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Brazil Confronts Horrors of the Past With Torture Report’s Release

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff cries during a speech at the launching ceremony of the National Truth Commission Report, at the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Dec. 10, 2014.
Eraldo Peres—AP Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff cries during a speech at the launching ceremony of the National Truth Commission Report, at the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Dec. 10, 2014.

President Dilma Rousseff, herself a former victim of the former dictatorship's abuses, sheds tears as she unveils Truth Commission report

Brazil reacted dramatically to its most official, detailed and damning report to date on killings, torture and human rights abuses carried out by the state under two decades of military dictatorship on Wednesday.

And the reaction began at the top, as President Dilma Rousseff broke down into tears while presenting the National Truth Commission report at a ceremony in Brasília. “The work of this commission increases the possibility for Brazil to have a fully democratic future, free of authoritarian threats,” said Rousseff, who was herself imprisoned and tortured under the military leaders who ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985.

The Truth Commission has spent two years and seven months compiling its report, which contains harrowing details of tortures carried out by the military dictatorship. It detailed beatings, electric shocks, sexual violations, and psychological torture on people the state saw as a threat.

The report increased the number of those it said were killed or disappeared during the dictatorship to 434, from the previous official number of 362. It also named 377 people it said were involved in human rights abuses, of whom 196 are still alive. The names included deceased former presidents and military leaders.

The commission advocated civil, criminal and administrative judicial responsibility for the state employees who committed abuses and said the armed forces should recognize its institutional responsibility. It also called for those who had committed serious human rights abuses to face criminal prosecution, despite a 1979 Amnesty Law preventing both those who opposed the regime and those who committed abuses from being tried or punished.

Its publication was welcomed by human rights groups as a watershed moment. Amnesty International said Brazil lived a “historic day” today, while Human Rights Watch also praised the report. “For the first time there is a body in Brazil who after more than two years of work identified abusers,” said Maria Canineu, the group’s Brazil director. “The report can encourage prosecutors and also the judiciary.”

The abuses of the dictatorship touch almost every level of Brazilian society. Rousseff was herself imprisoned and tortured by the military dictatorship as a member of the armed, left-wing resistance. Although she rarely talks about it, evocative images of the young bespectacled Rousseff and state files on her were among the imagery used in her campaign for re-election, narrowly won in a second-round run-off in October.

Other surviving opponents of Brazil’s military government welcomed the report. “This commission has a fundamental role to divulge to Brazilian society what happened,” said Vera Vital Brasil, who was imprisoned and tortured with electric shocks and beatings as a student activist in 1969 in Rio de Janeiro. She later spent six years in exile and Chile and has worked as a psychologist and human rights activist since returning to Rio in groups like Torture Never Again Rio de Janeiro Group.

In September, she took part in a Truth Commission visit to the army base where she was tortured. “It had a very big impact because that place was where terrible things happened,” she said. The room she was tortured in is now a dormitory, but the base was home to the regime’s more macabre torture practices after her time there. “There were people who had a snake dangled on the body, who had an alligator put on top,” she said.

Unlike some other South American countries ruled by right-wing dictatorships, like Argentina, Brazil has never prosecuted those responsible. “We in Brazil had a very big difference to other countries of Latin America – our process of silence was very deep,” said Brasil. “We were never able to say that this is wrong, even though that have been a democratic country since 1988,” added Canineu.

But military personnel and former members of the armed forces argue that Brazil’s Amnesty Law had brought peace to the nation and should be left in place. “There was a pacification of the country,” said retired Colonel José Gobbo Ferreira, an army engineer who supported the coup in 1964—as did the United Statesand is a vocal online defender of what he calls the military ‘regime’, rather than dictatorship. “The idea was to extinguish all of this from the national memory.”

He said the Truth Commission was part of a wider left-wing conspiracy to install communism throughout the continent and argued that the report had exaggerated tortures. “It is logical that there were some abuses. But not on the scale that they are saying,” he said.

Minority elements in right-wing, anti-government demonstrations since then have even called for the return to the dictatorship. Ferreira said the Truth Commission should have also investigated bank robberies, kidnappings and murders carried out by the armed left wing groups that opposed the dictatorship.

Human Rights Watch’s Canineu agreed that crimes by the left-wing resistance could have been investigated, if only to show how much more widespread were the abuses carried out by the state. “It was important to break the myth that it was a war,” she said. “It is a very sensitive issue. They could have included it but that doesn’t make the report weaker.”

In 2010, Brazil’s Supreme Court decided the 1979 Amnesty Law remained valid. Eight months later the Inter-American Court of Human Rights disagreed arguing it contradicted the American Convention on Human Rights. Now, with a Supreme Court judge saying Wednesday that the issue will come back to the court, Rousseff’s government must decide how far it abides by the recommendations of the very Truth Commission it set up.

TIME brazil

Meet the Brazilian Singer Drawing Crowds with his Stinging Social Critique

Criolo performing in London 2012.
Jeff Gilbert—LatinContent/Getty Images Criolo performing in London 2012.

The red-hot musician Criolo has captured public anger about social divisions in Brazil

When Brazilian rapper Criolo takes the stage with his live band at the cavernous Fundição Progressso concert hall in Rio de Janeiro, a mass ‘rap-along’ breaks out as 6,000 fans chant along with him, throwing up hip hop hand gestures.

But there is nothing celebratory about the lyrics they repeat word for word. Criolo delivers a stinging social critique in song and rhyme, taking in Brazil’s crippling inequality, its drug problem, its violence and the growing obsession with consumerism that came with the country’s economic development. But the message is delivered as entertainment, not lecture, because this is a show, not a political discourse.

“There is no way you can look at the Brazilian social panorama and do agreeable songs,” says Luiz Fernando Vianna, a music critic for the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper. “What Criolo manages to do is do this criticism with a little humor.”

In the late 1980s and 1990s, São Paulo’s Racionais MCs filled stadiums with an uncompromising hip hop sound. Heavily political, they operated outside Brazil’s cultural mainstream. Criolo, in contrast, has broken out and is accepted more widely in Brazil as an artist, not just a rapper catering to niche tastes.

“He constructs bridges,” says Rodrigo Savazoni, a contemporary culture researcher and writer. “It is rap with its hand outstretched.”

Stardom for Criolo, real name Kleber Cavalcante Gomes, came late. The 39-year-old had struggled for 20 years on the grassroots hip-hop scene in his home city of São Paulo when his 2011 album Nó Na Orelha (Knot in the Ear) took off. It took a more accessible approach, combining his incisive and poetic rhymes with his singing, a live band, and elements of funk, reggae and samba.

MORE: The Top 10 Best Songs of 2014

It won three awards at Brazil’s 2011 MTV Awards, including best song for ‘Não Existe Amor Em SP’ (There Is No Love In SP), a haunting lament to a vacuous, lonely metropolis. Brazilian music great Caetano Veloso appeared on stage with him to sing it.

The song connected with a wider sentiment in the city then being daubed in graffiti slogans calling for “more love.” Brazil struggles with staggering levels of violence—56,000 people were murdered in 2012 alone. “It became an alternative anthem,” says Rodrigo Savazoni.

Criolo’s new album Convoque Seu Buda (Call Your Buddha) presents a similarly-eclectic mix of styles, and has already been downloaded 250,000 since it was released for free on the internet earlier this month.

It confirms his status as a star with a wide appeal along Brazil’s segregated social pyramid, from his original fans in the low-income, densely-packed outer suburbs, or periferia, of São Paulo to inner-city bohemians.

“He reaches different social levels,” says André Ribeiro, a Criolo fan and teacher at a state school in São Paulo’s southern periferia.

Rogério Silva, a sociology professor from the Federal Institute of São Paulo, says purist hip hop fans like Criolo—whose name can be used as a pejorative term for black, or Afro-Brazilian, citizens in this Latin American nation—but can’t always understand his complex language. “He is more popular in the middle class,” he says.

Criolo’s new album includes one song, ‘Casa de Papelão’ (‘Cardboard House’), that eloquently targets a crack epidemic that has turned an entire area of São Paulo’s center into an addict city, called ‘Cracolandia’ or Crackland. A video for two rap numbers on the album—‘Duas de Cinco’ and ‘Cóccix-ência’ —presents a chilling vision of a slum, or favela of the future, in which the poverty and crime remain the same but the technology has moved on. “There is still time to avoid this happening,” Criolo told TIME.

MORE: The Top 10 Worst Songs of 2014

The favela in the video is Grajaú, the sprawling slum on São Paulo’s southern edge where Criolo used to live with his parents, immigrants from Ceará state in Brazil’s northeast, in a house piled high with books. His mother Maria Vilani runs a weekly ‘philosophy café’ discussion group and his father Cleon is a metalworker. His great-grandfather, he says, was a slave.

Criolo and his four brothers and sisters grew up at the sharp end of Brazil’s notorious unequal society, living at one point in a leaking wooden shack. He lost many friends to the violence that blights the periferia. “I have seen things I wouldn’t wish anyone to see,” he says.

Criolo discovered hip hop age at eleven, listening avidly to rappers from New York and Los Angeles

In Criolo’s view, Brazilian problems stem from its modern history—a vicious colonization in which Portuguese invaders killed and enslaved indigenous tribes, followed by centuries of slavery. “You already start like this,” he says. Later came the military dictatorship that ran Brazil for two decades until 1985.

Yet he will not comment on Brazil’s recent presidential election, which saw the incumbent Dilma Rousseff secure a second term after one of the most gripping contests in recent Brazilian history. “It becomes innocent to talk about politics when we don’t have a structure to study politics,” he says. “Those who govern us are not interested in putting certain areas in school material.”

MORE: The Top 10 Best Albums of 2014

Brazil has its own version of hip hop—a raw, electronic sound from Rio favelas called ‘funk’. In recent years São Paulo has stolen the other city’s thunder with a style dedicated to conspicuous consumption called ‘ostentation funk’.

Criolo satirizes consumerism as a panacea for social exclusion in a disco-rap duet with singer Tulipa Ruiz called ‘Cartão de Visita’ (or Business Card). “I wouldn’t say extreme riches, I would say extreme futility,” he says. It draws the biggest cheer when Tulipa Ruiz joins him onstage to sing it.

But Criolo insists he is not pessimistic, just realistic. He says the urban occupations he also raps about are an example of positive change. He played an “emotional” show for activists in the northeastern city of Recife, after an occupation in an abandoned port area being developed was violently evicted by police.

“There is something bigger than all of this. Our generation. This new young generation that is being created, with new ideas, the desire to change the world,” he says. “There is not going to be a musician who manages to write this.”

TIME brazil

Militia Slayings in Brazil Shed Fresh Light on Police Brutality

10 killed in bloody night of violence in the northern city of Belém

The killing of ten people in a northern Brazilian city last week by a militia allegedly linked to the country’s military police has raised fears of a growing problem with police violence in a country where new figures reveal 2,212 people died in confrontations with law enforcement officers last year.

Ten civilians were gunned down last Tuesday in the impoverished suburbs of Belém, a city in the Brazilian Amazon state of Pará, in a bloody night of violence that lasted until the early hours of the morning. The massacre, apparently carried out by a single gang of masked men, followed the killing of a police officer hours earlier who was accused of being involved in a “militia” – in Brazil, the term for a criminal organization that includes former and/or serving police officers.

“There is a big probability that if there was not active police involvement then there were people who already passed through the police,” said Anna Lins, a lawyer from Pará Society for the Defense of Human Rights. “It was summary execution.”

Hers is one of a coalition of human rights groups, politicians and NGOs calling for a state assembly enquiry into militias in Pará. “We do not want the police to act alone in this investigation,” said Lins.

Alexandre Ciconello, a Human Rights Advisor at Amnesty International Brazil, said there were strong indications that police were involved. “It was an orchestrated massacre to kill people,” he said.

The night of mayhem began when Antônio Figueiredo, also known as ‘Pet’, was gunned down when he arrived home in the early evening on Nov. 4. He was a corporal in the special task force, ROTAM, of the state’s military police – Brazil’s street, or ‘offensive’ police force, which works alongside its civil police, which is responsible for investigations.

Amnesty said his fellow officers used social networks to call for vengeance. “Our little brother Pet has just been assassinated,” said a Facebook message posted by Figueredo’s colleague, Sergeant Rossicley Silva. “Let’s give the response.” He blamed a war between rival gangs.

A convoy of masked men on motorbikes and in two cars later drove through the dusty, crime-ridden neighborhoods of Terra Firme and Guamá, amongst others, randomly killing residents until the early hours. Police have since opened an investigation.

Sergeant Silva later said his Facebook post had been misinterpreted. “I asked for support in the sense of combating criminality. Our objective is not revenge,” Silva said, the local Diário Online news site reported.

A spokesman for Belém’s civil police, the department which handles investigations, told TIME that Figueiredo was suspended from duty for health reasons at the time of his death, and was being investigated for two homicides.

A military police spokesperson said it wasn’t possible to confirm a connection between the killings, six of which happened near to each other and five randomly. “All the questions, analyses and conclusions relative to the case and the participation or not of military police in the events in question are being investigated and will be made public,” said the spokesperson, in an e-mail.

Pará has a murder rate of 41.7 per 100,000, according to 2012 figures from the Violence Map produced by the Latin-American Faculty of Social Sciences in Rio. The Los Angeles murder rate that same year was 7.8 per 100,000.

One Terra Firme resident, who asked not be named for security reasons, claimed Figueiredo’s militia was competing for control of the drug trade in the lawless slums where much of the killing took place. The militia also acted as a death squad, said the resident, hired by local businesses to kill drug gang members. “They are like vigilantes who kill bandits, then they become killers.”

When ‘Pet’ was killed around 7.30pm on Nov. 4, residents celebrated by launching fireworks. “Pet was accused of killing many youths, he led a death squad,” the resident said. Some locals have since been placed under witness protection.

Eliana Pereira, Pará state ombudswoman for public security and a human rights activist, said that the revenge killings in Belém would be nothing out of the ordinary for police-linked militias. “This is not the first case. There have been other massacres,” she said, citing the case of former military police officer Rosivan Moraes Almeida, sentenced to 120 years prison in October for killing six teenagers in 2011.

Rio de Janeiro has long battled a problem with militias involving former and serving police officers involved in activities like charging protection money and controlling gas supplies and cable television in poorer areas.

Amnesty International said the massacre was representative of a wider problem with police violence in Brazil. “The Brazilian police is one of the forces that kills most in the world,” said Ciconello, the Amnesty advisor.

According to annual figures to be released Nov. 11 from the Brazilian Forum of Public Security NGO, on and off-duty Brazilian police killed 11,197 people in the five years ending 2013. By comparison, the Forum said, U.S. police have killed 11,090 people in the past 30 years.

The Terra Firme resident said those who were killed in Belém, which means Bethlehem in Portuguese, included a 20-year-old man who collected the money for local minibus transports and a 16-year-old boy. “We want the state to investigate and to live in a society with social peace,” the resident said.

TIME brazil

Brazilian Leaders Call for Unity after Vicious Presidential Race

The incumbent, Dilma Rousseff, secured a second term at the weekend after a gripping, and at times ugly, campaign

After what was the most aggressive Presidential election in recent Brazilian history, both the winner and loser have called for unity, striking a tone of reconciliation following the close of a nail-biting campaign that resulted in a second term for the incumbent, Dilma Rousseff. The Workers’ Party leader only just kept her job, securing 51.64% of the vote in a weekend run-off vote against Aécio Neves, the candidate of the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party who took 48.36%.

In her victory speech on Oct. 26, Rousseff, whose party has been in power since 2003, said the election had mobilized “at times contradictory ideas and emotions, but moved by a common feeling—a search for a better future.” Neves said he had “fought a good fight” and that the main priority for Rousseff should be “to unite Brazil.”

The two made common cause after a riveting and at times vicious campaign. Only weeks ago, Rousseff was expected to face a final-round challenge from Marina Silva, the environmentalist who made a late entry into the race after the sudden death of the Socialist Party candidate Eduardo Campos. But her support ebbed away as the Workers’ Party targeted her campaign. Rousseff said Silva would abolish the government’s flagship income support scheme, while a Workers’ Party campaign advert suggested the environmentalist, who promised to grant autonomy to the country’s central bank, would deliver Brazil to greedy financiers. She came third in the first round vote.

In the second round, with Silva out of the picture, Rousseff and Neves repeatedly insulted each other with accusations over corruption and nepotism. Neves enjoyed a last-minute surge of support as he capitalized on a corruption scandal involving the state-controlled oil company Petrobras. But it wasn’t quite enough to unseat Rousseff.

No sooner had the dust on Sunday’s victory settled than attention focused on the problems Rousseff now faces, and the political capital she had shed on her way to this narrowest of victories. “She came out weaker,” says David Fleischer, professor of political science at the University of Brasília. “I am not sure how she is going to put the country back together.”

Brazil split over the vote, with poorer states in the north and northeast, plus the southeastern states of Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, voting for Rousseff, while the rest of the richer states in the south and southeast chose Neves. “A very acute north-south divide,” adds Fleischer. “It is also a divide of rich and poor.”

Now Rousseff’s most pressing problem is the Brazilian economy, mired in a technical recession after two quarters of retraction, with inflation simmering above the government’s 6.5% target. A new Finance Minister will be appointed to replace the incumbent, Guido Mantega, who, like Rousseff herself, is seen as too interventionist and has been unpopular with the markets.

“I think she will nominate someone more market friendly,” says Tony Volpon, an analyst at Nomura Securities in New York. Volpon thinks Rousseff is also likely to ease off on her campaign’s anti-banker rhetoric. “There is no reason for her to keep beating on the class warfare rhetoric, against the elite, against the bankers,” he adds. “The market’s going to give her the benefit of the doubt to see if she is going to have a more market-friendly attitude.”

The danger, Volpon says, is that the Workers’ Party will see this election victory as an endorsement for its economic policies, which have kept unemployment relatively low but failed to stimulate growth. The government has blamed the international financial situation. Neves blamed the government.

Comments by Guido Mantega reported by local media on Monday confirmed this fear. “This shows that the population approves the economic policy we are doing,” Mantega said of the result.

Volpon says in the longer term market frustration will rise. “She will try and move policy in the right direction but the market will see it is not enough,” he explains. “Markets only look at profit. That clash of vision will lead to a nasty divorce.”

Rousseff’s other big problem is managing Brazil’s Congress, where she will need to unite nine unruly parties in her winning coalition. Her key ally is the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB, in its Portuguese acronym), of which Vice President Michel Temer is a member. While Rousseff’s Workers’ Party has a slight majority in the House of Deputies, in the upper chamber, the Senate, the PMDB is bigger. “The governability is dependent on the PMDB,” says Rafael Cortez, a political analyst at the São Paulo economic, financial and political consultancy Tendencias.

In Brazil’s labyrinthine maze of seemingly contradictory political alliances, parties that are allied at the national level often face off against each other in the states. In Rio Grande do Norte state, Rouseff’s predecessor and political mentor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva– or Lula, as he is widely known—supported Robinson Faria in his successful campaign to become governor. Faria is from another of Rousseff’s coalition members, the Social Democrat Party, and he defeated the PMDB’s candidate for state governor.

Rousseff will need to repair the damage caused by these state-level rivalries. “Her so-called partners are very discontented,” says Fleischer. “They are going to put some very heavy demands on her.” These will include more key ministerial posts, when Rousseff announces her new cabinet, expected before December.

But diplomacy is not Rousseff’s strong point, despite her conciliatory victory speech. “She does not like to do negotiation—which was the strong part of Lula’s game,” adds Fleischer. The charismatic former president was the first person Rousseff thanked in her speech and there has been speculation that he could return to fight an election in 2018. Current rules prevent Rousseff from seeking a third consecutive term.

Fleischer, however, discounted a Lula comeback. “He’s not very keen on risking his legacy, his charisma, or his prestige,” he says. Cortez, on the other hand, argues it is too early to call. “It will depend on the second mandate,” he says. “The government won, but lost political capital.”

TIME brazil

Brazil’s Presidential Election, Round 2: It’s the Economy, Estúpido

Brazil's President and presidential candidate for the Workers' Party Dilma Rousseff, speaks during a meeting with Governors and Senators elected in the first round of general elections, in Brasilia, Brazil on Oct. 7, 2014.
Evaristo Sa—AFP/Getty Images Brazil's President and presidential candidate for the Workers' Party Dilma Rousseff, speaks during a meeting with Governors and Senators elected in the first round of general elections, in Brasilia, Brazil on Oct. 7, 2014.

The economy takes center stage as incumbent President Dilma Rousseff takes on business-friendly challenger Aécio Neves in a runoff election Oct. 26

Brazil’s faltering economy will be high in voters’ minds when they return to the polls Oct. 26 for a second-round face-off in the country’s presidential election.

President Dilma Rousseff, whose Workers’ Party has run Brazil since 2003, won 41.59% of votes cast in a first-round poll on October 5 — not quite enough to beat outright Aécio Neves, a business-friendly candidate who was twice governor of Minas Gerais state. Neves, who had been trailing in third place in polls, came second with 33.55% in the latest in a series of upsets in a volatile campaign.

Neves’ resurgence can partly be explained by the worrying state of the country’s economy. The country is technically in recession, having retracted 0.6% in the second quarter of this year, and 0.2% in the first. On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund revised its prediction for Brazil’s 2014 GDP growth down to 0.3%, from the 1.3% growth it had estimated in June.

“In Brazil growth is very low. This puts the advance of social programs at risk,” said Ricardo Ismael, a political scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. Inflation is also running above government targets, at 6.62%.

Many voters, especially those in the upper classes, see Neves as a safe pair of hands. His Party for Brazilian Social Democracy ran Brazil from 1995-2002 under President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Cardoso had won a first-round vote in 1995 after the ‘Real Plan’ he coordinated as Finance Minister ended hyperinflation. His government stabilized the economy and introduced much-needed economic reforms. But the Left attacked the party’s privatizations of state companies and lack of focus on social policies.

On Monday, Rousseff resurrected that attack, alluding to “ghosts of the past” and noting that inflation had reached 12.5% in 2002. “They never put the poor in the budget. All the social policies were restricted, made for few people,” Rousseff said. Her party’s flagship income support program, the Bolsa Família, or ‘Family Purse,’ has lifted millions of Brazilians from poverty. The president has said in campaigning her opponents would end it.

Neves countered with a broadside over the stagnant economy and a corruption scandal which has linked payments to politicians from the Workers’ Party and other coalition parties to inflated contracts from state-controlled oil company, Petrobras. His program maintains the Bolsa Família.

“Brazilians are very worried with the monsters of the present,” Neves said in a speech Monday. “High inflation, recession and corruption.”

Rousseff was initially favorite to win this election. But when the Brazilian Socialist Party’s Eduardo Campos, a ‘third way’ candidate who was in third place in polls, was killed in a plane crash on Aug. 13, his running mate Marina Silva took his place, tripled his share, and was soon polling equal with Rousseff and ahead in a second round vote.

But Silva’s campaign faltered under a barrage of attacks from the Workers’ Party, and Neves was able to present himself as a stronger candidate for change, with a tough performance in the last two television debates. He rode a last minute wave of support to second place. Silva fell to third with 21.32% of the vote, only slightly more than she achieved in the 2010 election, when she also finished third. Brazilians also voted for governors, Congress and state assemblies.

“The electors that were anti-Workers’ Party became more sympathetic to Aécio,” said Ismael, using the candidate’s first name, as is commonplace in Brazil. “He managed to convince in this sense.”

Neves now has three weeks to prove his point. But in a sign of widening voter apathy, 39 million Brazilians either abstained, or voted for nobody – more than the 35 million that voted for Neves.

TIME brazil

Marina Silva Speaks to TIME as Brazil’s Presidential Race Enters the Homestretch

Brazilian Socialist Party presidential candidate Marina Silva attends a Mass for late presidential candidate Eduardo Campos at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 19, 2014.
Eraldo Peres—AP Brazilian Socialist Party presidential candidate Marina Silva attends a Mass for late presidential candidate Eduardo Campos at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Brasilia, Brazil on Aug. 19, 2014.

Thrown into the contest after the sudden death of Eduardo Campos, Silva has shaken up a race that until recently looked like a walkover for President Dilma Rousseff

Marina Silva was the running mate of the Brazilian Socialist Party’s presidential candidate Eduardo Campos when he died in a plane crash on Aug. 13, less than two months before elections on Oct. 5. His sudden death and her subsequent entry into the race changed the dynamic of the election. Silva tripled Campos’ share in the polls, and quickly surged ahead of the incumbent, the Workers’ Party’s Dilma Rousseff, though, with two days to go until the vote, Rousseff has now edged back ahead. As the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2010, Silva, who grew up in poverty in the Amazon rainforest, took 19% of the vote. This year, Silva could force a second round run-off with Rousseff. A former Brazilian environment minister credited with helping slow deforestation in the Amazon, Silva spoke to TIME about her proposals for the weak Brazilian economy, her thoughts on Brazil’s relationship with the U.S., and her upbringing deep in the Amazon rainforest.

On what she would do to put Brazil back to the path to growth after it tumbled into recession this year:

“The most important thing now is to elect a government that can give a clear signal that it will establish the fundamentals of our economy, maintaining the autonomy of the central bank, securing this autonomy, and passing a strong signal that we are going to control inflation, that we are going to reduce interest rates, and this would certainly resume our investment capacity. Resuming our investment capacity, we are going to return to growth.”

On where Brazil went wrong:

“While various countries in the world during the crisis that began in 2008 were doing their homework to gain musculature and go back to growth, Brazil under the current government underestimated the crisis. And in underestimating the crisis, did not do what it needed to do. And now when all of them start to recuperate from the crisis, Brazil is suffering the consequences.”

On Brazil’s relationship with the U.S.:

“The United States is an important country from the economic point of view, from the cultural point of view, ecological, and it is desirable that this partnership should be increasingly deepened, safeguarding the interests of both parts.”

On the 2013 allegations that the National Security Agency eavesdropped on Brazil’s President Rousseff and state-controlled oil company Petrobras:

“This created great discomfort in our diplomatic relations but we have to work so that this mistake can be repaired. Obviously for it to be repaired there needs to be a gesture from the country that committed the invasion of spying. And we have the opening for this episode to be overcome in the best possible way and we will always defend our sovereignty with vigor, the protection of our interests, but we don’t think this should deepen the crisis, the separation. Very much on the contrary, we want space for cooperation.”

On whether she would have cancelled a state visit to Washington as a result of the scandal, as President Rousseff did:

“Any government that feels invaded has to have a strong gesture. You can’t suffer an invasion of the protection of our security in terms of information without a strong reaction. I don’t imagine that if the United States had been spied on, that it wouldn’t have had a strong reaction.”

On the mass street protests that swept Brazil in 2013:

“What society was demonstrating was that in Brazil, in the world, there is a big change underway. A new political animal is emerging. This new political animal no longer moves in the way it used to, directed by the parties, by the unions, by the NGOs, or by charismatic leaders. This new political animal, that is mobilizing in the whole world, in the United States, in Europe, in Asia, in Brazil, is the fruit of the technological changes that happened, which provided communication from person to person, as in the case of the internet. They are authors, they are mobilizers, they are protagonists, they are people who do not want to be political spectators, they want to take on a political role, live, experience.”

On growing up in a family of rubber tappers in the Amazon forest:

“It was a very significant life, with many difficulties, but at the same time, with a lot freedom, with a lot of creativity, with a lot of learning, a lot of affection. I was a very stimulated child. We were eight siblings. Seven women with me and a man—except that my brother was one of the youngest. From the age of four, for five years, I was raised with my grandmother, in a house in the middle of the forest, a wooden shack on stilts, that was some 15 minutes from my father’s shack.”

On what she learned from her childhood:

“When I left the forest at 16, I was illiterate in modern literacy, but I was already a PhD in native stories. I learnt a lot with my grandmother who was a traditional midwife. I learnt a lot with my shaman uncle. I learnt a lot with my father. I learnt a lot with the forest. This was my universe.”

TIME brazil

Brazil’s Presidential Race Upended by a Dark Horse

Miguel Schincariol—AFP/Getty Images Marina Silva, the presidential candidate of the Brazilian Socialist Party

The campaign has only just begun, but Marina Silva, who was handed the Brazilian Socialist Party's nomination after her running mate died in a plane crash, is now the candidate to beat

On the streets of central Rio de Janeiro this week, a man pushed a wheeled garbage bin that had been converted into a mobile sound system and was blasting a hip-hop-style campaign jingle. Two unsmiling clowns handed out election leaflets for a state deputy. Campaigning has officially begun in Brazil for Oct. 5 elections, and the noise level has significantly increased.

But this time around, there is little attention being paid to the habitual joke candidates — the three bin Ladens, Jesus, or São Paulo state-deputy candidate Paulo Batista, who flies through his homemade campaign video, zapping communists with red laser beams fired from his eyes.

Instead it is the gale of popular support whipping up behind environmentalist Marina Silva that is making all the news. The latest poll on Aug. 29 put Silva neck and neck with incumbent President Dilma Rousseff — both have 34%, leaving third-placed Aécio Neves with 15%. In a second-round simulation, Silva had 50% to Rousseff’s 40%.

It has been an extraordinary turnaround. Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT) has run Brazil since 2003, and the President looked like a sure thing for re-election until Aug. 13, when a small plane carrying then third-placed presidential candidate Eduardo Campos crashed, killing all seven on board. At the time, Rousseff led with 38%, and Campos, a former governor of Pernambuco state who was pushing a third-way platform for his Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), had just 9%.

His death catapulted Silva, his running mate, into the election. She had polled nearly 20 million votes in the 2010 election as a Green Party candidate and accepted a role as Campos’ vice-presidential candidate when attempts to found her own Sustainability Network party foundered. Now this former Environment Minister, who was raised in an illiterate, desperately poor family of rubber tappers in the Brazilian Amazon, is favored to win. Her name was chanted by some of the 130,000 mourners at Campos’ funeral.

The extent of her rise is all the more remarkable given PT’s status as a formidable political machine. Its large umbrella of coalition parties is campaigning with over five times the allotted television advertising time of Silva’s PSB.

“It is a public-opinion phenomenon … an epidemic,” says Jairo Nicolau, a political scientist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. “This is the first time this happened in a presidential election.”

Rousseff is also facing a perfect storm of negative coverage. Not only has Brazil’s economy retracted for the second quarter running, putting the country technically in recession, but she was also embarrassed by comments alleged to have been made by a disgraced member of her party last week.

José Dirceu, former chief of staff to PT’s phenomenally popular ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — known simply as Lula — recently called her “Lula in a skirt,” according to a blog written by Fernando Rodrigues on the UOL news site. Dirceu, jailed with other PT bosses last year in a major vote-buying scandal, has denied the comment, but the phrase has stuck.

Memories of that scandal haven’t helped. In a recent interview on TV Globo’s prime-time Jornal Nacional news program, Rousseff refused to condemn party workers who had hailed Dirceu and other jailed PT bosses as heroes. “Perhaps the biggest PT mistake is not to have criticized themselves over corruption,” says Nicolau.

That’s especially pertinent given Rousseff’s party’s ambitious reform proposals. The PT wants to form a constituent assembly to carry out political reform with public financing for campaigns to avoid “strategies based on purchasing power.”

Silva’s reforms are no less ambitious. Her “new politics” agenda seeks a five-year mandate instead of the current four, and she says she will not stand for re-election. Her party’s program promises transparency in the funding of electoral campaigns and easier rules for referendums. “One of the most important projects, at this moment in the history of Brazil, is that we can renew politics,” Silva said in her own Jornal Nacional interview.

Silva is picking up support from disaffected urban voters who flooded Brazilian streets in protests in 2013, and a middle class tired of corruption scandals like the one that saw Dirceu jailed. “Society does not recognize itself in the parties, and does not recognize itself in the way politics is going,” says Ricardo Ismael, a political scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.

She has also been polling well among Brazil’s increasingly influential evangelical Christians. She is herself evangelical — although there is also an evangelical candidate, Everaldo Dias Pereira, better known as Pastor Everaldo, who is trailing with 2%.

(Her desire to appeal to religious voters seems to have affected her agenda, somewhat. When the PSB program was launched on Aug. 29, it included proposals to legalize gay marriage and criminalize homophobia. That might have angered evangelicals but could have given Silva more support among liberal urban voters. A day later, however, Silva withdrew the proposals as a “mistake.”)

But perhaps the most important issue in this election is the economy. Rousseff and PT have been buoyed, in recent years, by the stable economy and economic growth it enjoyed for a decade. The party used that economic growth to fund programs like the Family Purse income-support scheme to end social exclusion. A generation of poorer Brazilians advanced to a lower-middle class, called Class C. GDP growth peaked at 7.5% in 2010.

Brazil isn’t growing anymore, though, and the economy’s stagnation is now one of Rousseff’s biggest problems. “This is an extremely vulnerable point in Dilma’s campaign,” says Paulo Fábio Dantas Neto, political scientist at the Federal University of Bahia in Salvador.

It’s one that Silva has been able to capitalize on. Markets rose this week on what is being called the “Marina effect” — the market-friendly PSB manifesto promises an independent Central Bank and more public-private partnerships to promote more much needed investments in infrastructure.

While Neves and his center-right Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) have tried to take a business-friendly approach, voters are now primed to dismiss him as business as usual. “The electorate does not want more PT and will not vote for Aécio,” says Ismael. “Marina fills a space for those who want to change but do not want the PSDB.”

So is Silva a sure thing? Not necessarily, says Nicolau, who advises that Brazilian public opinion has shown itself volatile in recent years. The mass street protests of June 2013 dissipated rapidly. World Cup disappointment just prior to the tournament turned to pride once the tournament began.

“It is very volatile for some feelings, some perceptions. Today Marina is a phenomenon, but she could deflate,” he says.

TIME brazil

The Green Activist Who Might Become Brazil’s Next President

Brazilian Socialist Party presidential candidate Marina Silva attends a Mass for late presidential candidate Eduardo Campos at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 19, 2014.
Eraldo Peres—AP Brazilian Socialist Party presidential candidate Marina Silva attends a Mass for late presidential candidate Eduardo Campos at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Brasilia, Brazil on Aug. 19, 2014.

Marina Silva is likely to shake up the country's presidential race after replacing the late Eduardo Campos as candidate for the Brazilian Socialist Party

No sooner had news broken of the small aircraft crash that killed presidential candidate Eduardo Campos than attention in Brazil turned to Marina Silva.

The late politician’s running mate, a former environment minister and third place finisher in the first round of voting in 2010’s presidential race, was the obvious choice to replace him as candidate for the Brazilian Socialist Party, PSB.

And yet Silva, whose nomination is expected to be confirmed by the party on Aug. 20., seemed almost reluctant to take Campos’ place. People who know Silva, a deeply religious evangelical Christian, say she is motivated by a sense of responsibility rather than raw ambition.

“She is very simple and true person, very correct. She says what she thinks. Although she is a political being, she is a very truthful being,” said Marília de Camargo Cesar, who wrote a 2010 biography of Silva.

Pollsters say Silva is now the politician most likely to pick up the previously undecided ‘protest vote’ that sent millions of Brazilians onto the streets in massed demonstrations in June last year.

On Monday, the first poll since Campos’s death gave Silva 21%, technically level (within the margin of error) with Aécio Neves, from the center-right Brazilian Social Democratic Party, PSDB, who had 20%. Neves had until then been the main threat to President Dilma Rousseff, up for re-election and polling at 36%. Rousseff’s Workers Party, PT, has run Brazil since 2003.

In one second round simulation, Silva had 47% to the president’s 43% – technically, neck and neck. Until Monday, Roussef had been expected to easily win re-election on Oct. 5. And now, the world is scrambling to find out more about the environmental activist who could yet be Brazil’s next president.

Maria Osmarina Marina Silva Vaz de Lima was born on Feb. 8 1958 in the tiny forest community of Breu Velho in Brazil’s remote Acre state, in the Amazon. Her parents had eleven children, three of whom died. She grew up among desperately poor, illiterate rubber tappers, dreamed of becoming a nun, and only learnt to read as a teenager.

Marina – as she is known in Brazil – lost her mother at 15 and has suffered constant health problems – she survived five malaria bouts, hepatitis and a heavy metal poisoning which was probably caused by treatment for leishmaniasis, a disease spread by sandflies. “She has been close to death so many times,” said Cesar.

Her humble background gives her impeccable credentials for the millions of lower income Brazilians who voted for Rousseff’s predecessor, mentor and fellow PT member, the charismatic Luiz Inácio da Silva, or Lula. Millions advanced to a new lower middle class during 12 years of PT rule.

Silva’s name was chanted by some of the 130,000 mourners who turned out for Eduardo Campos’s requiem and funeral on Sunday in Recife, capital of the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco he ran as governor for eight years. Rousseff, Lula and Neves all attended.

A clearly emotional Silva, who almost joined Campos on the ill-fated plane journey, was highly visible throughout the service, and spent much of it hand in hand with Campos’s widow, Renata. Replacing Campos on the PSB ticket was not an easy decision for her, said João Paulo Capobianco, a biologist and former deputy minister to Silva at Brazil’s Environment Ministry, who was with Silva in Recife.

“She suffered a lot with this process,” he said. “She is aware of her responsibility. As it was the wish of everyone, of Eduardo, of the family, she ended up accepting.”

Silva’s political career began in environmental activism. A history graduate and adherent of left wing, Catholic ‘Liberation Theology’ Silva became active in the rubber tappers union alongside Chico Mendes, an iconic unionist and environmentalist who was murdered in 1988. Both participated in direct actions against deforestation. She joined the nascent PT, became a state deputy in 1990, and Brazil’s youngest-ever senator in 1994, at just 36.

As Lula’s Environment Minister from 2003-2008 she was behind a multi-ministry Action Plan to Prevent and Control Amazon Deforestation that led to a 57% decrease in just three years and which won her the Norwegian Sophie Prize for environment and sustainable development in 2009. Silva tried to set up her own Sustainability Network party to fight this election, and when that failed accepted a role as Campos’s running mate.

“She is a very objective person and very transparent in her ideas. And she has an enormous capacity to attract collaborators,” said Capobianco, who now runs the Institute of Democracy and Sustainability think-tank.

Although Neves, the center-right candidate, would be first choice for a Brazilian business community increasingly concerned by the country’s low growth and high inflation, Campos had won ground promising long-term inflation targets and an independent central bank. He also made friends with Brazil’s powerful agribusiness lobby, a key motor in the country’s stumbling economy. “What we have on record is actually pretty good from a market perspective,” said Volpon, head of Emerging Market Research Americas at the Nomura Bank in New York.

But “ruralists” distrust Silva and her sustainable development agenda. “Marina Silva has never been able to be clear about her sustainable development in relation to agricultural production. We do not understand how she plans to do this,” said Senator Kátia Abreu, expected to be re-elected president of the powerful National Agriculture and Livestock Confederation in October. “It is one thing to be an activist, another to be a president with a more realistic agenda.”

That distrust may be eased by the choice of Beto Albuquerque, a federal deputy with links to Brazil’s agribusiness, to be Silva’s running mate. Having a more business-friendly name on the ticket will free her up to run as a more populist, “third way” candidate.

And it’s that appearance of being something new, and different, that makes Silva a genuine threat to Roussoff in October’s election. Many in Brazil are looking for a leader who is something more than the cynical career politicians the country is sick of, according to Brazilian film director Fernando Meirelles, who directed City of God and The Constant Gardener.

“The big difference between Marina and the majority of politicians is that she puts her ideas and her program for the country in front of her political career or party interests,” he said.

TIME brazil

Death of Presidential Candidate Shocks Brazil

Brazilian presidential candidate killed in plane crash
Fernando Bizerra Jr.—EPA Eduardo Campos, presidential candidate of the Brazilian Socialist Party, during an event in Brasília on Oct. 5, 2013

“The campaign has now gone into limbo”

Brazil was thrown into mourning Wednesday by the unexpected death of presidential candidate Eduardo Campos in a plane crash. The popular former governor of Pernambuco State in northeast Brazil’s was just 49 and his death threw October’s election wide open.

“The whole of Brazil is in mourning. Today we lost a great Brazilian,” Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said in a statement on the loss of her presidential rival — a former member of her predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s left-wing Workers’ Party’s coalition government. Lula and Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT) have run Brazil since winning in 2002.

Campos and six others were killed when the small Cessna plane they were traveling in from Rio de Janeiro to an event in Guarujá on the São Paulo state’s coast crashed in port town Santos after hitting bad weather, the Brazilian air force said in a statement.

His death sent shock waves throughout Brazil. Brazilians posted tributes on social media and the hashtag #RIPEduardoCampos was trending on Twitter.

“It is a huge loss for Brazil,” said André Singer, political scientist at the University of São Paulo and former press secretary for ex-President Lula. “Everyone is very shocked.”

Rousseff is currently leading the pack for re-election in October, with 38% according to the most recent poll. Campos, the candidate for the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) was in third place with 9% and seen as a “third way” politician with business credentials who believed in private investment but also invested in education and health.

Both Rousseff and Aécio Neves — the candidate for the center-right Brazilian Social Democratic Party, who, at 23%, was second in the recent poll — canceled campaigning Wednesday out of respect.

“The campaign has now gone into limbo,” says David Fleischer, professor of political science at the University of Brasília.

Campos first became a state deputy for the PSB in 1990. He won two terms as governor of Pernambuco state, in 2006 and 2010, presiding over an economic boom and major infrastructure projects. Under him, Pernambuco’s GPD grew an average of 4.9% from 2007 to 2013, compared with Brazil’s 3.5%, according to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo.

He was also heir to a political dynasty. His grandfather Miguel Arraes, who died on the same day in 2005, was a three-time governor of Pernambuco and was exiled during Brazil’s military dictatorship.

On Tuesday night, Campos was interviewed live on TV Globo’s nightly television news program Jornal Nacional. Now the expectation is that his running mate Marina Silva, a former Environment Minister who came in third in the 2010 election as Green Party candidate, will take his place. Silva had almost taken the same plane.

“I think she will be candidate. It is early to say what place she will occupy,” says Fernando Abrucio, a political scientist from the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo. “In the northeast she won’t have the same votes,” Abrucio adds. “In the big urban centers she has more popular support than Campos.”

Abrucio says Silva is more likely to pick up the “protest” vote among young, more educated Brazilians who flooded onto the streets in mass demonstrations in June 2013. “A part could go to Marina, there is no doubt,” he says.

Campos had been wooing Brazil’s powerful agribusiness lobby, which distrusts Silva. “If she becomes the candidate, she is definitely going to insert the whole question of sustainability and the environment into the campaign,” Fleischer says.

Silva is an evangelical Christian, which helped her pick up almost 20 million votes in 2010. But this time Brazil’s expanding evangelical Christian population has its own candidate, Everaldo Dias Pereira, popularly known as Pastor Everaldo, currently in fourth place with 3%.

Abrucio says Campos’ main legacy is likely to be regional; his loss nationally will be felt more in what he could have achieved. “He was 49, he was not part of the generation that took part in the process of redemocratization in Brazil, like Lula and [former President] Fernando Henrique Cardoso,” he says. Two decades of military dictatorship ended in 1985.

“They did their job and we were starting a new cycle,” Abrucio adds. “He was a transitional politician.”

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