Lula Watch: Focusing on Latin America’s New “Axis of Evil” – Vol. I – No. 15

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The leftist ideological profile of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s administration, so skillfully toned down during his election campaign, is now emerging with ever greater clarity. This can be seen in the leftist political bills and projects announced and set in motion with every passing day.

A recurring tactic is also becoming clear: employ a heavy dose of ambiguity and even double-dealing disguising leftist intent and cover it with confused formulas and slogans. When ideological intentions are laid bare, immediately come up with explanations that explain nothing and blame everything on “misunderstandings.”

Foreign policy is one area where the ideological orientation of the Lula administration is more clearly discerned. It is a blatant example of duplicity in action.

A “haughty” and “proactive” foreign policy

Since Lula da Silva’s inauguration, Brazilian foreign policymakers like Foreign Minister Celso Amorim and Marco Aurélio Garcia, special assistant for international affairs, announced a “haughty” and “proactive” foreign policy of South American “integration” while favoring “multilateralism.”

The President himself started to proclaim Brazil’s leadership in the region using this new role as a poorly disguised reason to intervene in the affairs of other nations. This can be seen in his effort to keep his ideological ally, Hugo Chavez, in power, and his attempts to force Colombian President Álvaro Uribe to negotiate with FARC, the narco-terrorist movement with strong links to Lula’s Workers’ Party.

Behind the smoke screen, there is the intention to organize South American nations, beginning with Mercosul (the free trade organization of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay), in a common front to erode American influence in the region.

Such intentions have been always denied or disguised behind a much-trumpeted policy of “pragmatism.” However, innumerable written documents do not reflect this claim.

After nine months in power, opposing preferences and interests between Brazilian and American foreign policies in South America are emerging. One particularly blatant clash is President Lula da Silva’s insistent financial and political support of Fidel Castro’s communist and dictatorial regime which he so clearly displayed in his recent visit to Cuba.

FTAA: a paradigmatic example

Negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) have recently reached a critical point.

Brazil’s way of conducting FTAA’s negotiations, which it co-chairs with the U.S., is certainly a paradigmatic signal of the true ideological substratum of the Lula administration and a prototypical example of its way of acting.

Electoral cunning regarding the FTAA

The Workers’ Party and the Brazilian left in general – particularly the “Catholic left” linked with Liberation Theology and strongly ensconced in the Lula da Silva administration – have always frontally opposed the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). This opposition is inspired by typical leftist anti-capitalism and anti-Americanism (or “anti-imperialism”). These leftists see the FTAA as a process of United States-promoted “annexation” of South America and “neo-conservative” hegemony, which must be foiled at any cost.

Six months before the elections, Mr. Lula da Silva and his campaign managers performed real electoral acrobatics when they decided to transform the Workers’ Party candidate into a “moderate.” Among other measures, the PT’s frontal opposition of the FTAA had to stop temporarily.

This was fundamental to calm down strong reservations in financial markets as well as industrial and agricultural sectors of Brazil interested in the FTAA. Thus, Mr. Lula da Silva’s candidacy and political designs became viable.

Moreover, many conservative and free-market circles – including those in the United States – presented the supposed adhesion of Workers’ Party leaders to the FTAA as a serious and strong guarantee that the Lula administration had abandoned its socialist orientation and taken a pragmatic approach that would not change.

Further guarantees along that line were the appointments of Luiz Fernando Furlan as Minister of Development and Roberto Rodrigues as Minister of Agriculture. These two representatives of the corporate and agro–business worlds were interested in a successful outcome of FTAA’s negotiations.

Nevertheless, just over nine months into the new government, developments only served to confirm just how cosmetic was the PT’s attitude change regarding the FTAA (and many other matters). The director of São Paulo’s important daily Folha de S. Paulo, Otávio Frias Filho, called that change “a conversion too speedy, opportunistic and propagandistic to have substance” (“Política e religião,” 10/16/2003).

Duplicity in the FTAA negotiations

From the outset, the Lula da Silva government showed the same duplicity toward the FTAA that has characterized many of its other policies. It never openly opposed the FTAA but cunningly created the diplomatic conditions to empty the negotiations of content and render the signing of an accord unviable. After just over nine months, even diplomats agree that the strategy conceived and executed by the Foreign Ministry is designed to block the negotiations.

Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, Chief of Staff José Dirceu and the presidential aide for international affairs, Marco Aurélio Garcia, insist that Brazil’s position only involves trade and not ideology. However, when faced with the need to be flexible in the negotiations, they repeat the old leftist slogans against “annexation” or the mantra: “Do not ask us to give the country away.”

This duplicity already surfaced in the first few days of the new administration. In his inauguration speech, Foreign Minister Celso Amorim named Ambassador Samuel Pinheiro Guimarães as secretary general. Ambassador Pinheiro Guimarães is a staunch critic of the FTAA and seen as farther left than most PT deputies.

Ambassador Pinheiro Guimarães’ appointment as second in charge of the Foreign Ministry was seen by observers as clearly political and a gesture by the PT government fraught with significance. During the prior administration of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Mr. Pinheiro Guimarães was demoted as director of the Institute for International Relations because of his unrelenting attacks on the FTAA.

Since his new appointment, Amb. Pinheiro Guimarães is the principle official orienting FTAA negotiations. Press reports confirm that, during his first six months in office, Celso Amorim gradually replaced the main trade negotiators and designated diplomats identified with the new foreign policy orientation to key posts.

Although the Ministries of Development, Agriculture, and the Treasury, are directly linked to the negotiations, the Foreign Ministry, supported by the president’s special aide for international affairs, Marco Aurélio Garcia, is the only voice seriously heard by the Lula government.

According to the press, Ambassador Carlos Alberto Simas de Magalhães, chosen to lead the FTAA negotiating team, was replaced by order of Ambassador Pinheiro Guimarães for objecting to restrictive instructions.

The inauguration of his replacement, Ambassador Luiz Felipe Macedo Soares, turned into a political event when Minister Celso Amorim called on diplomats to show “enthusiasm” for the causes of the PT government, an episode that drew negative repercussion.

Already back in February, during the first meeting of the Chamber of Foreign Commerce (CAMEX), Minister Celso Amorim, accompanied by Samuel Pinheiro Guimarães, proposed that FTAA negotiations be postponed.

Proposals then began to surface for an assortment of FTAAs: “equitable and balanced,” “minimal,” “possible,” and the famous “three-track” which arrogates some points over to the WTO.

During his June visit to President George W. Bush, President Lula da Silva promised Brazil would sign the FTAA. The Brazilian Foreign Minister qualified the promise saying the FTAA’s ambitions must first diminish – a new ploy to refer to an FTAA emptied of real meaning.

In an article in the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, economist Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr., a professor at the well-known Getúlio Vargas Foundation, praised Brazilian foreign policy, which he sees as the high point of the Lula administration, and confirmed the tactic of emptying the negotiations of content: “This ingenious maneuver represents a significant change in the approach to the problem. For the first time since the FTAA was launched toward the end of 1994, Brazil calls into question the structure of the negotiations. One perceives without great difficulty that the new approach implies a greater emptying out of the FTAA” (“A FTAA no governo Lula,” 8/7/2003).

Meanwhile, the Workers’ Party quietly prepares another measure that makes the FTAA unviable. According to a news item in the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, the Commission on Constitution and Justice approved a proposed bill by Senator Eduardo Suplicy, a leading PT member, that defines procedures which the government must follow in any regional, bilateral or multilateral trade negotiations.

With more than twenty requirements, the still-to-be debated text effectively makes unviable in practice the signing of an FTAA accord as now proposed by the United States.

A diplomatic setback in Trinidad and Tobago

This FTAA debate reached a climax in the recent vice-ministerial meeting at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago in October.

Before going to this meeting in Port of Spain, negotiators from Itamaraty (Brazil’s Foreign Ministry) did not get input from any other ministries directly concerned with free trade or consult with any corporate leaders.

Instead, the press reported that “representatives of the Sole Central Workers’ Union (CUT) and Rebrip, a NGO devoted to the integration of indigenous peoples — two entities opposed to any version of the FTAA — went to Trinidad and Tobago with the Brazilian diplomats” (Veja, 10/15/2003).

Furthermore, Brazilian negotiators reportedly arrived at Trinidad and Tobago with strict instructions that left no margin of maneuver or authority to negotiate effectively.

The leftist orientation of the Lula da Silva government was once again evident. Stating that the hour of truth had arrived, Itamaraty introduced a proposal which Ambassador Adhemar Bahadian presented as “modern, innovative, creative” (“Tropeço isola País nas negociações da FTAA,” Paulo Sotero, O Estado de S. Paulo, 10/5/2003).

The Brazilian proposal was presented in the name of Mercosul and sought to “salami-ize” the FTAA. Most countries saw it as an attempt to sabotage the FTAA and therefore rejected it. Mercosul itself split leaving Brazil only with the support of Argentina. Always following its leftist orientation, Brazil attempted to introduce in the FTAA the “rich countries vs. developing countries” dichotomy. This gave rise to stiff objections, as it would erect new trade barriers between rich countries and so-called poor countries.

A split in the Lula Government

After the meeting, a split surfaced in the Lula da Silva government over the way the negotiations were handled.

The Minister of Agriculture publicly criticized the action of the Foreign Ministry, which he deemed “rigid and intransigent.” He also accused Brazilian negotiators of having remained distant from other government agencies and the private sector.

For his part, Minister Luiz Fernando Furlan complained that the Ministries that make up the Chamber of Foreign Commerce (CAMEX) did not receive a copy of the proposal that Brazil took to the FTAA meeting in Trinidad and Tobago.

He also said he received no inter-governmental information on what had been discussed: he was informed only through the newspapers. He emphasized that Brazil, as co-chair of the FTAA negotiations; “must either concern itself with building the FTAA or relinquish its position as co-chair” (Fabíola Salvador and Theo Saad, “Proposta para a FTAA não chegou à CAMEX,” O Estado de S. Paulo, 10/8/2003).

President Lula da Silva met with the Foreign Minister and complaining ministers. Afterwards, a presidential spokesman defended Itamaraty’s handling of the negotiations saying they were done with great “competence, realism and pragmatism.” Celso Amorim tried to play down the points of criticism by calling them “misunderstandings.”

However, an editorial in O Estado de S. Paulo commented that the criticism was actually not a fruit of any “misunderstandings” but “reflect the profound division in the government between those who defend a pragmatic negotiation of the free trade agreement for the hemisphere and others who, for political and also ideological reasons, wish to hinder the negotiations even to the point of arriving, if possible, at an insurmountable impasse” (“Os ‘mal-entendidos’ da FTAA,” 10/10/2003).

Criticism from the private sector

Leading voices from the private sector added to the ministers’ criticisms. The vice-president for international affairs of the National Confederation of Agriculture (CNA) said the Foreign Minister failed to heed the private sector and affirmed: “Itamaraty placed a bomb on the road which created a crater, and now no one can pass.”

The president of the São Paulo State Sugarcane Agribusiness Union joined in the criticism saying the foreign policy on the FTAA scares him: “It is not clear what they want. The impression one has is that this government wants to torpedo the FTAA” (cf. “Setor privado teme ruptura no bloco,” Mariana Barbosa, O Estado de S. Paulo, 10/8/2003).

The important Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo (FIESP) also expressed grave concern over the negotiations in Trinidad and Tobago. It feared that the increasing acrimony may cause the FTAA to implode.

On the part of the United States, American ambassador to Brazil, Donna Hrinak, addressed a select audience of business entrepreneurs and bankers in Rio de Janeiro, expressing disapproval of the Brazilian government’ stance (Sônia Araripe, “Embaixadora dos EUA ataca postura do Brasil,” Jornal do Brasil, 10/7/2003).

Brazilian left rushes to defend Itamaraty
The diplomatic maneuvers and the subsequent isolation of Brazil have generated much controversy with unusually great repercussions in the media.

A long report in Veja, Brazil’s leading magazine, emphasized the ideological substratum of the country’s position: “From the standpoint of some Brazilian diplomats known in Brasilia as ‘Stalin’s widows,’ who had an undue and exaggerated influence in the trade negotiations, everything that drives Brazil away from the United States is a triumph” (10/15/2003).

The newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo carried a detailed report on the FTAA negotiations under the new government and pointed out the ideological substratum that guided them. Many economic and political analysts also criticized the country’s foreign policy.

At the height of the crisis, the left rushed to defend the government. João Pedro Stédile, national coordinator of the far-left Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST), sent the Foreign Minister a letter expressing solidarity with Itamaraty’s policy.

Mr. Stédile criticized “neo-conservative sectors” in government that “exerted pressure to cancel out a Brazilian foreign policy marked by sovereignty and independence and cooperative integration with other nations that try to resist the line of annexation imposed by the U.S.A.” through the FTAA ( “Stedile envia apoio à política do Itamaraty,” Folha de S. Paulo, 10/14/2003).

The strongly negative reaction gave rise to rumors that President Lula da Silva had ordered the toning down of Brazilian positions. Presidential aide Marco Aurélio Garcia took charge of emphatically denying it.

It was also rumored that Samuel Pinheiro Guimarães would be removed as number two in Itamaraty, but the Foreign Minister himself denied it.

Incidentally, Celso Amorim took advantage of the occasion to affirm that he was the one directing the negotiations, in accordance with the President’s orientation.

Brazil reaffirms its position in the “Buenos Aires Consensus”

Mr. Lula da Silva and his diplomatic policy always defended strengthening Mercosul as a way to confront the U.S. There is even talk about attracting countries like Venezuela to Mercosul.

Recently in Buenos Aires, Presidents Lula da Silva and Néstor Kirchner signed the “Buenos Aires Consensus,” a declaration of principles that contains a “progressive agenda” with a clear intention of countering the United States and “neo-conservatism.”

In the document, the two countries reaffirmed their support for the proposal that led to the impasse in Trinidad and Tobago, thus proving that Brazil will not change in the least its position in the negotiations.

The left organizes against the FTAA

Concomitant with the diplomatic maneuvers described above, the left mobilized to favor an intransigent position on the FTAA. This mobilization has been greatly reinforced counting on the support of the “social movements” such as the MST and the Pastoral Commission on Land (CPT) – all of which have strong links with the PT and Catholic progressivists.

On October 4-5, the National Campaign Against the FTAA held a plenary meeting in São Paulo. Representatives of the “social movements” and the Lula da Silva government analyzed trade negotiations and the struggle against the FTAA. The representative of Brazil’s Foreign Ministry spoke to an audience that also included members of the Bolivarian Circles (Venezuela), the Committees in Defense of the Revolution (Cuba), the Movement To Socialism (Bolivia), and the Farabundo Martí Front (El Salvador).

The mobilization agenda of the campaign includes a petition to demand an official plebiscite on the issue:

“The Coordination of Social Movements, which is made up of organized civil entities and even sectors of PT, started this week a large mobilization against the FTAA. (…) Demonstrations will be held to support the approval of a proposed Legislative Decree by Senator Saturnino Braga (PT) asking for a national plebiscite on whether Brazil should continue negotiations on the FTAA” (“CMS organiza mobilização contra a FTAA em sete capitais,” Folha Online, 10/18/2003).

If held, such a plebiscite would go before a population largely uninformed and lacking sufficient and objective data to make a decision. In addition, a likely widespread, though unofficial, campaign against the FTAA would make it difficult for it to win.

Citing the “clamor of organized civil societies” (i.e. movements organized by the left, and the PT itself), the Lula da Silva government could cunningly convoke a plebiscite. It could then cite the opposition of the population, and announce itself “obliged” not to adhere to the FTAA.

Moving toward a strategic goal of the left

After months of covering up its true ideological position, it is not hard to see that the government of President Lula da Silva is meticulously pursuing its old leftist goal of not adhering to the FTAA and if possible rendering the agreement unviable. This goal is strategically vital to bring about a profound change in the balance of power on the South American continent.

The Lula government is consistent with the resolutions of the document issued by the Workers’ Party’s National Executive Committee dated August 1, 2002 that reiterates “the position of PT, approved in our 12th National Encounter, opposed to the FTAA in the terms in which it is being negotiated.” The document also states that the FTAA “as it has been formulated, will mean in practice a kind of annexation of the Latin American economies by the economy of the United States.” Finally, the document “orients all the leadership and the ensemble of Workers’ Party members to pursue their action against the FTAA proposal and in favor of another continental integration.”

Note that these resolutions of PT came out after the “Letter to the Brazilian People,” a document that marked Lula da Silva’s victorious electoral turnaround.

That concludes this issue of LulaWatch. Until next time,

Sincerely yours,

C. Preston Noell III

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