Wikileaks Cables Portray A Different Side Of Brazil’s Lula da Silva

December 15, 2010 7:00 am 5 comments
Wikileaks Cables Portray A Different Side Of Brazil’s Lula da Silva

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva.

While many on the international left may extol the rise of Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva and his Workers’ Party (PT, in Portuguese), which formed part of the so-called “Pink Tide” in South America, Wikileaks documents paint a much more ambiguous picture of Brazil’s emergence on the world stage.  The leaked U.S. cables, which chronicle Lula’s eight years in power, show a leader all too willing to placate Washington and double-cross fellow leftists throughout the region.  To be sure, Lula helped to alleviate poverty during his two terms in office, but the documents do not suggest that the Brazilian leader is overly concerned with furthering radical change in the wider region.  To the contrary, they depict Lula and his circle as obsessed with promoting regional “stability” under their leadership and reviving the military, all in the name of fostering Brazil’s quest for “national development.”

Lula Circle Placates Otto Reich

In late 2002, Lula had just won the presidential election and was waiting to assume office.  Just a few months earlier, the Bush administration had helped aid rightists in Venezuela as they staged a coup against democratically elected leader Hugo Chávez.  In advance of the coup, Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich reportedly met with alleged coup plotters, including dictator-for-a-day Pedro Carmona, at the White House.

President-elect Lula and senior members of the Workers’ Party held a “warm and productive meeting” with Reich in Brasilia, where Lula, who was “upbeat,” said he was looking forward to meeting President Bush for the first time on an upcoming trip to Washington.  Brazil’s image had suffered in recent years, Lula explained, and the Workers’ Party wanted to reverse the international view that government officials were a “bunch of irresponsible thieves” and Brazil was “another Colombia.”

When Reich expressed concern about Workers Party links to the wider South American left, one PT leader downplayed the contact and remarked that these unreconstructed, “outdated” leftists could learn a lot from the PT model emphasizing economic development.  Brazil, the party official added, would be interested in holding talks on Bush’s Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and said the country fully supported Washington’s right to defend itself against terrorist attack.  PT president José Dirceu chimed in on the issue of terrorism, noting that if FARC guerrillas ever crossed into Brazil from Colombia, the authorities would surely flatten them.

The Super Tucano Imbroglio

Lula’s political circle desired to portray itself as a responsible player in the eyes of the Bush administration, which would lead it to take some questionable positions in wider South America.  One very damning cable from 2006, for example, shows the Lula administration torn between Venezuela on the one hand and Washington on the other.  If the document is to be believed, Brazilian diplomats charted a particularly unscrupulous and opportunistic foreign policy [Lula recently came out in support of Wikileaks and Julian Assange, suggesting that the Brazilian may not dispute the actual facts presented in U.S. cables].

Having beaten back U.S.-sponsored destabilization, Chávez was looking to fortify his military.  But, Venezuela was in a bind as Washington had put the squeeze on Chávez by delaying the delivery of spare parts for the Andean nation’s existing F-16 fighter planes.  As an alternative, Chávez turned to Brazil, a country which was fast developing its own aerospace industry.  Venezuela, which had friendly ties to Brasilia, requested the purchase of Super Tucano fighter planes from the Lula government.

Yet, Chávez was frustrated once again when Washington disallowed the purchase on the grounds that the Tucanos contained spare parts from the United States.  Growing increasingly embarrassed by the incident, Lula sought a compromise.  In Caracas, Brazilian ambassador to Venezuela, João Carlos de Sousa Gomes, met with U.S. ambassador William Brownfield and proposed a kind of trade: Lula would offer political support to the Chávez opposition group Súmate and in exchange the Bush administration would provide the necessary trade licensing for U.S. components in the Tucano planes.

In making his pitch to Brownfield, de Sousa sought to cast Brazil as a responsible player in the region.  If the United States allowed the military sale to go forward, the diplomat argued, then Brasilia could exercise a “moderating” influence on Caracas.  However, if the Tucano deal failed to materialize, then Brazil would enjoy no such political leverage.  Brownfield wasn’t too impressed by the conversation, remarking that the deal sounded “like a bad trade to us.”  However, the U.S. ambassador suggested he might be open to a trade if Brazil “would be willing to discuss help regarding Venezuela’s push for a non-permanent United Nations Security Council seat.”

Pages: 1 2 3

5 Comments

  • Pierre F. Lherisson

    That Wikileaks is a very sophisticated and elaborate subterfuge for disinformation.
    The goal of that potpourri of good and and false information is to divided and conquer. Caveat emptor– Let the buyer beware.

  • I understand that by including the rest of Latin America in this article things just get way too complicated, but without Mexico, Argentina or even Spain it’s hard to see Brazil being the “main cop on the beat.” Brazil is in many ways a similar position to China, a poor but developing country which is only just now starting to manage overwhelming internal problems. Brazil has a very long way to go before projecting its power in South America. I can see a plurality of Brazilian interests trying to influence UNASUR in the future- a la Germany, but I don’t see Brazilians interested in US style regional hegemony.

  • This is a well researched article. Great job. A lot of the revelations we suspected already (the pragmatiism, the desire not to aly Brazil with the hard left, the lack of real conflict between Brazil’s rise and US interest), but it’s interesting to get this inside view.

Leave a Reply


Other News

  • North America Today in Latin America United States Sidestepping Congress, Obama Unveils Plan To Protect 5 Million From Deportation

    Sidestepping Congress, Obama Unveils Plan To Protect 5 Million From Deportation

    Top Story — U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday unveiled a three-part executive order on immigration that would protect up to five million undocumented immigrants from deportation, sidestepping a year of gridlock over immigration reform in the Republican-led House of Representatives. The president’s plan, presented in a fifteen-minute speech, would also expand border enforcement and facilitate legal immigration for skilled immigrants. Obama stressed that while the nearly five million undocumented immigrants affected would be allowed to register and legally seek […]

    Read more →
  • Central America Honduras Today in Latin America Missing Beauty Queen, Sister, Found Dead in Honduras

    Missing Beauty Queen, Sister, Found Dead in Honduras

    Top Story — The bodies of reigning Miss Honduras María José Alvarado, 19, and her sister Sofía, 23, were found in a riverbank grave in an area west of the capital city, Tegucigalpa, police announced Wednesday. Since the sisters went missing on Nov. 13, their disappearance has become national news in the country with the world’s highest peacetime murder rate. Sofía Alvarado’s boyfriend, Plutarco Ruiz, has been arrested and is considered the main suspect in the killings. Aris Maldonado, an […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Colombia News Briefs North America Colombian Government and FARC Agree on Process to Free Kidnapped General

    Colombian Government and FARC Agree on Process to Free Kidnapped General

    An agreement has been reached between FARC rebels and the Colombia government on steps to release Gen. Rubén Darío Alzate, according to a statement released by the Cuban and Norwegian governments, which were involved in brokering the deal. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has suspended two-year-old peace talks with the FARC in the wake of Alzate’s capture, insisting that the talks would not resume until Alzate was returned. Alzate, who is the the highest-ranking officer to be taken by the […]

    Read more →
  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Peña Nieto Says Protesters Seek To Destabilize Mexico

    Peña Nieto Says Protesters Seek To Destabilize Mexico

    Top Story — Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto on Tuesday accused “violent movements” of taking advantage of anger over the September disappearance of 43 students to sow unrest as discontent over the issue shows no sign of abating. His remarks come as pressure builds over the missing students from the rural Ayotzinapa teacher training school in Guerrero state, who officials recently said corrupt local police arrested and turned over to a drug gang, which killed them and incinerated their bodies. […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Peru Today in Latin America Report Highlights Activist Murders in Peru Ahead of Lima Climate Talks

    Report Highlights Activist Murders in Peru Ahead of Lima Climate Talks

    Top Story — Just two weeks before the U.N. Climate Change Conference begins in Lima, Peru, nonprofit Global Witness has released a widely publicized report naming the country the fourth deadliest in the world to be an environmental or land activist. Since 2002, 57 activists have been killed in Peru, more than half of them in the last four years. Peru is facing international scrutiny due to the slow pace of an investigation into the Aug. 31 killing of four […]

    Read more →
  • Brazil Southern Cone Today in Latin America Brazil Arrests 27 in Petrobras Corruption Scandal

    Brazil Arrests 27 in Petrobras Corruption Scandal

    Top Story — Brazilian authorities on Friday arrested 27 people in connection with an investigation into a multibillion-dollar corruption scheme at the state-run oil company Petrobras. Among the 27 was the firm’s engineering director, the second senior executive to be arrested in connection with the scandal. Following the arrests, President Dilma Rousseff said that the “symbolic case” would change Brazilian society forever. Rousseff served as energy minister under her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The investigation began when a […]

    Read more →
  • Colombia News Briefs Colombia Suspends Peace Talks Over General’s Apparent Kidnapping

    Colombia Suspends Peace Talks Over General’s Apparent Kidnapping

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has suspended the government’s peace talks with FARC guerrillas after the group’s apparent detention of an army general, jeopardizing the future of the negotiations at a key moment. General Rubén Darío Alzate and two others reportedly went missing in the rebel-dominated northern province of Chocó. The president has said that all signs point to FARC, and that he expects the group to release the three before continuing with negotiations. The FARC, however, have not confirmed […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Today in Latin America Venezuela Venezuela Court Refuses to Release Opposition Leader, Despite U.N. Appeal

    Venezuela Court Refuses to Release Opposition Leader, Despite U.N. Appeal

    Top Story — A Venezuelan court has refused to release leading opposition politician Leopoldo López, despite appeals by the United Nations, the López’s defense lawyer said Thursday. López has been imprisoned along with other opposition figures since February for his alleged role in anti-government protests that left at least 40 people dead and hundreds injured. He faces charges of inciting violence in an attempt to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, who took office after his predecessor and mentor Hugo Chávez died […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Blog Colombia Today in Latin America FARC Apologizes for Killing Indigenous Leaders

    FARC Apologizes for Killing Indigenous Leaders

    Top Story — The FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group, has issued a statment saying that they “profoundly lament” killing two indigenous Nasa men near the southwestern municipality of Toribío earlier this month. The apology comes after seven FARC rebels were put on trial in a tribal court for the killings on Nov. 9, and five of them given long prison sentences. The two Nasa men were part of the indigenous guard, the police force in the indigenous territory. According to […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Today in Latin America Venezuela Maduro Puts Price Limits on Barbies, Fearing Holiday Speculation

    Maduro Puts Price Limits on Barbies, Fearing Holiday Speculation

    Top Story — Barbies are flying off the shelf in Venezuela after its socialist government mandated the plastic dolls be sold at a special discount price for the holidays. The low price cap is part of President Nicolás Maduro’s “Operation Merry Christmas,” a plan designed to insulate consumers from skyrocketing prices during the holiday season. Refrigerators, plasma TVs, computers and other electronic appliances are also part of the Christmas special, and Venezuelans have been camping by the hundreds outside of […]

    Read more →