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Cablegate: Garotinho Scores Victory, Loses Ground

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
SUBJECT: Garotinho Scores Victory, Loses Ground

Ref: Rio de Janeiro 1118

1. Summary. Despite winning a narrow victory in the Regional
Electoral Tribunal (TRE) that restored his political rights,
Anthony Garotinho (Rio de Janeiro's ex-governor and 2006
presidential candidate) appears to be losing ground in his
quest for the presidency. His own PMDB party has been
lukewarm toward his pre-candidacy, and a series of recent
polls show him slipping in popularity. The only scenario
where he would force a second round of elections with
President Lula is one in which the opposition PSDB does not
run a candidate, an unlikely scenario at best. With plenty
of time and a formidable political machine at his disposal,
however, Garotinho is still likely to play an important role
in next year's elections.

Garotinho's Court Woes Finally Over (for Now)

2. In a controversial 4-3 decision, the TRE of Rio de Janeiro
recently decided to uphold the political rights of ex-
governor Anthony Garotinho and his wife Rosinha, the current
governor of the state. Unless the decision is appealed to
the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) and overturned, this
means Garotinho is eligible to run for the presidency in
2006. The justifications of the four judges that voted to
vindicate the couple on charges of electoral corruption were
somewhat bizarre, including one judge who noted that the
suspect funds were not really all that significant of a sum
(around USD 100,000) and another who argued that even if the
money was meant to buy votes, the fact that it was
apprehended before it could be spent meant that no crime was
actually committed. The earliest that the TSE would take up
the case is probably in March of 2006.

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... but Electoral Woes Just Beginning

3. Despite the legal victory, Garotinho appears to be
slipping in popularity (for a variety of reasons discussed in
reftel). A recent poll by the opinion firm IBOPE found him
trailing a distant third (with 9 percent of the vote) to
President Lula and Jose Serra of the PSDB, and roughly even
with Geraldo Alckmin of the PSDB (at 15 percent of the vote)
if he were to be the candidate of that party. In any
scenario in which Garotinho forced a second round with Lula,
he was projected to be crushed decisively.

4. A similar poll by Datafolha showed Garotinho losing out to
any PSDB candidate by margins between 17 and 3 percent
depending on the candidate. More worrying for Garotinho is
the head-to-head scenario with Lula - after three consecutive
polls where Garotinho gradually increased from 24 percent to
32 percent of the vote, he slipped to 31 percent in the most
recent version.

5. Along with the gloomy polling data, Garotinho must also
contend with continued resistance from within his own PMDB
party, the leaders of which are reluctant to endorse his
candidacy because of his controversial past and his populist
rhetoric. The party leadership has also not ruled out an
alliance with President Lula, which would mean that no
candidate would be put forward. Despite offers from other
parties, Garotinho appears to believe his best chance of
victory lies with the PMDB and is dedicating himself to
wooing the delegates who will choose the party's candidate
(if they run one).

Candidate or Power Broker?

6. The role that Garotinho will play in the coming election
will depend greatly on his ability to mobilize both his own
party and his broad national base of evangelicals. In this
respect, his lack of a day job will work to his advantage, as
he recently resigned his position in his wife's government to
devote himself fully to his campaign. He has publicly
announced that he will travel the entire country speaking to
as many of the 24,000 PMDB delegates as possible prior to the
party convention in March.

7. He has also stepped up his daily broadcasts of religious
messages in his role as a member of the Universal Church of
the Kingdom of God. His daily hour-long program, "Words of
Faith," is broadcast over 180 radio stations in 20 Brazilian
states and reaches a vast portion of Brazil's growing and
politically active evangelical population. This segment
voted strongly in favor of him during the last election, and
he can be expected to once again control a substantial
portion of these votes.

8. If Garotinho is unsuccessful in his bid to gain the PMDB
candidacy or the PMDB decides not to run its own candidate,
he has stated that he will throw his support behind Jose
Alencar, of the recently formed Republican Party of Brazil
(PRB), who also has a strong base in the evangelical
movement. This would add considerable weight to Alencar's
candidacy - which is currently not even on the radar screen -
although probably not enough to carry the election. Still, it
would create a sizable bloc with significant negotiating
power if the election goes to a dead heat in the second round
between Lula and Serra, and could end up deciding the next
president (the overall evangelical population in Brazil is
estimated to be between 25 and 40 million voters.)


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