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Will the true Brazil stand up and be counted?

By Aleksander Boyd

London 30.08.06 | Lula is said to be leading the polls and poised to be re-elected in October. Geraldo Alckmin's presidential bid appears to lack traction. This is bad news for the entire continent. In a recent trip to Sao Paulo I saw first hand the industrious and entrepreneurial nature of Brazilians. This characteristic was evident not only amongst those who had gathered in the First International Seminar of Liberal Democracy, but amongst pretty much every person I came across during my stay. The young clerks at the hotel were all reading different university degrees to better their lot. The driver who collected and dropped me at the airport had also a little thing in the side to make ends meet. Everyone is onto some trade, studies, small or big business, mind you the less fortunate want out of poverty, the middle class want to get in the next train and the wealthy are struggling with the intricate web of heavy taxation that past and present administration keep throwing their way. Brazilians, pretty much as the rest of South Americans, can hardly be described as socialists for no one seems satisfied enough with what they have. The typical European approach to life, that of getting a job-for-life or milking the welfare state, refusing to take risks with start-ups and outright hate for success, represents the antithesis of Brazilian spirit. Ergo why is Lula leading the polls?

My Brazilian friends have a very pessimistic outlook these days. The conventional wisdom is that there's nothing they can do against Lula and his Partido dos Trabalhadores' (PT) mafia. I beg to disagree. Despite the obvious institutional control that Lula and the PT have and the panicking way in which he sought to distance himself from Hugo Chavez, it is an incontrovertible truth that Chavez -apart from partly owing his stay in power to Lula- remains one of his biggest pals in the Foro de Sao Paulo club. Equally Lula has a great debt with Fidel Castro, for let us not forget that his previous campaign received the not inconsiderable sum of $3 million from the Cuban dictator, which is illegal by the way. Check out these facts:

During the oil strike in 2002-2003, Lula, a borne again unionist, instead of siding with Venezuelan workers decides to send gasoline shipments to Chavez, so that the latter could break the spine of the striking workers.

In speech given 2 July 2005, celebrating the 15th year anniversary of the Foro de Sao Paulo, Lula says:

"And I say this for, in the 30 months of [my] government, as a function of the existence of the Sao Paulo Forum, colleague Marco Aurelio has performed an extraordinary function in consolidating what we started in 1990, when we were few, discredited and talked too much. In this sense, in January 2003, we proposed to our colleague President Chavez, the creation of the "Group of Friends" in order to find a peaceful solution that, thank god, materialised in Venezuela. And it was possible through a political action of colleagues. It was not a political action of one State with other State, or of one president with another president. It should be borne in mind that Chavez participated in one of the meetings we had in Havana. And thanks to that relationship it was possible to seal, with many political differences, the consolidation of what ocurred in Venezuela with the referendum that reaffirmed Chavez as President of Venezuela." Bold added.

Countering historic foreign policy tenets and diregarding Brazil's national interest Lula takes Chavez's hand and forces the latter's entry into MERCOSUR, an action that shall not benefit neither Brazil nor Venezuela, much less other MERCOSUR members.

The PCC (Primer Comando da Capital), a criminal group that operates out of Brazil's prisons stages a concerted attack on Sao Paulo, which resulted in many deaths bringing commercial activities to a stand still. The group seeks to terrorise Paulistas and bring disrepute to Geraldo Alckmin, Governor of Sao Paulo state and Lula's main contender in the presidential race. The PCC is involved, amongst other things, in drugs and weapons trafficking with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), another honorary member of Lula's brainchild Foro de Sao Paulo.

How come Alckmin is not hammering upon these issues 24/7? Do Brazilians truly think that they will be better off with Lula, Dirceu, colleague Marco Aurelio and other PT thugs? Chavez has developed a distinctly negative effect on elections: the candidates he supports keep losing, as seen in Peru, Colombia and Mexico. Can Brazil afford to be different or, more appropriately, will Brazilians surrender their spirit and give another lease on life to the utterly corrupt comrade Lula? I sure hope the true Brazil stands up...

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