Brazil: Is This a Conspiracy Against Lula?

Lula taks at final session of Arab summit in Brasília, capital of BrazilYou can take your pick: total lack of coordination within the government or reprisal from a group of ministers against Brazil’s foreign ministry, the Itamaraty. Because there is no other explanation for the fact that ministers Fernando Furlan, Paulo Bernardo, Dilma Roussef and José Dirceu flew to Rio for a seminar on economic development while in Brasília a South America – Arab countries summit was going on.

Had the meeting with the Arabs been planned to debate the influence of shrimp feelers on the Red Sea tides the absences might be justified. But the summit, which brought to Brasília rulers and representatives from faraway countries, had as main theme the development of both regions through commercial exchange.

How can you accept that the ministers of Industrial Development, of Planning, of Mines and Energy and the President’s Chief of Staff, plus the president of the Development Bank, BNDES, which promoted the seminar, might have so explicitly snubbed what might be the Brazilian government’s biggest and most important incursion in economic and foreign policy to date?

There is still a third hypothesis, besides government’s lack of coordination or a reprisal against the Itamaraty: would the runaway ministers be trying to please the United States? Did they want to make it clear to the Americans that they have nothing to do with the meeting held in the federal capital?

That they do not agree with the criticisms raised against the economic exploration of the poor countries by the rich countries? Or did they want to be on the good side of Israel, the country that was most criticized by the Arabs?

We can’t figure it out. Or we figure it too well: this government is a little nuts.

An Explosive Letter

They are not really green, yellow and red the colors from the latest traffic light placed in front of the Palácio do Planalto, the presidential office.

They are green,  dark blue and light blue. They carry the colors of the uniforms of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.

The letter sent President Lula by the presidents of the Military, Naval and Air Force Clubs is symptomatic because it reveals the mood among the military. Those active and reserve military.

Naturally the commanders of the three forces could not, publicly, state what they feel: “It is incomprehensible for the government to observe the increase of tensions and do nothing about it alleging budgetary penury”.

This was the most hard-hitting sentence in the letter of the three-clubs presidents, general Luiz Gonzaga Lessa, admiral Valter Wollstein and brigadier Ivan Fleet. They also stressed the unequivocal authority of President Lula, as the Armed Forces commander in chief, but the message was given.

So much so that the government announced that at the end of the month it will present a solution for readjusting military wages. The difficult is to foresee what solution is in store. Certainly not the fulfillment  of the commitment celebrated by former-minister of Defense, José Viegas, which promised a 23% increase over the current wage of each soldier.

The document did not mention its obvious corollary, that there is no budgetary penury when what has to be paid are the interests of the foreign and public debts, but this is exactly the way the military think. The only doubt is to know if they will make this explicit in a possible next letter…

Lula’s Ratzinger

A comment heard in the meeting of the PT, obviously just whispered, far from the microphones, by a PT member who implores to remain anonymous: “He thinks he is Lula’s Joseph Ratzinger, but he will remain cardinal and may even be downgraded to village vicar”.

The reference was to José Dirceu, who for ambition or for lack of able colleagues has been coordinating the administration, is going to coordinate politics, is already coordinating President Lula’s reelection campaign and still does work part time in foreign policy.

While accumulating so many activities, the President’s Chief of Staff stirs sulkiness and even envy among his colleagues.

In the PT, the reelection for four more years is a certainty. So, many people are already looking ahead, into the 2010 presidential campaign.

That’s when people compare José Dirceu to the new pope, Benedictus XVI. In the final years of John Paul II’s pontificate, he was the almighty cardinal who ran the Church and the Vatican.

To avoid an analogy, PT’s prestigious cardinals are starting to jockey for position. An example: Aloízio Mercadante, especially if he is elected governor of São Paulo.

Carlos Chagas writes for the Rio’s daily Tribuna da Imprensa and is a representative of the Brazilian Press Association, in Brasília. He welcomes your comments at carloschagas@hotmail.com.

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