Granma: Exclusive Lula interview

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Nov 29 02:48:02 MST 2002


(Extremely encouraging exclusive interview
with Granma by Lula in which he rejects the
FTAA as presently proposed, declaring it
"unacceptable" and a proposal to annex the
economies of Latin America to that of the
United States. He adds, "Without Brazil,
the FTAA cannot exist; apart from that,
a genuine integration would include Cuba."

(People on the political left who have been
complaining about Lula long before his
electoral success should take note. Have
no doubt that Washington and Wall Street
have likewise taken note.)
=================================

GRANMA
November 28,  2002
EXCLUSIVE WITH THE PRESIDENT ELECT OF BRAZIL
"We 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
Special for Granma International-

"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 José 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 Caetés, 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 Río 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," he admitted.

"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 unfavorable 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 its 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
large.

"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, labor,
legal - is going to give force to the changes we want to
improve Brazilians' lives.

"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 fulfill it."

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 way.

"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 independent nation.

"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.

*(Translated from the Portuguese by Sebastián Garrido and
Wilson Bravo)





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