NEW YORK – Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos died Wednesday in an airplane crash in the southeastern city of Santos, Globo News and Folha de S. Paulo reported. He was 49.
Campos, the former governor of Pernambuco state, was traveling from Rio de Janeiro when the crash occurred at about 10 a.m. local time. Nine people were killed, Brazil’s Military Police said, without naming the victims. Television images showed overcast and rainy weather in Santos.
With just over seven weeks to go before the Oct. 5 election, Campos was running third in polls, trailing President Dilma Rousseff and Senator Aecio Neves. He quit Rousseff’s ruling coalition last year in the aftermath of street protests over inflation, World Cup spending and corruption that pulled the government’s popularity to record low.
“It’s an enormous loss,” Jorge Gerdau, chairman of Gerdau SA, Latin America’s biggest steelmaker, told reporters with tears in his eyes. “He was a young, competent leader.”
Campos vowed to tackle inequality in the world’s second-biggest emerging market, saying in a May interview on “TV Cultura” that Brazil’s current tax structure was regressive. “A transition is required to have a tax system based on another structure so it becomes less regressive,” Campos said at the time. “This can’t be done overnight. This can’t be done without considering the political, economic environment we live in.”
In April Campos picked former Environment Minister Marina Silva as his vice presidential running mate. Silva placed third in the 2010 presidential race.
Campos made his debut in politics at age 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.
Crash victims are being taken to Santa Casa de Santos Hospital in Santos, a hospital representative said by telephone. Five bodies have been taken to the institution, and officials are awaiting more victims. The representative was not able to comment on the identities