When the U.S. was attacked by Al Qaeda on September 11, 2001, Brazil's President
at the time, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, immediately invoked the Rio Treatya
pillar of the inter-American system upon which the Organization of American
States was founded. It has a simple and important premise: if any member country
in the Americas is attacked militarily by an outside force, that constitutes
an attack on all member states.
Brazil stood firmly by
the United States after the 9/11 attacks. But times have changed. President
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, is now
attempting to remove Brazil from the Rio Treaty. The arrival of a new U.S.
Ambassador to Brazil in coming months creates an opportunity to re-examine
Brazil's important, but often overlooked, relationship with the United States.
The new plenipotentiary
in Brasília will be John Danilovich, a Bush appointee and international
shipping executive who served as chairman of the Panama Canal Transition Committee
prior to the canal's transfer. When he arrives at his post in May, Danilovich
will find a new Brazilian foreign policy agenda that is usually wary and often
hostile to U.S. interests.
Danilovich will replace
Donna Hrinak, a career diplomat and former aide to liberal congresswoman Patricia
Schroeder, who often acted more like Lula's Ambassador to Washington than
as a spokesperson for U.S. values and goals. The daughter of a Pittsburgh
steelworker, Hrinak praised Lula as the "embodiment of the American Dream,"
during the height of Brazil's 2002 presidential campaign.
As Donna Hrinak leaves
Brasília, her "American Dream" is starting to resemble a
nightmare. If there are any doubts left about Lula's views towards the U.S.,
his interview published on February 13, 2004, in Brazil's largest circulation
daily, the Folha de S. Paulo, is revealing.
Lula says he tries not
to "appear anti-American", refers repeatedly to the U.S. as an "empire",
and says he is developing alliances with countries like India, China and Russia
to "block the imperialist's geographical advance". He says the ties
with these countries are "visceral and based on common interests"
because "nobody wants the empire to survive".
Lula says the countries
of the South American region have never been more "united" and repeats
that Brazil will "defend" Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. His
foreign policy advisor, Marco Aurélio Garcia, a hard-line Marxist operative,
has been regularly dispatched to Caracas to help thwart the referendum sought
by most Venezuelans to peacefully oust Chavez and uphold that country's constitution
and rule of law.
All of this is worrisome,
because while he does not have Hugo Chavez' oil, Lula may get off the train
if Brazil's economy worsens and he needs someone to blame.
As The New York
Times, The Washington Post and other major news outlets
have reported, the Lula government has plans to both enrich and export uranium.
This is a matter of public record and Lula's actions make it difficult for
the U.S. to seriously consider Brazil's legitimate aspirations for a permanent
seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Since taking office, in
January of 2003, Lula has refused to allow nuclear inspections by IAEAthe
International Atomic Energy Agency. He has also visited state sponsors of
terrorism such as Syria, and toasted ruthless dictators like Fidel Castro
in Cuba and Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya. What's more, Lula has announced
plans to visit members of the clerical dictatorship in Iran, and a "strategic
partnership" with mainland China.
The 1990's are over. Clearly,
partnerships with the U.S., Chicago economists and democracy are "out"
in Latin America. The São Paulo Forum is "in".
It doesn't take a Henry
Kissinger to figure out that political parties affiliated with the São
Paulo Foruman organization of leftist and radical groups co-founded
in 1990 by Lula and Fidel Castro with a goal to "replace our losses in
Eastern Europe with our gains in Latin America"are now in power
or on the verge of taking power in almost every single country in South America.
For those who follow the region's political calendar, Uruguay is next in linethe
leftist Frente Ampla's candidate Tabare Vasquez is leading in the polls for
The Bush administration
has clearly struggled to come to terms with a new geopolitical reality in
the Americas. Why? For starters, most of the higher-ups in Washington calling
the shots on Latin America are Clinton holdovers, or Cuban-Americans who understand
and care little about the Southern Cone. The Miami Cuban-American perspective
on the Americas typically views the region through the prism of Cuba, which
is a bit like analyzing Soviet Russia through the prism of Albania.
It is high time to recognize
the fact that the U.S. lost Brazil and other erstwhile allies in its own backyard,
such as Argentina, while the Bush administration focused on matters in the
In the most recent fiasco
of Ambassador Hrinak's tenure, there is a disturbing story that seems like
a page out of a cheap spy thriller. Carlos Costa, the FBI's representative
in Brazil, essentially defected and gave an extensive cover story interview
to Carta Capital magazine, leaking secret information on U.S. intelligence
gathering methods and cooperation agreements with Brazilian law enforcement
agencies. To make matters worse, Costa hints the U.S. government was eavesdropping
on the Alvorada Palace, the presidential residence in Brasília.
So what is really going
on in Brazil? Under Lula's watch, his Worker's Party, known as the PT, has
become one of the most well financed and influential left-wing political parties
in the world. The PT has been very skilled at fooling Brazil's "bourgeoisie"
and exporting the "revolution" to neighboring countries like Bolivia.
Such skill, unfortunately, does not apply to their social programs.
Lula's Zero Hunger program,
unveiled with great fanfare at the beginning of his term, has been nothing
but a hyped-up, empty slogan and is widely considered a failure. Lula insists
on "demagogueing" the issue, and proposed a new worldwide tax to
fight "global hunger" that was readily endorsed by France's Jacques
Chirac and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. People of the world, watch your
To understand how the
PT's brain trust thinks, it is well worth studying Italian Marxist theorist
Antonio Gramsci's classic book Letters from Prison. Gramsci, a truly
masterful political strategist and 20th century author, is revered
as the Machiavelli of much of the European and Brazilian post-Cold War Left.
His writings constitute the playbook from which Lula and the PT's strategists
are winning the power game in Brazil and all over South America.
One of the formulas prescribed
by Gramsci is to gradually take over all segments of civil society, to stifle
any and all opposition before constituting a Marxist state. This is now happening
in academic circles in Brazil, one recent example being Roberto Fendt, a prominent
free market economist and editor of Conjuntura Econômica, the
respected economic magazine published by FGV, the Getúlio Vargas Foundation.
He was fired after running a cover story that was critical of the PT's economic
It also happens in the
Brazilian Congress, where most political parties have been aggressively "bought
off" with appointments and pork. The center-right PFLLiberal Front
Party, is split between Senator Jorge Bornhausen's genuinely conservative
wing and those affiliated with a notorious caudillo, Bahia state's Antonio
Carlos Magalhães, whose followers often side with the governing PT.
This leaves Lula's opposition
weak and divided, which gives the PT the advantage of positioning most media
debate between themselves and their own party's more radical members, often
self-defined Trotskyites. Opposition parties will likely soon have less than
100 votes in the Lower House, so Lula is gradually reaching his goal of controlling
80 percent of Congress, or 411 votes. This will give him a huge margin to
pass any kind of constitutional reform he wishesamendments require three-fifths
of the Lower House, or 308 votes.
This trend is being criticized
by many analysts and politicians, who view it as the first step toward a long-term
hegemony of Lula's coalition, as was the case with the PRI in Mexico. It remained
in power for 70 years. Another indicator of the "Mexicanization"
of Brazilian politics is the recent corruption scandal involving Waldomiro
Diniz, a key aide to Lula's most powerful cabinet minister. The incident has
tarnished the PT's reputation for honesty.
End of Opposition
In the fourth estate,
conservative media mogul Roberto Marinho is dead, and his media giant Globo
has suffered financial troubles, so it now tends to follow the PT line. As
for the Brazilian military, part of the officer corps is very nationalistic
and likes Lula's nods and winks about nuclear weapons, submarines, and cooperating
with China on spy satellites. The other part is simply keeping quiet and will
likely remain that way. The only real anti-communists left in military circles
are retired and have little influence.
Two things can happen
in Brazil. The first scenario is that Lula maintains economic orthodoxy, fails
to deliver on his promises of growth and jobs, and places his bid for re-election
in 2006 at risk. In the other scenario, we have the abandonment of economic
orthodoxy, a likely default on Brazil's foreign debt and the potential for
greater social upheaval and chaos.
The possibility of economic
failure may also incite the PT to allow its allies in the landless peasant
movements, the MST, to run amok and set the countryside on fire with unchecked
Intertwined with all this,
there are already steady, recurring rumors that both Finance Minister, Antonio
Palocci, and Central Bank president, Henrique Meirellesboth Wall Street
darlings with the latter being a former worldwide president of BankBostonwill
resign or be fired.
Will Brazil remain the
eternal "country of the future"? In his book Head to Head,
renowned economist Lester Thurow observes that developing countries have historically
reached First World status by following one key path: exporting to the U.S.
This was the case with Japan and South Korea, and could be the case for Brazil.
As it stands though, George
W. Bush's proposed FTAA, or Free Trade Area of the Americas, does not interest
most Brazilians, and for good reason. The message Brazilians are hearing from
the U.S. is "we believe in free trade, except when it comes to your steel,
your orange juice, your beef, your soybeans
" and so on.
are historically less protectionist than Democrats. Bush should not allow
special interest groups, like the Florida Citrus Growers and National Cattlemen's
Beef Association, to hijack the trade agenda and impose unfair tariffs on
Brazil's most competitive products.
President Bush still has
an opportunity to show that the U.S. will practice what it preaches when it
comes to trade, and that he will respond to the emerging threats to democracy
in the Americas.
Gerald Brant, a Brazilian-American, is a former candidate for a chair in
Brazil's Lower House of Congress. He ran on the PFL party ticket in 2002.
He is a director at PROBUS Research, a political consulting firm based in
Rio de Janeiro. The author welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
appeared originally in Infobrazilwww.infobrazil.com.