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Marxist may win the presidency in Brazil this fall

By David T. Pyne
web posted September 2, 2002

Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva
da Silva

Brazil seems poised to elect the standard-bearer of a Communist-aligned coalition movement as its president this October. Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, the perennial candidate of Brazil's Communist-aligned Popular Front who continues to lead his opponents in every presidential poll during this election cycle, is currently polling 37 percent of the vote. If elected president, da Silva would revolutionize Brazil and form a "Castro-da Silva-Chavez axis" along with the Communist leaders of Cuba and Venezuela. Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O' Neill recently expressed concern over this potential development. Such a new dominant regional power bloc would threaten to radicalize much of the rest of Latin America as well.

Brazil's presidential election is scheduled for October 6th with a run-off vote on October 27th for the top two voter getters if no candidate gets a majority in the first vote. The only non-socialist presidential candidate, Jose Serra, has only 13 percent of the vote. Running in second place is Cero Gomes, the candidate of the Popular Socialist Party, which is a fairly recent offshoot of the Brazilian Communist Party. The most likely outcome of the election given current polling trends is that da Silva and Gomes will be forced into a close runoff race, which either could win.

Jose Serra

This is da Silva's fourth run for the Presidency. I was living and working in Brazil in 1989 when he first ran. At that time, there was a lot of fear among Brazilians that if da Silva was elected the nation's industries would be nationalized, press freedoms and other rights would be curtailed, and Americans would be deported out of the country. One of da Silva's opposing conservative candidates even ran a TV commercial that Brazilians would have to "jump the wall" if da Silva was elected. (This was before the collapse of the Berlin Wall). Ultimately, he succeeded in capturing 47 percent of the popular vote in Brazil's first presidential election in 30 years. Da Silva has been somewhat successful in moderating his image since then.

Constantine Mendes, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute has characterized Gomes in his recent articles as "the Communist candidate." In fact, Gomes was until recently a member of the largest centrist party of Brazil until a few years ago and is a fairly recent convert to socialism. While Gomes is not a Communist, his party does have a Communist heritage. Regardless, it is clear that it given his strident anti-American rhetoric and his alignment with America's enemies that it is Da Silva, not Gomes, which represents the greater threat to the US, were he to be elected President of Brazil.

Ciro Gomes

Da Silva has enjoyed the support of both of Brazil's Communist Parties working together with his Marxist Worker's Party in the "Popular Front" to help him get elected on every occasion that he has run for President. Joining together in a popular front coalition with a "mainstream" socialist party is a longtime Communist tactic to take power in a country. Were Da Silva to win the Presidency, he would most assuredly appoint cabinet ministers from the ranks of his Communist Party coalition partners. Da Silva stated back in June that he believes Brazil's current economic model is "worn out." If elected, he would bring an end to Brazil's free-market experiment, greatly increase social spending, and likely default on Brazil's debt resulting in a widespread economic crisis throughout Latin America. A default on Brazil's debt could trigger greater economic turmoil throughout Latin America and to a lesser extent the US. Gomes, on the other hand, is perceived as more mainstream although he is a leftist firebrand in his own right.

Mendes recently suggested in one of his recent editorials on the electoral crisis in Brazil, that if the US loses Brazil to a Marxist like da Silva, one of the issues of the 2004 presidential election might well be, "Who lost South America?" This will be a very valid question and it is possible that in a close presidential election, the very Presidency of George W. Bush may be decided over this and related potential foreign policy failures if it is perceived that the President did not take action to avert this likely potential crisis.

President Bush should act immediately to shore up the forces of freedom in Brazil. The US should strongly encourage the non-socialist democratic parties of Brazil to unite behind a single candidate to challenge da Silva for the Presidency-preferably Serra. President Bush could hold a meeting with Serra to give him increased credibility. He could endorse his candidacy as well and talk about the great importance he places on forging a new relationship with Brazil based on full equality and the improvement of bilateral relations across the board. The President could send campaign advisors to help with Serra's TV campaign ads, which appear to be his only hope for winning the election. Bush could declare that da Silva is outside the mainstream, warn of his links to terrorists and rogue states and state that his election could turn back the clock for US-Brazilian relations that have become increasingly friendly in recent years. In Nicaragua, the Administration sent high-level officials to give speeches denouncing Daniel Ortega and saying that a vote for him would mean a return to totalitarianism and or dictatorship. That is something that could be done with Brazil as well. If for any reason, Serra fails to make it to the runoff, the US will be forced to support the socialist party candidate, Ciro Gomes against the greater hemisphere-wide threat from da Silva.

David T. Pyne, Esq. works as an International Programs Manager with the Department of the Army responsible for cooperation with Latin America. He is a former Army Reserve Officer. He spent two years in Brazil from 1988-1990 serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Mr. Pyne recently served as a member of an official Department of Defense-led trip to meet with officials of Brazil's newly established Ministry of Defense. Mr. Pyne holds an MA in National Security Studies from Georgetown University and is a member of the Center for Emerging National Security Affairs based in Washington, D.C. He has been cited in the New American magazine and was recently interviewed on Howard Phillips' Conservative Roundtable TV program in regards to issues related to the coming Brazilian election. (c) 2002 David T. Pyne

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