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Ex-rebel now front-runner

NATANGA SMITH, [email protected]

Ex-rebel now front-runner

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SAO PAULO – A former Marxist guerrilla who was imprisoned and brutally tortured during Brazil’s long military dictatorship was the front-running candidate in yesterday’s presidential election, though she might be forced into a run-off vote by her centrist rival.
Dilma Rousseff, a 62-year-old career bureaucrat, represents the ruling Workers’ Party and is the hand-picked successor of outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, universally known as Lula. Lula led Brazil to unparalleled economic growth, increased its political clout on the global stage and will leave office as the nation’s most popular leader.
The latest polls show Rousseff with a lead of about 20 percentage points over her closest rival, Jose Serra, a 68-year-old centrist from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party and former mayor of Sao Paulo who was badly defeated by Silva in the 2002 election.
“In the last election, I voted for Lula, who has improved the lives of millions of poor and made Brazil a country respected around the world,” said Maria Silveira, a 63-year-old retired teacher voting in Sao Bernardo do Campo, just outside Sao Paulo, where Silva also cast his ballot. “It only makes sense to vote for the candidate who I know will continue what he started.”
Iracy Silva, a 22-year-old student, said she was not moved by the fact that Latin America’s largest nation may elect its first female leader, saying “experience counts more than gender”.
“I voted for Serra because he has much more experience than the other candidates, whom I had barely even heard of before the campaigning began,” she said.
The campaign has been short on substance and long on arguing about who would more efficiently continue the policies of the Silva presidency, which lifted about 20.5 million people from poverty during its eight years. (AP)