Lula Watch: Focusing on the Latin American Left – Vol.4 – No.2

Lula: A “Useful Moderate” At the Service of Chavez?

If Lenin were alive today he might prefer calling someone a “useful moderate” rather than his classic “useful idiot.” This is the role President Lula plays in Latin America today. Whether he is really a moderate is debatable, but there’s no doubt he’s useful at the service of Castro’s successor, Hugo Chavez.

1. A few days before the presidential elections in Venezuela, to be held December 3, the obstensive support of the “moderate” Brazilian president to radical Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez during a visit to his country surprised many who saw Lula as a trustworthy ally and a counterweight to Chavez’s extremism.

“The same people who elected me, Daniel Ortega and Evo Morales will elect you president of Venezuela,” said Lula, adding that Chavez was a “good person” and that he could see his sincerity from his “heart and gaze.” (*)

Chavez responded by calling Lula his “brother” and “friend” and by promising that his first international trip after the elections will be to Brazil.

2. One of the directors of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, Dr. Vicente Díaz, called Lula’s statements a “gross interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs.” Leading figures in Venezuelan politics also censured the Brazilian president with severe but fully proportional and justifiable words.

3. Some people claim Lula went to Caracas to pay homage to Chavez – in practice, the successor of dictator Castro – and thank him for having succeeded in keeping quiet during his own presidential election campaign in Brazil. His silence contributed to maintain the state of ideological anesthesia that surrounded those elections. A word of Chavez supporting Lula during the Brazilian elections could have hurt rather than helped him. This could be seen during the elections of Chavez’s allies in Mexico and Peru, where he intervened to help Lopez Obrador and Humala, which ended up hurting their chances for elections.

4. Nevertheless, what becomes clear in this episode and other similar ones is the anesthetizing and paralyzing role played by self-described “moderate” leaders in preventing wholesome and decisive reactions by public opinion. In crucial moments, they actually pave the way for radicals and eventually support them. With their policy of “temporizing” with extreme leftists, “moderate” leaders promote a smooth slide of centrist sectors of public opinion to the left, without hurdles, leading to new forms of socialism and neo-populism.

5. The expression “useful idiot,” attributed to Lenin, is employed to designate people who are semi-revolutionary or slow-march revolutionaries but whose smiling, easygoing and optimistic looks help pave the way for fast-pace revolutionaries. If Lenin were alive today he might prefer calling someone a “useful moderate” rather than his classic “useful idiot.” This is the prototypical role now played by President Lula in Latin America. Whether he is really a moderate is debatable, but there’s no doubt he’s quite useful at the service of Castro’s successor, Hugo Chavez.

Note: In December 2001 in Havana during the 10th meeting of the Forum of São Paulo, speaking before the Colombian narco-guerrillas of FARC and ELN and hundreds of Communist cadres from Latin America, Lula lavished similar praise on dictator Castro: “While his face is etched with wrinkles, Fidel’s soul remains clean because you never betrayed the interests of your people. Thank you, Fidel.” In practice, “neo-moderate” Lula has been one of the greatest political and financial supporters of the Cuban dictatorship, just as he now supports the Chavez regime.

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