<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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The Battle of São Paulo

By Garrett St. James
Special to the Narco News Bulletin

October 27, 2002

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL, OCTOBER 27, 2002: Since first arriving in Brazil from the States last June, I have witnessed History in the making twice already. The first event of course was Brazil’s National Soccer Team winning an unprecedented 5th World Cup Championship. Unlike 99% of my own countrymen, I have a great respect and appreciation for the world’s most popular sport. With every goal scored in every game played, it seemed as if the entire nation of Brazil would instantly erupt into a frenzy of heavy-duty fireworks, horns and drunken madness. Attempting to describe what went on here during the World Cup to other Americans has been hard for me. It’s like imagining having an event where it’s the 4th of July, the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras all rolled into one multiplied by ten or perhaps even a hundred. Soccer is indeed a very big deal down here.

Now it’s been over 4 months later and again I am witnessing history in the making. Except this time it has to do with politics which for your average Brazilian is almost as big a deal as is soccer. For the first time in decades it seems a hardcore Leftist Political party will be taking over a Latin American country during a legitimate Presidential Election. They’re simply called the Workers Party and headed by a former steel worker by the name of Lula. From what I am told by many Brazilian’s I have met here is that Lula and his PT are the REAL DEAL. It also seems the overwhelming majority of Brazilians have decided to take a hard turn to the political left after having to endure a string of broken promises from previous “centrist” administrations. Maybe it’s also because they see the economies of every other Latin American country around them going down the shitter and want to do something before it happens here too in Brazil. Whatever the reason may be, the people of Brazil definitely want change.

It’ll be no surprise to anyone on Election Day that Lula will basically crush his opponent José Serra, to become Brazil’s next President. Yet a very close (and almost as important) race for Governor is presently taking place here in the State of São Paulo between the ruling party’s Geraldo Alkmin and the PT’s José Genoino. If anyone knows anything about both Brazilian politics and its economy, then they know all the power is in the State of São Paulo. Once again try to imagine all the economic power of New York, Chicago and California residing in an area the size of the State of Florida. That’s what São Paulo is to Brazil. Though it seems with every indication Alkmin will win the race for Governor there is a decent chance that Genoino may pull off an upset by riding the mighty political coat tails of Lula. The wealthy elite who both reside in São Paulo and strongly oppose the PT have made it clear that Geraldo Alkmin is their Man and the State of São Paulo is their Turf. The very real prospect of a PT victory here would not only be politically devastating but absolutely frightening.

I personally find the race between Alkmin and Genoino not only a contest of Ideologies but of completely different individuals. Geraldo Alkmin by American standards is your typical candidate equipped with standard CEO Boardroom demeanor and designer wire rimmed glasses. The kind of guy you’d most likely find playing golf at a Northern Virginia Country Club rather than walking around the streets of Brazil. With Alkmin’s sleeves rolled up and his tough talk on crime he, at least for television appearances, ‘passes’ for a contemporary politician.

On the other hand you have José Genoino who like Lula, came from the very impoverished State of Ceara, sports a graying beard and spent his earlier political days fighting the Military Government. Somehow and in someway Genoino survived the jailings and brutal torture unlike so many of his more unfortunate comrades of that very dark period of Brazilian History. I have to admit that I have a lot of respect for a man like Genoino who at one time was buried up to his neck in sand for 8 days by his torturers and left for dead. Now 30 years later, Genoino has at least a very good chance of becoming one of the most important people running the very same Government who had once tried to kill him.

So hence we have the Battle of São Paulo. This is no ordinary regional Election, but part of an ever growing continental sized class struggle. Like the World Cup, I am glad enough just to be here in São Paulo, Brazil to witness everything as it unpredictably unfolds. I just hope things would get this interesting back home in The States someday soon!

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America