that Neves has an arrangement with Serra to support Serra's candidacy in 2010 in return for becoming Serra's choice as his successor.  If Neves is to run for president for a different party, he must resign from the governorship by early October because he cannot switch parties less than a year before the election, and were he to switch without resigning, the PSDB would sue to reclaim the governor's seat and remove him office.  President Lula to the rescue?

¶11. (C) There is always speculation about a third consecutive term for Lula, which would require a constitutional amendment.  President Lula has repeatedly (and convincingly) stated publicly that he is against it. Nonetheless, there is considerable mistrust of Lula and the PT on this subject, even among allied parties. Federal Deputy George Hilton (Progressive Party - PP, of Minas Gerais) told poloff on June 17 that he believes Rousseff's illness could be worse than publicly admitted but the Presidential Palace and/or the PT are maintaining her candidacy so that later this year they could drop her and, with no alternative in sight, force Lula to change his mind, let Congress amend the Constitution, and have him run for a third term.  (Comment: This scenario is highly implausible, but this and similar lines of thinking will always find followers among those who do not trust Lula and the PT.  End comment.)  Delgado pointed out that Lula has never categorically closed the door to running for a third term and one should not rule out such a turn of events.

¶12. (C) Comment.  When Rousseff's illness was first made public, the Lula government rushed to give optimistic predictions for Rousseff's health when it was too early for a reliable prognosis.  This indicates some wishful thinking on the part of Lula and top government figures.  Rousseff's illness has also exposed a vulnerability in the PT that it did not have only a few years ago, when it could point to several star-power governors and congressmen.  Those stars for one reasons or another have now faded, and the party has adopted Dilma Rousseff, the choice of Lula, its senior leader, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health.  If she is sicker than publicly stated, and cannot effectively campaign and be elected Lula's successor, Lula is making a colossal gamble that will be increasingly harder to unmake as time passes.  But by all appearances, Dilma is doing well, and a winning and healthy appearance could help her to close the gap in polls with Serra and contest the election in October 2010. 

SOBEL

5.

BRAZIL'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: DILMA ROUSSEFF COMES UP FAST BEHIND JOSE SERRA

[By U.S. Ambassador Thomas Shannon]

[February 13, 2010]

http://213.251.145.96/cable/2010/02/10BRASILIA49.html


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C O N F I D E N T I A L BRASILIA 000049

SIPDIS
AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PASS TO AMCONSUL RECIFE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/13
TAGS: PGOV BR
SUBJECT: BRAZIL'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: DILMA ROUSSEFF COMES UP FAST BEHIND JOSE SERRA REF: RIO DE JANEIRO 32
CLASSIFIED BY: Lisa Kubiske, Deputy Chief of Mission, State, Embassy Brasilia; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

¶1. (C) Summary. Late January polling indicates that likely Workers' Party (PT) presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff, President Lula's chosen successor, has closed much of the gap with front-running opposition Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) candidate Jose Serra, and now trails by less than ten points in a two-way race for October's election.  The narrowing of the race was widely expected; the campaign now enters a zone where predictions are more difficult, as both Rousseff and Serra struggle to overcome public perceptions that have limited their respective voter preference ratings.  Some observers see the latest polls as giving her an advantage, while others attribute the surge to hard campaigning by President Lula and suggest that his star power will not be sufficient to maintain the momentum once the intense glare of campaign TV reveals weaknesses in Rousseff's candidacy.  Rousseff's rise has increased pressure on Serra to announce his candidacy and on Minas Gerais Governor Aecio Neves to accept a slot as Serra's VP running mate.  Meanwhile, PT and its primary coalition partner the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) continue to argue about which party gets to run for which state and congressional races, excluding and alienating smaller coalition parties to the extent that PSDB may be able to recruit new allies from within coalition ranks.  End summary. 

STATE OF PLAY: AN EXPECTED RISE, A LONG WAY TO GO


¶2. (C) Two late January national polls -- Vox Populi and CNT -- yielded very similar results, indicating a slight decline in preference for Serra and a significant rise for Rousseff.  The Vox Populi poll shows Serra beating Rousseff 34 to 27 percent with Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) candidate Ciro Gomes included in the race, and 38 to 29 percent without him.  In both categories, this represented a nearly 15-point net gain for Rousseff from December.  CNT shows that Serra leading Rousseff by a slim 33 to 28 percent in a race with Gomes included, and a much wider 41 to 29 percent lead without him.  In both polls Gomes slipped from the previous month's poll, falling from 17 to 11 percent, while Green Party (PV) candidate Marina Silva maintains ratings in the high single digits.  Gomes is pulling slightly more votes from Serra than from Rousseff, while Silva's vote comes entirely at Rousseff's expense.

¶3. (C) These outcomes were not unexpected.  As Sen. Sergio Zambiasi (Brazilian Labor Party (PTB)-Rio Grande do Sul) joked to poloff on February 2 about the polls, "Maybe the only surprise is that (Rousseff's rise) happened exactly when everybody thought."  Lula's aggressive presentation of Rousseff as the centerpiece of domestic legislation (including pre-salt oil) and international negotiations (Copenhagen) has managed to boost her name recognition, in the process bringing home much of PT's natural electoral base.  PT contacts are encouraged and confident but they also recognize that Rousseff's rise is only an early step in the process.  Candido Vaccarezza (PT-Sao Paulo), leader of the governing coalition in the Chamber of Deputies, acknowledged to poloff that, due to Lula's strong advocacy, most of the low-hanging electoral fruit has already been picked for Rousseff.  The challenge, he said, will be to get her to 40 percent -- which he acknowledged would take some work.  (Vaccarezza strongly supports Ciro Gomes as a third-party candidate in order to lower the threshold for Rousseff.)

ROUSSEFF:  THE START OF SOMETHING BIG OR THE BEST SHE'LL GET?


¶4. (C) Dilma Rousseff's rise in the polls creates a positive narrative for her heading into PT's national congress, to be held in late February, where she is widely expected to announce her candidacy officially.  Third-party observers offered divided opinion about how much higher Rousseff can rise from here.  Two competing Brasilia-based analysts told us in the past week that the race now tips toward Rousseff, because the economy will continue to be strong and because at this point, she only needs the support of a small fraction of the 80 percent of the electorate who approve Lula's performance.  Humberto Saccomandi, International News Editor of *Valor Economico* and political analyst Rafael Cortez of *Tendencia Consultoria* told Consulate General Sao Paulo much the same.  Most of these analysts added, however, that Rousseff repels many with her uncharismatic performance on television and she still has to prove she can hold her own in debates and public appearances.

¶5. (C)  Rousseff's harshest critics most often emphasize that television and public speaking will kill her candidacy.  Journalist William Waack described to CG Sao Paulo a recent business forum in which Serra, Rousseff, Neves and Gomes all participated.  According to Waack, Gomes was the strongest overall, Neves the most charismatic, Serra detached but clearly competent, and Rousseff the least coherent.  Other critics take a more subtle tack, arguing somewhat counterintuitively that Brazil's desire for continuity after years of progress and prosperity actually benefits Serra, because he is seen by many as more likely to follow the economic path laid out by Cardoso and followed by Lula.  Helio Gurovitz, News Director at *Epoca* magazine, described Brazil as similar to Chile, arguing that the social base of the country has developed to the extent that it would prefer to alternate parties in power in order to retain continuity, rather than keep one party in power long-term, thereby facilitating a hard shift to that party's side of the political spectrum.  Others just see her as the wrong candidate at the wrong time.  The Chiefs of Staff for Senators Osmar Dias (Democratic Labor Party (PDT)-Parana) and Alvaro Dias (PSDB-Parana) -- who are brothers representing the same state but opposite sides of the political fence -- met poloff together on February 5 and were united on one point:  Rousseff will suffer among reachable voters because she is clearly not Lula.

¶6. (C) If Rousseff's personal lack of charisma were not enough of a worry, PT also is having problems keeping PMDB, its primary coalition partner and the largest party in Brazil, happy in the state-level races, which may have adverse effects on Rousseff's campaign.  PMDB has already committed itself to support Serra in Sao Paulo, the country's largest block of votes by far.  PT-PMDB infighting also continues over which candidates to support in many other gubernatorial and legislative races, without signs of resolution in virtually every major state, including Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Pernambuco, Parana, and Rio Grande do Sul.  PT may have little choice other than to resolve most of these impasses by supporting PMDB candidates, leaving little space to support aspirants from smaller coalition parties. Sen. Zambiasi, whose PTB is one of those smaller parties, confirmed to poloff that his party, among others, has been offered very little from PT to stick with Rousseff in the 2010 campaign.  While declaring himself a Lula supporter (he spoke diplomatically of Rousseff, who is from his home state), Zambiasi more-or-less confirmed local rumors that PTB is strongly leaning toward backing Serra, bringing the party's advertising time with them.  He added that no decision would be made during the upcoming legislative session, adding that PTB is in no hurry to be "the first to jump off the roof."

PRESSURE GROWS FOR SERRA AND NEVES TO DECLARE


¶7. (C) Serra meantime has maintained a relatively low national profile while PSDB surrogates such as ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Senator Sergio Guerra draw headlines for sniping with President Lula and the government.  Rousseff's rise has set off another round of speculation that Serra may decide to withdraw from the presidential race and run again for Governor of Sao Paulo. Presidential International Relations Advisor Marco Aurelio Garcia suggested as much in a February 8 meeting with the Ambassador, as has virtually every PT elected official in meetings with embassy officers over the past few months.  While PT has an interest in pushing this line, it also comes from third-party sources and from Sao Paulo, including Valor Economico's Saccomandi.  Others, including senior Sao Paulo-based PSDB contacts such as Mayor Kassab's Chief of Staff Clovis Carvalho and PSDB State Party President and Federal Deputy Antonio Carlos Mendes Thame, have told CG Sao Paulo officers that Serra will run. At this point, Serra is still not expected to announce his candidacy until March.

¶8. (C) Media speculation continues on the possibility of Minas Gerais Governor Aecio Neves joining the PSDB ticket as VP.  Rio de Janeiro's O Globo reported recently that Neves is finding the pressure unhelpful in political management of his own state, where Neves is trying to shore up other state PSDB candidates, and where he continues to avow that he plans to run for Senate.  Two PSDB staff sources in the Federal Senate also told poloff that Rousseff's rise is ratcheting up the pressure on Governor Aecio Neves to accept a slot as Serra's vice -- a position Neves has previously indicated he does not want (reftel).  Both see an Aecio vice-presidential nomination as an opportunity to regain momentum in the race, a vote-winner in Minas and surrounding states, and as the best possible vice presidential option in the quest to attract smaller parties from the governing coalition to PSDB's side.  Interestingly, neither PSDB source considered himself a Neves fan. Both considered him to be more image than substance, easy for PT to attack for his lifestyle, and a poor potential substitute for Serra at the front of a presidential ticket.  Former Cardoso Finance Minister and PSDB senior figure Pedro Malan told Rio Principal Officer February 5 that, while he believes Neves as VP candidate would strongly boost the PSDB's prospects for victory, it is now unclear to Malan whether Neves will ultimately take the decision to join Serra's ticket.  "The calculus he has to make in terms of maintaining his influence and prestige in Minas Gerais over the long term and this upcoming election is more complex than some think," Malan said.  As for Neves himself, it appears he hasn't entirely shut out the VP option: he told Rio Principal Officer on February 10 that, "Sometimes you have to give time to time-let's wait and see how things develop."

COMMENT: THE RACE IS ABOUT TO BEGIN

¶9. (C) After months revving their engines, Brazil's two most likely presidential contenders are poised at the starting line, both standing at poll positions most analysts anticipated for them at this point. Rousseff's expected official announcement, planned for shortly after Carnaval (approximately February 20), will lead to yet another round of speculation on Serra's plans until the moment when Serra finally announces (or doesn't) in March, marking the de-facto start of the campaign.  The race from that point forward becomes very difficult to predict, both because of measurable "x factors" such as the candidacies of Ciro Gomes and Marina Silva, and because of variables almost impossible to predict -- such as the impact of Serra's as-of-yet-undefined campaign strategy or whether the PT's difficulties in holding its coalition together in state and congressional races will have any real effect on voter choices in October's presidential contest.  At this point, assuming that Serra runs, Brazil's presidential race is the definition of a toss-up. End comment.

¶10. (U) This cable was coordinated with Consulates General Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

SHANNON