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What Bush Should Know About Brazil's Lula

Thursday, 19 June 2003 12:00 AM

As some analysts have noted, there is a seismic shift occurring in Latin American politics with even greater strategic implications than the leftist insurgencies in Central America that drew headlines during the 1980s. Lula will present his thoughts on U.S.-Brazil relations and the future of Bush’s Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agenda.

Lula, a harsh critic of the war on Iraq, is aggressively campaigning for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and has already racked up endorsements from Jacques Chirac in France, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez and leaders in most neighboring South American countries such as Peru and Ecuador. Bush would be wise to inquire whether Lula’s declared “strategic alliance” with China will imply any sort of automatic alignment with Beijing on Security Council votes and other key international issues.

Bush should be wary. Lula’s Brazilian Workers Party (known as the “PT”) has an ambitious international agenda and is strengthening ties with Marxist parties all over Latin America, such as El Salvador’s FMLN, and in Africa, such as Angola’s MPLA. As Castro has said, “Che Guevara is fighting and winning more battles than ever.”

Some analysts predict neighboring Uruguay will be the next “domino” to fall and that communist China is poised to fill the vacuum of diminishing U.S. influence in South America.

Lula supported the election of a populist candidate in Argentina, Peronist Nestor Kirchner, who was just inaugurated president in May and proclaimed the end of “carnal relations” with the U.S. Hugo Chavez attended Kirchner’s inauguration alongside Fidel Castro and celebrated the election of another anti-American ally in the region.

The mayor of Buenos Aires, a close ally of President Kirchner, decorated Castro with the city's highest honor and praised him as “one of the most respected men in the world.”

Castro was cheered by 40,000 people and told his adoring audience, "The United States wants to impose a universal, Nazi-fascist dictatorship." In a statement to reporters, Castro said he was convinced that “this great nation of Argentina, together with the rest of the Latin American nations, will march forward, will have successes, and together we shall win.”

The Bush administration’s incoming assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Roger Noriega, has a very tough job cut out for him. Noriega, a seasoned Latin hand with strong anti-Castro credentials, should rise to the challenge.

Republicans in Washington expect Roger Noriega to keep a tight rein on

Despite all the obstacles, President Bush should remain committed to advancing free trade in Latin America. FTAA will create a formidable counterweight to the European Union and is in the best tradition of the Monroe and Reagan doctrines.

The Bush administration should advance free-trade negotiations with Brazil by making Lula an offer he cannot refuse and reduce unfair U.S. steel tariffs proving that talk of free trade goes beyond empty rhetoric for Republicans. For example, Brazil might say to the U.S: "You are worried about global warming and want us to protect the Amazon. We are willing to forgo much of the economic opportunity the Amazon represents, but you have to agree to let in our orange juice despite the political problems alienating 10,000 Florida citrus growers would cause."

By ratcheting up the political pressure by summoning the environmental community, Brazil can gain support on trade and economic issues that don't normally attract any attention. A similar move on beef imports might be effective as well. Or Brazil might leverage Greens in Europe and the U.S. to curb farm subsidies for products that compete with Brazilian exports. Or Brazil could tell U.S. software companies that they can get an edge in the Brazilian market if they agree to provide textbooks for all schools each year.

If Lula goes home empty-handed and trends continue, instead of accomplishing Bush’s goal of a free-trade area from Alaska to Terra del Fuego by 2005, what is more likely to occur by 2005 is the development of a leftist/populist Latin American bloc from Terra del Fuego to the Rio Grande.

Lula deserves credit for giving FTAA a chance. He and Bush have a historic opportunity to prove they can set partisan differences aside and work together. Free trade will boost growth and productivity and help preserve freedom and democracy in the Western Hemisphere.

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As some analysts have noted, there is a seismic shift occurring in Latin American politics with even greater strategic implications than the leftist insurgencies in Central America that drew headlines during the 1980s.Lula will present his thoughts on U.S.-Brazil relations...
Thursday, 19 June 2003 12:00 AM
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