Brazilian president Lula da Silva concludes his eight years in office with a performance marked by open corruption “among his closest political allies”, with a “plague” of vote-buying in Congress and the ruling party, and without having given a reply to the issue of crime.
This is basically the US embassy evaluation of Lula da Silva’s administration which was reported by US ambassador Clifford Sobel in one of the many cables exposed by Wikileaks.
“The main public opinion concern, crime and public security, have not improved during the administration of President Lula da Silva”, says Sobel in a cable sent from the embassy in Brasilia to the State Department.
The document mentions the several corruption scandals that have occurred under President Lula da Silva. “The Lula administration has been affected by a serious political crisis”, reads the cable adding that “vote-buying and influence peddling” have become a “plague for certain elements of Lula’s Workers party”.
Anyhow Sobbel clearly points out that the “personal popularity of the president did not suffer even after many of his closest associates were caught red-handed in corruption practices”.
The telegram was part of background information sent by the embassy in March 2008 in anticipation of Defence minister Nelson Jobim visit to Washington. US policy objectives at the time were to build closer links with Brazil offering military cooperation agreements and collaboration in guaranteeing ‘certain stability’ in Latin America.
The document also suggests that the successful food basket program, Bolsa Familia, distributed among millions of poor in Brazil had been a big help for the re-election of Lula da Silva in 2006.
“President Lula da Silva was elected in 2002 partly because of his promise to promote an ambitious social agenda including generous handouts to the millions of poor. Given the strong popularity feedback of these measures, Lula da Silva was re-elected in 2006, even when support among middle classes diminished”.
Other cables describe the Brazilian “traditional paranoia” in protecting the Amazon basin “sovereignty” from foreign involvement. Similarly Brazil’s insistence in having “independence” in arms manufacturing and establishing military cooperation agreements with countries willing to transfer technology.
Ambassador Sobel points out that (former) Planning Minister Roberto Mangabeira Unger “gives more importance to ‘independence’ than to military capacity or the efficient use of resources”.
The comments refer to the National Defence Plan, PND, launched by President Lula da Silva investing billions to upgrade Brazilian forces and re-launch a defence industry. To that effect the announced construction of a nuclear powered submersible by the Brazilian navy in association with France is described as “a white elephant politically popular”.
Finally ambassador Sobel criticizes the Brazilian media coverage of PND which was lacking any serious analysis: “maybe the most significant comment on Brazil’s defence strategy is precisely the lack of any comments”, simply based on government releases.