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Brazzil - Politics - April 2004

Brazil: PT Rebels Want Change Now

In a letter entitled "Before it is too late: Make Changes," a dissident
group belonging to the same party as Brazil's President Lula,
presents several grievances ranging from interest rates to
inflation targets to the primary surplus. The signatories accuse
the government of neglecting social programs to please the IMF.

Iolando Lourenço

"An Easter Letter - Before it is too late: Make Changes" ("Carta da Páscoa - Antes que seja tarde: Mudança Já") is the title of a document signed by 15 deputies who are members of the Workers' Party (PT) that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva also belongs to. The signatories, known as the "rebellious wing of the party" say they are not satisfied with government economic policy.

The letter contains 27 grievances which range from interest rates to inflation targets to the primary surplus. The signatories accuse the government of economizing money to pay for commitments made with the International Monetary Fund, such as the primary surplus target of 4.25 percent of GDP. They say they want more spending for social programs which were campaign promises.

"It is not acceptable to see the government spend US$ 3.4 billion (10 billion reais) to pay off debts. That is money that should be going to ministries. That is not PT policy," complains Chico Alencar, from Rio de Janeiro.

According to Pernambuco state representative, Paulo Ruben Santiago, the group wants a discussion of economic policy within the party, but is not demanding that minister of Finance, Antônio Palocci, be fired. "We are not calling for the substitution of any cabinet member," he declared

The signatories say they will take their demands to the national party meeting this month (on the 17th and 18th). "We want a different Brazil," said one of them.

The president of the PT, Jose Genoíno, declared that there was nothing new in the Easter Letter. "The government is already doing some of the things they ask for, like microfinancing and lower interest rates. We want interest rates to fall even more," he said, adding that the party is willing to discuss the issues but has to be careful about surprises in macroeconomic policy.

Genoíno declared that what is necessary is to balance inflation targets with development needs. He said the PT has to get used to being the government. "We cannot just undo what has been done. That will make things worse. We have a lot of responsibility," he said.

Press Approach

At a reception to commemorate Journalists' Day with representatives of the National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj) and reporters who cover the Planalto Palace, President Lula da Silva said that he intends to work more closely with the media and professional newspeople, in order to form a "type of loyal relationship."

"When I say `loyal,' this means a relationship in which the government should at no time ask journalists to sing its praises, nor should journalists ever speak ill just because they want to. If we all seek the truth, and only the truth interests us, the country will be more serene for everybody, and we shall be contributing to the establishment of a really true democracy in our country," Lula declared.

The President called for the press to be guided by the truth of the facts, rather than the interests of journalists or owners of the news media.

The Minister of the Secretariat of Social Communication of the Presidency, Luiz Gushiken, availed himself of the opportunity to argue that the press should also transmit news on positive things that have been done in the country. In his view, the press is a window on the world and should also reflect the positive things that exist.

At the meeting, the president of the Fenaj, Beth Costa, handed President Lula a document requesting the creation of the Federal Council and state councils of Journalism, which would be responsible for regulating the profession and supervising the way it is practiced and taught. Lula was receptive to the creation of the councils.

Iolando Lourenço works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br

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