21 February 2008

The Brazilian Connection

In January of 2007, last year, six months after Fidel Castro had to temporarily relinquish power due to a “state secret” illness, I noticed that the Brazilian press and Government started to take a more anti-Chavez-Castro tone.

At the time, I found those developments surprising, to say the least, since Brazil’s President, Lula, was a left leaning, Fidel worshiping “worker’s party” member-all very red flags in Gusanolandia.

The first hint that Lula, unlike his Venezuelan counterpart Chavez, was more of a pragmatic socialist committed to democratic ideals, came on Januay 9, 2007 when Brazil’s new ambassador to the US, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, let it be known that “Brazil's good relations with the U.S. and Cuba could help bring a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba if ailing President Fidel Castro dies”:

"Cuba is geographically close and also an important country in the region, with which we have fairly close relations these days. I consider Brazil could possibly play a role in the search for a transition to democracy that could be more calm and without possible turbulence," Patriota said Monday in his first published interview as ambassador.

Given my usual cynicism about politicians and their motives, I surmised that if Lula had “volunteered” to help the USA out, there had to be something in it for him-or Brazil- a much coveted permanent seat at the UN Security Council:

Patriota said Brazil also would continue to push for a permanent seat on the United Nation's Security Council, a goal that has long been a cornerstone of Silva's foreign policy.

The very next day, Brazilian paper O Globo, criticized Hugo Chavez:

"The president is increasingly willing to turn Venezuela into a new Cuba,"

"Chávez heads at full speed for a totalitarian state,"

"risk that Chávez could make Mercosur to lose moral strength."

… and this was even before Chavez’s failed attempts at creating a constitutional dictatorship were even announced.

Two days later, sources in Brazil leaked-Brazilians are about as good as Cubans at keeping secrets- that a meeting between Lula da Silva and Bush was being planned.

On March 10, the meeting, more like a love-fest, between President Bush and President da Silva took place when 43, made a whirlwind tour of Latin America. Brazil and the US marked the trip, by signing a mega-ethanol deal derided by the left and Castro at the time.

Clearly, the US was hoping to counterbalance Hugo Chavez’s influence in Latin America by propping up the Brazilian democracy and showcasing it as a democratic alternative to Chavez’s authoritarian XXI century Socialism.

My hopes of Brazilian help in negotiating an eventual Cuban transition into a pluralistic society where dashed when the Brazilian government hunted down and returned two of Castro’s runaway boxing slaves back to Cuba in August of 07. It really began to look like I had totally misread the Brazilian tea leaves and that I should retire from fortunetelling altogether earlier this year when President da Silva visited Cuba and his friend Fidel, bringing with him a Billion Dollar gift.

But, lo and behold! This morning I find that the Brazilian connection may be back in business and that it’s not only the US who is looking towards the land of Pele to counterbalance Chavez “Bolivarian Revolution”, but maybe even Raul Castro as well.

According to the Brazilian newspaper, "Folha de Sao Paulo", Raul Castro asked Lula da Silva for help when Lula met with him in Havana. The newspaper claims that high sources in the Brazilian government confirm that Raul asked Brazil's help to “accelerate the political and economic transition” in the island.

Supposedly Raul told Lula that Brazil would “be a more convenient partner than Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela” and asked Lula to work to get the American government to dismantle the economic embargo. Da Silva supposedly told Raul that “economic advances have to be accompanied by greater political opening” The article claims that Aids to Lula who traveled with him to Havana, claim that Lula urged Raul that he make concessions in the human rights arena, to show that he’s interested in a real transition and not just in the Chinese model where free enterprise co-exists with authoritarian communist party rule.

Since it has long been rumored and alluded to by American intelligence sources that Raul isn’t a fan of Chavez, it would make sense for him to try to find alternative sources of “capital” –ironic that a Marxist is in search of capital- to finance a transitioning economy. It would also make more sense to seek partners that aren’t interested in annexing Cuba as Chavez is. Then again, this story can be a tropical Taliban payback for the UCI video that made a fool out of Alarcon last week that is trying to drive a wedge between Raul and his petro-daddy, Hugo.

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