December 10, 2002
by Constantine C. Menges
That could happen, and many in the US State Department seem to be making this hopeful assumption. But the more likely future is one in which the Lula da Silva government combines a strong interest in promoting Brazilian exports and maintaining good relations with US business, foreign investors and international financial organizations with a series of actions, both visible and hidden, that are intended to help pro-Castro anti-US radicals take power in other neighboring countries such as Colombia – racked for decades by communist guerilla attacks.
A new pro-Castro coalition in the western hemisphere has been established including Chavez in Venezuela, and presidents-elects Lula da Silva in Brazil and Gutierrez in Ecuador. As Chavez has done since 1999, these would pursue a parallel strategy of normal business and financial relations with the US while they would also help other pro-Castro radicals take power and on ally with hostile state sponsors of terror such as Cuba, Iran, Iraq and Libya on many issues. They are also likely to establish close political-strategic, economic and perhaps military relations with Communist China, as Cuba and Chavez have done.
The pragmatic aspect of Lula da Silva’s policy is evident in a statement by two of his associates after the election that his government wants to “double exports to the United States within four years and triple them within eight”, while at the same time strengthening MERCOSUR, the trade agreement among Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. In an interview with Lally Weymouth, Lula da Silva said that his policy will be to “reach out to the poorest sectors of our population”, while at the same time being “aware of our dependence on foreign capital.” He also said, “we will fulfill all the contracts that the Brazilian government has signed”, meaning his administration does not intend to default on Brazil’s very large $260 billion public debt.
But an important indicator of the radical dimensions of Lula’s future plans is that since 1990, he has convened an annual meeting called the “Forum of Sao Paulo” that has included all the communist and radical political parties and armed communist terrorist organizations of Latin America together with terrorist groups from Europe (IRA, ETA) and the Middle East (PFLP GC), as well as participants from Iraq, Libya, Cuba, and other state sponsors of terrorism. These meetings are direct successors to the “tricontinental congress” established by Castro in 1966 to help terrorist organizations from Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East better coordinate their attacks on the US and its allies.
In December2001, Lula da Silva’s group met in Havana, Cuba and this December it met in Guatemala, again joined by delegates from Cuba, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea. As an indicator of its political views, this year’s working paper for the December 2-4, 2002 meeting included the following statements: “NATO troops perpetrated genocide in Kosovo, US and British forces massacred the population of Afghanistan… [prisoners held by the US in Guantanamo, Cuba] are submitted to punishment and tortures … with full US support, the government of Israel continues to carry out a systematic policy of murdering Palestinians”. This year’s concluding statement committed the participants to oppose the US supported Plan Colombia, to oppose the US supported Free Trade Area of the Americas, to oppose privatization, and said that President George Bush and Prime Minister Sharon of Israel are an “axis of evil”. Similar views have been expressed by Lula’s international group since 1990 and we can expect the Lula government to adopt many of these positions as it consolidates power.
Further negative indicators about Lula’s future foreign policy include the fact that in March 2002, his political party formally established a committee in solidarity with the communist guerillas of Colombia, that in 2001 the radical wing of Lula’s movement expressed its full solidarity with Yassir Arafat and the PLO, and that in 1999 his Workers’ Party established a party-to-party “strategic partnership” with the Communist Party of China. When harassment by Chinese aircraft caused a US surveillance plane to make an emergency landing in April, 2001, Lula da Silva said that his party “supports the just position of the Chinese government” against the US. When in 2001, US and British aircraft used force against Iraq in support of UN Security council resolutions, Lula’s Worker’s Party reacted by stating it was opposed “to the armed aggression and … military action … violating all international norms”. It went on to condemn the Bush administration for “its unilateral and hegemonic vocation, placing at risk world wide security.
Also of concern is the fact that in the past, Lula da Silva had said that Brazil should resume its program to develop nuclear weapons - which existed from 1965-1994 and successfully designed a 30-kiloton atomic bomb - and should have nuclear weapons because it is a great power. During the presidential campaign, Lula said his foreign policy would be one of “love and peace”. His first recent hint that he still wanted Brazil to have nuclear weapons was given in a September 13, 2002 speech to a group of military officers. Lula questioned whether Brazil should continue to abide by the treaty limiting its right to have nuclear weapons because “if someone asks me to disarm and keep a slingshot while he comes at me with a cannon, what good does that do?”. Reportedly, the speech received “rapturous applause” from the Brazilian officers. This speech followed by weeks the decision of the IMF to grant Brazil $30 billion to help meet its financial needs.
China has for some years been seeking to cultivate political and military leaders in Latin America and currently has two joint reconnaissance satellites with Brazil while the Brazilian aerospace company, Embraer, the world’s fourth largest, has signed a contract to build hundreds of commercial aircraft in China. Before the presidential election campaign, Lula had often called for closer relations with China. In June 2002, Aloizio Merchant, a leading member of the Worker’s Party who may become Brazil’s foreign minister said publicly that “alliances with China, Russia … are important to give force to a possible anti-American coalition”.
It is quite probable that China will expand its economic ties with Brazil and welcome Lula da Silva’s intention to have Brazil reduce the influence of the United States in Latin America by having broader and more extensive relations with China. To counterbalance the United States, China might at some point help the Lula government with its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile ambitions, just as China secretly gave such help to Pakistan in order to counterbalance India.
These negative developments are possible, but not inevitable. At present, all the democratic groups in Venezuela are courageously seeking the removal of the pro-Castro Chavez because of his unconstitutional actions in 1999 and since. The US should tell the truth about Chavez and express its support for those seeking his removal and the restoration of democracy. If the democratic governments and citizens of the Western Hemisphere, including the Bush Administration, act with realism and skill, it may be possible to reduce the harmful consequences of Lula da Silva’s past decades of left-radicalism and work with Brazil to help all its citizens, including the poor, have a brighter future.
This op-ed originally appeared in The Washington Times on December 10, 2002
Dr. Constantine Menges, a scholar, author, and university professor, was a Hudson Institute senior fellow until July, 2004.
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