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October 23, 2014
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Rousseff defends record as race resumes

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Brazil leader admits to ‘problems’ in health system but highlights progress in education, economy

RIO DE JANEIRO — In the first live prime-time television interview of her re-election campaign, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff acknowledged “many problems and challenges” still plague the country’s woeful heath care system but defended her record on the economy and education.

Monday’s 15-minute interview on the Globo television network’s nightly news was a testy affair, with the channel’s two anchors repeatedly questioning Rousseff about corruption scandals that have beset her term, as well as the two terms of her predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — both of the left-leaning Workers’ Party, or PT.

Rousseff declined to comment on the PT’s unflagging support of top party officials convicted in a 2012 trial involving a congressional cash-for-votes scheme, skirting several direct questions and saying “I will not make any comment on a trial conducted by the Supreme Court.”

When the pair of journalists listed continued shortcomings of Brazil’s public health service after 12 years of PT governance, Rousseff acknowledged the situation was not “in the least satisfactory.”

“We have had and still have many problems and challenges to take on in health care,” Rousseff said during the broadcast from a library in the Alvorada Palace presidential residence.

But she ardently defended her administration’s controversial “Mais Medicos,” or “More Doctors” programme, which recruited thousands of foreign doctors — many of them from Cuba — to work in underserved rural areas and urban slums. The programme came under fire from groups representing Brazil’s medical professionals, who contended the Cubans were underqualified.

A survey released yesterday by the respected Datafolha polling agency suggests public dissatisfaction with Brazil’s health care system is overwhelming.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they had a negative impression of the government-run system, with most of those interviewed saying they had to wait up to six months to schedule a doctor’s visit, test or surgery.

The nationwide survey was conducted among 2,418 respondents between June 3 and 10.

The situation of public services, with health care among them, has become central to the Brazilian campaign.

According to the Datafolha poll, Brazilians say that the main problems are the waiting lines at hospitals, the difficulties in accessing services and the mismanagement of funds destined to the health care sector.

Thirty percent of those polled said they had some kind of appointment pending and a third of them said they had been waiting for more than six months.

Of those who were waiting to receive medical attention, 22 percent said they had private insurance.

The Federal Medicine Council said the data proved that some private insurance companies don’t provide the services they promise or provide insufficient coverage.

Middle class nation?

In Monday’s interview Rousseff also defended her party’s economic performance, despite anaemic indicators in recent years. She said Brazil’s sluggish growth, which government projections put at 1.8 percent for 2014, was a consequence of the global financial crisis. She noted that Brazil hadn’t suffered the massive layoffs experienced in Europe.

She said a series of economic indicators, including energy consumption and car sales, pointed to an upswing in the second half of the year.

Rousseff also said improvements in education were transforming this notoriously unequal country of haves and have-nots into a middle-class nation.

“We created the conditions to leap (ahead) by putting education squarely in the centre,” she said. “This means that we want to continue to be a middle-class country, with ever greater participation of the middle class.”

Rousseff is leading the polls ahead of the October 5 presidential election, although the race has been upended by the death last week of Socialist candidate Eduardo Campos, who died in a plane crash. Campos, who had been running third in polls, was replaced by environmentalist Marina Silva, who has surged in voter surveys.

Silva is running neck-and-neck for second place with Aécio Neves. Observers say Rousseff may have to face a second-round election.

The electoral campaign officially kicked off on Tuesday, with the start of ads on television and radio stations.

Herald with Reuters, Télam

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