Thursday, August 14, 2014

Brazil's Eduardo Campos Dies in Plane Crash

Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos, a rising political star in the country, was killed yesterday morning along with six others in a plane crash in Santos, São Paulo state.

Campos was a longshot candidate in this year’s presidential elections (polls showed him at around 8 percent support), yet he was seen as a significant figure for the future of Brazilian politics. By running as a moderate third way populist, he broke from the ideological polarization between Brazil’s Workers’ Party (PT) and the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB). As political analyst Marcos Nobre notes in an interview published in Folha today, his candidacy was more about raising his profile as a credible PT/PSDB alternative in 2018 than in 2014.  

Campos was also known for making unique contributions to the policy debate ahead of the October vote. As news site Ponte reports, the former Pernambuco governor was a supporter of implementing a form of his highly successful security strategy, the “Pact for Life,” on a nationwide scale. The plan, which integrated crime prevention methods with improved police intelligence, led to a 66 percent drop in homicides in the state capital of Recife under his 7-year term.

The news of his death has shaken his opponents, President Dilma Rousseff and Aecio Neves, both of whom have temporarily suspended their campaign agendas out of respect for the tragedy.

The Brazilian and international media, however, have shown no qualms about reporting on the political ramifications of Campos’ death. Almost immediately after the crash, speculation began over who might replace the Socialist Party (PSB) candidate.

The most likely candidate is his running mate, environmentalist Marina Silva. As The Economist points out, polls suggest her favorability rating is some 15-20 percent greater than Campos’. But as O Globo reports, she has little influence over Campos’ party, having only affiliated her Sustainability Network with the PSB in October 2013 after failing to get the necessary signatures to register as an official party.  Folha notes that the PSB now has ten days to name a successor to Campos, though both the Neves and Rousseff camps are reportedly operating under the assumption that it will inevitably pick Silva.

Today’s New York Times has more on the incident and the changed electoral landscape, also noting the historical coincidence of Campos’ death: it happened on the same calendar day as the passing of his grandfather Miguel Arraes, a hero of Brazil's pre-coup left. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, makes the case for Silva’s likely candidacy to take away support from Rousseff, making a runoff vote increasingly likely.

News Briefs
  • El Faro’s Sala Negra has published the second installment of its two-part investigation into the reform efforts of Guatemalan ex-Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz. Particularly interesting in the piece is the author’s assertion that the former prosecutor believes her remarks in an interview with author Francisco Goldman -- which she thought were off the record -- were instrumental in her opponents’ campaign to remove her from office.
  • Writing for The New Republic, Sala Negra’s Oscar Martinez explains why the Central American migrants fleeing street gangs are essentially forced to flee the country to find safety, rather than moving to a different neighborhood. As he puts it, “having problems with MS-13 or the 18th Street Gang means having problems with a criminal army,” which makes safely relocating extremely difficult.  
  • The Wall Street Journal’s Juan Forero spoke with Venezuelan opposition figure Henrique Capriles on Tuesday, who offered a grim assessment of the state of the MUD opposition alliance. According to Capriles, the MUD has failed to get in touch with the problems of the majority of Venezuelans, and Leopoldo Lopez’s “La Salida” protests merely “gave oxygen to the government [and]distracted the country.”
  • Meanwhile, El Universal and El Nuevo Herald report that the next hearing in the trial against Lopez has been postponed to August 28, after the judge in the case refused to admit evidence in his favor, according to the defense attorneys.
  • While Venezuelan authorities said that the recent nighttime closure of the border with Colombia was the result of a recent bilateral agreement, Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin has denied this, and claims the measure is unlikely to cut down on smuggling.
  •  More than a year after leaving office, former Mexican President Felipe Calderon has published a new book about his administration, entitled “The Challenges We Face.” CNN Mexico has a rundown of the ten issues Calderon identifies, as well as the policy prescriptions he proposes for each one. Especially controversial is the fact that on security, the most criticized aspect of his administration, Calderon reportedly claims he “did the right thing” and would repeat his security strategy again if given the chance, according to EFE.
  • Luis Alberto Villareal, a congressional whip for Mexico’s PAN party, has been stripped of his position after a video emerged online showing him and other legislators at a party with exotic dancers, El Universal and The L.A. Times report. The NYT notes that the scandal deals a particularly harsh blow to the PAN’s image, as its members frequently talk of “wholesome family values.”
  • Globo reports that Brazil’s Supreme Court has elected Ricardo Lewandowski as its new president, replacing Joaquim Barbosa after the pioneering judge retired from the bench in June. As the AP notes, the choice is no surprise as the rotating position is based on seniority.
  • Yesterday saw a significant victory for civil society groups in Brazil, after São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin signed into law a bill which ends the contested practice of strip-searching visitors to state prisons. The policy has long been criticized as both ineffective and abusive by prison reform advocates like human rights group Conectas, and a measure to ban the practice nationwide is making its way through congress.
  • Even though polls show he holds a strong lead over his competitors ahead of October’s presidential election, Bolivian President Evo Morales has refused to participate in a debate with his opponents. According to La Razon, yesterday Morales flatly rejected any presidential debate against those he characterized as “representatives of North American imperialism.”
  • The murder of Colombian radio station director Luis Carlos Cervantes, who was killed just two weeks after the government withdrew the police protection he had been receiving since 2012, has ignited a debate over efforts at protecting at-risk journalists in the country. As El Tiempo reports, he was known as the most threatened journalist in Antioquia province, yet police claim they removed his security detail because the threats against him weren’t directly due to journalism. In its analysis, InSight Crime suggests that the murder illustrates the continuing influence of paramilitary structures in the country’s periphery.
  • The Associated Press correspondent in Uruguay, Leonardo Haberkorn, looks at the life that awaits the six Guantanamo detainees who will be released soon to the South American country. As he notes, the men may have a hard time adjusting to life in Uruguay,  home to only around 300 Muslims.