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Cablegate: Views On Possible Vp Candidates for Jose Serra

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRI #0032/01 0331914
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021913Z FEB 10
FM AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0109
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO

UNCLAS RIO DE JANEIRO 000032

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL BR
SUBJECT: VIEWS ON POSSIBLE VP CANDIDATES FOR JOSE SERRA

REF: 09 BRASILIA 1486

SUMMARY

1. (SBU) Political observers and party actors across the country
contend there is a possibility of the Brazilian Social Democratic
Party (PSDB) presumed presidential candidate and frontrunner Jose
Serra asking Green Party (PV) candidate Marina da Silva to be his
vice presidential candidate. While it seems unlikely at this point
that Silva would accept such a role, most believe she would at
least support Serra in a second round runoff with Worker Party (PT)
candidate Dilma Rousseff. The Marina possibility notwithstanding,
political insiders see as the most likely scenario that Minas
Gerais governor Aecio Neves (PSDB) will eventually join Serra as
his VP candidate, in spite of Neves' public statements he will run
for Senate. Although the narrowing gap between Serra and Dilma
Rousseff in the latest polls has renewed speculation that Serra
might bow out in favor of Neves as the PSDB candidate, Serra
remains the most likely candidate, and many of our interlocutors
state a Serra-Neves ticket would be the surest way for Serra to
successfully challenge President Lula's efforts to translate his
own popularity into votes for Dilma Rousseff as his successor. End
Summary.

RIO OBSERVERS DISCUSS VP OPTIONS

2. (SBU) During a private January 12 lunch, prominent Veja magazine
political columnist Diogo Mainardi told Rio Principal Officer that
Mainardi's recent column proposing Green Party (PV) presidential
candidate and former Lula environment minister Marina Silva as the
ideal vice presidential candidate on Jose Serra's (PSDB) ticket was
based on a long conversation between Serra and Mainardi, in which
Serra said Marina Silva would be his "dream running mate." Serra
outlined in that conversation with Mainardi the same advantages
that Mainardi later listed in his column: Marina's life story and
impeccable leftist credentials would trump Lula's personal appeal
to poor Brazilians and place Dilma Rouseff (PT) at a disadvantage
with the left, while helping Serra mitigate the association with
the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso which Lula/Dilma hope
to use as a point of attack in the campaign. That said, Mainardi
does not expect Marina to sign on with Serra, as she wants to
establish her own credibility by running for president. However,
Mainardi said he thinks - as does Serra - that Marina might well
support Serra in a second round runoff with Dilma.

3. (SBU) On a more realistic level, Mainardi indicated to PO that
Minas Gerais Governor Aecio Neves told Mainardi earlier this month
that Neves remains "completely open" to the possibility of running
as vice presidential candidate with Serra. (Note: On December 17,
2009 Neves officially terminated his "pre-candidacy" for the
Presidency and indicated he had no interest in running for vice
president - reported reftel. End Note). Despite Neves' public
statements that he will run for Senate, Mainardi said Neves plans
to wait for a scenario in which PSDB, perhaps by March, asks Neves
to join the ticket, to assure the strongest possible chance against
Dilma. Neves' own ambitions and his inextricably linked desire not
to be a spoiler for the PSDB in the coming race would lead Neves to
join the ticket, in Mainardi's opinion. This was echoed by Merval
Pereira, columnist for Rio's newspaper of record "O Globo," who
recounted to PO on January 21 a conversation Pereira had with Neves
the day before, in which Neves said he was "firmly committed" to
helping Serra in any way, including joining the ticket. A
Serra-Neves ticket, opined Pereira, would win, and Pereira
personally believed that not only would Neves run with Serra, but
that Marina Silva would also support Serra in a runoff.

4. (SBU) Rio Federal Deputy Marcelo Itagiba (PSDB), who is closely
involved with the Serra campaign, told Rio Poloff that Marina was
his clear preference as Serra's VP. He cited the practical
benefits to the Serra campaign, most notably the increase in
television airtime he would gain by tapping into Marina's share
(Comment: Given that party campaign airtime is based on legislative
seats won in 2006 and the PV's minimal showing in that election,
increased airtime for a Serra-Marina ticket would be negligible.
End Comment). At the same time, Itagiba shared Mainardi's
assessment of Neves, stating Neves would likely join the Serra

ticket, if a Serra first round victory does not appear assured.
"If this is the will of the party, Neves will accept," he said.

5. (SBU) While Rio Deputy Otavio Leite (PSDB), minority leader in
the House of Deputies (Camara), told Poloff he did not believe
Marina would accept any VP offer from Serra, he stated, the PSDB
was counting on her support in a second round. On Neves, Leite
offered a dissenting view from the other Rio interlocutors, saying
Neves' election to the Senate was a foregone conclusion and would
be a much more attractive option than VP, considering Neves'
presidential ambitions, especially if the Senate term carried with
it the Senate presidency, as many believe it will. Leite assessed
that a mixed ticket with allied opposition party DEM would be a
real possibility, naming Senator Jose Agripino from Rio Grande do
Norte as a leading contender. Rio Federal Deputy Rodrigo Maia,
president of the DEM party, also confirmed to Poloff that
Agripino's name was on a shortlist of Serra VP candidates and
discounted Marina's willingness to join a Serra ticket or even
support him in a second round. "She will go back to Lula in the
end," Maia said. "We cannot count on her." (Comment: Maia's
opinion of Marina Silva reflects a significant difference between
long-time allies PSDB and DEM. PSDB members are by and large
comfortable with Marina while DEM, which has an agrarian base, sees
her as philosophically incompatible and a potential threat to their
economic interests. End Comment).

VIEWS FROM SAO PAULO

6. (SBU) Sao Paulo Federal Deputy (PSDB) and City Secretary for
Sports Walter Feldman told Sao Paulo Econoff that a unified PSDB
presidential ticket with Neves would strengthen Serra's chances in
the October elections. Describing Serra and Neves as Brazil's two
best governors, Feldman expressed confidence that their combined
record of administrative achievement in elected office would
resonate with voters underwhelmed by Dilma Rousseff's performance
at Minister in President Lula's cabinet. In subsequent discussions
with PSDB Sao Paulo State PSDB President and Federal Deputy Antonio
Carlos Mendes Thame and Sao Paulo Municipal Secretary of Government
and local PSDB insider Clovis Carvalho, both told Econoff that
Neves was choice of the party leaders for the VP slot and they were
confident he would answer the call. Both emphasized that PSDB must
deliver Minas Gerais and Sao Paulo states to win the presidency and
that the best way to do that was to bring Neves onto the Serra
ticket. Separately, Bolivar Lamounier, co-founder of the Sao
Paulo Institute for Economic and Political Studies (IDESP), and
Ricardo Sennes, Director of international affairs consulting firm
Prospectiva Consultoria Brasileira told Econoff they expected
Marina to carry through with her own campaign but throw her support
behind Serra in a second round after having "burned bridges" with
her exit from the PT.

PSDB OUTLOOK IN BRASILIA

7. (SBU) Other PSDB players discount the likelihood of a mixed
ticket. While acknowledging that Serra strongly prefers a
coalition ticket and that Neves wants to run for senate, Senators
Eduardo Azeredo (Minas Gerais) and Alvaro Dias (Parana) told
Brasilia Poloff that the party faithful want a pure PSDB ticket,
and claimed such an outcome was likely. Pernambuco Federal Deputy
and PSDB vice leader in the House of Deputies Bruno Araujo also
downplayed the possibility of Serra tapping a DEM representative,
implying the DEM's diminishing popularity left Serra with little to
gain from such a ticket, even in the northeast, where the DEM party
has the most seats. In conversations with Poloff this week, two
senior PSDB staff members acknowledged Serra' interest in Marina as
a VP candidate, and described her as the latest big idea among a
large minority within the party, especially in Rio and Sao Paulo.
Neither believed Marina would ever accept such an offer but both
were optimistic about gaining her support in the second round.

RECIFE: THE NORTHEASTERN PERSPECTIVE

8. (SBU) Recife political analyst Andre Regis (also a lawyer,
Federal University of Pernambuco professor and active PSDB member)
told post recently that PSDB believes a Serra-Aecio ticket would do
well in the Northeast. While he acknowledged that Dilma's poll
numbers have gradually improved in the region, Serra still has some
advantages over her with voters enthralled by President Lula's
charisma and history. Admitting that Serra also suffers from an
image as more of a technocrat than a politician, he asserted that
Aecio would help shore up the opposition ticket if he accepted the
nomination for vice president.

9. (SBU) Pernambuco PV president Sergio Xavier confided to post
last week that, in his opinion, Marina Silva will maintain her own
candidacy, but is certain to support Serra in a second round. He
added that PSDB, being very weak in Rio, needs an alliance with PV
there to benefit from a Fernando Gabeira candidacy for governor
(Note: On January 26, the PSDB and PV announced Marcelo Fortes,
PSDB's VP in Rio, would be Gabeira's running mate for governor of
Rio state. End Note). Regarding possible DEM running mate
Agripino, contacts in Natal told PO this month that he may not even
win re-election to the Senate, due to his old-style image and lack
of charisma. Serra would not get the needed boost in the Northeast
if he were to tap Agripino, who was once implicated in a
vote-buying scandal in Rio Grande do Norte.

COMMENT

10. (SBU) With Dilma's recent ascent in the polls, Lula's
unwavering popularity, and significant ground to yet cover between
now and the PSDB's Convention in June, the factors that determine
Serra's choice for VP candidate are still too fluid even for Serra
himself to know who the best candidate will be. With the latest
polls showing a single-digit margin between Serra and Dilma,
speculation has even surfaced again that Serra might bow out in
favor Neves as the PSDB candidate if he thinks the race too close
at the end of March. Nonetheless, Serra is still the most likely
candidate and his hunt for the strongest VP candidate continues.
Given the long shot prospect of a Serra-Marina ticket and the
politically inexpedient possibility of a PSDB-DEM coalition,
current indicators point to a pure PSDB ticket. Neves' ambition,

star power, and loyalty to the party make a Serra-Neves ticket a
real possibility, in spite of Neves' public comments to the
contrary. Neves' popularity in the Northeast (Lula's power base)
and the votes Neves would bring Serra in Minas Gerais, the
country's second largest voter state, would constitute a very
powerful challenge to Lula's efforts to crown Dilma as his
successor. End Comment.

11. (U) This cable was coordinated with and cleared by Embassy
Brasilia and Consulates Sao Paulo and Recife.
HEARNE

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