The Only Black Presidential Candidate, Suffers Resistance Among Afro-Brazilians


If Elected Marina Silva Would Be Brazil's First Black President
Marina Silva is the leading presidential candidate

AFRICANGLOBENote: With Black Brazilians being nearly invisible in Brazil’s sphere’s of power, one would think that the strong possibility of Marina Silva becoming the first black president in the nation’s history would have more feelings of hope and celebration within the Afro-Brazilian community. Well, this is not exactly how things are looking for Silva. According to recent numbers, the incumbent president, Dilma Rouseff leads with 37% of the intended vote, while Marina carries 31% and Aécio Neves, 15%. But those same reports last week were predicting that once Aécio Neves dropped out of the race and Silva goes head to head with Rouseff, Silva would claim a victory. A report by Financial Times out today reveals that Silva and Rouseff would be in a tie without Neves in the race. 

Breaking last week’s number down even further, we find that Dilma is the favorite among Catholics (40% to 31%), while Silva claims an edge (43% to 32%) with Evangelicals and a slight edge (32% to 30%) among persons of other religions. In terms of economic class, Dilma leads among Brazil’s poorest (49% to 27% among those earning one minimum salary per month and 38% to 33% among those who earn two minimum salaries), Marina leads among those who earn more than five minimum salaries (37% to 28%) while there is 35% tie between the two women in terms of people who earn between two and five minimum salaries per month.

We also see a sort of rich/poor break down in terms of support by education. For those who have up to a 4th grade education and between 5th and 8th grade, Dilma leads (50% to 25% and 44% to 29%, respectively) while Marina has the support of those who graduated from high school (38% to 33%) and those who graduated from college (37% to 24%). In terms of the racial question, numbers from late August and early September suggest that 40% of the Afro-Brazilian population intends to vote for Dilma versus 28% who intend to vote for Marina. These same reports show that the third candidate, Aécio Neves, would receive about 12% of the Black vote, which is exactly the difference between Rouseff and Silva among this segment of the population. This could be a huge factor for either of the eventual two candidates, which will certainly be Silva and Rouseff.

According to research from TSE, PNAD/IBGE, the população negra (Black population or the sum of pretos/Blacks and pardos/browns) makes up 55% of qualified voters for the 2014 election, the first that this parcel of the population represents the majority. And as the Black population represents the larger percentage of poor Brazilians, we can also see how, for the most part, race and class are also intimately linked in the upcoming election. In the past 12 years, under PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores or Workers Party) presidents Lula da Silva and Rouseff, the poor and Black population made great gains in terms of access to higher education and ascension into the middle classes, which could explain why the Black and poor seem to be remaining faithful to the possibility of Dilma’s re-election. This is part of the reason that this election cannot be simply seen as a racial vote with the population that looks more like Marina Silva voting for her based on identity politics. And there are a number of reasons for this.

1) Even though racism, racial exclusion and White supremacy continue to reign supreme in Brazil, non-White people see this election, as always, as a chance to support the candidate that will most likely create policies in their interests. And with reputation of the PT connected to the struggle of “the people” (even with its rightward turn in recent years) and 12 years of economic improvement for this population, Dilma remains the favorite. 2) Racial numbers in Brazil can never been seen as absolute and cannot automatically be assumed that persons see themselves as others may seen them. What does it say for identity politics if we take note of a female who physically looks likes Marina Silva but sees defines herself as branca (White)? As there are millions of people in Brazil who would fit this phenotype, it would throw off the entire prediction.

3) In a clear difference in comparison with US President Barack Obama’s carrying of 95% of the African-American vote  in the 2008 election, the dream of actually seeing a Black president isn’t as strong a sentiment that could overcome other factors associated with quality of life and social ascension in Brazil. How else can one explain the fact that during his historic run for the presidency in 2008, Obama actually said very little about what he would do to improve the plight of Black Americans and yet African-Americans overwhelmingly voted for him anyway. Sure, one would expect that in a country like Brazil in which the power structure is overwhelmingly White that non-Whites would vote for someone who looked like them, but also remember that racial identity in Brazil is not as Black and White as it is in the US. 4) There is an old saying in Brazil that even Blacks don’t for Blacks, thus, it is very likely that there are persons of visible African ancestry who would never vote for Marina regardless of how much she spoke to their interests. 

5) Although Marina has identified herself as a Black woman, her campaign as not as of yet spoken directly to concerns of Black Brazilians, or better, persons of visible African descent. There are several key issues to consider in this issue. First, if she were to speak directly to the “Black community” how many people would that actually be, as the vast majority of persons of visible African ancestry don’t actually define themselves as negro/negra/Black. Second, it is apparent that Marina, as any other candidate, must represent the wishes of the big money interests that are backing her. This clearly doesn’t apply to non-Whites as they don’t represent big money, business interest nor political power. Although White supremacy is clearly visible in Brazil, because of a different history with less open racial conflict (despite the strong presence of racism/White supremacy), aspirations simply aren’t as tied directly to race in Brazil as they are in US. In fact, rather than seeing Marina as a female Obama, one could argue that in this election, President Rouseff may represent a figure closer to someone like a US President Lyndon Johnson in the minds of non-White Brazilians: a White political figure who is deemed to be in solidarity with an excluded parcel of the population is search of social ascension. And judging from the plight of African-Americans under nearly six years of the first Black president, maybe it would be a good idea for Afro-Brazilians to analyze these candidates beyond the perspective of race. 


The Only Black Presidential Candidate, Marina Suffers Resistance Among Afro-Brazilians

Activists and researchers of the Black movement say that Marina has no ties to militancy

Marina is viewed with “suspicion” by Blacks, academics, social organizations and activists. The more backward evangelical leaders of Brazil, like Malafaia and Feliciano, support her with force.

In 2010, when she ran for the Planalto (quarters of Brazilian president) (2) for the first time, Marina said she wanted to be “the first Black woman, from a poor background, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil.” Four years later, it appears, according to IBOPE, in the leader among intentions of White voters, but behind Dilma Rousseff among Blacks and mulatos.

Despite being the only one of the three leading candidates to devote an entire chapter of her government program for the Black population, the former senator is not perceived as a representative of that portion of the electorate.

Evangelical, daughter of mestiça (mixed race) mother and Black father, Marina is analyzed with suspicion by academics, research institutes, social organizations and activists interviewed.

The most frequent criticisms question the candidate’s stance on issues important to Black militancy. Freedom for religions of African origin, the land registry for quilombo communities, viability of affirmative policies such as racial quotas, and the lack of links with the movement were the main points raised by respondents.

“We are very happy that someone self-declares themselves Black, but under no circumstances does Marina represent the struggle of this population,” says Professor Paulino Cardoso, president of the Associação Brasileira de Pesquisadores Negros (ABPN or Brazilian Association of Black Researchers) and researcher of Afro-Brazilian culture for 30 years.[/sociallocker]

Part Two