The Bush-Lula Alliance: Questions and Possibilities
• By publicly placing his confidence in Brazil’s President Lula, President Bush helps promote the idea of a so-called split between Lula and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. This alienates potential allies in Latin America who harbor doubts about the Brazilian president’s real intentions.
1. From many standpoints, President Lula’s Brazil was the most important stop on President Bush’s recent tour of Latin America. President Bush lavished praise on his host as hugs and jokes attested to their new-found friendship. At center stage was the signing of the biofuels pact that could open unprecedented possibilities for economic development in Brazil, Latin America and the whole world. Lula went as far as to say the signing could open “a new moment for mankind.”
2. President Bush justified his expressions of trust in Lula by saying that Brazilian alcohol has now become a “national security matter” for the United States because it would allow America to “reduce its dependence on oil.” The American president explained that, by depending on foreign sources of fuel, the United States deep down depends on the decisions of its suppliers.
Apparently, the Bush Administration is convinced that Lula’s Brazil will be a reliable partner in developing biofuels expertise and technology in the Caribbean Basin which would serve as a counter-weight to the growing influence of President Chavez of Venezuela. The latter, by dint of petrodollars, is on his way to becoming the leader of a hegemonic regional military power, and thus placing the security of its neighbors at risk, particularly Colombia, presently an American ally. In addition, Hugo Chavez inexorably is stifling freedom in his own country.
3. In a joint press conference, Lula, clearly alluding to Hugo Chavez, told the American president that he will do little or nothing to contain his northern neighbor’s influence. Lula said he “respects” each country’s “political and economic options” and believes that dictatorships in Latin America are nothing but a “painful memory of the past.” Such a reference seems to ignore the fact that communist Cuba is still not a democracy, and Chavez is moving toward dictatorship by leaps and bounds. Thus, President Lula appears determined to wash his hands of judging Chavez’s “twenty-first century socialism,” which leaves the way open to Venezuela’s neo-imperialist adventures in Central and South America.
4. If Lula continues to hold this ambiguous attitude, how can he correspond to the hopes that President Bush places in him? Is he ready to really contribute to regional stability, now threatened by the Chavez “axis” of influence? In fact, as analyzed before, Lula has behaved as a typical “useful moderate” at the service of Chavez.