Former São Paulo governor and former Health Minister José Serra, launched by a coalition of Brazilian opposition parties as its candidate in October’s presidential elections has chosen the slogan “Brazil can do better,” for what he was accused by president Lula of stealing Obama’s “Yes, we can” motto.
The 68-year-old frontrunner in the polls was named by a centrist coalition made up of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, PSDB, the Socialist Popular Party and the Democrats, which comprise the bulk of the opposition to Lula.
PSDB Chairman Sergio Guerra told 2,500 people attending the ceremony in Brasilia to announce Serra’s candidacy that the former governor “is the person most prepared to govern the country and launch a new phase of prosperity.”
Lula’s hand-picked successor, his former chief of staff Dilma Rousseff, is running second in the polls as the standard bearer of the ruling, center-left Workers’ Party.
Guerra alluded to the fact that the 62-year-old Rousseff will be running for public office for the first time on October 3, saying voters must choose between Serra’s “experience” and the “adventure” of choosing someone who “has never been a leader of anything”.
He said Brazilian voters should not opt for the unknown and for candidates with a “foolish past,” apparently alluding to Rousseff’s involvement in guerrilla movements that took up arms against the country’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, adding that Serra opposed the dictatorship as a student leader at the age of 20 and was later forced into exile for 14 years, seven of them in Chile.
Using the slogan “Brazil can do better”, Serra told his supporters that the country under him would have a more efficient government that would allow for lower taxes but more investment.
Brazil badly needed investment in infrastructure, he said. The country also needed to pursue new markets for its exports and improved public transportation and security.
Serra accused the Lula da Silva administration of turning a blind eye on human rights abuses abroad, a direct reference to recent incidents with fasting Cuban political dissidents, which Lula da Silva compared to common criminals incarcerated in Sao Paulo jails.
“I’m a survivor of the 1964 coup in Brazil and of the Pinochet coup in Chile (1973), experiences which taught me there is no yielding or bargaining possible with human rights”, underlined the former Sao Paulo governor.
“Let us not cultivate illusions. In a democracy people are not jailed or hanged for thinking differently to government and workers don’t die of hunger because they don’t agree with the regime”, he added.
Serra ran for president in 2002 but was defeated by Lula da Silva, who won re-election in 2006 but is constitutionally barred from running again. Lula da Silva enjoys sky-high approval ratings as he wraps up his second term in office.
Neither Serra nor Rousseff are seen as breaking with the mostly market-friendly policies that have ensured economic stability over the past decade. But some investors prefer Serra for his party’s centrist position and his experience.