Thursday, January 27, 2005

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What a long, strange, trip for Lula

When Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ran for president in Brazil, he took great delight in railing against the Washington Consensus, the IMF, and the United States more generally. Since he's won, however, he's pursued a somewhat different course.

How different? Raymond Colitt has a story in the Financial Times that highlights the gulf between Lula then and Lula now:

For all his charisma, even Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who came to power as the idol of Latin America's Left, found it hard to sell his orthodox economic policy at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on Thursday.

His audience of 10,000 anti-globalisation activists was already miffed at the Brazilian president's decision to attend the World Economic Forum on Friday to meet the bigwigs of capitalism they so despise.

But having to defend two years of textbook economic orthodoxy and cosy relations with the International Monetary Fund was too much for disenchanted supporters at an event launched as a challenge to Davos, Switzerland, five years ago.

As a former union leader who in the late 1970s took on big business and a military dictatorship, Mr Lula da Silva was quick to snap back at his hecklers. “That noise comes from those . . . who don't have patience to hear the truth,” he retorted, in reference to spontaneous jeering.

posted by Dan on 01.27.05 at 06:08 PM


Lula has been quite a pain in the ass in other areas, though. He does economic things that make a little sense, and then makes huge gaffes.

The other day he said he chose the Minister of Foreign Relations because "he has dandruff on his shoulders, and that's a thing of the people". Imagine Bush saying that about Condi Rice. Not to mention that terrible affair when he tried to expel NYT correspondent Larry Rohter from the country for a story mentioning that he might have a drinking problem.

And he is still a bit too close to the authoritarian leaders around. Lula helped Chavez even before he officially took over from Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Castro is seen fondly by the ruling party -- Jose Dirceu, the Chief of Staff, actually trained as guerrilla under Castro in the 60s and 70s.

But, speaking as local here in Porto Alegre, it's not just the economic policies. The protestors get mad because of Lula's political alliances. He has support from people like ex-president Jose Sarney and powerful senator Antonio Carlos Magalhaes that are seen (rightfully, I might add) as the scum of the political earth in Brazil, representatives of the worst oligarchic traditions of "coronelismo".

posted by: Cisco on 01.27.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

It shows how narrow-minded those people in Porto Allegra really are. They only want to listing to things they want to hear, true or not, right or not. They could learn a thing or two from the late Robert Heilbroner: like them anti-capitalistic, but at least intellectually honest enough to compare capitalism favourably with socialism.

posted by: ivan on 01.27.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

It is worth noting as well that when Cardoso wanted to alter Brazil´s pension plan for government workers, the PT were the loudest critics. Of course that did not stop Lula from successfully implementing these changes.

Cisco, I couldn´t agree with you more about Sarney and especially ACM.

posted by: Randy Paul on 01.27.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

Just off the top of my head I'd say it might be important to make a distinction between how da Silva is viewed by international anti-globos -- who can't do him any real good but can't hurt him either -- and how he is viewed by Brazilians.

posted by: Zathras on 01.27.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

Zathras, there is indeed quite a distinction there. Outsiders see a success story. The lefties down here are permanently fuming over how much Lula hasn't acted like he was in 1979 (when he modeled his struggles on the Sandinists).

But these are the same people who decry any mention of free market as exploitation; who put up large banners supporting the Intifada amidst the ludicrous cries for peace; who think Chavez is admirable, specially for standing up to America.

Speaking of Chavez, an aside that hasn't anything to do with Lula: a friend of mine, living in Rio, had the police raid an apartment in his building. The neighbor, a Danish man wanted in Europe for dealing drugs, wasn't there. What was there, though, were a hundred thousand euros and a bunch of bolivares, which is Venezuelan currency. He tells the whole story here.

It might be related to the arrest reported here.

Both links are in Portuguese. I am pasting them below in case Dan's comments doesn't accept HTML tags from the commenters

posted by: Cisco on 01.27.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

But then who doubts that Lula would be reelected in an eyeblink if the presidential elections were today? Hell, I am for PSDB, but I probably would vote for him. Lula is all that the PSDB was supposed to be but never was because of their stupid alliances (probably because they are more left leaning than the PSDB so the alliances could not push it so much to the center/right).

Sure the PT in power screws some things. They seem to have a hard time with anything related with free press and free speach, which really sucks, but isn't all that surprising (at least to me)in a party that was pretty much communist some time ago.

About ACM and Sarney... well, if we take a hard look at history, the kind of interests that they represent manage to stay in power no matter what since at last the end of WW II (UDN > PDS > PMDB/PFL). I can't really blame Lula, he needs working majorities in Congress and this is the only way he can get them.

posted by: Alves on 01.27.05 at 06:08 PM [permalink]

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