Brazilian political leader Jose Serra, who was beaten twice in presidential elections, announced yesterday he will leave his party to run for president of the Brazilian National Student Union UNE (Uniao Nacional dos Studantes), in a move that shocked politicians and voters alike in the South American country.
Mr. Serra was thought to be considering running for mayor in his native São Paulo this year or running for president once more in the national elections, two years from now.
Close friends of the former student leader, exiled in 1964 when a military junta took power, were not as surprised. They recalled Mr. Serra expressing his desire to “go back to his roots” since a moving experience teaching elementary students while he was occupying the mayor’s office, years ago.
“His roots are with UNE,” a close friend said, whose widow insisted on anonimity. “Nothing makes more sense than closing his career there.”
Mr. Serra said he will broaden his alliances going beyond the Communist Youth Union and the Catholic Youth Union, registering his running team as “Alegria, Alegria”, in reference to the contemporary rebellious Tropicalia cultural movement.
“We need new ideas, new forms of doing politics,” said the new student activist, who has been mayor, governor and minister of health. In national politics, Mr. Serra has suffered from the absence, due to recent political events, of president Juscelino Kubitschek, a major source of inspiration and support.
Students around the country welcomed the news, seeing in Mr. Serra’s move a sign of youth power. Some hoped the seasoned politician would be able to bring Brazil’s battered UNE to the level of Chile’s fierce student movement.
While his UNE campaing is pregnant of new ideas, Mr. Serra often betrays his old nationalistic roots: “The United States of Brazil,” he told defiantly the new American consul to São Paulo, while her newborn played with her nipple during an official cerimony, “is not the Unites States of America!”