Brazilian President Lula forgot the protocol niceties and went
into the attack against his
predecessors in the presidency. He
accused them of cowardice for not having solved the problems
and drought in Brazil. The opposition criticized the
tone and the content of the presidential remarks.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s speech at the inauguration of a passenger terminal at the João
Suassuna airport, in Campina Grande, in the northeastern state of Paraíba, caught many by surprise. Echoing his fiery and
populist campaign for the presidency, Lula said that all his predecessors "were cowards and didn’t have the courage to do what
needed to be done." He was referring to the fight against hungerLula started Zero Hungerand drought and tax and pension reforms.
Visibly mad, he lashed against those who call him a populist, said that he doesn’t fear those who are discontent be
they from the Right or the Left, stated that he had been elected "to do the things that need to be done" and had self
congratulatory words when he told that he had become "the country’s most important union leader."
It didn’t seem a prepared speech, as the President who was shooting from the hip and in confrontational tone, said
among other things that he was the leader of "planet earth’s eight world economy." Brazil since 1998 fell from
8th to the 12th position in the ranking of the world’s largest economies and by year’s end the country might be in
15th place if preliminary data
collected by Global Invest are confirmed.
Lula’s remarks were just the latest episode in a soap opera of invectives that has pitted the current President against
his immediate predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Earlier this week, Cardoso had criticized the Lula administration
saying that his government "lacked creativity." The president’s reaction to the criticism led some politicians from the
opposition to accuse him of having a short fuse unbecoming to a chief of state.
Primeira Leitura, a magazine and website aligned with Cardoso and his PSDB (Partido da Social Democracia
BrasileiraParty of the Brazilian Social Democracy), asked its readers: "If that’s the way the President reacts to a little frustration
and gets so annoyed with a former president’s criticism, what won’t he say or do when faced with real difficulty, like the
economy not generating neither the jobs nor the income promised during the 2002 electoral campaign?"
In a stage with several members of his cabinet and Cássio Cunha Lima, the governor of Paraíba who is from the
PSDB, Lula told his audience that 10 months ago, before his inauguration, there was a climate of hopelessness. "I would like to
remind the deputies and the governor who went through this period with me and know perfectly well what kind of hopelessness
there was in the country a mere ten months ago. Many people were rooting for things not to work out. And we, with much
composure, assumed the government saying: we will do first what is possible, then we will do what is necessary and
afterwards we will do the impossible."
Talking about the House approval of the tax and pension reforms, which are now in the Senate, Lula said, "We have
approved the pension reform, because pension is a right and not a privilege." Commenting on the fiscal reform, the President
commented, "some people are not going to like it, but I go to bed, every night, with a clean conscience. The fiscal reform
will insure that those who earn more pay more and those who earn less pay less."
According to Lula, the problem of drought in the Brazilian Northeast was never solved due to the "shamelessness"
of the country’s leaders. Said the President: "Everyone knows that since 1847, Dom Pedro (II) had thought about bringing
water to the Northeast’s semi-arid region. Drought is a phenomenon of nature, the hunger caused by it, is due to the
brazenness of men who should have been responsible for ending this evil." Lula was in the region also to celebrate the construction
of the one millionth cistern in the Brazilian Northeast.
The Lula administration wants to build a cistern in every house in the
caatinga, a region inhabited by 18 million
peopleeight million of them in the rural areawhich covers the north of the states of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo and the
arid regions of Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte and Sergipe. For that
the government has a budget of 15 million reais, a little more than US$ 5 million.
During the ceremony in the airport, a group of public servants jeered the President yelling among other things:
"O que é isso, companheiro, essa reforma é para
banqueiro" (What’s up, buddy, this reform is for bankers) and
"Você pagou com traição a quem sempre lhe deu a mão"
(You paid with treason those who always gave you a hand.)
Brazil and EU
Speaking at the Mercosur-European Union Business Forum, Lula declared that negotiations on a bi-regional trade
agreement are advancing. The Brazilian leader pointed out that several relevant commercial offers are on the table.
"What is missing for us to reach a good agreement is a package of offers by the EU in the agriculture area. When
that happens, Mercosur will respond with a significant counterproposal. It must be kept in mind that most Mercosur farm
products remain outside the present negotiations," said Lula. According to Lula, agriculture should be at the center of the talks,
rather than just an additional item on the negotiating agenda.
Lula declared that there was no reason the bi-regional negotiations could not be successful. "This forum is a channel
for both communication and participation. It stimulates negotiations and, at the same time, evaluates them…. Our goal is to
reach a mutually satisfactory and beneficial agreement for both sides of the Atlantic," remarked the President.
Lula stressed the role of Brazil in South America: "Brazil has to have ideas and projects because it is the region’s
biggest economy and is committed to helping poorer countries in the region with infrastructure, and democratic and economic
stability. But we shall be more than just an investor. We will be a partner with our neighbors as we seek to write a new
chapter in our region’s history."