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100 Days of Lula and No Cardoso

 100 
        Days of Lula and No Cardoso

Former
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso treated the audience,
which had paid a lot of money to hear him, to a rather flat
lecture on world affairs which was lacking in ideas and wit.
He sounded like the kind of Bush-basher who fills the
opinion columns and letters pages of the Brazilian media.
by: John
Fitzpatrick

 

The
Lula government has just passed its first 100 days and this milestone
has been marked by events and articles here and abroad. I will desist
from adding to the torrent of opinion from every commentator in the
land since I think it is far too early to draw any real conclusion.
So far, Lula has behaved responsibly and maintained tremendously high
popularity ratings. However, he has yet to face a real crisis, domestic
or international. When that happens he will be truly tested.

At
the moment, however, the government is basically following in the tracks
of ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. It was, therefore, with great
interest that I attended a meeting in São Paulo last week—the
6th Seminário sobre Perspectivas da Economia Brasileira
sponsored by Tendências, a consulting company—at which the
main speaker was none other than Cardoso. After spending most of the
first three months of the year abroad, Cardoso has returned home and
is raising his profile. He has given a number of interviews, started
writing a regular newspaper column for Rio’s O Globo and o Estado
de S. Paulo and created a research foundation.

Diplomatic
Silence

Some
people may feel that the views of a former president are now only of
historical interest, since he no longer has any power. I would go along
with this view were it not for the fact that there have been some reports
that Cardoso may be asked to run in the next election. Since he will
be in in his mid 70s in three or four years time this is unlikely, but
you can never discount anything in politics. Also, since Cardoso left
a great impact during his two terms of office, his views still have
some value.

It
was, therefore, disappointing that Cardoso made almost no reference
to domestic matters in his speech. Presumably he did so for "diplomatic"
reasons but since he is not a diplomat but a public figure, who is the
leader of the main opposition party, I cannot understand his reticence.
The PT might be continuing with most of the Cardoso government’s policies
but the party was an obstructive force during his administrations. Cardoso
may think that hostile comments by him could upset the country’s image
abroad, but Brazil is a democracy and voters are entitled to know his
views. Unfortunately, Cardoso treated the audience, which had paid a
lot of money to hear him, to a rather flat lecture on world affairs
which was lacking in ideas and wit.

Cardoso
might have been a good president but, if this was an example of his
lecturing style, I am glad I was not one of his students during his
years as a professor of sociology. Even more depressing to an admirer
like me was his decision to make a thinly-veiled attack on the United
States for behaving "unilaterally" in various spheres, from
the attack on Iraq to the refusal to sign the Kyoto protocol. At times
he sounded like the kind of Bush-basher who fills the opinion columns
and letters pages of the Brazilian media. (I defy anyone to imagine
a worse way to start the day than to turn to the second and third pages
of the Estado de S. Paulo where these correspondents thrive.

He
Stoops to Conquer

At
one point Cardoso stooped to about the lowest point imaginable when
he asked rhetorically: "After Iraq, what next? Chile? India? …Brazil?"
To see a man of Cardoso’s stature play to the gallery and fall to this
level left my heart sore. At least, he did not take the bait of the
chairman, an ex-TV interviewer with an inflated idea of his own importance,
who almost tut-tutted when referring to the US marine who had briefly
covered the head of the Saddam Hussein statue with an American flag.
(This was particularly rich, since Brazilians are the world’s greatest
flag wavers, inside and outside their own country, regardless of the
feelings of anyone else.)

Otherwise
Cardoso showed great naivety and a lack of understanding, not only of
the US position but of the psychology of George W. Bush, and his relations
with the UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Cardoso said it had been difficult
to understand why Bush had waited until now to attack Iraq and had not
done so after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Since Cardoso
was in power at the time, it is strange that he did not know that Bush’s
first reaction had been to attack Iraq.

According
to British press reports it was Blair who persuaded him to hold off
and concentrate on Afghanistan, before turning to Iraq. The US also
did try to get the backing of the UN Security Council although Cardoso
made no mention of this. Since France had said it would veto any attempt
to send in troops, what purpose going to the Security Council would
have served is questionable. As to the other members of the Security
Council, Russia "unilaterally" invaded Afghanistan and China
"invaded" Tibet and has threatened to invade Taiwan on countless
occasions.

J’Accuse
Président Monsieur Bush Mais Pas Président Chirac

Francophile
Cardoso, who headed to Paris after handing over the presidential sash
on January 1st, made no reference to the constant "unilateral"
acts of France in sending its forces to former African colonies, using
the South Pacific to test its nuclear devices and blocking efforts to
reform the European Union’s scandalous agricultural protectionist polices.
Perhaps, instead of cozy dinners with Jacques Chirac or Lionel Jospin
in Paris, Cardoso should have tried to get to know Bush better personally.
Some common sense might also have helped. When President Bush claimed
a few months ago that Saddam Hussein had tried to kill his father, George
Bush Senior, Cardoso should have known (as the rest of us did) that
nothing would save Saddam Hussein.

Cardoso
also raised the matter of the unfairness of the Security Council, which
excludes the world’s second and third largest economic powers—Germany
and Japan. Presumably he did not see the irony here since both Germany
and Japan rose from the ashes after being invaded and defeated by the
US and then subsequently pulled back to their feet with American armed
and financial support. I would have liked to put my rhetorical question
too: "After Germany and Japan…Iraq?" The Security Council
has never been the kind of chummy, collegiate body Cardoso, and other
supporters of a permanent seat for Brazil, imply and, in fact, the consensus
on Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait was one of the few times it agreed
unanimously.

PSDB
out in the Cold

The
rest the event was pretty dull since there was little to talk about.
One speaker tried to create a few sparks by saying the old-style PT
element was still alive in the government. He cited a few reckless comments
on land reform and the attacks which have been made on the regulatory
agencies. Although these comments were valid it is difficult to take
them seriously at the moment. Another top speaker, the PT President,
José Genoíno denied that there was a "new" or
"old" PT at all. He said the party was trying to bring together
as many left-wing and centre interests.

This
is certainly true and the government’s recent success in winning a vote
in the Lower House of Congress to reform the financial system proves
it. This vote—which could lead to an independent Central Bank and
abolish the absurd constitutional ceiling of 12 percent on interest
rates—was backed by the opposition as well as most of the 12 parties
which back the Lula government. These are likely to be joined by the
PMDB, which will then leave the PSDB—and Cardoso—out in the
cold.

 

John
Fitzpatrick is a Scottish journalist who first visited Brazil in
1987 and has lived in São Paulo since 1995. He writes on
politics and finance and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicações—
 www.celt.com.br, which
specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian
and foreign clients. You can reach him at jf@celt.com.br 

©
John Fitzpatrick 2003

You
can also read John Fitzpatrick’s articles in Infobrazil,
at www.infobrazil.com

 

 

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