Lula or Cardoso? Who’s Brazil’s President?

        or Cardoso? Who's Brazil's President?

all the key policy areas—land reform, environmental protection,
affirmative action, and foreign policy—Lula’s policies are almost

indistinguishable from those introduced by Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

A Lula public apology to Cardoso would be good for the country.
Ted Goertzel


has a lot to apologize for. Instead of giving Brazil a shiny, new economic
model, he simply warmed up former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s
old one.

eight years of attacking Cardoso’s proposals to reform social security
and taxes, he conceded that Cardoso was right after all. He announced
a "Zero Hunger" campaign modeled on the American food stamp
program, without mentioning that the previous administration under Cardoso
had already instituted innovative anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs.
In all the key policy areas—land reform, environmental protection,
affirmative action, and foreign policy—Lula’s policies are almost
indistinguishable from those introduced by Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

may mean that Brazil has finally matured to the Tweedle Dee, Tweedle
Dum stage of party politics, with a broad consensus on the major issues.
No one wins an election by praising the other side, and Cardoso’s popularity
was so low that even his own party’s candidate gave him only grudging
recognition. Cardoso and Lula are old friends, going back to the long
struggle against the military regime. They have similar goals for Brazil,
and they are practical men who have no desire to go down in glorious
defense of impossible dreams. After eight years in office, Cardoso left
Brazil significantly better off than he found it. Lula will be doing
well if he can say the same in four or eight years.

this were merely a private matter between friends, there would be little
need for an apology. They both understand political rhetoric, and Lula
has expressed his appreciation of Cardoso’s help in the transition.
But a public apology would be good for the country. Not so much to correct
the historical record, but to help Brazilians understand what happened
to Lula’s vision of a new economic and social model that would transform
the country.

through the campaign, Cardoso was frustrated because he could never
pin Lula down on policy issues. Lula said he was against what Cardoso
was doing, but he never explained what he would do instead. Would he
renationalize industry or restructure the debt? How would he lower interest
rates without increasing the debt and inflation? How would he increase
salaries without increasing inflation? How would he implement and subsidize
a more rapid land reform? In response to these hard policy questions,
Lula just said that he would get together with the interested parties
and negotiate. He never said what his own position would be.

won the election without ever really answering Cardoso’s questions.
People were content to vote for images, without knowing exactly what
policies would be used to implement them. The Workers Party’s campaign
centered on a meaningless slogan: "Another Brazil is Possible."
Of course, many other Brazils are possible. And many of them would be
worse rather than the one we have now. Brazil could rally around a populist
demagogue like Venezuela or default on its debts like Argentina. A few
in the leftover left would like Brazil to be a Marxist dictatorship
like Cuba or North Korea. Almost everyone would like Brazil to be more
like Sweden, but that will take a long time.

question is not whether another Brazil is possible, but which of the
many possible Brazils is most feasible. In my view, the best possibility
for Brazil is to model itself on Chile. I don’t mean the Chile of Allende
or the Chile of Pinochet, but the democratic socialist Chile of the
last fifteen years. Chile has cut poverty in half while raising everyone’s
standard of living and protecting human rights and democratic freedoms.
Brazil could do the same. There is no great secret to Chile’s success.
It was achieved through four main policies:

Working hard to maintain a political consensus, including sending important
bills to the opposition parties for advice and consent;

Reducing government expenditures so as to maintain a budget surplus
and cut inflation;

Increasing taxes to fund higher spending on education, health, youth
training and housing for the poor;

Greatly increasing the investment rate, including direct foreign investment;

is more or less what Fernando Henrique Cardoso tried to do, and Lula
is trying to do it even better. Brazil started down the right road ten
years ago with the Real Plan. It made progress down that road, but it
didn’t get as far as it hoped. Lula hopes to go farther down the same
road, and he will need all the help he can get. He will need people
to be patient when he encounters roadblocks and detours along the way.

Henrique was less popular than Lula primarily because he told people
exactly what he was doing. Lula won the popularity contest by offering
vague promises and utopian visions. This is very much in the tradition
of Latin American politics, and it certainly worked in the election.
But it can be a recipe for disaster when people become disillusioned
because the promises cannot be realized.

A public
apology to FHC would correct the false impression that Lula has a revolutionary
new model for Brazil—and the illusion that Brazil needs one.


article was originally written for and published by InfoBrazil—  

Goertzel, Ph.D. is Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University
in Camden, NJ. He is the author of a biography of Fernando Henrique
Cardoso, available in English and in Portuguese. He can be contacted
and his WEB page can be found at






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