Lula da Silva will govern a deeply divided Brazil, after the results of the last elections, with the mission, as leader of the regional left according to analysts, of recovering the leading role of his country in the international context and closely accompanying the conflictive processes in Bolivia , a country that he will see, rather than as “a dissatisfied customer”, with the concern of “an older brother”.
This is what can be concluded from a debate organized by the Center for the Study of Economic and Social Reality (Ceres) to analyze, among others, what is the weight that Brazil has in the Bolivian economy and what will it be, with Lula de new in power, his degree of his political influence in Latin America and in the world.
From Brazil, Walter Auad Sotomayor, a Bolivian expert on relations between the two countries, says that Lula’s election represented the possibility of recovering values that had been submerged, forgotten or fought against in the last four years and that ultimately represent pride and the self-love of Brazilians.
“It can be said that it is a return to normality, that supposes or fights the fires in the Amazon, the defense of indigenous lands threatened by those who want to exploit gold at any price, and also supposes the recovery of investments in the field. Social. So, a central feature of the new Lula government will be the internal recognition of his role as restorer of democracy in the country”, he points out.
He says that the recognition, first of the presidents of the Legislative Branch, the Judiciary and the Electoral Tribunal itself, has been very decisive in the face of Bolsonaro’s threats when questioning the results of the vote. “That nuances Lula’s democratic commitment and the entire range of support he is receiving and forces him to observe his two previous terms. There will be more caution, that is a truth that can no longer be perceived.”
“Lula has already indicated his opposition to those who want to remain in power forever and who have already said that the alternation of governments is an essential principle of democracy. It seems that there is a recognition of various lefts, this is a bit difficult, it seems that Lula is the same as any other left-wing leader and obviously each country is a different country, each country has different challenges and Lula obviously has his own”, Sotomayor estimates and adds that Lula is a “restorer of democracy, which has also been seen in the international environment, not so much as a push button for democracy, but as a conciliator, the conciliatory role of Brazil especially in the region.”
He considers that Brazil has traditionally expressed the importance of maintaining channels of dialogue and it is in this sense that it must reestablish its relations with Venezuela and reopen its embassy in Caracas and its consulates throughout the country.
“In his first speech, Lula told the world that ‘Brazil is back. Brazil is too big to be a pariah in the world.”
Lula, corruption and Bolivia
Eduardo Gamarra, a political scientist and professor of politics and international relations in Florida, argues that it is important to place Lula in a historical context. “Lula is not reaching politics, he had an extraordinary performance in his first two governments; In his first presidency, he arrived in a Brazil in crisis, his economic plan was based on the reforms that Fernando Henrique Cardoso had made. Lula has been a very pragmatic leader, which does not mean that he has abandoned his leftist rhetoric. For the Brazilian project, Venezuela was a very big inconvenience because it radicalized positions”.
In his opinion, he “dealt” with Bolivia in a pragmatic way and better understood that what was happening in Bolivia was not a nationalization, but a change of rules.
He adds that “there is also a Lula that is difficult to analyze with a political model that included a deep process of corruption that had an impact throughout the region and that culminated in his imprisonment. The famous case of Odebrecht is not only from Brazil, it is a very long tail of Lula”.
For this reason, he considers that the Lula that we are going to see now will necessarily be different from the one we saw in 2002 because everything has changed. “Although there is a trend in global Latin America to the left, they are short cycles and I believe that a strong right-wing cycle is coming now in Europe and the US that will condition Lula’s leadership, beyond Brazil.”
Gamarra believes that Lula is today the historical leader of the Latin American left, “against a Boric with little experience and against a Petro who has not yet consolidated. Lula can play a key role beyond the region”.
Asked if in its relationship with the country, Brazil will be for Bolivia “a dissatisfied client (due to the gas issue), or if it will behave more like a kind of “worried older brother”, Gamarra says that for Brazil, Bolivia is tremendously important and having a convulsed Bolivia is not convenient.
“I think that Lula is going to pay a lot of attention to what happens in Bolivia, he will be more the worried older brother. The main interest of Brazil, be it Bolsonaro or Lula, is that there are no problems in Bolivia and that it does not go off the rails. What is happening in Bolivia today can lead to concern for a Brazil that is in transition. The president of Brazil until January is still Bolsonaro and I doubt that Lula will sacrifice the little space he now has by getting involved in the Bolivian conflict”, he adds.
Lula will have problems
Former Bolivian Foreign Minister Gustavo Fernández was also invited to the debate, who says that the first thing to point out is that Brazil is a very polarized country, with just two million votes difference, less than two points difference, which shows that there is no It is a very calm situation that is coming.
“With difficulties and with negotiations, twists and turns, Lula’s handling of the government is going to have problems, but I have the impression that it will be manageable,” he says, explaining that this situation leads him to expand his negotiating space with the opposition parties and that it has to open spaces with the media and businessmen.
“His horizon in foreign policy is broader, because he is very well received in the West, the United States, France, England, the countries of the European Union reacted immediately to effectively crystallize his victory in the second round, they all consider him a defender of democracy,” he says.
According to Fernández, “everyone in the world sees Lula more as a defender of democracy than as a leader of the radical left in Latin America, something that is not necessarily appreciated on the continent, because clearly here in Bolivia he is almost associated with immediately with Evo Morales.
Regarding corruption, the former foreign minister says that during the government of Lula and Dilma it was systemic, rather than personal: “The collusion of political interest with business and that can no longer be repeated, I don’t think Lula reproduces that precedent.”
In economic matters, according to Fernández the situation is complicated, but it is also manageable. “Brazil is a country that has managed in recent months to put a stop to the inflation that is shaking the rest of the continent and the world, it has the possibility of managing itself, but it is not the conditions of the hyper cycle of raw materials, the appreciation of the dollar it is a serious management problem for Brazil, the capital markets are going to be more closed, less possibility of investment and the prices of commodities are going to show instability, as they have been showing these days these months”.
Asked if in his next term Lula could be a kind of “support” for Luis Arce’s management, Fernández clarifies that care must be taken in this analysis. “If there is something clear, it is that the radical left had an option and lost it. Neither Maduro nor Ortega are the standard-bearers of the left and it is good to see what Lula could do in that space.
For Walter Sotomayor there is a reality that must be noted and that is how Bolivia has treated Brazil “with total disregard for Bolsonaro’s orientation; There has been no Bolivian ambassador in Brasilia for three years and that almost seems like a rupture in relations”.
“Bolivia is at fault with Brazil in that sense, for giving an ideological aspect to a relationship that is very important for Bolivia, for Brazil as well, but that has to be reciprocal.”
When Gamarra was consulted about the situation of “the right” in Latin America, he considers that there is not one right, but a number of rights and Trumpism is the predominant one, but it should not be forgotten that there is a tendency in the Republican party towards a more right wing. democratic.
“The problem is serious, in the context of the right, of achieving cohesion and presenting an alternative option in countries like Venezuela and Bolivia, where the divisions of the right do not allow it to position itself as an electoral alternative, as long as there is right-wing populism. That right exists, but it is atomized and trapped in polarization”, he closes.