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Cablegate: Lula Associate Calls Third Term Talk a Media Invention

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PP RUEHRG
DE RUEHSO #0949/01 3341556
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301556Z NOV 07 ZDK
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7714
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 8847
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 2965
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3205
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0615
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RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 3600
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 2224
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RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 3901
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC 2976
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SAO PAULO 000949

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/BSC, DRL/ILCSR, INR/IAA, INR/R/AA
STATE PASS USTR FOR KATE DUCKWORTH
NSC FOR TOMASULO
TREASURY FOR JHOEK
USDOC FOR 4332/ITA/MAC/WH/OLAC
USDOC ALSO FOR 3134/USFCS/OIO
DOL FOR ILAB
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
USAID FOR LAC/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PINR PGOV KDEM ELAB BR
SUBJECT: LULA ASSOCIATE CALLS THIRD TERM TALK A MEDIA INVENTION

REF: (A) SAO PAULO 749; (B) SAO PAULO 742;
(C) SAO PAULO 734; (D) SAO PAULO 94

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Devanir Ribeiro, a federal deputy who is a long-time
personal friend and political associate of President Lula, dismissed
as an invention of the media rampant speculation that Lula may seek
to amend the Constitution to allow him to run for a third term in
2010. Ribeiro denied reports that he plans to propose a plebiscite
on a third term, claiming that he has an entirely different
plebiscite proposal. He doesn't think Lula wants a third term or
that there is significant popular support for amending the
Constitution, but acknowledged that the notion cannot be completely
ruled out and that Lula is not entirely opposed to running again.
With respect to the December 2 internal elections in the Workers'
Party (PT), Ribeiro expects incumbent Ricardo Berzoini to be
re-elected PT national president, possibly in the first round,
though not without opposition. He is scornful of his fellow PT
federal deputy Jose Eduardo Martins Cardozo's bid for the party's
presidency as well as his plan to run for Mayor of Sao Paulo in
2008. End Summary.

2. (U) A three-time Sao Paulo city councilman now in his second
term as a federal deputy, Devanir Ribeiro has been associated with
President Lula since the 1970s when the two were leaders of the
Metallurgy Workers' Union of Sao Bernardo and Diadema. Together
they led strikes against the automobile companies in Sao Paulo's
industrial "ABC" suburbs (Santo Andre, Sao Bernardo do Campo, Sao
Caetano do Sul) and went on to help found the Workers' Party (PT) in
1980 and the Unified Workers' Center (CUT) labor confederation in
1984, and to play an important role in Brazil's transition from
military dictatorship to democracy. Poloff met with Ribeiro
November 19 to ask about his widely reported initiative to have
Congress convoke a national plebiscite on whether to amend the
Constitution to permit a president to serve three consecutive
terms.

-------------------------------------
GIVING THE PRESIDENT PLEBISCITE POWER
-------------------------------------

3. (SBU) "There is no such initiative in the works", Ribeiro said.
The media have fabricated the idea out of either confusion or malice
against Lula and the PT. Ribeiro has indeed asked the PT leadership
to approve a plebiscite initiative for him to put to Congress, but
its purpose would be to give the President the power to convoke
plebiscites and referenda, without needing Congressional approval.
Ribeiro cited his deepening frustration, after five years in the
Chamber of Deputies, with Congress's inability to accomplish
anything. He has concluded that the Executive needs to be able to
work around Congress to enact reforms. If President Lula had the
power to convoke a plebiscite on his own authority, Ribeiro said, it
is conceivable he would seek a plebiscite on political reform and
electoral rules, along with some provisions of tax reform. Ribeiro
doesn't think a Constitutional amendment allowing a third term is a
high priority of Lula's.

4. (SBU) That said, the notion cannot be ruled out entirely,
Ribeiro acknowledged. Certainly, within the PT, which at the moment
has no strong candidate to run for president in 2010, there are
elements that see Lula as the party's best hope of maintaining its

SAO PAULO 00000949 002 OF 003


hold on power. Lula himself, in Ribeiro's view, is sincere in his
public disavowals of interest in another term ("I will pass the sash
to my successor on January 1, 2011, and I'm going [home] to make my
roast rabbit" - see ref A). He thinks eight years is enough for
anyone, and appears to genuinely believe that the alternation of
parties in power is better for the country. At the same time, Lula
may not be unalterably opposed to another term. He enjoys being
President and is aware that many in his base - which according to
him includes not only Brazil's poor, but also significant portions
of the financial and business community - would like to see him stay
on.

5. (SBU) On the question of whom Lula might support as a possible
successor should he decide not to run, and whether he would throw
his weight behind a PT candidate or someone from an allied party in
his governing coalition, Ribeiro said only that "Lula doesn't say
anything [to me] about that." While skeptical of the chances of
Dilma Rousseff, Lula's Chief of Staff, and Jaques Wagner, Governor
of Bahia, Ribeiro believes former Finance Minister Antonio Palocci
may be able to mount a serious candidacy. Palocci, architect and
implementer of Lula's successful macro-economic policy, resigned in
March 2006 after it was revealed that he abused his authority in an
attempt to escape implication in a sexual scandal, but was
subsequently elected federal deputy by the voters of Sao Paulo. Yet
another possibility, Ribeiro said, might be for Lula to choose a
high-profile private-sector leader, someone like steel magnate Jorge
Gerdau Johannpeter or textile king Josue Gomes da Silva,
Vice-President Alencar's son.

-----------------------------------
PT INTERNAL DIVISIONS AND ELECTIONS
-----------------------------------

6. (SBU) Poloff asked Ribeiro for insights into the PT's December 2
elections for national, state, and local party presidents and
directorates. Ribeiro, a member of the PT's so-called "Majority
Camp" (CM - see refs B and C), predicted that the CM's candidate,
incumbent Ricardo Berzoini, will be re-elected national president,
more than likely in the first round. (Note: Three months ago,
Berzoini disavowed any intention to seek another term as PT
president, and Lula was openly supporting his foreign affairs
advisor, Marco Aurelio Garcia, but the CM pushed back and forced
Lula to accept Berzoini. End Note.) However, given the field of
seven candidates, Berzoini could fall short of a majority and face a
runoff against Jilmar Tatto, leader of the Sao Paulo city PT machine
and an ally of former Mayor (now Minister of Tourism) Marta Suplicy.
Unlike Berzoini, Tatto can attract votes from the PT's leftist
factions and tendencies. He has also lined up the support of state
legislator Rui Falcao and his "New Course" movement.

7. (SBU) Contrary to press reports, Ribeiro asserted that federal
deputy Jose Eduardo Martins Cardozo is unlikely to make it to the
second round. Cardozo is the candidate of Justice Minister Tarso
Genro's "Message to the Party" faction (see ref B) but can expect
support from no other group. He hopes to show enough support in the
party elections to boost his candidacy for Mayor of Sao Paulo, but
Ribeiro thinks his chances are slim. The other four candidates for
the party presidency - Valter Pomar, Gilney Viana, Jose Carlos
Miranda, and Markus Sokol - all represent small, left-wing
tendencies and are not expected to be much of a factor except
perhaps by making alliances to support a candidate in the second
round, if there is one.

-------
COMMENT
-------

SAO PAULO 00000949 003 OF 003

8. (SBU) Ribeiro is probably being disingenuous when he disclaims
any intention of paving the way via his proposed plebiscite for Lula
to seek a third term if the President decides that's what he wants.
But the chances of Lula's so doing remain small. A plebiscite would
offer only moral support to the idea of amending the Constitution.
Congress would still have to pass a Constitutional Amendment
Proposal (PEC) by a three-fifths vote, twice in each chamber, before
October 2009. Right now the government is having trouble mustering
the three-fifths vote needed in the Senate to renew the financial
transactions tax (CPMF) for another four years, and the third term
would be a much more controversial and emotional proposal given
similar initiatives in Venezuela and elsewhere. Lula also has to
consider how a Constitutional battle and a third term might affect
his legacy. For now, Ribeiro and others in the PT appear merely to
be keeping all options open while hoping a strong candidate emerges
from within the party.

9. (U) This cable was cleared by Embassy Brasilia.

WHITE

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