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2005-10-06 17:26:00
Consulate Rio De Janeiro
Cable title:  

Garotinho: President-in-Waiting or Political Exile?

Tags:   PGOV  KCOR  BR 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Garotinho: President-in-Waiting or Political Exile?



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Garotinho: President-in-Waiting or Political Exile?

1. Summary. Despite a series of polls and articles
discussing the presidential chances of Rio de Janeiro's
popular and populist ex-governor Anthony Garotinho, the issue
of whether he is even eligible to run will not be decided for
several days. Even if the electoral courts choose not to
revoke his political rights because of irregular practices in
last year's municipal elections, however, Garotinho's chances
to be Brazil's next president will be hurt the longer the
ongoing corruption scandal continues.

Will he run at all?

2. Several recent articles in major Brazilian newspapers have
discussed the presidential candidacy of Rio de Janeiro's
popular ex-governor Anthony Garotinho (usually in negative
terms). A recent poll by the polling group IBOPE also showed
Garotinho with the largest percentage of first round votes in
an election without President Lula and in third place if Lula
should run.

3. Yet despite the heated discussion of his potential
candidacy, it is not clear whether Garotinho will be able to
run for president, as his eligibility to hold political
office is the subject of a case before the Regional Electoral
Tribunal (TRE) related to electoral violations in last year's
municipal elections. If the TRE decides to uphold an earlier
suspension of Garotinho's political rights, his campaign may
die before it even begins. A decision is expected early in
October, and if it goes against Garotinho it will probably be
appealed to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE). Several
other politicians accused of similar crimes recently had
their political rights suspended by the same TRE, including
the mayor of the city of Campos, a Garotinho stronghold.

If he runs, will it matter?

4. Even if Garotinho is able to run, it is not certain that
he will be a powerful candidate come 2006, because the
ongoing corruption scandal is slowly damaging his candidacy
in several ways.

- While the scandal has weakened President Lula's position
substantially, anticorruption is not a strong plank in
Garotinho's platform given his own dubious record and the
fact that his base of power is in Rio de Janeiro, where
corruption and politics are almost synonyms. The longer
public attention is focused on corruption, the worse
Garotinho's chances will be as the public looks for more
respectable candidates. Garotinho's own PMDB party has been
reluctant to endorse his candidacy, and has reportedly
approached several other potential candidates.

- The scandal is also drawing the spotlight to other
political actors and events. A recent Globo article on
Garotinho's growing nationwide network of evangelical radio
stations was buried deep in the back, while the front page
featured a report on the almost celebrity-like fame of the
investigation committee members. Garotinho has done an
admirable job of keeping his name in the news despite the
scandal, but with limited political coverage to go around his
lack of any prominent role in the scandal may hurt his

- If the economy continues to perform well and the public
tires of the seemingly endless investigations, Lula may yet
emerge as a viable candidate for the 2006 elections. As
Garotinho and Lula draw their support from the same populist
base, another Lula candidacy would probably spell the end for
Garotinho's political chances. Garotinho himself seems to
recognize this. At a recent book signing he took the
opportunity to snipe at Lula's populist credentials, claiming
that Lula is being kept in power not by the people but rather
by a self-interested elite who want to avoid damaging the
economy (Comment: This is a fairly accurate analysis, but
Lula also still enjoys considerable support among the general


5. Garotinho appears to be down but by no means out of the
presidential race. If he can survive the investigation by
the electoral commissions, he remains a potent political
force, with his wide popular base and his ties to the
evangelical movement. At the very least, he could garner
enough votes to force a second round. And if the economy
should take a turn for the worse or if the scandal reaches
Lula's doorstep, he may in fact turn into a frontrunner. In
the short term, however, he is likely to face an uphill
battle to capture national attention away from the corruption

6. This cable was cleared by Embassy Brasilia.