October 6, 2008


Brazil's Lula takes center stage in Latin America: The Brazilian president has emerged as the chief mediator in the region, riding a wave of popularity and galloping economic growth at home and acting as a counterweight to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. (Chris Kraul and Patrick J. Mcdonnell, 10/05/08, Los Angeles Times)

A moderate with an unassailable leftist background, Lula has become the point man for healing regional crises such as the current turmoil in Bolivia and the recent escalation of tensions among Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.

Lula, who survived overlapping corruption scandals, exudes the persona of a level-headed leader who eschews ideology for solutions. The can-do image and the country's economic prosperity have helped win him soaring popularity at home and abroad.

"Lula is the ultimate pragmatist," said former Finance Minister Delfim Netto, an advisor.

The president seems intent on fulfilling Brazil's long-unrealized economic and political potential and making it a recognized world power, starting by asserting its role as South America's preeminent presence.

Lula's skills as a mediator probably will be tested as the region enters a renewed period of uncertainty: the prospect of civil war in Bolivia, a shaky leftist government headed by an ex-bishop in Paraguay, Venezuela's emerging alliances with Russia and Iran, and a new U.S. president to be elected in the midst of a financial crisis that probably will continue sending ripples through the hemisphere.

Lula, who began a second term in 2007, has increasingly asserted his influence as he and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez vie for the hearts and minds of contemporary Latin Americans. Venezuela's arms deals and foreign alliances have played a role in Brazil's decision to bolster its military, analysts say.

"Since the beginning of his second term, Lula began to compete vigorously to counter Chavez's aspirations as a regional leader," noted Julio Burdman, an Argentine political analyst.

But Lula's aims transcend any competition with Chavez, whose nation is much smaller than Brazil. Lula has loftier goals, even pushing for a permanent seat for Brazil on the U.N. Security Council, however unlikely.

Whether he's sloughing off Chavez's strident anti-Americanism or privatizing roads and power plants in Brazil, the former union firebrand who emerged from the assembly lines of Sao Paulo has repeatedly defied stereotypes since taking office in 2003 as the avatar of a new generation of leftist leaders. He has gone from being what some considered a radical bent on imposing socialism to a free-market champion who still funds social programs for the poor.

Lula enjoys a warm relationship with President Bush and was a guest last year at Camp David.

...the new Security Council would replace the WWII states with a representative from each continent: America, Brazil, India, Australia, England, & Morocco (?).

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 6, 2008 7:46 AM
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