Brazil Presidential Candidate Campos Dies in Plane Crash

Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos died today in an airplane crash in the southeastern city of Santos. He was 49.

Campos died after a nine-seater Cessna 560XL crashed at about 10 a.m. following an aborted landing because of bad weather, the air force said in statement. The two pilots and four members of Campos’s campaign team on board all died when the plane crashed on a gym.

“Brazil loses a young leader with a promising future,” President Dilma Rousseff said in a speech. “A man who could climb to the highest positions.” She declared three days of mourning and suspended her re-election campaign during that period.

The death of Campos upends the presidential election 53 days before Brazilians go to the ballot boxes. Polling third in the race against Rousseff and Senator Aecio Neves, Campos and his running mate Marina Silva, who may replace him, were garnering enough support to limit the incumbent’s chance of a first-round victory.

Brazilian stocks and the real whipsawed higher and lower after the plane crash. Asset prices plunged initially before paring losses as investors sought to understand the impact his death would have on Brazil’s vote. The Ibovespa stock index has rallied 24 percent from this year’s low of March 14 on speculation Rousseff could be defeated and a new government would reduce intervention in state-owned companies.

‘Complete Shock’

The real, which gained as much as 0.7 percent, fell 0.2 percent to 2.2816 per U.S. dollar at market close. The Ibovespa stock index rose as much as 0.5 percent before falling as much as 2.1 percent. It ended the day down 1.5 percent.

“It was a complete shock,” Christopher Garman, a director at political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group, said in an interview in a Sao Paulo hotel where Campos was scheduled to speak. “This is a very dark hour in Brazilian politics.”

Houses around the crash site were damaged and smoke billowed from the debris as rescue workers sifted through the wreckage. Six people on the ground where treated for minor injuries at a local hospital. Nobody on the ground was killed.

Campos is survived by his wife, Renata de Andrade Lima Campos, and five children: Maria Eduarda, Joao, Pedro, Jose Henrique and Miguel.

‘Farewell Yesterday’

“The memory I want to keep of him is from our farewell yesterday, which was full of happiness, full of dreams, full of commitment,” Silva told reporters.

Silva, who’s better known than Campos by voters, probably will be named as a candidate for the Brazilian Socialist Party, Luiz Carvalho, a managing partner at New York-based Tree Capital LLC, said by phone. The political coalition that supported Campos now has 10 days to select his replacement, according to Brazilian electoral law.

Campos in April picked Silva as his vice presidential running mate. She came third in the 2010 presidential race with 19.6 percent of the vote and her candidacy could jeopardize Neves’s place in a possible run-off, said Garman.

“It’s really a toss-up at this juncture” between Neves and Silva, Garman said. “Compared to the last election, the diffuse desire for change and discontent has only grown. She could have potential to tap into that.”

Street Protests

A science and technology minister under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Campos had 9 percent support in an Ibope poll published Aug. 7. Rousseff had 38 percent and Neves 23 percent. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. The other eight candidates garnered 6 percent. To win in the first round, a candidate needs more votes than all others combined.

Campos quit Rousseff’s ruling coalition last year in the aftermath of street protests against inflation, World Cup spending and corruption that pulled the government’s popularity to record low.

He vowed to tackle inequality in the world’s second-biggest emerging market, simplify Brazil’s tax system and carry on with social programs implemented by Rousseff’s party.

“The Brazilian has that feeling that he or she pays a five-star rate, but sleeps in a tent,” Campos said in an interview aired on TV last night. “Now is the time to unite Brazil to simplify the Brazilian state.”

Campos made his debut in politics at 21, when he campaigned for Miguel Arraes, his grandfather and former Pernambuco governor. As a legislator in Congress he successfully pushed a bill that cut pension benefits and, as President Lula’s science minister, a measure that allowed stem cell research.

“Eduardo Campos was going through the apex of his brilliant political career,” Roberto Amaral, first vice-president of the Brazilian Socialist Party, said in a statement posted on Campos’s and Silva’s campaign webpage. “We lost Eduardo Campos when Brazil most needed his patriotism, his generosity, his fearlessness and his competence.”

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