Comments, Globe, In Focus, Latin America

Lula, Stefan Zweig and Latin America

Beyond Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva’s final judicial/prison fate, this tortuous instalment in the continuing story of Brazilian politics opens the debate on questions that go beyond his personal situation.


Pablo Sapag M.


Because it should not be forgotten that Lula was for two consecutive terms President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, a country that since the end of the Cold War at last seemed to be casting off the status ascribed to it in the future envisaged by Stefan Zweig: first, clearly imposing itself on Argentina in South America; then, replacing Mexico as a regional power in Latin America and finally, with Lula as president, becoming Latin America’s first power to strive to once again give new stability to the continent which since the late nineteenth century had been dominated by another federal nation by the name of the United States of America.

In part, this was achieved by Lula’s success not so much in breaking with a national strategy devised at the time of his predecessor Fernando Henrique Cardoso but in breaking with one devised previously.

That’s why Lula reaped the fruits of Latin America’s only country with a Ministry for Strategic Affairs, specifically created during the term of office of the now unfortunate former president.

With this, energy sufficiency was achieved with the start of mining on the Presal oil fields and the international prominence of Petrobras, the Brazilian energy giant linked to the accusations of corruption against Lula. In addition, technology for combining combustion engines using petroleum derivatives with others in which ethanol provided the energy was exported to the US . An entire green technology developed by Brazil after the oil crisis of 1973.

Rewards also came in the form of the World Cup and Olympic Games. These were events not only important for sport, but for high end international politics which saw Brazil established as an undisputed member of the BRICS -Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa-, the countries called upon to turn the unipolar world desired by Washington into a multipolar one.

However, Brazil itself has for years been throwing away all of this – which is to the detriment of the rest of Latin America as well – with the judicial persecution of Lula and the removal of his successor Dilma Rousseff: but, also the inability of each of them to manage, with national and Latin American vision and skill, a situation that was clearly coming.

A complete political and judicial farce – for which there may be reasons – but which is being whipped up, as is much of the excessive and unscrupulous customary ambition of Brazilian politicians, the weakness of certain republican institutions ( beginning with Parliament), the territorial imbalances and, above all, the continual ideological inconsistencies of some Brazilian political parties which, starting with their very names, are as hollow and corporate as most of their Latin American counterparts.

In a way, Lula’s extreme form of leadership is a consequence of this deficiency concerning the parties. The Workers’ Party (PT) ended up becoming confused with Lula himself which is why his political opponents made him the target, even after he had stepped down as president.

They always assumed Dilma would only be a digression, a mere uncharismatic executor of Lula’s political legacy.

She had to be got rid of – with or without good reason- to prevent her from guiding Lula back into office.

Without either of them having control over the levers of power, it would be easier for their opponents to achieve their true objective.

Neither Lula nor Dilma wanted or were able, however, to see what was in fact not just revenge on the part of some of the wealthiest who in the end did not fare badly throughout all the years Lula and his successor were in power.

The emerging problem – as was the case in much of Latin America – was the inability of Brazilian politicians, including Lula, to create genuine parties that responded to more than just an autocratic charismatic leading figure with deep ideologies rooted in economic reality alone, ignoring the social, ethnic, cultural – and this is where religion comes in too – and racial reality of Latin American countries that, in the absence of their own ideological journey, still depend on supreme leaders adorning political slogans vaguely redolent of European-Western philosophy.

Leaders with broadly popular support who almost always directly or through their families end up resolving their differences in the courts. In courts like the Brazilian ones which, with or without good reason, apply laws that are also imported and disregard national realities which except in the case of Bolivia and in some ways Ecuador, continue to define, regulate and manage themselves politically only from the point of view of what is concrete, real and essential.

In Brazil, this did not only happen out of a need to ensure that the majority of Brazilians had their café da manhã (‘breakfast’) and the so-called Brazilian middle class had their appliances and indeed cars, a concept which is so dear to this new official Latin American left eager to be accepted by the system of globalisation.

All of this, which is not bad, Lula did. What was lacking, however, was the construction of a genuine national dialogue that, among other things, made visible and once and for all gave real political prominence to the 52% of Afro-Brazilians whose pockets may or may not be thankful to the PT, or Lula, but who are still governed, understood and represented by whites of Portuguese origin, though not exclusively so.

Proof of this can be seen by comparing those who are rallying these days in support of and against Lula Da Silva. Racially and culturally they are very similar, but their bank balances are different.

Those inside and outside Brazil who are benefitting from what is happening there now were aware of this.

Changes that are deep and long lasting do not cease or fall apart merely because of political and judicial manoeuvres such as those seen in Brazil. And this is why leaders alone are not enough to bring about revolutions, no matter how charismatic they are.  It takes considerable ideology born from deep within a country where such change is sought. Something also needed to really establish a country’s place in the world.

For this reason and with Brazil doing things its (or rather our) own way, for now Latin America will remain the continent of the future.

(Translated by Nigel Conibear – DipTrans IoLET MCIL – – Photos: Pixabay

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