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19/08/2007 | Brazil: Lula, the slave trader

Carlos Alberto Montaner

In 1850, the U.S. Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law by an overwhelming majority. Slaves who escaped had to be returned to their masters immediately. Nobody could help them. Whosoever helped a black fugitive would be punitively fined.

 

Whosoever returned him to his master would be rewarded. Slaves couldn't even appeal to the courts. They were not subjects of the law. As viewed today, the debate that preceded the passing of the law is very revealing. It focused on property rights. The logic wielded by those learned men (at that time, women did not vote and were not elected) was based on legal tradition: the nation's greatness depended on the juridical safety that shielded all things possessed. Slaves were not people. They were things (the Greeks called them "talking tools") and things did not have rights. Therefore, every truly patriotic gentleman had to act in accordance with the law and return to the owner that dark and scared thing that had escaped from his hands.

That story comes to mind apropos the restitution to Fidel Castro of the two boxing champions who tried to find refuge in Brazil after the recent Pan-American Games. Their names were Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara. They had planned to move to Germany, led by some professional promoters with whom they were secretly in contact. There, they would become professionals and in a short time -- given their ability to impart and receive blows -- surely they would become millionaires. Apparently, Fidel Castro, who is the boys' proprietor, communicated in person with Lula da Silva and demanded that he cooperate by returning the merchandise forthwith. Lula, who understands the logic of slave traders, took pity on the old and infirm dictator. Poor Fidel had raised those boxers and had built them up with good trainers. The Negroes were his. Lula, therefore, sent the police to do their job.

This sad anecdote exactly reveals the nature of the Cuban regime, the manner in which Fidel Castro exercises his authority over his subjects, and the type of relationship he maintains with the other nations. Shortly after the incident, he declared that no Cuban athletes would attend the next international competition. The contest will take place in the United States and Castro fears the athletes will defect en masse. To his chagrin, the Fugitive Slave Law was repealed after the Civil War, and the United States no longer respects property rights. President Bush is not Lula and would not return the defecting ingrates. Barely three years ago, 50 Cuban dancers who had traveled to Las Vegas to stage a musical show manifested their desire to be free and do with their lives whatever they wished, and the perfidious Empire allowed them to remain in the U.S. Fidel Castro felt that he had been deprived of his property. How wicked the gringos are!

To Fidel Castro, Cuba is a big hacienda where everything that exists or grows belongs to him. Because the cows are his, killing a cow clandestinely to feed a hungry family is paid for with seven years in prison. That's more than the Penal Code imposes on someone who has committed homicide. Also his are the lobsters that move slowly at the bottom of the Cuban seashore. To catch lobsters to relieve one's hunger is a crime as serious as poaching on the royal hunting grounds, back in the days of kingly rule.

What is hardest to understand is President Lula da Silva's vile cooperation with this moral infamy. Isn't he supposed to be the first Latin American president from the working class, the first leader who can understand better than anyone the tragedy of the oppressed? Did he think that the freedom of these two poor black boxers is not at all important? Could be. That's how slave traders felt. After all, Brazil was the last country in the world to repeal slavery. It did so in 1888. Cuba, in 1886, was next-to-last in granting freedom to the slaves. The mentality of traffickers in people -- I mean, things -- still persists in both countries. I knew that Fidel Castro was one of those slave traders. I didn't realize Lula was another.

Source: Firmas Press

http://www.hacer.org

Hacer - Washington DC (Estados Unidos)

 


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