In the audience of the New York Council on Foreign Relations there were wealthy investors as David Rockfeller,
George Soros and the former secretary of the US Treasure and current president of Citigroup's executive committee, Robert
Rubin. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, an ex-labor union leader who never finished high school, seemed well at ease,
while telling stories and sometimes making them laugh like when he compared Brazil to a couple who decided to "have a kid,
and then another, and still another" without improving their income. "The solution was to cut expenses," he concluded.
Lula revealed that he had been forced to cut US$ 8 billion in the 2003 government budget and explained what he
did: "I decided to act as if I were managing my own house, since there, I and Marisa (First Lady Marisa Letícia) only buy
any material good when we are sure we have the money to pay for it."
Lula, who came to New York for the opening of the
58th session of the UN General Assembly, on Thursday met with
foreign big investors. He told them what they wanted to hear and abandoned that challenging air he had used when talking at the
UN about the way the United States had fractured the world organization by waging its little war against Iraq.
Yes, he once was one of those shouting anti-IMF slogan, he confessed, but things have changed and the Monetary
Fund has become a friend of the house. His government now believes in fiscal austerity and "the risk Brazil has finished,"
Lula guaranteed. More than that, the Brazilian leader warned that those who bet against Brazil will end up losers. There were
other rosy touches: inflation will be kept under control and Brazil will grow once again.
Are his relations with President Bush strained? Lula told the audience that he had met George W. Bush, that both
had discussed the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) and international trading and that he had let the American
President know that Brazil wants to be treated as an equal by the US: "I told Bush that we are ready to talk, but we don't wish to
be treated as second-class citizens."
Lula once again accused the rich countries of imposing protectionist barriers to developing nations: "A true trade
apartheid has been created between the developed countries and those nations in development. The rich countries are
spending today US$ 1 billion daily in the form of subsidies for production and export of agricultural products. I am not looking
for confrontation, but for a reorganization of the international commerce. Free trade cannot be a one-way street."
Brazil has no one to blame but itself for its problems, continued the President. He reminded the audience that Brazil
never had its land reform and never ended illiteracy in the country. "Our problems," he said, "are neither the fault of the
United States nor the European Union or God. They are the fault of our elites. Not even during the decades from 50 to 80,
when our economy grew 7 percent yearly, there was a policy of income distribution."
Passing the hat came at the end. Lula asked investors to trust the new government and to come back to apply their
money in Brazil. The President informed that German entrepreneurs would be in Goiânia, state of Goiás, next month for a
meeting on October 26 that will deal with infra-structure investments. Said Lula, "I hope that the international investors will be
able to give a solid contribution for the resuming of productive investment in Brazil."