“Today, Brazil is prepared to assume an important leadership role for all of the countries of the so called “South,” in order to build a new international geography and create and extend the necessary conditions for development in our countries. Not as a counterbalance, but to reinforce the international system.”
An interview with Brazil’s Minister Luiz Dulci
Luiz Soares Dulci is Minister of the General Secretariat of the Presidency under the Lula Government in Brazil. Minister Dulci was a leader in the combative New Unionism movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
He was a leader of the largest public school teachers union in the state of Minas Gerais and helped to found the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT) and the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT).
He has served on the National Directorate of the PT since its founding in 1980 and was elected to the Federal Chamber of Deputies in 1982.
He was Secretary of Government and Culture for the first PT municipal administration in Belo Horizonte, the state capital of Minas Gerais.
Dulci also served as President of the Perseu Abramo Institute, a research and policy making center linked to the PT.
He is the author of several books, including Challenges of PT Administrations.
In 2002 he helped organize Lula’s successful presidential campaign and was subsequently appointed Minister to represent the government in matters related to civil society.
Brazzil – Minister, you played a leading role in creating a very large teachers union and in the creation and development of the Workers Party. How have these experiences helped you to prepare for your actual position as Minister of the General Secretariat of the Presidency under the administration of Lula?
Luiz Soares Dulci – Many of our government’s leaders originated from the labor movement, just like President Lula who led the Metalworkers union in São Bernardo and the construction of the Unified Labor Confederation or Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT), the largest labor confederation in Brazil.
A good part of the administration developed through the renewal of the labor movement, the democratic resistence to the military dictatorship, and the struggle to reinstall the rule of law in Brazil, and greatly benefited from the very important contribution of the churches linked to liberation theology, intellectuals, and the democratic Left.
This is also my background; I led, along with my union brothers and sisters, the largest public school teachers’ strike in the history of the state of Minas Gerais. I also worked for the creation of the Education Workers Union of Minas Gerais and the CUT.
The Workers Party was the political expression of this movement and the affirmation of union autonomy, the struggle for social rights and political liberties.
There was no other way, the Workers Party inherited a vibrantly democratic political culture, with strong commitments to dialogue and pluralism.
The leaders of the CUT and the Workers Party developed a rich experience in political mediation and the construction of democratic compromise through our New Unionism’s use of negotiations to resolve economic issues and the construction of political conditions to overcome authoritarianism without resort to violence.
These lessons were incorporated into the institutional culture of the party and furthered amplified through the Workers Party’s experience with municipal administration, and now under the Lula administration.
Our new government has demonstrated a great capacity to understand and dialogue with all sectors of Brazilian society, which allows for the development of a new democratic political culture for the nation.
As Minister of the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic, the executive office that coordinates dialogue and cooperation with civil society, I believe that my union and party experience is fundamental.
I am convinced that our dialogue with civil society would not be meaningful if our government’s leaders had not developed the social sensibility and cultivated relationships able to affirm identities and respect differences, thereby exercising the most important of democratic virtures.
Brazzil – The Lula government has elaborated and implemented important policies to confront hunger, carry out land reform and develop family farms, generate jobs for youth and expand the formal labor market with all its legally entitled benefits, expand the productive infrastructure, especially in the areas of transportation and port facilities, and reform the social security and tax systems; in the international area which policies and efforts are most important to your government? What are your responsibilities for carrying them out?
Luiz Soares Dulci – Brazil, under President Lula’s leadership, has assumed the commitment to work toward a reform of “globalization” in order to defend the country’s legitimate national interests.
Our foreign policy is an important instrument to change the current situation in favor of a new global order with greater democracy, justice and social equality.
President Lula’s vision necessarily links our foreign policy with the nation’s domestic priorities. Our priority to confront hunger through the Zero Hunger program, for example, translates into the international arena through our efforts to innovate and encourage the adoption of international financial instruments to combat hunger and poverty and achieve the objectives of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its guarantees to food security as advanced by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO).
Fundamentally, we are reintroducing a policy orientation for national development as you mentioned in your question. President Lula’s foreign policy reflects the priority to strengthen the negotiating position of Brazil with regard to other nation-states.
From this strategy we aim to invigorate and deepen the Common Market of the Southern Cone (Mercosul) and at the same time work together whenever possible with other countries who share our development experience and challenges, as is the case with the G-20 nations, and in particular the G-3, India, South Africa and Brazil.
The concerns and priorities that frame our foreign policy are the same that define our domestic policy agenda; the search for a model of economic development that offers greater social justice with attention to the most vulnerable segments of society, as well as the defense and deepening of democracy by incorporating active social participation that is in part responsible for defining and implementing public policies.
With regard to my own participation, aside from participating in the coordination of the government, it is important to understand the specific responsibility that the President has given the Ministry of the General Secretariat of the Presidency, that is to coordinate political dialogue and cooperation with civil society.
Considering the intense interaction between the domestic and international policy agendas, we are making the effort to involve and incorporate Brazilian civil society in the development of our international agenda and establish a permanent dialogue with the civil societies of other countries as they relate to our policies.
Think of it as the historical role or vocation of our government, because only through such a process can we advance the profound transformations required to democratize and humanize globalization.
The search for solutions should include all actors, international institutions, different levels of government, the private sector, and in particular civil society.
The organization and mobilization of civil society in the unfolding debate over the global democratic order are essential to the organization and exercise of democracy at the global level.
It is important to repeat, globalization is a fact, but it hasn’t abolished the nation-state which remains the fundamental actor for international relations.
Brazzil – During its first year and a half, the Lula government demonstrated global leadership in the area of global trade, principally through the Doha round of the World Trade Organization and the Free Trade in the Americas negotiations.
Brazil’s leadership attracted much international attention, especially at the WTO’s meeting in Cancun and later at the FTAA meetings in Miami in 2003.
Aside from the area of global trade, the Lula government has projected a broader vision of Brazil’s role in the world; which policies and programs best reflect this vision and how will your government implement them during the second half of President Lula’s term in office?
Luiz Soares Dulci – We are redefining and renegotiating Brazil’s position within the process of globalization. This effort is directly tied to our internal capacity to confront those forces that oppose such fundamental changes as the redistribution of income and the further development of citizenship and political participation, essential conditions for the productive mobilization of Brazilian society.
President Lula’s foreign policy is framed by the need to struggle for a new international agenda and its implementation. As I stated, Brazil’s foreign policy reflects our domestic struggles and challenges.
Today, Brazil is prepared to assume an important leadership role for all of the countries of the so called “South,” in order to build a new international geography and create and extend the necessary conditions for development in our countries. Not as a counterbalance, but to reinforce the international system.
One aspect for consideration is, for example, the existence of massive export subsidies provided to producers in the rich nations. At the same time, our leadership and activism is not limited to international commerce.
We are actively participating in the reform of the United Nations and making our case for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. We actively defend a multilaterlism that reorientes the world toward peace and social justice.
For us, UN reform should be treated not only in terms of administrative efficiency, but also with regard to the organization’s credibility and the need to reorient its mission toward the root problems, hunger and misery.
These problems are important causes of war and violence, althought not the only ones. It is important that developing countries increase their participation in such forums as the UN so that the great majority of the world’s population be fully represented in all the international forums and arenas.
In this sense, we will continue to build a truly Latin American community. In such a context we assume the responsibility, for example, of commanding the international peacekeeping force in Haiti and count on the assistance and contributions of all the Latin American countries.
We see this as a great and noble cause, one that reflects our willingness to take on such an important responsbility.
Brazzil – In terms of these policy positions and with respect to your government’s vision, how should Brazil navigate its relations with the United States?
Luiz Soares Dulci – Because of geography and the political, commercial and military importance of the U.S., we continue to place a priority on our bi-lateral relations. We should remember that Brazil has much in common with the history of the U.S.
In my state, Minas Gerais, Tiradentes’ Inconfidência rebellion against Portuguese domination occurred during the same period as the U.S. war of independence. There was an exchange of ideas between leaders of the two movements and they shared similar motives and interests. Unfortunately in our case, we had to wait a little longer to achieve independence.
Also, our two countries share a very large population and strong cultural influence of African origin. I am sure that if we looked, we could find additional common experiences between our two nations.
We should also take into account that approximately twenty five percent of Brazil’s international trade is with the U.S., a volume of trade that could expand considerably if not for the protectionist barriers imposed by the U.S. government upon important Brazilian exports.
Relations between our two countries is crucial to the ongoing process of integration unfolding throughout the Americas and our search for common cause in the global order.
Brazzil – Brazil has played a very important role in the slow process of democratizing the global political economy, whether it be through trade, the United Nations or the World Social Forum; how can Brazil proceed with its leadership role with regard to the United States, both government and civil society, in order to speed up and deepen this process?
Luiz Soares Dulci – I have no doubt that dialogue and understanding with the U.S. are essential if we are to answer the big questions that confront the world today, from the environment to peace and UN reforms among many other challenges.
It is important that our suggestions, initiatives and proposals become known, discussed and debated with respect to the evolving global order. We defend multilateral solutions and I believe that the U.S. plays a very important role in the elaboration and implementation of these solutions.
I am also convinced that the developing countries must have a stronger voice in order to strengthen the foundation for consensus. We bring this message to the U.S. by way of traditional methods, diplomacy, and through dialogue with North American civil society.
President Lula plays a very important and personal role in this dialogue. Aside from our contacts with President Bush and other government officials, President Lula maintains productive relations with representative actors of civil society, developed both in Brazil and through his many trips to the U.S. As one example, we continue to build and develop closer ties with the U.S. labor movement.
Brazzil – Minister Dulci, how do you understand the role and participation of Brazilian civil society in this process?
Luiz Soares Dulci – Without a doubt I believe there exists considerable uncertainty and mutual ignorance of our respective national realities, both very complex.
In this sense, the civil societies of Brazil and the U.S. have a fundamental role in developing avenues of exchange and communication in all of the diverse areas of our social life.
For example, the relationships between the labor movements of each country have developed a great deal, but there is a great potential for further development and cooperation.
This potential is also present for the Afro-american and Afro-Brazilian movements, feminist, university and scientific communities among others. I also believe that the academic community plays an important role in the sense of shaping public opinion and influencing the media because of its attention to change and analysis of the unfolding global dynamics.
This is very important for the vision and image of Brazil presented in the U.S. Indeed, it is in our interest as a government to stimulate the dissemination of information regarding our reality to North American society in parallel to our inter-governmental efforts.
We want the U.S. to increase its understanding, in a very profound manner, of the challenges that Brazil faces and the efforts we are carrying out to confront them. This comprehension is essential to any effective cooperation.
Brazzil – Minister Dulci you intend on visiting the U.S. in November, soon after the U.S. presidential elections. What are your plans and objectives for the trip?[the Minister’s travel plans have been canceled and are being rescheduled for March of 2005]
Luiz Soares Dulci – I have been invited on numerous occasions by different academic groups during the past year to elaborate the Lula government’s priorities, projects and progress, which without a doubt represents a major change in Brazil’s history.
Because of other commitments I have been unable to accept these invitations and carry out this work. However, I am now able to make this commitment and take advantage of my contacts with several academic centers to present an analysis of Brazilian reality and establish a direct dialogue with an important segment of U.S. civil society.
Aside from this, I have engagements to meet with representative organizations, members of the media and politicians.
Brazzil – Brazzil has played a very important role in the area of providing information and analysis about Brazil over the years; would you like to pass along a message to the readers of this publication?
Luiz Soares Dulci – I want to thank Brazzil Magazine for this opportunity and express my conviction that journals such as this one really do help to reveal the reality that we in Brazil face.
I am very much commited to providing any information and reviewing your contributions in order to establish a truly meaningful debate capable of developing our relationships and contributing to your publication.
Ministro Dulci, thank you so much for your time and comments.
Mark S. Langevin, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of political science for Chapman University College in Santa Maria, California and Southern California Coordinator of the Brazil Strategy Network. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org