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Cablegate: Death of Brazilian Congressman Miguel Arraes

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

1. (U) SUMMARY. Federal Deputy Miguel Arraes de Alencar, 88,
founder of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) and three time
state governor, died on August 13 of a pulmonary infection in
Recife, Pernambuco state. National president of the PSB and
allied with President Lula da Silva's governing coalition,
Arraes' biography and opposition to the military regime
earned him respect and admiration in his home state of
Pernambuco, and made him a prominent leftist public figure in
Brazilian modern political history. Approximately 15
thousand people went to the Campo das Princesas Palace, the
Pernambuco Governor's mansion, to pay their last respects.
The crowd enthusiastically applauded President Lula da Silva
when he arrived in Recife to attend the funeral, while Sao
Paulo mayor Jose Serra--possible opposition candidate in the
2006 presidential election--was booed. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) On August 13, Brazil lost one of its leftist icons
and an eminent political personality in its modern history.
Miguel Arraes, an 88 year-old politician from Pernambuco
state, died of a pulmonary infection in Recife, closing the
final chapter of a political life associated with the rise
and fall of Brazil's left. In 1934, at the age of 18, Arraes
started working at the Alcohol and Sugar Institute, where he
met Barbosa Lima Sobrinho, a prominent writer and journalist
who would become Governor of Pernambuco. Upon winning
election to the state house in 1947, Sobrinho invited Arraes
to become his Finance Secretary, the impetus for Arraes'
extensive political career. He soon rose to the top of
Pernambuco's state politics, being elected State Deputy
(1950-1954, 1954-1958), Mayor of Recife (1959-1962), Governor
(1963-1964, 1987-1990, 1995-1998), and Federal Deputy
(1989-1987, 1991-1995, 2003-2005).

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3. (U) Arraes' first gubernatorial term was characterized by
populist measures and support for the so-called Peasant
League that occupied land to press the government for
agrarian reform and is considered a precursor of today's
Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST). However, his first
gubernatorial term was cut short in 1964 by a
"cinematographic" coup: heavily-armed military troops
surrounded the Governor's Palace and demanded Arraes'
resignation. In a memorable "I'd rather go to jail than
betray the people" stance, the governor was arrested and sent
into exile in Algeria, where he stayed until 1979, when the
regime declared an amnesty for exiles. Upon his return to
Brazil, Arraes took part in the foundation of the PMDB party
and launched his second gubernatorial term. By the end of
the 1980's, Arraes, dissatisfied with the PMDB for what he
called a lack of a party project for the development of the
country, founded the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB). In
1994, he became governor of Pernambuco for the third and last

4. (U) Following his third gubernatorial term, Arraes
attempted--for the fourth time--to gain a seat in the state
house, but was defeated by long-time PMDB member Jarbas
Vasconcelos. During his campaign, Arraes publicly announced
he would be defeated by Vasconcelos, which was interpreted by
many as an attempt to strengthen his image of a political
martyr who suffers for the people and for his principles. In
2003, Arraes returned to the political scene as a Federal
Deputy and national president of the PSB, which nationwide
includes one cabinet member--Science and Technology Minister
Sergio Rezende, three Governors (Note: Rio de Janeiro
Governor Rosinha Matheus and her husband, presidential
aspirant Anthony Garotinho, were expelled from the party in
August 2004 and joined the PMDB. End Note.), three Senators,
and seventeen Federal Deputies. According to newspapers
reports, Eduardo Campos, former Science and Technology
Minister and Arraes' grandson, is expected to become the new
president of the PSB, which will hold a convention in
Brasilia on August 20-21.

5. (U) During Arraes' funeral President Lula was
enthusiastically applauded by the crowd gathered in front of
the Campo das Princesas Palace, the Pernambuco Governor's
mansion. Shortly after Lula entered the Palace, Sao Paulo
mayor and presidential aspirant Jose Serra arrived and was
booed. Approximately 15 thousand people paid their last
respects to the former governor. President Luiz Inacio Lula
da Silva decreed three days of official mourning, calling
Arraes' death "an enormous loss for the Brazilian people(His
experience and wisdom will be sorely missed."


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