A town split between Rousseff and Neves

Resende Costa residents are united by their love of theirs rugs, arts and crafts but divided over politics.


    Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, producer Maria Romero and cameraman Alexandre Rampazzo have spent the week visiting small cities in Minas Gerais, a critical swing state that could decide Brazil’s next president. They reported from a cowboy town that favours President Dilma Rousseff and also from a town famous for cheese that favours opposition candidate Aecio Neves. They finish the series visiting a colonial artisan town that is split down the middle.

    Resende Costa, Brazil – In a spare room in his family home, Elimar do Carmo sits over an old-fashioned loom pushing and pulling a wooden ledger that is weaving yarn together into a colourful rug in this colonial town of 10,900 where almost everyone makes arts and crafts.

    A sewing machine hums nearby as Aparecida do Carmo, Elimar’s mother, is stitching the family's "hand made" label on other rugs.

    While they are intently focusing on their work, their eyes keep darting up to a television in the corner where President Dilma Rousseff appears on screen in her last campaign commercial.

    Rousseff is attacking a news magazine that published a damning story accusing the president of being an accomplice to alleged corruption at Petrobras, the state-run energy giant. On screen, Rousseff is fiercely rejecting the claim - which she called "electoral terrorism" - while also reminding viewers of the economic progress made in the past decade for the working class.

    It’s a message that resonates here.

    "Dilma helped a lot of those people who don’t have many financial resources,” Mr do Carmo said.

    "With the Dilma and Lula government before her, the situation with the Brazilian people improved a lot," added Ms do Carmo. "The poor have more opportunities, including for people like us to be able to start a small business."

    Here in Resende Costa the people are united by their love of theirs rugs, arts and crafts that sell nationally. But the people here are divided in their politics.

    Down the street, in another rug shop, Andre Britto and his girlfriend are also hunched over a loom weaving together a rug in their tiny shop workroom. Each rug takes four hours to make, so the couple sit quietly, with a lot of time to think. They say business is steady but not great, and they usually only make just enough money to pay bills each month.

    They want change, and their vote is decided.

    "My candidate is Aecio Neves because he’s the best of the options we have," Mr Britto said. "This is a small town and many times the federal government assistance programmes don’t reach us, or if they do, they arrive late."

    In the first round of voting on October 5 both Rousseff and Neves received 43 percent each here.

    Resende Costa is Splitsville, Brazil.

    And whether it’s in small towns like this, or in big cities, people do seem to agree that Brazil of today is a much different country than it was 10 or 15 years ago. There’s been an undeniable historic reduction in poverty and the growth of the middle class.

    But the questions facing many is if the change has been for the best for everyone, or if it has come too slow and not advanced enough to other areas? And who is better prepared to deal with the challenges the country will face going forward, like corruption, health and education services and an economy in a technical recession?

    That is the question that has evenly divided so many people in South America’s largest democracy, and that is why this has been the most unpredictable and tightest election in the past 20 years.

    Follow Gabriel Elizondo on Twitter @ElizondoGabriel



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