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Brazil and Lula: Year zero

James Petras :: 31.01.04

The election of Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva raised great expectations on the center-left. For most leftist writers, his election heralded a new epoch of progressive changes which, while not revolutionary, defined the “end of neo-liberalism”.

Noted progressive religious figures, like Leonardo Boff, announced imminent “change” which would challenge U.S. hegemony and lead to great popular participation. Frei Betto, a close associate of Lula, launched a vitriolic attack on critics who questioned some of Lula’s appointments citing his popular roots as a former metal worker and union leader a quarter of a century earlier.

Left-wing members of the Workers Party, Olivo Dutra and Tarso Genero, appointed to minor ministerial positions in Lula’s cabinet called for the “disciplining” (expulsion or silencing) of a dissident PT Senator Heloisa who objected to the PT’s support for right-wing Senator Jose Sarney as President of the Senate.

European, U.S. and Latin American progressives and leftists and their movements, NGO’s, parties and journals joined the celebration of the Lula Presidency, his “progressive agenda” and his “leadership in the fight against neo-liberalism and globalization”. While over 100,000 at the World Social Forum in January 2003 at Porto Alegre cheered Lula as a hero of the Left and precursor of a new wave of leftist regimes (along with President Lucio Gutierrez and President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela), some of Lula’s intellectual supporters (Emir Sader) pleaded with Lula not to go to Davos to plead his case for foreign investment to the world’s most rapacious speculators and richest investors.

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