By Margolis, Mac
Newsweek , Vol. 156, No. 04
Byline: Mac Margolis
With just three months left before they elect a new president, Brazilians are holding their breath. Back in 2002, when a onetime union man with a history of slamming the bourgeoisie was poised to take office, the very idea nearly undid a convalescing Brazilian economy. To save his candidacy, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wrote an open "Letter to the Brazilian People" eschewing his confrontational past and vowing to abide by the free market. The resulting economic revival has awed the world.
Today, two candidates have a real shot at leading the $2 trillion powerhouse. Will voters choose Lula's handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla? Or Jose Serra, a passionate center-leftist from Sao Paolo? Polls show the two at a dead heat. Rousseff never stops assuring Brazilians and foreign investors that she has shed her bandolier to follow Lula's middle path. And her rival may be a fierce critic of Lula's government, but the running political joke today is that it's actually Serra the economist who needs to pen a reassuring letter to the Brazilian people.
This clamor for continuity is a clear sign of more mature politics taking over Latin America. Ever since Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez launched his "Bolivarian revolution" to bring 21st-Century Socialism to the continent more than a decade ago, the ideological battle for Latin America's hearts and minds has been fierce. …