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The Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos has been killed in an air crash, robbing the country of one of its rising political stars and changing the outlook for the most hotly contested national electionsfor more than a decade.
A private jet carrying Campos, of the centre-left PSB party, crashed in bad weather in the coastal city of Santos on Wednesday, killing all seven people on board, according to São Paulo’s fire department.
While opinion polls had shown that Campos was the third-strongest presidential candidate before October’s vote, analysts had expected the business-friendly leftist to gain more votes as his official television campaign got under way.
Some had also forecast a possible alliance with Aécio Neves of the PSDB party in an expected second round in an attempt to unseat Dilma Rousseff, the incumbent president.
Campos’s running mate, Marina Silva, was not on board the aircraft that crashed.
Rafael Cortez, a political scientist at Tendências, a São Paulo-based consultancy, called the politician’s death a tragedy and said: “The repercussions are wide open and there is a potential for big change . . .
“It will depend on who Campos’s replacement will be and whether Marina [Silva] would accept that position.”
Brazilian stocks swung wildly after the news as investors struggled to assess whether Campos’s death would make an opposition victory more or less likely.
Brazil’s benchmark Bovespa index lost early gains on Wednesday and dropped as much as 2.1 per cent before recovering slightly to 1.5 per cent down by the close.
While Ms Rousseff is still the favourite to win, her waning popularity since mass protests last year has been welcomed by investors who dislike her party’s interventionist economic policies.
“It is now likely that [Campos’s] place will be taken by Marina Silva, his running mate, after an extraordinary party convention,” said Tony Volpon, an economist at Nomura.
“We would expect that her candidacy could potentially receive a big initial boost due to the emotional reaction to Campos’s passing away.”
I heard a huge bang and I thought our building would collapse
- Bianca Laino, an 18-year-old local student
In Santos, an industrial coastal town and home to Latin America’s largest port, investigators scoured the scene of the crash for clues to the cause as smoke billowed from the residential area.
“I heard a huge bang and I thought our building would collapse,” said Bianca Laino, an 18-year-old student who was in her school’s classroom when the plane crashed.
“There were policemen everywhere, and then we started to see smoke rising.”
At least six other people, including an 18-month-old baby, were injured when the plane crashed on a gym around 10am following an aborted landing, according to the nearby hospital Irmandade da Santa Casa da Misericórdia. Many of Brazil’s politicians paid tribute to Campos. Analysts said they expected a polemical battle among some participants to use the crash to their advantage.
Campos, a former governor of the northeastern state of Pernambuco, was attracting only about 10 per cent of the vote, according to the latest polls.
However, analysts have partly put that down to the vast territory of Brazil, where it takes time for politicians to gain recognition nationally.
His official campaign on television – an influential tool in a country with high illiteracy levels – was expected to start next week.
Mr Campos was one of the youngest politicians in Brazil to run for president, celebrating his 49th birthday only three days ago. He leaves behind his wife and five children, the youngest of whom was born with Down’s syndrome this year.
“Eduardo died the same day that our grandfather died nine years ago,” Mr Campos’s brother Antonio Campos said in a Globo television interview on Wednesday. “But he died for his ideas, he died trying to improve Brazil.”
Additional reporting by Thalita Carrico in São Paulo
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