This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Brazil's Iron Lady has cancer

I have said many times now that Brazil has a bright future. And on 25 April it just got a little brighter for Lula's team.

With Obama in office, the realities of Brazil's increasing power and presence in South America, and the very real possibility that Brazil will not ask for financial help from the IMF or anyone else to help weather the global economic slow-down, President Lula will leave his hand picked successor everything she needs to carry Brazil into its new role as a regional leader and global energy provider.

Dilma Rousseff, currently serving as Lula's chief of staff, has a decent chance of winning, but now, it looks like her chances just got better because she has cancer.

On 22 April, she found out that a swollen lymph node was malignant. On 24 April, she told her boss, President Lula, and on the 25th, both stood on a stage in Manaus and brought the news to Brazil.

Lula had weighed his chances.

First, Dilma's doctor caught the cancer very early. According to one expert here, she has over 90% chance of complete recovery.

Second, right now, Dilma runs some 30 points behind Jose Serra, the "other" candidate for Brazil's presidency (elections in 2010). But she's already at 11%, well ahead of her initial polling results at 3%. And we're not even close to the campaign, which will begin around May, 2010.

Third, many here agree that Dilma's greatest political weakness is two fold. One, she's never run for political office. Two, her "iron-lady" reputation, might not resonate well with Lula's supporters who are used to his warm smile, teddy bear presence, and well practiced charisma.

By getting out in front of Brazilian media, putting out details of Dilma's cancer, her recovery prognosis, and her intentions to "nao se entrega", or not give up, Lula and his team has dealt a political master stroke.

As Dilma passes through her four month treatment, Lula's press office will release some photos of her suffering, and maybe even one of her bald. The bottom line effect is to make her more human.

Dilma is already known as a tough lady who's been through a lot. She was tortured, was an armed guerrilla fighter, has been through divorce, among other hardships. Add cancer to that list, and Dilma has a great portfolio of drama in her past - something Brazilians love.

The other important factor is that Dilma has never been out in front of a campaign. She's relying completely on various members of her party, the PT, to help her on a regional and local level.

Until the news of her cancer came out - and more importantly, the news that Lula stood behind her 100% - many members of the PT were skeptical, and didn't want to openly support her candidacy.

Now, as more and more PT members, as well as the members of other parties, begin to voice support for Dilma - support for her to get well, initially - she will be seen by Brazilian media and possibly the rest of the world as a "consolidated candidate," and Lula can enter 2010 with Dilma recovered, with a more solid backing, and ready to win over the Brazilian voting public with her cancer story.

Normally, cancer is a cause for worry, sadness, and sorrow. Not in Brazil. Dilma's cancer is (almost) cause for celebration in Lula's camp. With out it, Dilma's chances of winning were slim to none. With it, she's got a much better chance of winning, and beating out Jose Serra, a very strong candidate.

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