To the president of Brazil, to ask for democratic elections, lend forbidden books and write in foreign newspapers -- the alleged ``crimes'' committed by the 75 dissidents rounded up during the first Black Spring of 2003 and sentenced to prison terms of up to 28 years -- is the equivalent of killing, robbing or kidnapping.
To Lula da Silva, Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet, a black doctor sentenced to 25 years for defending human rights and opposing abortion, is just an inveterate criminal. Within Lula's peculiar moral code, the death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo is perfectly understandable, as is the possible death of Guillermo Fariñas, a psychologist and dissident journalist who went on a hunger strike to demand release of 26 political prisoners who are severely ill.
The Cuban democrats are not the only ones disappointed in the Brazilian. In the last stage of his administration, Lula da Silva is demolishing the good image he enjoyed at the start. I recall a conversation I had three years ago with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He told me that his brother, George, at the time the occupant of the White House, had an excellent relationship with Lula and was convinced that he was a loyal ally of Washington. That seemed naive to me, but I said nothing.
Some days ago, a former American ambassador who prefers anonymity, told me exactly the opposite. ``We all are wrong regarding Lula. He is an obstinate enemy of the West, very particularly the United States, even though he tries to hide it.'' Then, with some indignation, he criticized Brazil's complicity with Iran on the subject of sanctions over its development of nuclear weapons, Lula's permanent support for Hugo Chávez and the irresponsibility with which he handled the Honduran crisis when he propitiated Manuel Zelaya's asylum in his embassy at Tegucigalpa, in violation of all the rules of international diplomacy.
Actually, Lula da Silva's behavior is not surprising. In 1990, when the Berlin Wall went down, the leader of the Workers Party hastened to create the Sao Paulo Forum with Fidel Castro to coordinate collaboration among all the violent and antidemocratic forces of Latin America. Among them were the narcoterrorist guerrillas of the FARC and the ELN in Colombia, a dozen communist parties in a dozen other countries, the FSLN in Nicaragua, the FMLN in El Salvador and the URGN in Guatemala.
While the free world celebrated the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the communist dictatorships in East Europe, Lula da Silva and Fidel Castro lovingly picked through the rubble of violent Marxism to try to keep alive the political discourse that led to that nightmare, while they established the kind of international cooperation that might replace the vanished Soviet leadership in the region.
Lula, inside Brazil, bound by a political reality he has been unable to modify, behaves like a modern democrat and has not departed substantially from the economic guidelines set by his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. But in the international field, where his true disposition comes to the surface, his conduct is that of a Third-World revolutionary of the 1960s.
Where do that radical militancy and that perverse moral judgment come from? The theory of a Latin American president who knows him well, a person who will soon leave power and who is also disappointed, points to Lula's ignorance.
``This man has a lamentable intellectual fragility. He continues to be a labor activist trapped in the superstition of the class wars. He doesn't understand complex issues, lacks the ability to focus his attention, suffers from terrible cultural inadequacies and, for that reason, accepts the analysis of radical Marxists who, during his youth, explained reality to him as a combat between the good guys and the bad.''
His final statement, spoken with a certain sadness, expanded on the consequences: ``It appeared that Lula, with his charm and because of the good moment his country is going through, might turn Brazil into a great Latin American political power. Wrong. He has destroyed that possibility by aligning himself next to the Castros, Chávez and Ahmadinejad. No serious country trusts Brazil anymore.''
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