cannot be treated as a banana republic Luis Inacio da
Silva affirms that his government will reclaim the Brazilian
economy's weight in the international context: "We
have to occupy the space that belongs to us and be respected”.
"Trade must be a two-way street where everyone
comes out a winner without the subjection of some"
BY DEISY FRANCIS MEXIDOR
"My principal reason for becoming president of
Brazil is to give our country a new direction,"
affirms Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, the recently elected
leader of that South American nation after standing
on three previous occasions, in an exclusive interview.
Lula, for the Workers Party (PT) in a coalition with
the conservative Liberal Party and other left groupings
and movements, gained more than 60% of the vote, with
Jos Serra, the government candidate, trailing behind.
Familiar with the lives of the workers, from whose
ranks he emerged in the metallurgical sector, he was
born in October 1945 in Valle Grande, now Caets, into
a campesino family. The exact date of his birth is
subject to controversy, because his father registered
him on October 6, but his mother insists it was October
27. In any case, it is some coincidence that 57 years
later, the first and second rounds of the presidential
elections in the country were held on those same dates.
Closely following events at that time, we sought a
way to establish contact with Lula. We were aware
it was no easy undertaking given the maelstrom of
Brazil not just in the run up to the elections but
now, with the transition toward a new government that
takes possession in January; moreover, trying to do
a long-distance interview is like throwing a bottle
into the sea: it might get lost.
However, thanks to the collaboration of Giancarlo
Summa and especially Rodrigo Savazoni, the press advisor
in Lula's campaign, we achieved our aim and, via e-mail,
received Lulu's answers to each of the formulated
questions, in a file named: lulaparacuba.doc
FTAA: AN UNACCEPTABLE PROPOSITION
The first question was on the Free Trade Area of the
Americas (FTAA) and its consequences for the peoples
south of the Ro Bravo if it is implemented.
"I am a defender of Latin American integration,
not just its economic and commercial integration but
likewise in the political and cultural context,"
"The FTAA proposition in its current context
is unacceptable. It is not a Free Trade Treaty with
the United States, it is a proposal to annex the economy
of South America and the Caribbean to the U.S. economy.
Without Brazil, the FTAA cannot exist; apart from
that, a genuine integration would include Cuba.
"An integration proposal presupposes a certain
equity among the participating members. The United
States maintains technological, military, cultural
and economic hegemony and does not propose to exercise
a compensatory policy like the European Union has
for Spain, Portugal and Greece, for example.
"The Brazilian people have paid a very high price
for Brazil's submission to the neoliberal globalization
commanded by the United States. Our country has given
in to the demands of the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) and the World Bank and has been timid in its
approaches to the World Trade Organization, all organizations
controlled by the richest countries. Everything indicates
that that cost is going to increase even more if Brazil
submits to its forced integration into the FTAA.
"A study undertaken by the Brazilian embassy
in Washington confirmed that Brazilian exports to
the United States are subject to an average tariff
of 45%, while U.S. exports to Brazil have an average
of only 15%. The Bush administration wants to discuss
the FTAA without bringing those tax limitations imposed
on virtually all the products in which Brazil is most
competitive to the negotiating table.
"So what are we going to discuss? Nothing more
than the reduction of MERCOSUR Common External Tariff
or the Informatics Law that we have just approved?
Or the simple annexation of Brazil to the United States?
"Trade must be a two-way street, where everyone
comes out winning without the subjection of some.
The Bush government has taken protectionist measures
to the detriment of other nations and that cannot
be consolidated into a general free trade agreement.
"In terms of U.S. products, with rare exceptions
they enter Brazil freely. Sixty percent of Brazilian
exports to the United States come up against some
kind of obstacle before entering that territory. With
surcharges like those on steel and orange juice -
when there aren't import quotas as in the case of
sugar, or anti-dumping and phyto-sanitary actions
- all of that reduces Brazil's export potential.
"We have lost ground in international trade
in the last decade, purely due to unfavourable trade
agreements and the government failure to take advantage
of the spectacular trade expansion evident in the
world. In that context it is not possible to enter
into a new commercial venture where nothing is offered
and much is asked of Brazil," Luis Inacio affirmed.
"Our government is not going to submit and will
firmly defend the nation's interests, giving value
to its weight in the international context. Our present
participation is small, but could be increased; Brazil
is still the tenth largest economy in the world. We
cannot be treated like a banana republic. We have
to occupy the space that belongs to us and be respected.
"We are going to combat protectionism by trying
to open markets to Brazilian products and above all
by defending our sovereignty."
In another part of his reflections and in reference
to MERCOSUR, the president elect noted: "For
Brazil it is more interesting to defend it at this
point, because it is going through a crisis, but it
has been very important in terms of making trade among
members more dynamic. Reinforcing it means attracting
the Andean countries into the agreement, increasing
its links with the European Union and expanding trade
with China, India, Asia in general, with South Africa
and with all nations where there is space to grow."
DEBT TO BE REPAID
When Lula assumes the presidency in January 2003,
he will be taking on a tremendous challenge with the
millions and millions of men and women who placed
their trust in him as an alternative for change, and
he affirms that. "Brazil has a social debt with
our people that at some point has to be paid. The
press has talked about the external debt, the internal
debt, but little of the social debt, which is very
"Our country is indebted to Brazilian Indians,
black people, women, children, persons with disabilities,
the homeless. We need to pay that debt.
"The Workers Party has stood out for the public
policies it has developed in order to reduce Brazilian
social inequality. Programs like the study scholarships,
minimum rent, restarts, first jobs, among others,
have generated positive results. That, in conjunction
with the reforms that we are proposing - taxation,
agrarian, political, labour, legal - is going to give
force to the changes we want to improve Brazilians'
"I have always said that I am going to fight
so that every person in Brazil gets at least three
meals a day. The Zero Hunger project that we did in
the Citizens' Institute and which was incorporated
into our government program demonstrates how to do
away with the hunger of close to 50 million Brazilians
within a four-year period. We have a historical commitment
to social justice and decency and we are going to
STRATEGY AND A NEW DIRECTION
According to surveys, Lula's election was assured
from the beginning. On this fourth occasion the analysts
and surveys were not mistaken. At this point there
is a 90-day period before he assumes power, during
which, as Lula himself commented, he is to try and
take advantage of the time available to set up his
government and prepare the transition in the best
possible way. "This includes extending and intensifying
the channels of participation and discussion with
the most diverse social sectors," he stated.
On the other hand, in terms of the crisis and instability
in the South American nation, which has not been solved
via the neoliberal model, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva
commented: "Brazil needs a president of the republic
who has political leadership and a capacity for negotiation
in order to undertake a new social contract.
"Everybody knows that I started to form my political
convictions and develop my negotiating capacity by
defending democracy in the harsh conditions of the
military regime. My greatest dream is to contribute
with my life and political experience to improving
the situation of the Brazilian people.
"That means combating poverty and doing away
with the hunger that is still punishing almost 50
million persons in national territory. It means making
it possible for the great majority of the Brazilian
people to obtain citizenship; that young people do
not have to face the incredible difficulties that
I and many other people experienced in our lives.
"Improving Brazil means giving our country the
value that it merits, transforming it into the great
nation dreamed of for generations. It means changing
its direction, moving away from the situation of vulnerability
to which it has been brought by the current economic
policy. It means reassuming development with a distribution
of the profits and social justice.
"But it isn't easy. Above all, what is essential
is a president committed body and soul to those objectives.
I am preparing myself for that and I have that commitment.
"I made it clear in a letter to the Brazilian
people, recently handed over to the nation, that a
lucid and careful transition will be necessary between
what we have today and that which society is reclaiming.
What was not done in eight years cannot be redressed
in eight days. The new model cannot be a product of
unilateral government decisions, as is the case today,
nor will it be implemented by decree, in a voluntarist
"It will be the fruit of a broad national negotiation
that should lead to an authentic alliance for the
country, capable of guaranteeing growth with stability.
To do that, we are going to lower taxes, increase
exports and offer incentives in a planned way for
the replacement of imports, by resolving the issue
of the Brazilian economy's extreme external vulnerability.
"It is in that context that we will create better
conditions for meeting contracts signed by the present
government, without compromising the social goals
of our government."
On the issue of coalitions in his current campaign
as a component of his victory, Luis Inacio Lula da
Silva was categorical: "The growing adherence
to our candidacy has steadily assumed more of the
nature of a movement in defense of Brazil, of our
rights and fundamental desires in terms of being an
"Popular leaders, academics, artists and religious
figures spontaneously announced their support of a
project for change in Brazil.
Prefects and parliamentarians of parties that are
not in coalition with the PT have declared their support.
Significant sectors of the business community have
linked themselves to our project. This is about a
vast coalition, supra-party in many aspects, seeking
to open new horizons for our country."
It is a fact that the die has been cast. Luis Inacio
Lula da Silva has crowned his aspirations of reaching
his country's presidency. A difficult mission for
the first president in the history of Brazil to have
emerged from the ranks of the people.