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Brazilian Jews meet presidential front-runner

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil  (JTA) — The front-runner in Brazil’s presidential race in a meeting with local Jewish activists said she could be of Jewish descent.

Dilma Roussef told about 80 Brazilian Jews at an event Monday at the Sao Paulo State Jewish Federation that her Jewish descent could be due to her grandmother’s surname Coimbra, which she believes to have belonged to New Christians, or Iberian Jews who converted to Roman Catholicism, also known as Marranos. However, there is no evidence of such Jewish descent.

Roussef was presented with the Jewish Federation’s list of political ideas, which will be given as well to candidates Jose Serra and Marina Silva in similar meetings. The list includes ethical guidelines such as the defense of democracy, the fight against intolerance and revisionism, the promotion of social justice and education, and a foreign policy based on the protection of human rights.

Handpicked and heavily supported by President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva as his successor, Roussef of the ruling Workers’ Party holds a 23-point lead over Serra in the latest poll and is on track to win the necessary absolute majority on Oct. 3 to avoid a run-off vote.

Roussef was questioned about Lula’s personal ties with the leaders of countries who openly do not respect human rights. She also addressed specifically Jewish issues.

“Neither President Lula nor I accept the Holocaust denial and we defend two states — one Israeli and one Palestinian — living side by side and in safety,” she said.

In order to be eligible for a presidential bid, Roussef stepped down this year as Lula’s chief of staff, a position considered equal to that of prime minister because Brazil does not have a premier.

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