Do Hillary and Biden hold hands?
By Alexeo Barrinuevo
Published: May 23, 2009
BRASÍLIA — They call her the Iron Lady, the woman political analysts credit with helping rescue Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s second term as president of Brazil. Dilma Rousseff, Mr. da Silva’s chief of staff, is also his chosen successor, expected to carry the banner of the hugely popular president into next year’s election
But the news that she is being treated for cancer has thrown a wild card into the presidential race, renewing speculation that Mr. da Silva would seek to change the Constitution and run for a third term himself.
It has also transformed Ms. Rousseff into a media obsession, with breathless updates on every development of her cancer treatment, from the wig she acknowledged wearing to the leg pains that forced her to check into a hospital in São Paulo early last week.
“Dilma’s disease upsets the whole electoral game in Brazil,” said Amaury de Souza, a political analyst in Rio de Janeiro. “Politicians of all stripes and better informed voters are really having second thoughts about her candidacy.”
He cites what he calls “Tancredo Neves syndrome,” the post-election trauma of Tancredo Neves, a beloved Brazilian politician who became severely ill the day before he was to take office in 1985 and died without being sworn in.
Ms. Rousseff’s very public health crisis began last month, when she revealed that doctors had removed a cancerous tumor from her chest. She began chemotherapy for lymphoma this month, and her oncologist has put her chances of complete recovery at 90 percent.
Mr. da Silva, whose job approval rating hovers around 75 percent, has stood by Ms. Rousseff, telling reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that he had talked to her doctors and remained convinced that she would be “totally cured.”
Nevertheless, he has been forced to parry daily questions about whether he has a Plan B candidate, or whether he would pursue the constitutional change that would allow him to run again.
He has repeatedly said he would not, a point he said Wednesday did not even merit discussion. “First, because there is no third term,” he said, “and second, because Dilma is fine.”
But such denials have done little to quiet conjecture.
Nor would he be alone if he changed his mind. Many Latin countries adopted strict term limits in the 1970s and ’80s to check authoritarian impulses after years of dictatorships. But lately the trend has been to loosen those laws.
Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Rafael Correa of Ecuador have changed their Constitutions to allow them to run for additional terms. Supporters of President Álvaro Uribe in Colombia are pushing a measure to let him seek a third term.
Brazil already changed its Constitution in 1997 to allow President Fernando Henrique Cardoso to run for and win a second term.
Mr. da Silva has vowed to be different.
“If Lula says he is interested in a third term, then he loses the specialness of being a fresh, new kind of politician in Brazil,” said Peter Hakim, the president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington research group.
With the memories of a dictatorship that ended in 1985 still vivid here, an attempt to run again “would be seen by the people as a coup attempt,” said Bolivar Lemounier, a political analyst in São Paulo.
As a practical matter it may be too late to change the Constitution, which would require four rounds of congressional voting. The amendment would have to be passed before Sept. 30 in order to be law one year before the election on Oct. 3, 2010.
Ms. Rousseff, 61, a former economist and oil minister who has never held an elected office, was little known outside the capital before cancer turned her into a celebrity. Most polls show her with less than 16 percent support, compared with her likely opposition candidate, Gov. José Serra of São Paulo, who commands more than 40 percent.
But her anointment by Mr. da Silva, who has steered Brazil through one of its greatest periods of prosperity, automatically made her a contender.
She became Mr. da Silva’s chief of staff after her predecessor, José Dirceu, was accused in 2005 of leading a scheme to buy votes in Congress. She has proved an able administrator, helping Mr. da Silva carry out his poverty-relief programs, manage the windfall from the commodities boom and oversee billions of dollars in large infrastructure projects.
In an interview here, she refused to discuss her prospective candidacy, saying it was too early, though she said whoever was allied with the president stood the best chance of winning.
The daughter of a Brazilian mother and a Bulgarian immigrant father, Ms. Rousseff was active in armed militant organizations in the 1960s fighting to oust the military dictatorship.
She said she regretted nothing of her militant past. But she said she never participated in an armed action against the government, despite Brazilian news reports claiming otherwise. She denied being involved in the most notorious episode tied to her, the 1969 armed robbery of $2.5 million from the São Paulo governor’s safe.
She was captured and imprisoned in 1970 on charges of participating in an armed militant group. Sentenced to two years and one month, she ended up spending three years behind bars where, she said, she was tortured repeatedly with electric shocks.
In the interview, on May 12, she said that the cancer treatment was not affecting her work schedule. “A flu is more inconvenient,” she said. “I feel fine.”
Since then, however, she has cut back her travel and failed to make at least four planned appearances.
Her illness could cut both ways.
If she gets a clean bill of health, the media attention could elevate her name recognition and standing in opinion polls, said Christopher Garman, an analyst at Eurasia Group in Washington.
“The impact of greater media coverage will probably trump” the stigma of cancer, he said.
After starting treatment in the US, Alencar returns to Brazil this Saturday
Vice-President has offered as a volunteer for experimental treatment against cancer. According to aides, Alencar is welld and should follow treatment in Brazil.
Vice President Jose Alencar is expected to return to Brazil this Saturday (30), after starting an experimental treatment against cancer at MD Anderson hospital in Houston in the American state of Texas, where he arrived last Wednesday (27).
Alencar, who volunteered himself for the treatment, should leave the United States soon after the second session with the drug and, according to his office, should arrive in Brasilia around 8pm this Saturday (30), where he will continue the treatment.
Still according to his office, Alencar is well and is eating normally. While hospitalized, he got tested to see the reactions to the drug, still being tested.
According to the reports from Bom Dia Brasil, the medicine has no name yet and is identified only by a code. But it has shown good results in 30 patients in treatment against cancer.
Unlike chemotherapy, the medication only attacks the cells that cause the tumor, preventing them from keeping active. "I signed documents that spoke of collateral effects. But they all do. It is a security measure. But it's going to work, "said the vice president in an interview.
Second article roughly translated by me. The attention this is getting here is kinda lame. Dilma is on TV a lot these days. Wish them all well (poor Alencar! He's been fighting cancer for 12 years!) and hope 2010 is fun, so far everybody seems desperate.