Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Death of a Statesman

Lionel Brizola passed away last night, at the age of 82. He was still the leader of his Democratic Workers Party (PDT) when he went into hospital.

Brizola was one of the last Brazilian politicians with a particular political position prior to the military coup in 1964. He was governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, where like me, he was born. He was associated with the deposed left-wing president, Jango Goulart (1961-63), which encouraged him to go into exile.

On his return to Brazil he played a leading role in the 'Direitas Ja!' campaign for civilian government and direct elections. He became governor of Rio de Janeiro in the 1980s and stood for president. In 1989 Brizola was expected to be the main left-wing challenger for that position, until Lula and the Workers Party (PT) came from nowhere to force Fernando Collor in the run-off.

Brizola, seeing the way the wind was blowing, threw his support behind Lula and was his running mate in the 1994 elections. But he never gave up on his own presidential ambitions and was thinking of running in the 2006 elections.

It's a comfort to know that the Brazil he leaves is a more democratic - if not yet more equal - place.

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