A Tribute to Eduardo Campos

Eduardo Campos, Brazilian presidential candidate and former governor of Pernambuco, came to Brookings on September 14, 2007 to participate in the first Brookings event on Brazil in recent memory. Aged 42, Campos had emerged as a leading player in Brazilian national politics and he came to Washington to advocate for the globalization of Brazil’s economy and the importance of science and technology. An economist, former congressman and minister of science and technology under President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Campos was formerly a key ally of future president Dilma Rousseff. In 2011, he was elected president of the Brazilian Socialist Party and led his party as its presidential candidate for the October 2014 elections.

At Brookings, Campos participated in a panel discussion on the global reach of Brazilian policy. Although he spoke no English, his presentation was vigorous and enlightening. He was governor of Pernambuco from 2007 to 2014, a state with significant agricultural potential, including sugar cane for the expanding ethanol industry. He was also steeped in Brazil’s scientific projects which he was eager to advance.

This was the heyday of Brazil’s rise and Campos portrayed it enthusiastically. Petrobras had just made its huge offshore discovery in the Tupi field which held an estimated 8 billion barrels of oil, equivalent to 40 percent of Brazil’s total reserves. Brazil’s GDP was growing at an annual rate of 5.2 percent with record-high investment and the highest investment to GDP ratio in 10 years. Agriculture production grew by more than 9 percent year on year, and real wages had gained thanks to the strength of consumption and the credit sectors. Campos’s delivery at Brookings that day reflected all this economic growth and the potential for global reach. He would go on to win a second term as governor with 83 percent of the vote in the 2010 elections.

Lincoln Gordon, a senior fellow and ambassador to Brazil from 1961 to 1966, was present at Brookings. His love for Brazil and all things Brazilian was well known. He is remembered fondly for his several books, including Brazil’s Second Chance: En Route Toward the First World. Both Gordon in his book and Campos in his remarks at Brookings focused on the extraordinary natural resources with which Brazil is endowed and the potential to raise the living standards of all its citizens. Both recognized the influence that Brazil could play beyond its borders on the global stage. Gordon died in December 2009, aged 96 years. Tragically, Governor Campos died at 49 years old, leaving a wife and five children.

All of those who participated with Campos in this Brookings meeting remember his magnetism and determination. We join with the citizens of Pernambuco in mourning his death in a tragic aircraft accident on August 13, 2014.