Fernandes speaks on ‘Lula’ victory
See itinerary below

The people of Brazil are still celebrating the landslide election of union metalworker Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva, as president of Brazil Oct. 27, Luis Fernandes, a political scientist directly involved in the Lula campaign told the World in a telephone interview from his home in Rio de Janeiro.

Fernandes will be on a nationwide speaking tour about Lula’s victory from Dec. 9-15, sponsored by the People’s Weekly World. Fernandes, director of the Rio de Janeiro State Government Foundation for the Endowment of Scientific and Technological Research and a leader of the Communist Party of Brazil (CPB), earned his bachelor’s degree at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

The latest polls show Lula with 80 percent approval ratings, Fernandes said. “This election is symbolic of a new political beginning in Brazil. We have had left-leaning governments before but they were overseen by the elite. Lula is the first worker ever elected to lead Brazil.”

Fernandes said Lula’s election with 61 percent of the vote was a victory the Brazilian people had finally won after more than a decade of struggle. “The whole country became a huge carnival with people pouring into the streets. When we win the World Soccer Cup, everyone dresses in green and yellow, the colors of our team. When Lula won, everyone came out into the streets dressed in red.”

Lula’s victory was made possible by a coalition of left and progressive political parties that included Lula’s Workers’ Party and the CPB as well as strong backing of Brazil’s labor movement, he said.

Fernandes said the various entrenched interests will try to block all Lula’s efforts at real change. “They are trying to put up stringent conditions so that he can’t abolish the old economic model and bring in a new one.”

Yet Lula’s popular mandate, Fernandes added, is to end the 12 years of right-wing free market capitalism that began with Lula’s narrow defeat in 1989, his first try for the Brazilian presidency. That defeat opened wider the door for foreign investors who have pushed Brazil’s foreign debt to a ruinous $260 billion while 50 million people fell into dire poverty.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund enforced “structural adjustment” policies, with cutbacks in social spending, wage austerity and privatization as a condition for loans. The anger at the suffering caused by these policies was revealed in a referendum this fall on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a pet project of George W. Bush. Ten million voted in that referendum with 98 percent opposition to FTAA, reaching even to sections of the Brazilian bourgeoisie. It was a harbinger of Lula’s landslide a few weeks later.

“There was a consensus that the old model could not launch the country on a new stage of development,” Fernandes said. “Lula’s election was a national plebiscite and the result was a resounding endorsement of his stand against neo-liberalism”

Lula, a machinist by trade, emerged as a courageous leader in struggle against the rightwing military junta during the 1970s. He lead strikes of metal workers in Sao Paulo from 1979 to 1981 demanding restoration of democratic rights.

The junta seized power in a CIA-backed coup d’etat in March 1964, overthrowing Joao Goulart, who had won election in 1961 in Brazil’s first democratic election. The junta imposed iron rule, smashing unions, and persecuting democratic opposition. Fernandes was a student leader fighting the junta during those years.

Goulart’s program to distribute land to landless peasants, nationalization of U.S.-owned oil companies, utilities and the AT&T-owned telephone service made him a target for CIA subversion which included publication of 50,000 textbooks distributed to Brazilian high schools and colleges falsely branding Goulart as a “communist.”

Fernandes pointed out that Lula is touring Argentina and Chile before traveling to Washington Dec. 10 for a meeting with George W. Bush.

“He is signaling that his priority will be economic, political, and cultural integration among the nations of South America,” Fernandes said. “There is now a growing tendency in Latin America of voters electing governments that are critical of the United States. This is the alternative to neoliberalism and the FTAA. There are very positive signs of change in South America.”

One vehicle is the trade bloc, Mercosur, which unites Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. With joint production of more than $1 trillion and a combined population of 250 million it is the world’s third largest trade group. Chile and Bolivia have joined as associate members. During the election campaign, Lula charged that FTAA would clear the way for “annexation” of Latin America by the United States while Mercosur is a buttress against U.S. control.

Brazil’s election is in shining contrast to the Nov. 5 election in the U.S. in which George W. Bush and the ultra-right won control of all three branches of the federal government. “We have one very small advantage,” Fernandes quipped. “In our elections, the candidate with the most votes wins.”

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com

PDF version of ‘Brazil turns left’


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