In an exclusive interview with Brasil Wire and The Michael Brooks Show, former Brazilian President Lula da Silva has spoken out against the malign intervention of US imperialism in Brazil which has served to subvert the country’s democracy, independence and sovereignty. According to Lula “Brazil has given away its freedom and its independence and it salutes an American President… Brazil has regressed to the status of a colony.”
US intervention paved the way for far right politician, Jair Bolsonaro, to become Brazil’s President last year (October 2018) in an election which was marred in controversy when the front-runner and candidate of the left, Lula, was barred from standing after he was jailed in April 2018 on trumped-up charges of corruption in a blatant political manoeuvre to keep him off the ballot paper.
Reflecting on his own personal experience, Lula says that today he not only has “much more clarity” on the role that the US Department of Justice played in his own political persecution and imprisonment, but also on how this US intervention fits into a broader project to subordinate Brazil to the “clear interests” of the US and Trump.
The deeper understanding Lula has acquired about the role of US imperialism through the intense political experience of being defeated by a US soft coup – which used “lawfare” to achieve regime change rather than tanks in the streets – represents a progressive radicalisation of the Brazilian left.
Below is an extended excerpt from this fascinating interview, where Lula lays out his view of the role the US is playing to “destabilise” and subordinate Brazil today.
For a detailed account of how the US has used a “lawfare” strategy to attack the left in Brazil and wreck the country’s democracy – which directly paved the way for Jair Bolsonaro’s assent to the Presidency – I would highly recommend Brasil Wire’s latest book, ‘Year of Lead’ which can be ordered online here.
Lula on US imperialism and Brazil
Today we know there were clear US Department of Justice interests in Petrobras, in my imprisonment and in the closing of Brazilian companies, especially in the construction industry. Today this is all clear. It’s very clear that there were American prosecutors interested in my imprisonment. There is video on the internet of a public prosecutor laughing about my imprisonment [ed: US Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco]. I think that the goal was to change the logic of Petrobras so that it would no longer be a Brazilian company, so that it could no longer belong to the Brazilian people. Who do they think this oil should belong to? The multinationals, and within these multinationals the United States.
I read a book called Petroleum. It tells the story of Petroleum from 1859 forwards. Most of the big wars we’ve had on the face of the earth since then have been over petroleum. The Iraqi invasion was because of petroleum, the Libya invasion was because of petroleum. The attempt to invade Venezuela was because of petroleum. Most of the conflicts in the Middle East are because of petroleum. Because the rich countries don’t have petroleum – except for the Americans, who have a lot of it. They need to have a strategic reserve which was set up after World War II, when Germany lost because it ran out of fuel – Germany ran out of gas and lost the war. So all the rich countries are obliged to have huge gasoline and petroleum reserves and they are dismantling Petrobras. Brazil, which planned on being an exporter of petroleum derivatives, has stared importing diesel and gasoline from the United States even though we are self sufficient in petroleum.
So there are things that make no sense and then there is the sale of Embraer, which is really bad. A country will never be sovereign if it doesn’t generate its own technological and scientific knowledge. Embraer was a key company for this. Embraer was a company that did not have to depend on Boeing or anyone else to produce airplanes. So now they sold Embraer to Boeing. Embraer was the third largest aviation company in the World. It exported more than Bombardier. It was a company that was widely respected. Now they are trying to sell off Petrobras, the Banco do Brasil, the Caixa Economica [national mortgage bank] and Eletrobras. In other words Brazil is selling off our public companies to public companies from other countries.
So I think that Brazil needs to build a new independence. Brazil has to have a good scientific-technological, political and economic relationship with the United States but it has to be independent. We are a country with 210 million inhabitants, 8.5 million square kilometers and 360 million hectares of totally preserved tropical forests. Brazil can’t be dependent, whether its on the United States, China, India or Russia. Brazil has to depend on the freedom of it’s people, on the education of its people and on the jobs and salaries of its people.
So I think that Brazil is living its worst moment in history. We have a subservient government – subservient. For a long time I refused to participate in international forums to keep Brazil from getting tied up. But now Brazil has given away its freedom and its independence and it salutes an American president. Frankly speaking, I don’t think anyone respects people who don’t respect themselves. Nobody does. Brazil has to return to greatness. For this to happen it needs political leaders who respect themselves, who like Democracy and who know that a nation that borders on 10 countries, which has the entire West African coast across a river called the Atlantic from it, could be showing a lot more solidarity to poorer nations than it is now by transferring some of its technology. We brought Embrapa to Africa because I believed that the African Savannah has the same productive capacity as the Brazilian semi-arid Cerrado. That program doesn’t exist anymore. We brought a factory to Mozambique to produce generic anti-retroviral medication to fight AIDS. We brought the Open University to Mozambique. We extended the Mais Alimentos program, which we developed in Brazil to support small farmers, to Africa and Latin America. It’s over.
So now Brazil is an island, subordinated in an embarrassing manner to the interests of Trump and asking Trump for favors. The fact is that no government does favors for another government. We have State policies for relations with other States, that have to be respected. So that’s it, my dear. Brazil is not respecting itself. Brazil has regressed to the status of a colony.
The above article was previously published on Eyes on Latin America.