| SAO PAULO
SAO PAULO May 14 A controversial new campaign
ad has made class divisions a key theme in Brazilian President
Dilma Rousseff's battle for re-election in October.
The combative video, released online by Rousseff's Workers'
Party this week, suggests a deeply polarized campaign ahead in
which the incumbent will try to shift attention away from
Brazil's current economic malaise and focus instead on how life
improved for the poor over the last decade.
The ad shows a rural family happily driving in a truck
loaded with goods. Then they pass a dust-covered, downtrodden
version of themselves from the past, walking along the side of
the road and carrying heavy boxes.
"We can't let ghosts from the past come back and take away
everything we achieved," a narrator says.
The ad is designed to appeal to the some 40 million
Brazilians who have been lifted from poverty under 12 years of
leftist Workers' Party rule. Many acquired trucks, washing
machines and other big-ticket consumer goods for the first time.
Despite that progress, Brazil still has one of the world's
biggest gaps between rich and poor, and class divisions remain a
fact of politics and daily life.
The ad drew an immediate rebuke from Rousseff's leading
rival in the election, Senator Aecio Neves of the centrist
Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), who accused the ruling
party of "scaring and threatening people in order to try to stay
Polls show that Neves' party, which governed from 1995 to
2003, is still vulnerable to accusations that it is the party of
Brazil's rich elite.
Under President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the PSDB tamed
hyperinflation, which caused poverty to fall. But those years
also saw double-digit unemployment and the privatization of many
state-run companies, which the Workers' Party has repeatedly
characterized as benefiting the rich.
Rousseff's support has sagged in polls, in part because of
high inflation and economic growth that has averaged just 2
percent since she took office in 2011.
However, she still leads her rivals and her backing among
the poor remains strong. In a poll released earlier this month
by Datafolha, Rousseff led Neves by a margin of 47 percent to 17
percent among the lowest income group, families making less than
about $700 a month.
In the highest income group, Rousseff led Neves by only two
percentage points. Overall, among all groups, she still has a
Rousseff's powerful chief of staff, Aloizio Mercadante, said
in an interview published Wednesday that the "true dispute" in
the election would be Cardoso versus Rousseff and her Workers'
Party predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
(Reporting by Brian Winter; Editing by Kieran Murray)