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Friday, 25 October, 2002, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
Brazilian star 'afraid' of Lula
Brazilian soap star Regina Duarte
Regina Duarte's appearance caused a storm

With left-wing candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva almost certain to win Sunday's Brazilian election, it has taken a well-known soap actress to liven up the campaign run-in.

Regina Duarte caused a sensation by using a TV advert for trailing candidate Jose Serra to tell viewers she is "afraid" of a Lula win.

I am afraid...Serra gives me security

Regina Duarte

"I feel Brazil runs the risk of losing the stability it has won", she told millions of viewers.

Asking Brazilians if they remembered the days of hyperinflation, she added that: "Serra gives me security because I know what I can expect from him".

"Terrorism" charge

Although the latest polls give Lula a lead of over 25%, her comments have rattled supporters of his Workers' Party, or PT.

The huge Sole Workers Confederation union fired off an indignant email to Duarte accusing her of using "terrorism" against the millions of Brazilians who want change.

Lula has smartened up for this election
Lula's new image

After failing to ban Serra from repeating the broadcast, the PT then retaliated by recruiting another soap actress, Paloma Duarte, who is no relation to Regina.

She appeared in an advert for Lula saying candidates who use scare tactics do not deserve to become president.

Lula even stepped into the row himself - and earned accusations of sexism for saying that what Duarte really fears are "younger actresses".

Lingering doubts

Many Brazilian papers think Duarte's appearance has unnerved the PT because voters are still not totally convinced the once radical Lula can manage the troubled economy.

The PT's anxiety speaks volumes

Marcelo Coelho in Folha de Sao Paulo

In a Folha de Sao Paulo column called "Star Wars", Marcelo Coelho said Lula's slick and emotional media strategy - known in Brazil as the "peace and love" approach - had left many questions unanswered.

Noting that "the PT's anxiety speaks volumes", he argued the party should ease public fears by providing specific policies instead of "a fairytale atmosphere, soap opera emotions and tears".

In the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper, Dora Kramer agreed. She said the PT's vehement reaction reflected the "unconscious fear that what Duarte represents goes to the heart of what many Brazilians think".

Marketing fear

But ex-President Jose Sarney, writing in the Folha de Sao Paulo, compared Serra's use of the "desperate weapon" of fear with President Bush's use of the war on terrorism.

The worst performance of her career

Pedro do Couto in Jornal do Brasil

Sarney, who is a recent convert to Lula's campaign, said "fear is human but scoring marketing points with fear is unhuman because it turns an individual feeling into collective hysteria".

For his part, Pedro do Couto in the Jornal do Brasil noted that "Polls show denunciations of this sort no longer work... this is undoubtedly the worst performance of her career"

No regrets

After fleeing to a ranch to escape the media attention, Duarte broke her cover to tell the Folha de Sao Paulo she had clearly "touched a raw nerve".

Stressing she had no regrets, she commented that "My impression is that an enormous feeling is out there. If not, there would not be this reaction".

It's a reaction that has even forced Lula to backtrack from his ungenerous earlier comment.

Admitting the actress had the right to criticize him, Brazil's probable next president tried to make amends by calling Duarte "a treasure".

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See also:

24 Oct 02 | Business
09 Oct 02 | Americas
07 Oct 02 | Americas
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