November 14th 2009

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Why Australians should oppose a human rights charter

CANBERRA OBSERVED: The Rudd Government's asylum-seeker dilemma

EDITORIAL: Emissions trading scheme in trouble

CLIMATE CHANGE: Rudd's ETS will hit country towns hardest

ECONOMICS: Rising interest rates create speculative bubble

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Will SA be the first state to legalise euthanasia?

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Australia's crude Fiji sanctions policy backfires

BRAZIL: Lula's infatuation with tyrants and mass-murderers

OVERSEAS AID: Exporting death in our overseas 'aid'

ASIA: Taiwan's modified UN bid prospects rated as 'good'

EDUCATION: A destructive doctrine called 'diversity'

SCIENCE: Can computer games harm children's brains?

OPINION: Why I lost faith in the Left

Australian aid to China (letter)

Rags-to-riches story (letter)

Kokoda and Japan (letter)

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Western nations must prepare for cyber attacks; The tyranny of unelected 'experts'; School reform that works.

BOOK REVIEW: OUT FROM UNDER: The Impact of Homosexual Parenting, by Dawn Stefanowicz

BOOK REVIEW: THE ART OF WAR: Great Commanders of the Ancient, Medieval and Modern World, Andrew Roberts

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Lula's infatuation with tyrants and mass-murderers

by Dr Augusto Zimmermann

News Weekly, November 14, 2009
As the largest economy in Latin America, Brazil plays a major role in shaping political and commercial relations between the region and the rest of the world. With respect to such relations, the Brazilian constitution, in its article four, makes a reference to a few "fundamental principles" that the country is constitutionally obliged to respect in the international order: "protection of human rights", "repudiation of terrorism", and "international co-operation for a peaceful development of humanity".

Unfortunately, it appears that that the current left-wing government of Brazil, under President Lula da Silva, has already decided to seriously undermine those important principles. Recently, for example, Brazil abstained on United Nations resolutions condemning human rights abuses in the Congo, Sri Lanka and North Korea. The Lula administration is also silent on the genocidal policies of the Islamic government of Sudan. It refrained from voting to grant human rights monitors a wider brief, and only reversed course in June after a public outcry by prominent civic rights groups.

Terrorist organisations

Since President Lula took office in 2002, Brazil has openly consorted with well-known tyrannical regimes and terrorist organisations, some of them openly engaged in genocidal activities against their own civilian populations. Only days before the US-led Coalition of the Willing invaded Iraq, in February 2003, a delegation of congressmen from Lula's governing Workers' Party (PT) went to Baghdad especially to express their unconditional solidarity with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

A few months after that official visit, President Lula himself visited Islamic nations in northern Africa. Since he decided to visit only those countries with a truly appalling record of human rights violations - Algeria, Sudan, Libya and Egypt - the press rather ironically but quite properly described it a "tour of dictatorships". While visiting Libya, Lula did not even miss the opportunity to call Libya's President Gadhafi a close friend whose "great advice" he highly appreciates.

It is also common knowledge in Brazil that relations between Lula and Fidel Castro (communist dictator of Cuba from 1959 to 2008) have always been close and extremely cordial. As a matter of fact, the Brazilian President is a self-declared admirer of Castro. On one of his several visits to the Caribbean island-state, Lula gave this moving tribute to Castro: "In spite of the fact that your face already is marked with wrinkles, Fidel, your soul remains clear, because you never betrayed the interests of your people. Thank you, Fidel - thank you for existing."

In April 2003, perhaps as a way of expressing its solidarity with Castro's repressive dictatorship, Brazil abstained from condemning, at the UN Human Rights Committee, the assassination of Cuban political dissidents. Speaking on behalf of the Lula administration, the then Brazilian ambassador to Cuba, Tilden Santiago, strongly approved of the execution of those dissidents, calling them traitors who were attempting to "destabilise" the Cuban communist regime.

Curiously, in an academic paper written especially to celebrate the anniversary of Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto (1848), Lula's foreign affairs advisor, Marco Aurélio Garcia, a history professor at the University of Campinas (Unicamp), stated: 'The agenda is clear. If the horizon that we search for is still called communism, it is time to re-constitute it."

Garcia and Lula, together with other members of their own political party, created in 1990 an umbrella organisation called the Forum de São Paulo (FSP), to fight the "negative effects" visited on communism by the dismantling of the Soviet empire. In 2004, its organisers declared that the major objective of the organisation was "to compensate for our losses in Eastern Europe with our victories in Latin America".

In the July 2005 conference of the FSP, Garcia delivered a passionate speech supporting the "great destabilisations" waged by "social movements" throughout Latin America. Garcia also suggested that extra-legal actions would serve to bring about more "popular democracy" in the region. As a result, he eulogised "armed struggles" that would contribute to reaching such an objective. He also stated that the rule of law ought not to become a "straitjacket" inhibiting the more radical goals of these social movements.


As a result of this, Brazil has aggressively sought to influence Latin American countries on a scale never seen before. In the recent crisis in Honduras, for example, Brazil stood firmly behind the ousted President Manuel Zelaya. He attempted to follow in the steps of his Venezuelan ally Hugo Chavez, particularly in regard to his desire to change the Honduran constitution to scrap presidential term limits, which was the reason for his being ousted.

Zelaya took refuge in the Brazilian embassy, and Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Antonio Amorim stood behind him saying that his country would not tolerate any actions against the embassy.

At a summit in Venezuela between leaders of South America and Africa, President Lula said that his government had nothing to negotiate with the government of Honduras, and that Zelaya was a "special guest" of the Brazilian Embassy. Zelaya has now been using the Brazilian embassy to instigate violence and insurrection against the Honduran people and their government.

The Brazilian government has also been extremely supportive of the Bolivian President Evo Morales. Despite Morales's decision to confiscate all the assets of Brazil's oil company, irrespective of existing contracts, Lula has declared that Morales represents an "extraordinary change", not just for Bolivia, but for Latin America as a whole.

This Bolivian President whom Lula so ardently supports is a leader of the coca-growers who reveres Che Guevara and who has commanded the overthrow of two democratically-elected presidents. Morales's vice-president, Alvaro Garcia Linera, is a former guerrilla arrested in the 1990s for taking up arms against the country's fragile democratic regime.

Weapons stockpiles

President Lula is also a strong ally of the notorious President of Venezuela, Colonel Hugo Chavez. Under Chavez, Venezuela has sheltered groups with ties to Islamic terrorism and allowed weapons from its official stockpiles to reach Colombian drug guerrillas.

Human Rights Watch has accused Chavez's government of widespread human rights violations, including the restriction of free speech and the independent press, the killing of political opponents, police torture and the politicisation of the courts. And yet Lula has declared that Chavez is a "true democrat" and that "each country establishes the democratic regime that suits its people".

"Lula has a good relationship with Chavez in spite of the differences in the tone of their discourse", says Rafael Cortez, a political analyst at the Tendências consulting group in São Paulo.

To add insult to injury, Lula has emphatically defended Tehran's right to enrich uranium on grounds that he heard "personally" that Iran didn't want to build a bomb. Even so, Lula once declared that respecting the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty makes sense only if all the countries that already have nuclear weapons also give them up. "Brazil is undermining the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council", says Julie de Rivero of Human Rights Watch.

In June 2009, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was returned to power amidst accusations of massive electoral fraud and vote-rigging. After the disputed election, more than 4,000 Iranian protesters were arrested and hundreds killed, some while being held in prison.

Lula called these protesters "losers" and compared the Iranian government's brutal crackdown to "a row between fans of rival football clubs". The Brazilian President even questioned the sovereign right of the Iranian people to protest against those fraudulent election results, pointing out, "In Brazil we also have people who do not accept electoral defeats."

So it was not really a surprise when President Lula heartily slapped Iranian President Ahmadinejad on the back at the UN General Assembly, stoutly defended Iran's nuclear program, and invited Ahmadinejad to visit Brazil. Lula delights in fostering these sorts of friendships.

The fact that he values the close friendship of tyrants and terrorists is in itself a strong sign that he is neither a true democrat nor a leader particularly concerned about the protection of human rights.

Nothing happens by chance in a highly organised diplomatic world. So the question is: why is Lula so keen on befriending such dictators and terrorists? Does this say something about Lula himself and the real nature of his left-wing administration?

Dr Augusto Zimmermann is a law lecturer at Murdoch University, Western Australia.

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