Sept. 18, 2003: Diario Las Américas, Miami (FL)

Lula, the UN and a Trip to Cuba

By Armando F. Valladares

After secret debates in the inner circles of the Brazilian government, the decision seems to have been reached: on September 26 President Lula, after participating in a meeting of the UN, will make another trip to the island prison, this time as President of Brazil. It is a step characterized in the presidential entourage as "controversial" and politically risky, as revealed by the well informed columnist Dora Kramer, of the newspaper Jornal do Brasil. She adds that one of the purposes of the trip, according to its defenders - Lula, the chancellor Amorim and the minister José Dirceu, a former guerrilla who lived several years in Cuba - would be that of "preserving bonds of affection with the past."

Lula himself has recognized that the series of pilgrimages to the Communist Mecca began in 1985. On the last of them, in December of 2001, he went like a co-founder, together with Fidel Castro, of the subversive Forum of São Paulo (FSP). There, in the annual meeting of the FSP, he gave moving tribute to the bloodthirsty dictator, in the presence of revolutionary Latin American leaders, including Colombian drug guerrillas: "In spite of the fact that your face already is marked with wrinkles, Fidel, your soul remains clean because you never betrayed the interests of your people"; "Thank you, Fidel, thank you because you continue to exist."

In the following month, at the end of January of 2002, during the Second World Social Forum of Porto Alegre, before an audience of thousands of militants of the Workers Party (PT), of the Castroite Movement Without Land (MST) and of the base communities following the theology of the liberation, he gave a skillful speech in which he explained to his "companions" the need for a new tactic to take power in the approaching presidential election. According to him, the "electoral failures" of the Brazilian left are due up to this time to an imprudent strategic "play" of the Left, showing to the public a profile that is "too radical"; a defect that, according to him, affected "99% of the participants in the Second FSM." And he made an urgent call to correct it, in order to be able finally to reach power. It was the "Lula Peace and Love" which, once quickly metamorphosed, would advance until arriving at the Presidency of Brazil.

In the UN, in New York, President Lula will give his guarantee to one of the greatest and most flagrant contradictions - which are not few - of the general assembly of that exalted organization: to condemn one more time, almost by unanimity, the American embargo, without saying even a word about the cause of the problem, which is the implacable internal embargo of the Communist state against the Cuban people for more than forty years, in an enigmatic ritual of oblation to the "revolutionary gods" that do not die. On the theme of the external and internal Cuban embargo, as well as on the contradictory position of President Lula and of his chancellor Amorim on the matter, including a remark against the Cuban exiles, I had an occasion to write an article recently, to which I refer for greater brevity (Armando Valladares, "Cuba: Lula Supports the Internal Castroite 'Blockade,'" Diario Las Américas, Miami, Jul. 22, 2003).

From the UN assembly the Brazilian president will leave for the island prison.

Who will be the Lula who is to arrive in Cuba? That of December of 2001, in harmony with his historical revolutionary image? That of January of 2002, that was already in a speedy process of metamorphosis? Or a contradictory mixture of both?

I am inclined to the third option, the one proper to the zigzagging and contradictory path of President Lula, that includes since his having affirmed - during another trip to Havana, in November of 2000 - that he would place emphasis on his "socialist program" and that did not want a "pink PT" or "PT light," but, yes, a red one, to the point of saying practically the opposite - as he has just done in Caracas, flanked by President Chávez - who does not like to be called leftist and that he never was a Communist (Daniel Piza, envoy to Havana, "Lula defends an increasingly socialistic PT," O Estado de S. Paulo, Nov. 30, 2000; Eliane Cantanhêde, "I do not like the label of 'leftist,' says Lula," Folha of S. Paulo, August 27, 2003).

A Lula with a zigzagging and contradictory step, that some interpret as a symptom of vacillating, errors and even failures, without understanding that we are in the age of chaos and contradiction; and that there are those who resort to these things as a method to confuse logic and common sense; to weaken the will; and to dull the sensibility of those who continue distrusting the new revolutionary tactics.

This is the systematically zigzagging road which will be able to characterize the next stopover of President Lula in Cuba. Very probably, before, during or after his trip to Havana President Lula will say and/or do something to maintain the illusions that he has managed to create in the minds even of international figures such as the American ambassador in Brasilia, the new Undersecretary of State for Affairs of the Western Hemisphere, Roger Noriega and also President Bush; and, at the same time, he will say and/or do something that pleases the pro-Castroites of Cuba, Brazil and Latin America.

But all this, as already indicated, forms part of the path of contradiction and chaos. If Lula does not succeed in convincing some people that he did something effective in favor of the enslaved Cuban people, at least he will leave them with a benevolent doubt...and a paralyzing one. The result of his trip will also be calculated in a way that favors, even if discretely, the continuation of the Castroite dictatorship and/or the passage toward a "post-Castroism" controlled by officials of the current regime who are already being prepared for that fraudulent role. Will President Lula and his chancellor go so far as to offer their services as eventual mediators in Cuba, just as they are disposed to do in other countries, including Colombia? Furthermore, it remains to be said that to deliver to President Lula the role of mediator in Cuba would be almost like placing a wolf as the mediator of conflicts in a chicken coop.

I reiterate here the final considerations of my previously cited article:

"If President Lula wants to deny with facts, and not with words, that he has turned himself into the greatest international supporter of the Cuban Communist regime - with all the serious responsibilities that it implies before the Cuban people and the generous, cordial and intuitive Brazilian people, but, above all, before God - let him adopt categorical diplomatic measures to contribute to the liberation of hundreds and perhaps thousands of Cuban political prisoners. Let him do something effective to save the lives of the political prisoners Martha Beatriz Roque and Oscar Biscet, who agonize in the Cuban jails, responding thus to the public call that has just been made by the Cuban organization Cuban Unity, of Miami. Let him not cross his arms before the drama of the Cuban physicist Dr. López Linares, currently residing in Brazil, who fruitlessly wrote the Brazilian president requesting his intervention to be able to travel to Cuba to meet his little son Juan Paolo, four years of age. Let him not try to whitewash the Castroite crimes by alleging the external 'blockade' or the alleged 'advances in the social sphere,' as health and education, that in reality are two implacable instruments of ideological, mental, political and police control of the unfortunate Cubans. Let him, in short, contribute, without euphemisms, toward the urgent liberation of Cuba."

And today I add:

If the trip of President Lula would come to signify, unmistakably, the real and not merely the apparent collapse of the Communist state, with the yoke of the island prison falling completely, it would be such a political "miracle" that it would lead me to withdraw my criticisms of President Lula and to ask him publicly for forgiveness; to recognize that he was right when, during the pre-electoral period, on the television program of the "anchorman" Boris Casoy, he accused me of being a "picareta"; and to thank him for his decisive contribution to the liberation of Cuba.

Armando Valladares, former political prisoner of Cuba, author of the book Against All Hope, was American ambassador before the Commission of Human Rights of the UN, in Geneva, during the Reagan and Bush administrations.