When “good” President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and the “bad” President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez came to New York, both wooed the media. Newsweek declared Lula to be “the most popular politician on earth.” Chavez didn’t call Obama “the devil” and went mano a mano with Larry King.
Lula’s Brazil is a continent of a country on the rise with a multi-party democracy; Chavez’s Venezuela sits on ocean of oil that fuels his one-party democracy. Both leaders aim for more clout on the global stage
Lula demanded the return of populist Manuel Zelaya to the presidency in Honduras, ignoring the undiplomatic use of Brazil’s embassy to intervene in Honduran internal affairs. Chavez urged President Obama to free himself from the shackles of the Pentagon and restore Zelaya.
Both hammered away at U.S. economic restrictions on communist Cuba.
Chavez blasted the U.S. for its relations with Colombia and once more dignified the narco-terrorist of the FARC with being belligerents in a “civil war.” Lula covered Chavez’s back. When asked to explain why Venezuela belongs in the MERCOSUL trading bloc, a group of democratic states which Brazil leads, Lula answered, “Give me one example of how Venezuela is undemocratic.”
Chavez supports Iran’s right to a nuclear program, so does Lula. Neither saw anything amiss with recent elections in Iran. “What rights do I have,” said Lula, “to question the election results in Iran?” Lula previously compared the crushing of street protests in Tehran by police and militia groups to a fight between fans of rival Rio de Janeiro soccer clubs Flamengo and Vasco da Gama. “Whoever wins celebrates, and who loses cries,” he told reporters June 15 in Geneva.
Neither found time to mention such global problems as terrorism, Islamic extremism, drug trafficking, or nuclear proliferation.
The Obama administration hopes to embrace the constructive Lula as the “good” Latin American and wants a “special relationship” with Brazil. Rightfully, it remains wary of the more mercurial, stridently anti-American Chavez.
Yet, however you slice it, Lula and Chavez often operate on a common agenda. Lula is a trade unionist turned visionary statesman; Chavez an unruly soldier turned populist autocrat. Their styles are different; their commitments to democracy distinct. Nonetheless, they squarely see themselves on the cutting edge of a new socialist world order based on increased state regulation and control of markets and the superiority of the state over the individual. And they will go the extra-mile with enemies of the U.S. in order to reduce American global power, influence, and security in the name of a more multi-polar world.