By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Trying to reap the success of the 2016 Olympics, Eduardo da Costa Paes, has tried to distance himself from corrupt political allies in Rio de Janeiro, and has a comfortable lead in this year’s gubernatorial race for the state.
A former ally of disgraced ex-governor Sergio Cabral, Paes who was Rio de Janeiro city’s mayor during the Olympics even changed political parties in his strategy to win the state’s gubernatorial race.
“All criminal activities that led to convictions and arrests were within the state government. I was mayor, so I answer (only) for what happened at the city hall,” said Paes in an interview to newsweekly Veja earlier this year.
After two terms ahead of Rio’s mayor, he believes he is the only candidate capable of giving the state the ‘administration shock’ it needs to get out of biggest financial crisis in Rio’s history.
With a coalition of twelve political parties, including his former MDB party, Paes has today twenty-five percent of voter intention, to soccer player-turned-politician, Romario’s fourteen percent. Former governor Anthony Garotinho has fifteen percent, but has been barred from the race by Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court under the Ficha Limpa (Clean Slate) law.
Some of the strongest criticism against Paes comes from those who say he was part of the vote-buying scandal for the Rio Olympics.
“I had no idea [of the corruption],” defends the former mayor. “Rio won with so many votes.”
“When it [scandal] broke, I was in the United States and everyone knew that I was the mayor of the Olympics. Needless to say, it was very embarrassing for me. Do you think that I do not worry about having to explain the corruption of others?” he stated.