. August 12, 2006 SouthAmerica: With the Brazilian presidential elections only two months away â A new problem is on the horizon for president Lula to overcome. Today, the last thing we need in Brazil is a president Heloisa Helena. Today, in Brazil we have real democracy - Brazil has 16 major political parties, which is good, but the down side is that people such as Senator Heloisa Helena, and Senator Benedita da Silva or something like that gets elected. ********************** Aug. 11, 2006 âLeftist a threat to Brazil presidentâ By HAROLD OLMOS Associated Press Writer The Associated Press RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil â Thanks mostly to a robust economy, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been coasting to re-election victory in two months. But a new threat is rising. Leftist candidate Heloisa Helena, a sharp-tongued senator who was booted from the governing party three years ago, has been rustling support from the president's own base, stirring up old grievances over corruption scandals and complaints that Silva betrayed his leftist ideals. Her rising popularity could force Silva into a runoff against Social Democrat Geraldo Alckmin, who is second in polls, or even against the senator herself, as her supporters hope. "Her votes are mostly siphoned from Silva's side, and any vote Silva loses is a vote that makes a runoff likely," said Alexandre Barros, an analyst for Early Warning, a political think tank in Brasilia. Silva has a commanding lead over Alckmin _ 28 percentage points in one recent survey _ while Helena has trailed in third place. But two recent polls showed she had shot up to 12 percent from as little as 6 percent. A poll in Rio de Janeiro, a traditional leftist bastion, placed her second behind Silva. Helena's support comes from leftists disappointed that Silva did not stick to his radical roots after winning the presidency in 2002. After taking office, Silva softened his radical tone, preaching lower interest rates instead of nationalization of industries and promising to honor Brazil's foreign debt. In office, he has been market-friendly despite his opposition to the U.S.-backed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. His relationship with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cooled after Bolivia _ with Chavez's encouragement _ nationalized gas fields at the expense of Brazilian company Petroleo Brasileiro SA. Helena, 44, and several other lawmakers criticized Silva's moderate tendencies early on, prompting their expulsion in 2003 from his Workers Party, or PT. "They are breaking my heart. They cannot give me back the years of my life I spent building this party," Helena said in a speech shortly before her expulsion from the party she joined in 1985. She went on to found the Socialism and Liberty Party, becoming the first Brazilian woman to lead a political party and quickly drawing attention as a potential presidential contender. Last year, she furiously criticized prominent PT leaders accused of vote-buying in Congress, a scandal that tarnished the party's image. An ethics investigation found no evidence, but Silva's powerful chief of staff was expelled from Congress and the president's popularity plunged. Silva has rebounded on the strength of Brazil's economy. But Helena has become a champion of ethics for leftists disillusioned with the government. Many Brazilians "love seeing Helena attacking the establishment, and that is greatly responsible for the surprising election factor she is becoming," Barros said. Helena's hardscrabble upbringing resembles Silva's humble beginnings as a shoeshine boy and grade-school dropout who rose through the trade union ranks. Born in a small town in the poverty-stricken northeastern state of Alagoas, she studied nursing and embraced Liberation Theology, which advocates deep social and economic changes to liberate the poor. A divorced mother of two known for her casual dress _ jeans and a T-shirt _ Helena is just one of seven women in the 81-seat Senate. If no candidate wins a majority in the Oct. 1 voting, the two front-runners will compete in an Oct. 29 runoff. Even if Helena doesn't make it, she could be a threat. Her supporters could vote for Alckmin in a runoff simply to spite Silva, Barros said. "Conventional wisdom has it that a leftist votes for the left. But in this case many from Helena's ranks would vote for the right provided they see Silva's Workers Party ousted," he said. .