by Ana Rezende dos Anjos
In Brasil, election campaigning can be very frustrating for voters. Candidates will often choose a general topic where there are disagreements, and debate that to exhaustion. This is usually something economic, surrounding the recession, unemployment rates, GDP, inflation and other things that are important, but confusing to most people and therefore easy for candidates to remain vague about.
Rarely will they talk about abortion, gender or marriage equality, drug policies and controversial issues that could provoke the ire of religious conservative voters, or even the more liberal ones.
Luciana Genro, in that respect, is the most important candidate in this year’s election.
Born and raised in Rio Grande do Sul, a traditionally left-leaning state where her father is the current governor, Luciana can be deemed one of the most ideologically consistent candidates in this year’s run. She not only brings controversial subjects into general debate, but she is loud and clear when she says she will get into the pockets of big business to alleviate the still massive gap between rich and poor.
In 1985, at the young age of 14, Luciana joined Dilma Rousseff’s Workers Party (PT), which her father helped found. She was elected to state’s congress at the young age of 23, and inside PT she always followed the more leftist Trotskyist lineage of the party, unlike her father who followed the Centre-Left path.
Within PT, Genro had a very successful career in congress until 2002, a little after Lula was elected president, when he had to form alliances with right-leaning parties in order to to have parliamentary support for his presidency. Rebelling against Lula’s new alliances, Luciana was expelled from PT with several other party members, and together they founded the Socialist and Freedom Party (PSOL). From there, she successfully kept her seat in congress.
PSOL is one of the very few parties that do not take money from big corporations, instead funded by personal donations and contributions from its elected members. It advocates transparent public financing of election campaigns, which is one of the biggest hubs for corruption in Brazil today. It also heavily advocates for LGBT rights – one of the biggest names in the party is Jean Wyllys, an openly gay congressman who is one of the most important voices in the fight for equality in the country.
In the 2010 elections, the then PSOL candidate Plínio de Arruda Sampaio took on the role of the guy who brings up controversial themes that the mainstream candidates prefer not to discuss. Luciana is keeping up this tradition of speaking out on behalf of the minorities, against the conservative and religious sectors of the government, being in favour of the decriminalization of drugs and declaring that she will stand in the way of big money and implement a much more socialist agenda.
That is her and PSOL’s biggest contribution – to provoke debate about the not-so-popular themes during the election, and also to denounce the very cozy relationship that the three biggest candidates have with corrupt sectors of Brazilian society.
In a recent debate, she called out Centre-Right candidate, Aécio Neves for denouncing the corruption inside PT but forgetting to acknowledge his party PSDB’s vast history of corrupt practices. She also called out Marina Silva for her allegiance with Brazil’s bankers and tried to deconstruct her carefully crafted image of the “third way”. Luciana also took many shots on Dilma Rousseff for the government’s use of high interest rates to control inflation.
She called Aécio, Marina and Dilma, “the siamese triplets of capital interest”.
Not surprisingly, her Far-Left positions make her very unappealing for a good part of the population. On recent polls, only 1% of the voters said they would vote for her. A lot of those are young brazilians who are happy to hear someone talking about drugs, equality and abortion – so there is definitely a glimpse of hope for Luciana in the future, if not in the presidency, maybe in more significant representative roles.
But it’s very difficult to imagine Luciana as president. In Brazil, like in most democratic countries, it’s impossible to govern without the support of the majority of congress, and the congress in Brazil is very far from sharing Luciana’s views – hence Lula and Dilma’s decision to get in bed with conservative parties.
When asked about this, she says that if the people vote for her, it’s because they deeply believe in radical changes to our system, and she is right, but Brazil would need an actual revolution before congress would support the kind of policies she advocates.
She had a very successful election, her 1.6% doubling PSoL’s 2010 showing and gaining two Federal Deputies. Their growth has been overlooked, yet it is the most direct electoral link to June 2013’s protests that can be demonstrated with statistics & context; as a poll of USP students showed her to be the clear winner, and they were the group that actually formed the original demonstrations in Sao Paulo.