Brazil’s New Cabinet Has Man Who Kidnapped US Ambassador in 1969

Franklin Martins at the time he was wanted by the police Brazilian President Lula da Silva and his newly formed ruling coalition completed the reshuffling of the ministerial cabinet and announced "politics with a big P, thinking in the country of the next 20 years".

In his welcome speech to the incoming ministers of Agriculture, Tourism and International Relations, President Lula said that when reelected last October he considered keeping his whole cabinet "since we were a winning team," but admitted that the new coalition for his second four year mandate imposed changes.

But, "these changes are guided not for immediate governance or in support of legislation in Congress" but with the intention of "making politics with a big P thinking in the country of the next 20 years", not only the coming four.

Marta Suplicy, a former mayor of the city of São Paulo and one of the founders of Lula's Workers Party in 1980 became Tourism minister. She replaced Walfrido Mares Guia, a chemical engineer who was named Minister for Institutional Relations, which was vacant since Tarso Genro moved to the Justice Department.

On suggestion from the conservative PMDB party, which is helping Lula have a majority in Congress, Reinhold Stephanes was named Minister of Agriculture. Stephanes is an economist who has served with previous administrations: in 1990/92 as minister of Social Welfare and Labor Minister under former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Stephanes takes office at a challenging moment since the strong Brazilian currency is eroding farmers' profits that have helped Brazil break export records year after year.

The Brazilian Agriculture and Livestock Confederation said that the sector's GDP in 2006 had dropped 2.2% compared to 2005 and now stand at US$ 71.3 billion, according to a report from the Applied Economics Department from the prestigious University of São Paulo.

This in spite of the fact that agriculture expanded 4.5% and livestock 3.8%, but real prices dropped 4.6% and 7.9% respectively. With a strong real, infrastructure, financial and domestic costs have ballooned in US dollars, argue farmers.

Next week Lula will swear in the ministers of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, and Communications. The first cabinet seat goes to Miguel Jorge, a leading banker from Santander-Banespa, and Communications to Franklin Martins, a journalist, former guerrilla who participated in the September 4, 1969 kidnapping of then United States ambassador Charles Elbrick.

Martins writes in his own site – www.franklinmartins.com.br: "1968 was a crucial year in the struggle against the dictatorship. We did not have the strength to oust it but we could cause lots of trouble and that we did… strikes, lightening-meeting (brief street speeches that ended before the police could arrive) occupation of schools, demonstrations, confrontation with the police.

"Personally, my life turned upside down. I hardly went to school and spent my days and nights agitating. Soon the police started looking for me and I had to leave home."

And he adds a few paragraphs below: "In September 1969, I joined the group, formed by activists of the National Liberating Action (ALN) and the October 8 Revolutionary Movement (MR-8), which kidnapped the American ambassador Charles B. Elbrick to force the government to release 15 political prisoners."
 
On March 16, the ministries of National Integration, Public Health and Justice were filled with Geddel Vieira Lima, José Gomes Temporão and Tarso Genro.

Mercopress, Bzz

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