What is happening in Peru and in Brazil today should be of concern to all progressive forces within Latin America and the Caribbean. Yet, voices which in the past would have been very vocal against assaults on freedom and democracy are being conveniently silent.
Former President of Guyana, Donald Ramotar, is an exception. He has stood out for bravely condemning the sentencing and imprisonment of Brazil’s presidential frontrunner, Luiz Inácio “Lula” Da Silva. Apart from Cuba, no other government in the Caribbean has raised its voice in protest against the legislative coup committed against the former Brazilian President.
Ramotar may have risked his own political capital in making such a statement. He should not be ruled out as a candidate for the PPPC should the CCJ rule against the constitutionality of a third term for an elected President. But his statement may raise eyebrows in Washington.
By making that statement, Ramotar has done what his own party has not officially done. The PPPC has had ample opportunity to condemn the imprisonment of Lula but has not done so. The present leadership of the PPPC, with a few exceptions does not come from a left wing and progressive tradition nor do many of them have a history of anti-democratic struggle.
Ramotar’s statement is a reminder to the party that he has a historical legacy to preserve and defend, more so in this the centennial year of Dr. Cheddi Jagan.
The former President of Guyana, while taking a personal position, has aligned himself with the millions of ordinary Brazilians who have called for the immediate release of Lula. Ramotar, for all his faults, has always demonstrated a sense of progressive internationalism. His recent statement is in keeping with that tradition.
In it, he called the arrest and sentencing “one of the most shameful pages in the recent history of Latin America.” In his opinion, it constituted a vicious political act to prevent Lula from being a candidate in the Presidential election later this year.
Ramotar noted Lula’s contribution to lifting Brazilians out of poverty. Lula, when in office, was described as the people’s champion. He was credited with lifting 30 million Brazilians out of poverty. Ramotar also noted Lula’s contribution to regionalism.
The Cuban government has also lashed out at the imprisonment of Lula. In its statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba denounced the imprisonment. It saw it as a plot to prevent him from becoming a candidate for the country’s Presidency. It described Lula as a victim of unjust political, judicial, and media persecution, which has as its purpose criminalizing an emblematic leader as well as the political and social forces, which have taken the road toward a more just Brazil.
The Cuban newspaper, Granma, which reflects the views of the Cuban Government, sees Lula’s imprisonment as an example of right-wing destabilizing hegemony in the region. It said that Lula’s crime was his founding of the Workers’ Party of Brazil, thirty-eight years ago.
His crime, according to Granma, was “winning the 2002 presidential elections representing the PT, and becoming the candidate to receive the most ever votes in Brazil’s history. It was ending his second term with an approval rating of 80%, 7.5% economic growth and a 54% rise in minimum wage from his first term.”
His crime was “lifting over 30 million Brazilians from poverty, reducing unemployment, and placing his country among the most important emerging economies. Lula’s crime was inspiring the biggest country in Latin America and projecting an image of order and progress, just as it states on the Brazilin flag. Lula’s “crime” was to stabilize the national economy and pay off Brazil’s debt to the International Monetary Fund.”
Linking Lula’s imprisonment to the impeachment of his successor, Dilma Rousseff, Granma asserted that Lula’s crime was “wanting to run in Brazil’s presidential elections this October, and perhaps his greatest ‘offence’ was leading the polls in a country where popular discontent with de facto President Michel Temer’s neoliberal policies, is growing.
Lula’s ‘crime’ is being the great hope to bring about the resurgence of Brazil and revival of progressive movements in the region.”
“The “crime” for which Lula is being condemned is also the “crime” of the left, and the very same crime for which Dilma, Nicolás Maduro, Evo Morales, and Cristina Fernández, and any other leader who refuses to submit to the orders of the North, are being attacked.”
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