100 
Days of Lula and No Cardoso

    Former
    President Fernando Henrique Cardoso treated the audience,
    which had paid a lot of money to hear him, to a rather flat
    lecture on world affairs which was lacking in ideas and wit.
    He sounded like the kind of Bush-basher who fills the
    opinion columns and letters pages of the Brazilian media.
    by: John
    Fitzpatrick

     

    The
    Lula government has just passed its first 100 days and this milestone
    has been marked by events and articles here and abroad. I will desist
    from adding to the torrent of opinion from every commentator in the
    land since I think it is far too early to draw any real conclusion.
    So far, Lula has behaved responsibly and maintained tremendously high
    popularity ratings. However, he has yet to face a real crisis, domestic
    or international. When that happens he will be truly tested.

    At
    the moment, however, the government is basically following in the tracks
    of ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. It was, therefore, with great
    interest that I attended a meeting in São Paulo last week—the
    6th Seminário sobre Perspectivas da Economia Brasileira
    sponsored by Tendências, a consulting company—at which the
    main speaker was none other than Cardoso. After spending most of the
    first three months of the year abroad, Cardoso has returned home and
    is raising his profile. He has given a number of interviews, started
    writing a regular newspaper column for Rio’s O Globo and o Estado
    de S. Paulo and created a research foundation.

    Diplomatic
    Silence

    Some
    people may feel that the views of a former president are now only of
    historical interest, since he no longer has any power. I would go along
    with this view were it not for the fact that there have been some reports
    that Cardoso may be asked to run in the next election. Since he will
    be in in his mid 70s in three or four years time this is unlikely, but
    you can never discount anything in politics. Also, since Cardoso left
    a great impact during his two terms of office, his views still have
    some value.

    It
    was, therefore, disappointing that Cardoso made almost no reference
    to domestic matters in his speech. Presumably he did so for "diplomatic"
    reasons but since he is not a diplomat but a public figure, who is the
    leader of the main opposition party, I cannot understand his reticence.
    The PT might be continuing with most of the Cardoso government’s policies
    but the party was an obstructive force during his administrations. Cardoso
    may think that hostile comments by him could upset the country’s image
    abroad, but Brazil is a democracy and voters are entitled to know his
    views. Unfortunately, Cardoso treated the audience, which had paid a
    lot of money to hear him, to a rather flat lecture on world affairs
    which was lacking in ideas and wit.

    Cardoso
    might have been a good president but, if this was an example of his
    lecturing style, I am glad I was not one of his students during his
    years as a professor of sociology. Even more depressing to an admirer
    like me was his decision to make a thinly-veiled attack on the United
    States for behaving "unilaterally" in various spheres, from
    the attack on Iraq to the refusal to sign the Kyoto protocol. At times
    he sounded like the kind of Bush-basher who fills the opinion columns
    and letters pages of the Brazilian media. (I defy anyone to imagine
    a worse way to start the day than to turn to the second and third pages
    of the Estado de S. Paulo where these correspondents thrive.

    He
    Stoops to Conquer

    At
    one point Cardoso stooped to about the lowest point imaginable when
    he asked rhetorically: "After Iraq, what next? Chile? India? …Brazil?"
    To see a man of Cardoso’s stature play to the gallery and fall to this
    level left my heart sore. At least, he did not take the bait of the
    chairman, an ex-TV interviewer with an inflated idea of his own importance,
    who almost tut-tutted when referring to the US marine who had briefly
    covered the head of the Saddam Hussein statue with an American flag.
    (This was particularly rich, since Brazilians are the world’s greatest
    flag wavers, inside and outside their own country, regardless of the
    feelings of anyone else.)

    Otherwise
    Cardoso showed great naivety and a lack of understanding, not only of
    the US position but of the psychology of George W. Bush, and his relations
    with the UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Cardoso said it had been difficult
    to understand why Bush had waited until now to attack Iraq and had not
    done so after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Since Cardoso
    was in power at the time, it is strange that he did not know that Bush’s
    first reaction had been to attack Iraq.

    According
    to British press reports it was Blair who persuaded him to hold off
    and concentrate on Afghanistan, before turning to Iraq. The US also
    did try to get the backing of the UN Security Council although Cardoso
    made no mention of this. Since France had said it would veto any attempt
    to send in troops, what purpose going to the Security Council would
    have served is questionable. As to the other members of the Security
    Council, Russia "unilaterally" invaded Afghanistan and China
    "invaded" Tibet and has threatened to invade Taiwan on countless
    occasions.

    J’Accuse
    Président Monsieur Bush Mais Pas Président Chirac

    Francophile
    Cardoso, who headed to Paris after handing over the presidential sash
    on January 1st, made no reference to the constant "unilateral"
    acts of France in sending its forces to former African colonies, using
    the South Pacific to test its nuclear devices and blocking efforts to
    reform the European Union’s scandalous agricultural protectionist polices.
    Perhaps, instead of cozy dinners with Jacques Chirac or Lionel Jospin
    in Paris, Cardoso should have tried to get to know Bush better personally.
    Some common sense might also have helped. When President Bush claimed
    a few months ago that Saddam Hussein had tried to kill his father, George
    Bush Senior, Cardoso should have known (as the rest of us did) that
    nothing would save Saddam Hussein.

    Cardoso
    also raised the matter of the unfairness of the Security Council, which
    excludes the world’s second and third largest economic powers—Germany
    and Japan. Presumably he did not see the irony here since both Germany
    and Japan rose from the ashes after being invaded and defeated by the
    US and then subsequently pulled back to their feet with American armed
    and financial support. I would have liked to put my rhetorical question
    too: "After Germany and Japan…Iraq?" The Security Council
    has never been the kind of chummy, collegiate body Cardoso, and other
    supporters of a permanent seat for Brazil, imply and, in fact, the consensus
    on Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait was one of the few times it agreed
    unanimously.

    PSDB
    out in the Cold

    The
    rest the event was pretty dull since there was little to talk about.
    One speaker tried to create a few sparks by saying the old-style PT
    element was still alive in the government. He cited a few reckless comments
    on land reform and the attacks which have been made on the regulatory
    agencies. Although these comments were valid it is difficult to take
    them seriously at the moment. Another top speaker, the PT President,
    José Genoíno denied that there was a "new" or
    "old" PT at all. He said the party was trying to bring together
    as many left-wing and centre interests.

    This
    is certainly true and the government’s recent success in winning a vote
    in the Lower House of Congress to reform the financial system proves
    it. This vote—which could lead to an independent Central Bank and
    abolish the absurd constitutional ceiling of 12 percent on interest
    rates—was backed by the opposition as well as most of the 12 parties
    which back the Lula government. These are likely to be joined by the
    PMDB, which will then leave the PSDB—and Cardoso—out in the
    cold.

     

    John
    Fitzpatrick is a Scottish journalist who first visited Brazil in
    1987 and has lived in São Paulo since 1995. He writes on
    politics and finance and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicações—
     www.celt.com.br, which
    specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian
    and foreign clients. You can reach him at jf@celt.com.br 

    ©
    John Fitzpatrick 2003

    You
    can also read John Fitzpatrick’s articles in Infobrazil,
    at www.infobrazil.com

     

     

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