Lula Watch: Focusing on Latin America’s New “Axis of Evil” – Vol. I – No. 4

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1. Growing Ambiguity

As time goes by, it is becoming clearer that President Lula and his administration are adopting a policy of purposeful ambiguity.

The Brazilian president is presented as a charismatic leader (the media went so far as to compare him to a medieval saint) who is capable of catalyzing the nation’s forces and build consensus.

The media uses every opportunity to boost his prestige. More than making decisions, Lula is making gestures that reverberate in the media: “At the present time Lula is being judged more on candidate-like stage theatrics than on government achievements,” said Brazilian political scientist Leoncio Martins Rodrigues.

An example of this stage effect is President Lula da Silva’s opening of Congress. Contrary to custom, President Lula da Silva went personally to the House of Representatives where he gave the opening speech for the new session. This was considered a “tactical move.”

The President’s speech consisted of generic statements and an appeal for political convergence. In spite of its vagueness, however, the speech was deemed “a corollary of Lula’s political and ideological metamorphosis from a man with a distorted view of the world and social relationships to a leader open to practical solutions for the great problems of the nation.”

Even as the media works continuously to burnish this image of moderation, the Lula administration takes in increasing numbers of radicals from the PT and its allies.

These radical elements oppose government economic policy frontally and demand substantial changes and the implementation of rash socio-economic policies. And the government is feeling the pressure.

“Lula’s administration has been generic so far… The president only sends out signals about his intentions. Some of the more important PT leaders try to send proposals to Congress but backpedal as soon as there is criticism from PT’s radical wing.”

2. Lula Wheels in the Brazilian Left’s Historic Trojan Horse – Land Reform:

Nowhere is this purposeful ambiguity of President Lula da Silva and his administration clearer than in the realm of Land Reform.

For decades, a socialist and confiscatory land reform policy has been the pet project of the Brazilian left, including progressives inside the Catholic Church, many of whom follow Liberation Theology, and Lula’s own Workers’ Party (PT). The Brazilian left was never able to apply land reform on a grand scale.

Subversive movements like the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) apply pressure by promoting illegal farm invasions and land squatting.

Now that the PT is in power, President Lula da Silva is introducing land reform initiatives that target two pillars of Brazilian economy – agriculture and cattle ranching. His measures spell trouble for the country’s economic and social stability and may well shake the very foundations of the rule of law.

a) Lula realizes his land reform dreams: 497,000 acres expropriated
Although he is presented as a moderate, President Lula da Silva has always wanted (or “dreamed of,” as he recently affirmed at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre) a Land Reform program in the leftist mold.

As a first step toward realizing his dream, Lula appointed Miguel Rossetto as Minister of Land Reform. Mr. Rossetto is a member of the PT’s most radical wing and a supporter of illegal land invasions.

President Lula just signed a decree expropriating nearly half a million acres of land for land reform. In announcing that he will seek international aid for the project, Land Reform Minister Miguel Rossetto said the President’s move sent a message to “the sectors historically closer to PT, including the MST, that Lula will carry out his campaign promise to implement the nation’s largest land reform.”

b) The “good cop–bad cop” approach
In what appears to be, however, an orchestrated game of collaboration between the government and Brazil’s “social movements,” the MST sent a “protest” to the government calling the President’s decree of expropriation “too limited.”

João Paulo Rodrigues, a MST national official, complained that “we need about this much land per week.”

MST National Coordinator, João Pedro Stédile, also called for greater speed in implementing land reform.

Responding to MST “protests,” José Dirceu, Lula’s chief of staff, said he believes the nearly half million acres expropriated is still little: “President Lula’s line is, steady does it… No haste, . . . This is only the beginning.”

After the decree, MST leaders met with the Land Reform Minister Rossetto and again demanded the speeding up of the land reform process. The minister expressed readiness to accede to the movement’s demands. He later confirmed that he did not insist, however, that the MST end its illegal land occupations.

Not surprisingly, MST announced two days later that it will continue to set up roadblocks and invade farms all over the country.

The media reports growing tension in rural areas and farmers say police received over a thousand reports of illegal MST activities.

In an attitude of clear complicity, the Director of the National Agrarian Ombudsman’s Office said police or judicial restraints on MST leaders could be counter-productive since without leaders to coordinate its activities the movement could act in a dangerously disorganized way.

c) The Land Reform Minister proposes amnesty for rural agitators
Expounding on his plans to the press, Land Reform Minister Miguel Rossetto proposed the abolition of statutes establishing legal restraints to the invasion of private productive lands since they ‘criminalize’ social movements.

Mr. Rosetto also favors erasing the names of subversives engaged in land invasions from the government’s criminal database. Inclusion on the list is an impediment to become a beneficiary in a “homestead settlement grant”

d) INCRA becomes an extension of leftist land reform groups
Minister Miguel Rossetto published in the government’s Official Daily the list of new regional supervisors of the National Institute for Colonization and Land Reform (INCRA), the governmental agency overseeing land reform. More than ten of the new supervisors are MST members. Moreover, all of the names were previously submitted by the minister to the MST for approval.

“Under Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, INCRA has become an extension of MST, CUT, [and] of the left wing of the Catholic Church.”

A circular letter by the confederation of INCRA employees clearly laid out the leftist strategy of seeking government posts for political ends. The role of the employees is a “mission that transcends our role as mere public employees and leads to a process of class struggle..”

e) A Threat to the Rule of Law
The measures to accelerate land reform appear to fit the goals clearly set forth by PT radicals, and among them Land Reform Minister Miguel Rossetto himself.

According to Veja magazine, PT radical Congresswoman Luciana Genro says that “the passage from one Brazil to the next will start in the countryside, through land reform. She further advocates revising the constitutional concept of private property as a means to speed up the land resettlement [land reform] program.”

An editorial in O Estado de São Paulo had stern words about the radicalization of the Lula administration’s land reform policy. It also criticized the strong ideological bonds between the Land Reform Minister Miguel Rossetto and the MST. The editorial questions Mr. Rossetto’s intentions of abrogating legislation that has heretofore held back MST occupation of farms.

It also points out, contrary to Mr. Rossetto’s opinion, that the root of rural violence is found in “the revolutionary ideology of MST leadership, which seeks to destroy the regime of representative democracy now under PT rule.”

The editorial also criticizes the fact that INCRA appointments were based on ideological criteria and says the decisions by the radical Land Reform Minister are time bombs that will explode in the government’s hands as they undermine social peace.

Such decisions increase the potential for violence in the countryside, the editorial concludes, and jeopardize Brazilian agriculture, the one highly technologically advanced sector of the economy that has consistently contributed to GDP growth.

f) Land Reform: a collection of failures
The Lula administration insists on implementing land reform despite its proven record of failures. Starting in the ‘60s, successive administrations have sunk billions of dollars in land reform with disastrous results.

O Estado de São Paulo has been publishing a series of articles by agronomist Francisco Graziano on land reform’s results. The author is a former INCRA president.

Mr. Graziano says the macroeconomic effect of land reform on agricultural production is almost nil; the output of land reform homestead settlements hovers on the subsistence level; and that both infrastructure and the settlers’ quality of life are poor. This is why many of the settlements have been dubbed “rural slums.”

“Unfortunately, land reform has turned into an extremely bad and highly expensive social policy,” Mr. Graziano concludes.

3. A Brief History of MST and the Lula da Silva Administration:

The importance of the facts above begs for a brief explanation about the origin and nature of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) and its close links with the Lula administration.

The MST was born from Brazil’s so-called Catholic left, which also supported it both doctrinally and financially. Hence, the MST’s close links with Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) – Pastoral Commission on Land – the arm of the “Catholic left” most active in rural areas.

MST has always worked closely with the Workers Party (PT). PT congressmen often defended and encouraged the MST and even actively participated in land invasions. Furthermore, MST leaders have sought public office as candidates on PT slates. PT and MST leaders commonly collaborate in seminars.

While PT, CPT and MST are distinct organizations, in the eyes of the public, they function as one body when it comes to land invasions.

MST notoriously claims that it sprung up spontaneously from a union of rural workers with no land or resources who were struggling for a land reform that would solve all their problems.

Nevertheless, this romantic propaganda pitch is far from reality. The hard evidence leads to the conclusion that it is a movement at the service of a socialist-communist ideology. The MST seeks to rally the unwary and launch them against what it calls “rural capitalism” or “feudalism.”

The 6th Regional Meeting of MST, held in 1991, approved the “MST Basic Document” presented in its introduction as “the most important document of the internal life of MST.”

The MST statement says peasants and workers must unite to seize power. The method indicated is classical Marxist class struggle. Land reform is an instrument to achieve that goal.

MST camps and settlements serve as schools to teach socialist and communist doctrines and techniques. They strive to be “communitarian,” “collectivistic” and “self-managing.”

The existence of such settlements all over Brazil and their specific locations would enable the left, in a moment of national crisis, to unleash a social revolution. This explains why the left is so adamant on maintaining these settlements despite their being a social and economic fiasco everywhere.

The MST maintains links with other subversive and revolutionary movements around the world.

The MST actively participated in the meeting held in August 1996 in the State of Chiapas, Mexico, by the guerrilla movement called Zapatista National Liberation Army. At present, MST is affiliated with a Mexican organization called Via Campesina, which aims to become a Peasant International. MST is also related with Colombia’s FARC guerrilla movement.

The MST’s international outreach included sending one of its militants, Mario Lill, to be with Yasser Arafat during the siege of his headquarters by Israeli troops early last year. A picture of the Palestinian leader with the Brazilian activist holding together the MST flag was published in many of the world’s newspapers.

During an MST demonstration in the streets of Brasilia, where slogans against President Bush rang out, MST leader José Rainha tried to justify Palestinian terrorism. He said, “terrorist attacks often victimize civilians, but there’s no way out because they [the Arabs] are facing war.” He then laid down the similarities between the Palestinian cause and the struggle of the landless in Brazil, since “Palestinians want their land and we want land too.”

MST methods have been likened to those of guerrilla groups. They invade farms, destroy plantations, burn homes, take hostages, kill cattle. People are also often killed as a result of their actions.

While MST is flagrantly illegal, it avoids serious repression on the pretext of being what is euphemistically called a “social movement,” instead of the worn-out “people’s movement”.

The movement also acts as a “semi-clandestine organization.” “Its accounting is mysterious.” No one knows how much money it receives or the use it makes of it.

With the inauguration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, MST now plays a prominent role in official circles.

The appointment of Trotskyite-leaning Miguel Rossetto, from the most radically socialist wing of PT, as Land Reform Minister, “enthralled the MST.”

In his first speech as Minister, he said he would not “smother the mobilization capacity of social movements.”

The government team responsible for land reform, appointed by the Minister, has four technicians approved by the MST and other less relevant movements. Marcelo Resende, a person intimately linked with the CPT, was appointed INCRA president. MST leaders approved his appointment.

Tarso Genro, Minister of Social and Economic Development, appointed Roberto Baggio, a MST leader, to his Council.

O Globo on line, under the title “MST arrives in power with the Lula government,” points out the strong MST presence in the cadres of the new government: “MST has both feet inside government. It indicates people linked with the movement to important posts in the administration and is consulted about names picked for the second echelon.”

4. Anti-American diplomatic offensive:

President Lula da Silva and his PT administration believe that their empowerment embodies the hopes of the left worldwide.

These leftist hopes are behind Brazil’s new foreign policy, which seeks to establish a Brazilian hegemony in South America and to curtail American influence. The Lula administration pursues this hegemony for both economic and ideological reasons.

a) Lula sides with France on the war in Iraq
From an attitude of passive opposition, Brazil is now pursuing a policy of active international mobilization against Washington. The looming war in Iraq is an example of the new policy set in motion. President Lula backs the French-German position.

Brazil’s Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, has been busy as well. Moving beyond his contacts with the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, and Russia, he is organizing a meeting with the Foreign Ministers of South American nations. The meeting’s agenda includes the war in Iraq, the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), the Venezuelan crisis and Colombia’s insurgency problems.

5. Brazil refuses to designate FARC as a terrorist group

The Lula administration is also hindering the efforts of President Alvaro Uribe’s conservative government to combat the terrorism plaguing Colombia.

Marco Aurélio Garcia, the President’s special assistant for foreign affairs, affirmed that the Brazilian government does not look favorably on American help to combat Colombian drug trafficking and guerrillas. Mr. Garcia announced that President Lula da Silva is ready to intervene.

Foreign Minister Celso Amorim also spoke of the possibility of a direct intervention by the Brazilian government. Reportedly, Brazil would interfere in Colombia through the United Nations, to force Colombia to return to the failed policy of dialogue with leftist narco-guerrillas. For many years now, the “dialogue” policy has only helped the terrorists regroup, bolstering their threat potential. A first step of Brazil’s shift in policy regarding the FARC was President Lula da Silva’s letter to United Nations Secretary General Koffi Anan asking the U.N. to intervene in Colombia and offering Brazil’s help in this regard.

In addition, the Lula administration is planning a meeting with South American Foreign Ministers in the coming weeks.

The Lula government’s efforts are a poorly disguised and ideologically motivated attempt to both save and legitimize Colombia’s Marxist FARC.

For example, President Alvaro Uribe recently called on neighboring countries to designate FARC as an international terrorist group. That measure would trigger the application of a U.N. resolution freezing FARC’s assets abroad and restricting the circulation of its members in other countries.

The Brazilian government’s official response was to deny the request. Not designating the FARC as a “terrorist group,” the Lula administration claimed, would better place Brazil in a position to mediate the dispute between the guerrillas and the Colombian government.

The Colombian Minister of the Interior publicly criticized the Brazilian government for its attitude. According to Jimmy Chamorro, of the Colombian Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Brasilia’s position shows there’s no solidarity with Colombia in combating drug-financed terrorists.”

President Alvaro Uribe himself reiterated this criticism.

Colombian Defense Minister Martha Lucía Ramírez has already denounced the fact that FARC guerrillas move freely in and out of Venezuela (ruled by Lula ally, Hugo Chavez) and that they hold kidnapped Colombian citizens there.

The leniency towards the FARC shown by the Lula Administration is perfectly consistent with the policy set forth by the Forum of São Paulo. This umbrella organization, founded by President Lula da Silva and Fidel Castro, brings together all the leftist parties and organizations in Latin America, including FARC.

In one of its resolutions, the Forum of São Paulo refused to call movements and organizations like the FARC as “terrorist.” It prefers to describe them as “resistance” or “national liberation” movements. The Forum brands as “state terrorism” however, measures taken to repress the FARC’s political and ideological terrorism.

Understandably, the FARC sent a letter to the 11th Encounter of the Forum of São Paulo, held in December 2002 in Guatemala, congratulating Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for his electoral victory.

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