Brazil holds 1st online presidential debate

16:38, August 19, 2010      

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Brazil held on Wednesday its first online presidential debate, which gathered the three front-runners in the presidential campaign.

They were: Dilma Rousseff from the Workers' Party, handpicked by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for succession; Jose Serra from the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, the main opposition candidate; and Green Party's Marina Silva.

Topics such as education, public health system, basic sanitation and taxes were debated by the participants, who also had the opportunity to question each other and answer questions from journalists and netizens.

The debate, marked by frequent accusations and criticisms, was more fierce than a previous TV debate two weeks ago.

Serra kept his strategy of criticizing the Lula administration, while both Rousseff and Silva intensified their attacks on Serra's records as governor of Sao Paulo state (Jan. 2007 to March 2010) and health minister under former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002).

According to Serra, Brazil's current economic stability does not owe to President Lula's policies, but to his predecessor Cardoso's plan, which established the real as Brazil's currency in the mid-90s.

Rousseff replied that although the Real Plan did work, Brazil still had a high inflation rate when the Lula administration started in 2003.

Serra also complained about the amount of taxes Brazilians pay, saying that while keeping high tax rates, the government did not make enough investments.

In response to this accusation, Rousseff said Serra used old data and stressed the Lula administration had cut several taxes since the global financial crisis started, to assure economic stability.

Rousseff's argument focused on the Lula administration's achievements, which, according to her, changed Brazil in seven and a half years. She said she hoped these changes could be continued.

For her part, Silva concentrated her attacks on Serra instead of Rousseff. But she reaffirmed her position as a candidate who is not making opposition just for the sake of it and who is not willing to ignore what the Lula administration was incapable of doing.

Silva said Brazil has all the resources to address the challenges in the 21st century, if it learns to look forward instead of living in the past.

All the three candidates expressed their satisfaction with the debate. According to web portal UOL, one of the debate's sponsors, the candidates agreed to have a second online debate scheduled for Oct. 21 if there is a runoff after the first round of presidential elections on Oct. 3. A runoff will be followed on Oct. 31 if necessary.

Source: Xinhua


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