The Economist Decides to Teach Brazil and Lula a Few Lessons

The Economist cover Recently, capitalism ‘bible’ The Economist, published in London since September 1843, decided to give guidance and prescribe a political and economic line of action to the Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva administration. The cover of the August 15-21 issue asks: “On Which Side is Brazil?”, featuring a full body photograph of Lula – all smiles – sporting a red shirt and trying to keep control of a soccer ball in a green field, on a golden yellow background. 

In the editorial, the magazine conveys the idea that Brazilians, and particularly Lula – are living a key moment in their history – when the “giant asleep” is mentioned as one of the five or six world countries with protagonist roles into the 21st century. The Economists states that no summit meeting happening in the world today would do without the presence of Brazil and of Lula. After all, says the magazine, “he’s the man”, said Barack Obama at a G-20 meeting, while Fidel Castro referred to the Brazilian President as “my brother Lula.”

This privileged status is debited by the magazine to the economic “stabilization” period put in practice by Lula and – amazing – by his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The editors forget that FHC left the country in 2002 at the brink of an economic abyss.

“Brazil was, among the ten main economies in the planet, the last one to enter the recession and rises now as one of the first to come out of it”… says the editorial, which goes on to remind us that it was Goldman Sachs who characterized the group formed by Brazil, Russia, India and China as the BRIC which, according to them, will dominate the world around 2050. At the time, reminds the magazine, there were those who doubted that Brazil would have the muscle to join such a group. 

Congratulations on the Victory

When Lula took office in 2003, the British magazine goes on, “he showed political courage by adopting responsible policies, ignoring positions to the left of his own party that favored the suspension of payment on the foreign debt, for example. His instinct for economic rationality could have transformed him from “protectionist” into “free market champion”.

On the other hand, the magazine recognizes that his social policies were daring and that they allowed him to rescue 13 million people out of poverty and to decrease income inequalities. At this point the editorial starts an attack against President Hugo Chávez, of Venezuela, saying that although Lula boasts extremely high approval ratings in public opinion, he has not tried to change the Constitution in order to be able to run for a third term. 

Success at home, states the Economist, gave oxygen to Lula to build an ambitious foreign policy – with plans to project Brazil as a great power who will lead Latin America and articulate with other medium size powers such as South Africa and the so called BRIC countries.

At this point the magazine tries to apply a check mate to Lula’s designs by asking which countries Brazil actually want as allies and stating that Brazil has an ambiguous position as demonstrated, for example, in its stance in the World Trade Organization, when it lost the important support of India in the attempt to resume the Doha Round.  
Nevertheless, the magazine ends up praising Lula when it proposes a restructuring of international institutions aiming at adapting them to the new conditions of world power.

But it goes on to criticize the Brazilian position on human rights and democracy – accusing the country of aligning itself systematically with Cuba and China, countries in which, according to the magazine, human rights are not respected. Furthermore, the attack goes on by reminding readers that Lula was one of the first world leaders to congratulate the Iranian President, Mahamoud Ahmadinejad, on his electoral victory.

A New “Cold War”

Finally, the London magazine shows surprise in the fact that a power such as Brazil has renounced the use of nuclear weapons although, it says, Brazilians have not signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, not allowing the inspectors of an international control entity to visit the facilities where the Brazilian nuclear submarine is being built.

The magazine alerts Lula to the fact that if his country becomes a member of the U.N. Security Council on a rotating basis, next January, it will have to decide between supporting or condemning Iran’s nuclear intentions.   

The Economist states that amidst all these contradictory aspects, there is a subliminar “anti-americanism” in Brazil’s position in a region of the world where the yankees are in decline in terms of political influence.

Again it resorts to accusing Hugo Chávez of being the mentor of the inauguration of a “new cold war’ in the subcontinent by accusing Colombia of allowing the installation of military bases in its territory.

It would be the case now to ask the English editors if it is not exactly the United States – with the redeployment of the Fourth Fleet, with bases in Colombia, and the offing of the elected president of Honduras (where other bases could be installed) – the party most interested in destabilizing democratic and popular governments at quantity and quality levels never seen before in the history of Latin America. 

Pedro de Oliveira is editor of the magazine Princípios.

Translated from the Portuguese by Tereza Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is a certified member of the American Translators Association. Contact:


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