By Jaylan Boyle, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – With a famous wife and an infamous temper, Ciro Gomez of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) cuts quite the dashing figure in Brazilian politics. Next year he will in all likelihood be locking horns with Dilma Rousseff and José Serra in a third bid to get himself to the top. According to a recent poll this is about as likely as it was last time out in 2002.
Gomez is trailing the distant second-placed contender Dilma Rousseff by five percentage points. Of course, never say never in this part of the world.
Until recently many were picking Ciro Gomez rather than Dilma Rousseff to emerge as President Lula’s chosen successor, a decision that was watched closely due to Lula’s perceived ‘kingmaker’ status. In a country where the main parties are relatively young and inexperienced in the execution of power, Lula’s unprecedented support means that many will conceivably vote wherever he tells them to.
Coming from a long line of politicians (his brother is the incumbent Governor of Ceará in the northwest, a post that Ciro has held himself), he is considered something of a prodigy and has behind him a number of triumphs that have endeared him to those in his home state. Elected to the governorship of Ceará in 1990 at the age of 32, his tenure earned him kudos from such elevated places as Unicef and The Economist.
During his reign infant mortality was cut by a third and investment began to return to the poverty-stricken region. He is also well known for completing the construction of a 115 mile canal in just ninety days, thereby averting a water crisis in Fortaleza, Ceará’s capital.
But perhaps his crowning achievement in the eyes of many Brazilians is his successful wooing of soap opera star and media darling Patricia Pillar. Leading up to the 2002 election Gomes was widely tipped as a possible bolster in what many saw as a potently popular partnership. When Pillar told the nation she was fighting cancer the public outpouring of sympathy didn’t hurt Gomes’s chances much either.
What did however do plenty to stop his meteoric rise was the growing public perception of ’emotional instability’, which Gomes brought down on himself with a number of ill-advised outbursts. He has at various times called a radio listener a ‘dunce’, labeled business leaders as ‘terrorists’ and shoppers as ‘suckers’.
This talent for making enemies does not seem to be limited to interaction with the public, and he is well known for pulling no punches in Congress. This is certainly not a desirable personality trait in a country where political partnerships are so crucial, due to the inability of any party to dominate without allies. It seems that he hasn’t learned much since 2002. He recently did his best to alienate the female electorate by insinuating that his wife’s sole job on the campaign trail was to have sex with him.
Observers looking on from the west are no doubt a bit perturbed at the prospect of a dyed-in-the-wool left-winger like Gomes ascending the Brazilian political ladder. This perception will not help him at home either. People are concerned that we could see a repeat of the mini-surge in inflation that heralded the arrival of President Lula.
Though Lula’s Worker’s Party has paid lip-service to it’s left-wing heritage, in the past investors feared that the country was heading down a slippery slope. Ironically it was Ciro Gomes in his capacity as Finance Minister in 1994 that did much to make the Real Plan rescue Brazil from the inflation crisis it had been battling for years, which propelled the Fernando Cardoso government to power.