Yes, the US Senate races this November are critical to maintain or expand Tom Daschle’s one-seat margin over Trent Lott. Yes, it would be useful to replace Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay with Dick Gephardt and Nancy Pelosi. And it certainly would be satisfying to gain a small portion of justice by retiring Jeb Bush, for aiding and abetting the theft of an election.
Hands down, though, the most important election this fall for progressives, for those who worry about the growing divide between rich and poor, for those who oppose unfettered corporate trade, is the October 6 presidential election in Brazil.
The current front-runner is “Lula,” Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the head of the Workers Party in Brazil (the PT) and the former head of the Metalworkers Union. Lula has run for president three times before; he has even been ahead in the polls before; but each time, he was defeated by the opposition’s money, personal smears, scare tactics and the open blackmail of international banking, which, in effect, says to Brazil, If you elect Lula, we’ll pull your loans, downgrade your credit ratings and throw your economy into turmoil. (See Chile, 1971-73, for further details.)
Wall Street is already banging the downgrade drum. However, one big problem that Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and the rest have is that the Brazilian economy is already in serious straits, and the Workers Party can’t be blamed for it.
A second problem Wall Street has–though for Wall Street it’s probably just a minor inconvenience–is that it is illegal for Brazilian candidates to accept US money for their campaigns. Thus the time-honored free-enterprise approach of buying the election will be somewhat harder in Brazil this year, and may require more “creative” interventions.
This is where the US progressive community comes in. Since we cannot vote in Brazil, since we cannot give money to Brazilian candidates and since we have no international television stations to use to influence their campaign (Why is that? With all the foundation/Hollywood/labor/women’s/environmental money we have, why do we not have our own FOX TV? Our own CNN?), it seems to me that our job is to make every effort to keep the corporate boys from intervening.
Outside intervention in Brazil could take several forms:
§ Wall Street will no doubt continue to use its financial mechanisms to favor Lula’s opponents, by attempting to panic Brazilian voters. Individual corporate actors, of course, could also decide to ignore the rules, as they have done in the past. (See ITT in Chile, United Fruit in Guatemala, Enron in India.)
§ George W. Bush may feel inspired to issue one of his hypocritical, nagging lectures to other nations about freedom and democracy, while telling them they have to pick the leader he wants. Lately, of course, Bush’s lectures have been notorious flops, especially with the rest of the world. The problem for Brazilians is that Shrub is backed by big private money, big international funds, hemispheric allies looking for help with their own debts and, ultimately, a big army. (See Florida, Cuba, Palestine and Iraq for further details.)