The story of Luiz Inacio “Lula” Da Silva seems to be taken straight out of a Globo TV soap opera. Despite the fact of having only studied up to the 5th grade, Lula is a guy of natural intelligence, skillful statesmanship, and clever strategies when it comes to political moves.
He became a giant in trade union struggles back in the 70’s in the industrial belt of Sao Paulo, where he worked in a steel plant. Lula is the Latin-American version of the Polish Lech Walesa and his Solidarity syndicate. He never was communist and has been a firm critic of the former totalitarian regimes of Eastern Europe.
An active Catholic, he created the Worker’s Party in 1982, and thanks to his work, this organization became one of the principal actors on the political map of Brazil. As a good Brazilian, he likes the ‘Cachaca’ drink, festivals, and soccer. He is a fan of the Corinthians football [soccer] team and bets on DT Dunga returning the sixth Cup back home from the World Cup this coming June in South Africa.
He was elected to the government after three failed candidacies. In his case, he succeeded after the fourth try. He contracted with the number 1 campaign advisor in Brazil to run his campaign. This choice took him straight to the Planalto Palace. Of course, Lula did alter his discourse. He realized that in order to run a country it would take much more than workers, people from villages, life-long shanty town residents, and people without land. He didn’t threaten the rich and he allied himself with International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, whom he has never failed to pay up to the last centavo of Brazilian debt.
Lula is a product created by political surgery. He is a fruit produced by marketing. He is an elite of political necromancy and transvestim. His Zero Hunger campaigns have not achieved much. Brazil continues to be among the countries in the world with the greatest inequality. And such beautiful cities as Rio de Janeiro are also one of the most violent in the world.
Blacks and mestizos account for very little of the social and political life of the country, unless they are maybe soccer players, religious caretakers, or Rio musicians. This year, Lula returns home to Sao Bernardo do Campo, with a Brazil that is amongst the 25 most economically powerful countries of the planet, yet it has a very uneven distribution of wealth and very few financial opportunities for those at the bottom.
As for the international realm, he has won success. He is Obama’s right hand at international summits and representatives of the most richest countries have a soft spot for the working man who rose to be president. Although Fidel Castro and his buddies, Chavez and Morales, have pulled the rug out from under the bearded Brazilian.
At times, Lula has turned away from the ideology of the left, but blood is thicker than water and before finishing his term he wanted to take a trip to Havana to say goodbye to his friend, Fidel, and to do some business with the Cuba of General Raul Castro.
He is within his rights as president of a sovereign country. The bad side of Lula in his Havana trip, though, was to ignore the death of the peaceful opposition figure Orlando Zapata Tamayo due to a long hunger strike. He was asked about the situation but he spoke about something else. He turned a deaf ear.
Perhaps Lula was unaware that the 42 year old mestizo who, on February 25th, was buried in Banes, Holguin (an Eastern town about 850 km from the capital), was a bricklayer, and like him, a supporter of democracy and human rights.
His advisors did not want to spoil the party he was having with the Castros. And Lula preferred silence. The Brazilian president of the poor failed to point out that during that same day of his visit to Havana, a simple Cuban man died only because he was demanding the same thing that he (Lula) had demanded his entire life as a trade unionist, opposition politician, and statesman. But despite having lived through periods of military dictatorship in Brazil, Lula had much more luck than Orlando Zapata Tamayo.
One night, while he is alone in his house drinking a Brazilian coffee, perhaps Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva will recognize how contemptible and cowardly he was to refuse to speak even a few words of condolence to the tormented mother of a man who, like himself, wanted the best for his country.
Translated by Raul G.