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October 24, 2014
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Media forces Brazil’s Silva to publish earnings

Marina Silva, presidential candidate for the Brazilian Socialist Party, campaigns in the Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday.

Humble image takes a hit after records reveal candidate earned 1.6 million reais last year

RIO DE JANIERO — Brazil’s presidential candidate Marina Silva’s self-declared dream of becoming her country’s first “poor, black” president took a hit yesterday after financial records released by her campaign team revealed she has earnt more than 1.6 million reais giving speeches since 2011.

Silva, who grew up in poverty in the jungle city of Rio Branco, has played on her humble origins over the past few weeks as her popularity has surged since replacing the late Eduardo Campos as head of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB). Silva now finds herself within touching distance of the presidency, with recent polls showing she would win a runoff vote against incumbent President Dilma Rousseff.

The PSB challenger has previously refused to issue private financial records, but yesterday, Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo revealed that Silva has banked around 1.6 million reais (approximately US$716,000) through speaking engagements, with the money flowing through a company in her name. Silva’s campaign team agreed to reveal the details after she took on the PSB candidacy, following the tragic death of Campos in a plane crash.

Folha revealed that the company’s turnover has jumped each year since it was set up, apart from this year. In 2013, Silva earned more than 500,000 reais (around US$223,000) delivering lectures.

The candidate refused to name the companies and organizations involved, citing confidentiality clauses. The newspaper estimated Silva’s personal worth and fortune at around 135 million reais.

Slum visit

Silva drew lots of media attention on Saturday, when she visitsed the Rocinha favela in Rio de Janiero, with crowds of people turning out to see her. She was accompanied by former football star and would-be Rio senator Romario.

Rafael Cortez, a political analyst at research company Tendencias Consultoria Integrada, believes she has a good chance of victory come October.

“She’s an alternative to the two poles that dominated Brazilian politics for the past decades,” he said. “She has a real chance of winning.”

The surge in popularity for the evangelical has taken the country’s politicians by surprise. The ruling Workers’ Party (PT), clearly spooked by the recent surveys, have repeatedly taken aim at the PSB candidate’s inexperience, with hugely-respected former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva the latest to lead the attack.

Speaking on Saturday, Lula called on his supporters to back Rousseff and not Silva, saying voters should “think carefully” before voting for someone “who wants no policy.”

Rousseff meanwhile has chosen to stoke fears of economic meltdown. The president insisted at an event this weekend that Silva’s energy plans were not viable and suggested the candidate’s desire to reformulate the Mercosur trading bloc would hurt both Brazil and its neighbours.

Neves: ‘Dilma has already lost’

Fellow presidential candidate Aécio Neves piled further pressure on Rousseff yesterday, declaring after a charity football match that the incumbent president “will not win the election.”

“The current government has failed, this is the central issue, and the group that is in power today will not win the election,” said Neves, who is running for office as the candidate for the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB).

Recent polls have placed Neves in a distant third in the race and the senator is keen to make up ground, after being overtaken in recent surveys by the PSB’s Silva.

After declaring that Rousseff would not win October’s vote, the former governor of Minas Gerais told journalists there are only “two competitive alternatives” — his party and Silva’s PSB.

“We (have) presented an absolutely coherent alternative... the Brazilian population will have the opportunity to evaluate between these proposals, because there is nothing older in politics than the speech adapted to the circumstances of the moment,” he said, a sly dig at Silva's campaigning slogan, which refers to “a new politics.”

Silva, an environmentalist and evangelist, has repeatedly insisted that Rousseff and Neves are part of an old guard of politicians, who need replacing in order to improve Brazil's economic standing.

Neves also lashed at Silva’s recently-announced manifesto.

“I just found in the PSB programme the same defence of the same positions we stand for historically, in view of macroeconomics,” he said.

Neves was speaking at a charity football match in Rio de Janiero, where the candidate played 45 minutes alongside artists, politicians and ex-footballers, including Brazil legends Bebeto and Zico.

Herald with AP, Reuters, Télam

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