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Viewing cable 06SAOPAULO102, SAO PAULO VICE-MAYOR GILBERTO KASSAB: PFL INSIDER DISCUSSES ELECTORAL POLITICS REF: Sao Paulo 73 Sensitive but Unclassified -- Protect Accordingly

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06SAOPAULO102 2006-02-01 17:05 2011-03-05 00:12 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Consulate Sao Paulo
VZCZCXRO9013
PP RUEHRG
DE RUEHSO #0102/01 0321749
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 011749Z FEB 06
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4449
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 5622
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 2033
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 2388
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 1807
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 2560
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 1552
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 6809
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 2698
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC 2265
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SAO PAULO 000102 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NSC FOR CRONIN 
STATE PASS USTR FOR SULLIVAN/LEZNY 
USDOC FOR 4332/ITA/MAC/WH/OLAC/JANDERSEN/ADRISCOLL/MWAR D 
USDOC FOR 3134/USFCS/OIO/EOLSON/DDEVITO/DANDERSON 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PINR ECON BR
SUBJECT: SAO PAULO VICE-MAYOR GILBERTO KASSAB: PFL INSIDER DISCUSSES ELECTORAL POLITICS REF: Sao Paulo 73 Sensitive but Unclassified -- Protect Accordingly 

1. (SBU) Summary: Charge d'Affaires (CDA), accompanied by POLCOUNS, Sao Paulo Consul General, and Sao Paulo poloff, met January 19 with Sao Paulo Vice-Mayor Gilberto Kassab. The 45-year-old Kassab, an influential leader of the state Liberal Front Party (PFL), will serve as acting Mayor through the end of 2008 if Jose Serra departs by the end of March to run for President. He said Serra is well-prepared to be President and that the PFL continues to negotiate an electoral alliance with Serra's Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) and hopes to choose the running mate. Kassab said this year's elections will change Brazil's political landscape because of a provision newly in effect that will withdraw privileges from political parties that receive less than five percent of the nation-wide Congressional vote, effectively eliminating a number of small parties. End summary. 

2. (SBU) Kassab said Serra is the best candidate for President because he has experience at the national, state, and local levels, having twice been a Minister in the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso and having served as Secretary of Economy and Planning of Sao Paulo State in the mid-1980s, and now as Mayor of Brazil's largest city. He will have to resign by the end of March if he plans to run, but for political reasons he should decide earlier, preferably by the end of February. (NOTE: Per reftel, Serra told CDA he has not decided if he will leave the Mayor's office to run for President, but will decide in the latter half of March. Nevertheless, there are few who believe he will not run, and he is considered the frontrunner for his party's nomination. END NOTE.) 

3. (SBU) It is "natural and legitimate" for the PFL to ally with Serra's PSDB for the Presidential race, Kassab continued, since the two parties are already closely allied in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest state and city. Negotiations continue, with the PFL trying to secure the Vice-Presidential nomination. One strong candidate would be party president Jorge Bornhausen, Senator from the southern state of Santa Catarina. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) remains sharply divided, more a "federation of parties" than a single entity. One wing, led by party president Michel Temer, Federal Deputy from Sao Paulo, is closer to the PSDB, but a minority faction is closer to President Lula's government. It will be difficult for the PMDB to run its own candidate, Kassab averred, but if it does, Rio Grande do Sul Governor Germano Rigotto could be a viable alternative to populist former Rio de Janeiro Governor Anthony Garotinho; many in the PMDB consider Rigotto more trustworthy. In Kassab's view, another "gaucho," Nelson Jobim, outgoing Minister (judge) of the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), is positioning himself to be Lula's Vice-Presidential candidate. Jobim was a member of the PMDB in his previous political incarnation, and some have speculated he may even seek the party's presidential nomination, but if that doesn't work out Kassab thinks Jobim might join the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) or even Lula's Workers' Party (PT). 

4. (SBU) Kassab pointed out that the 2006 elections will change Brazil's political landscape because the "Clausula de Barreira," enacted in 1995 as part of the Law on Political Parties, will be in force for the first time. According to this provision, political parties must garner five percent of the nationwide vote for the Chamber of Deputies in order to maintain their parliamentary privileges. Their votes must be spread over at least nine of the 27 states, and parties must receive a minimum of two percent in each state. Parties whose vote falls below these thresholds do not lose their registration or legal status, and their members may still serve in elective office. However, such parties lose their free radio and television time and almost their entire share of the political party fund ("Fundo Partidario") distributed by the federal government. Furthermore, members of such parties may not serve on congressional committees or appoint party leaders or hold positions of leadership (President, Vice-President, etc.) in either the Chamber or the Senate. Under certain conditions, the parties may 

SAO PAULO 00000102 002 OF 002 

lose these rights in state and local legislative bodies as well. 

5. (SBU) This new rule, Kassab noted, will cause the disappearance of many small political parties which fall below the threshold. Four larger ones will survive: the PT, the PSDB, the PMDB, and his own PFL. Possibly two more may be able to get the five percent needed to maintain their viability. But many will not. (NOTE: In 2002, seven parties garnered more than 5 percent, the aforementioned four plus the PSB, the Democratic Labor Party (PDT) and the Progressivist Party (PP); seven other parties, including the PC do B (Communists) and the PV (Green Party), fell below the threshold and would, had the rule been in effect then, have lost their privileges. END NOTE.) The Clausula de Barreira is the first step towards political reform, in Kassab's view. It will rid the political scene of "rent-a-parties," as small, ideologically vacuous parties are called, which many consider vehicles for corruption and some blame for this year's vote-buying scandal (mensalao) in the Congress. Three parties whose members were involved in the scandal, the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB) the Liberal Party (PL), and the PP will likely disappear after the elections. With political reform out of the way, Kassab suggested that the new government might take on social security reform as its first task. 

6. (SBU) Bio note: Of mixed Arab and Italian descent, Gilberto Kassab is a member of the PFL's National Executive Committee as well as Sao Paulo state party Vice President and local party President. He served on the Sao Paulo City Council 1993-95 and in the state Legislative Assembly, 1995-99, taking a leave of absence to serve 1997-98 as Secretary of Planning in the municipal administration of Mayor Celso Pitta. He served a term as Federal Deputy, 1999-2003, and was re-elected, but left the Chamber in January 2005 to become Vice-Mayor. He is under an ethical cloud due to his work for Mayor Pitta, who is himself under investigation for large-scale corruption in public works. According to press reports, Kassab's tax returns show that his net worth grew by more than 300 percent during Pitta's four years as Mayor, an increase he attributes to legitimate business activities; public prosecutors continue to investigate him. He has stated publicly that his biggest mistake was serving in Pitta's government. Some political observers have also suggested that Kassab lacks the necessary experience to run Sao Paulo, with its population of more than 10 million and an annual budget of nearly USD 8 billion, but many of these may be motivated by a preference for Governor Geraldo Alckmin over Serra as the PSDB Presidential candidate. While Kassab has a low public profile, he is a consummate party insider who is personally close to PFL leader Bornhausen. He has been credited with designing the successful partnership that placed PFL academic (and now Lieutenant Governor) Claudio Lembo on the ticket with Alckmin in 2002. End bio note. 

7. (U) This cable was cleared/coordinated with Embassy Brasilia. 

McMullen