Wednesday, October 8, 2014

VOXXI: Brazil: The challenges of Senator Romario for Rio in 2016

"Brazil: The Challenges of Senator Romario for Rio in 2016"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
October 8, 2014
Originally published:

While Brazil’s new president will not be elected until the October 26 run-off, the composition of the country’s congress is clearer: One newly elected Senator is Romario de Souza Faria, simply known as Romario or Baixinho (short guy), a renowned retired Brazilian football superstar.
Romario, 48, will have four busy years in the Senate as he represents Rio de Janeiro, his native state. One immediate priority is overseeing the preparations of the 2016 Summer Olympics, which will take place in Rio. Hopefully, Romario’s skills as an athlete will translate into being a capable statesman as his home state faces challenges that require serious leadership.
Romario Can’t Lose
Discussing Romario’s life is beyond the scope of this article, but enumerating some facts are necessary. Throughout his lengthy soccer career, he played for Vasco da Gama and Flamengo, two Rio de Janeiro-based clubs. While playing for the national team, he is most remembered for winning the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
His popularity helped him in his home state when he decided to become a politician. In 2010, he was elected to the chamber of deputies as a member of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB).
Four years later, in the recent October 5, 2014 elections, Romario ran for a Senate seat representing his native state. The elections were no challenge as he obtained 63.4% of the vote against his rival Cesar Maia, from the Democratic Party (DEM), who only obtained 20.5%. Romario gained 4.68 million votes. This remarkable high number of votes makes him the senator who has received the most votes in Rio de Janeiro’s history.
Upon receiving the news of the results, Romario enthusiastically tweeted, “I won everyone! Thank you very much, a former resident of the favelas [Brazilian slums] became a senator of the Republic! “
Romario’s Challenges
Romario’s landslide victory gives the retired athlete a decisive mandate when he goes to Congress; yet he will certainly have plenty of issues to keep him occupied.
First and foremost, Senator Romario’s immediate challenge will be the 2016 Olympics. During his time as a deputy, Romario prominently critiqued Brazil hosting the recent FIFA World Cup, arguing that it was a waste of public money. This past July, he memorably called the Brazilian Football Confederation “corrupt.” Many Brazilians shared his sentiment, as dramatically demonstrated by the 2013 mass riots across the country.
Looking into the future, Romario has promised to monitor public spending regarding construction projects for the Olympics. Additionally, he wants to ensure that the Rio 2016 Commission constructs an Olympic Training Center, which will serve to train new generations of Brazilian athletes after the Olympics take place.
Romario’s second goal is to fight for the rights of Brazilians with disabilities. This interest stems from his daughter Ivy, who was born with Down Syndrome.
In spite of the importance of the two aforementioned issues, the citizens of Rio, the country’s second biggest metropolitan area, are probably most concerned with public security. Case in point, in May 2013, schools closed and businesses closed due to Rio drug dealers, who demanded a curfew as part of a standoff with police forces.Security forces, including the famous Police Pacification Units, have carried out major pacification operations throughout the country in recent years to reclaim control of favelas from gangs and drug traffickers as part of the preparations for the World Cup and the Olympics.
While Romario may prefer to focus on combatting corruption in Brazilian sports, the retired superstar, and former resident of a favela, must take a leading role from the Senate floor regarding future security operations across his home state.
Romario and the Presidency Elections
As a final point, it is interesting to note that Romario has not yet publicly stated which candidate he will support for the upcoming presidential run-off. The renowned Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo explains that he does not seem to support either candidate, Dilma Rousseff or Aécio Neves.
Romario belongs to the PSB, Marina Silva’s party. Before October 5, Silva was believed to be the main rival to President Rousseff’s re-election. According to the Brazilian news agency, Romario tied his electoral campaign with the PSB brand and Marina Silva’s image when she was improving her position in the polls. Since Silva appears to be leaning towards supporting Neves in the run-off, it will be interesting to see if Romario follows his party’s decision, remains neutral, or if he ultimately supports the current president.

While the Brazilian population has yet to select a new president, the inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro have unequivocally voiced that they want Romário as their senator.

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