Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

"Lula is One of Us"


PORTO ALEGRE. “I will tell the people at Davos that the world does not need war, the world needs peace and understanding,” said President Lula da Silva to a cheering crowd of tens of thousands in this sunny port city in Southeastern Brazil. If there is one theme that unified this year’s World Social Forum — and captures the irrationality and destructiveness of letting a handful of people determine so much of the world’s fate — it is opposition to the looming war against Iraq.

The World Social Forum began three years ago — under the slogan, “Another World is Possible” — as an alternative to the World Economic Forum, an exclusive gathering of the rich and powerful held at the same time at the mountain resort of Davos, Switzerland.

The WSF has grown enormously, attracting more than 100,000 participants to Porto Alegre for this year’s series of events. And among the delegates from 126 countries, the largest contingent outside of Brazil this year is — to the surprise of many — from the United States.

This, too, is related to the war. While Secretary of State Colin Powell works the crowd in Davos in an attempt to bully and bribe other governments into going along (e.g. a giant $16 billion IMF loan and $4 billion grant to the government of Turkey, where 90 percent of the people oppose the war) the sizeable American anti-war movement has also reached out to their counterparts around the world.

It is a sad testimony to the state of American democracy that we need the help of other countries to stop our President from getting our own people killed — along with thousands or tens of thousands of innocent civilians — in a war that most Americans don’t want.

But the war is not the only issue here that brings people throughout the world together against American-led policies that cause so much harm throughout the world. The largest number of delegates are from Latin America, where the profound failure of the policies known here as “neo-liberalism” has become painfully obvious. The last 20 years have seen the region’s worst performance in more than a century, with income per person hardly growing at all. The US recipe of substituting the indiscriminate opening of trade and financial flows for what used to be development policy, along with punishingly high interest rates and budget austerity, has failed miserably even on its own terms.

The rejection of the “Washington Consensus,” often imposed on Latin America by US-controlled institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, is what brought Brazil’s President Lula da Silva to power last October. And so he is an appropriate symbol of the growing importance of the WSF and its ideas, relative to its elite counterpart in Davos. Last year Lula was also welcomed enthusiastically by the crowds here, as a genuine working-class hero who everyone loved but few thought would actually win. Now he is president of the second largest country in the Americas.

But he still has to deal with the unelected “Masters of the Universe” as the London Financial Times dubbed the leaders gathered at Davos, where Lula also spoke. Chief among these masters is the IMF, which has a program for Brazil’s government that is literally impossible. The previous government piled up an enormous public debt: it swelled from 29 percent to more than 65 percent of GDP during former President Cardoso’s eight years of office. With domestic interest rates at 25.5 percent (as compared to our own Federal Reserve’s 1.25 percent), this debt burden is not sustainable.

Brazil will have to either lower its interest rates considerably or renegotiate its debt, but the IMF and the financial markets are against both of these options. Instead they hope to keep squeezing ever larger debt payments out of the government budget. This cannot be sustained, and for as long as these policies are pursued it will be very difficult for the government to restore economic growth or deliver on its other promises to end hunger and help the poor. A confrontation is inevitable.

“I was not elected by the financial markets, and I was not elected by the powerful economic interests . . . I was elected through the high level of consciousness of Brazilian society,” Lula told the crowd in Porto Alegre.

The people here seem to agree. A banner at one of the big marches here said “Give it up, Davos: Lula is one of us.”

MARK WEISBROT is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington D.C. and the co-author of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.


Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 28, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Inside the Invisible Government; War, Propaganda, Clinton & Trump
Andrew Levine
The Hillary Era is Coming: Worry!
Gary Leupp
Seven World-Historical Achievements of the Iraq Invasion of 2003
Paul Street
Standing Rock Water-Protectors Waterboarded While the Cleveland Indians Romped
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel: 1984 Everlasting
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Comfortably Dumb
Michael Brenner
American Foreign Policy in the Post-Trump Era
Luciana Bohne
Crossing the Acheron: Back to Vietnam
Robert Hunziker
The Political Era of Climate Refugees
Stephen Cooper
Alabama’s Last Execution was an Atrocity
T.J. Coles
Confronting China: an Interview with John Pilger
Pete Dolack
Work Harder So Speculators Can Get More
Joyce Nelson
Canadians Launch Constitutional Challenge Against CETA
John Laforge
US Uranium Weapons Have Been Used in Syria
Paul Edwards
The Vision Thing ’16
Arshad Khan
Hillary, Trump and Sartre: How Existentialism Disrobes the Major Presidential Candidates
Peter Lee
It’s ON! Between Duterte and America
Chris Zinda
The Bundy Acquittal: Tazing of #oregonstandoff
Norman Pollack
America at the Crossroads: Abrogation of Democracy
Joseph Grosso
Starchitects in the City: Vanity Fair and Gentrification
Patrick Carr
Economic Racial Disparity in North Carolina
David Swanson
Public vs. Media on War
Chris Gilbert
Demo Derby in Venezuela: The Left’s New Freewheeling Politics
Ira Helfand
Nukes and the UN: a Historic Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons
Brian Cloughley
The US, NATO and the Pope
Binoy Kampmark
Nobel Confusion: Ramos-Horta, Trump and World Disorder
Stephen Cooper
Alabama’s Last Execution Was an Atrocity
Sam Albert
Kids on Their Own in Calais: the Tip of an Iceberg-Cold World
Binoy Kampmark
Nobel Confusion: Ramos-Horta, Trump and World Disorder
Russell Mokhiber
Lucifer’s Banker: Bradley Birkenfeld on Corporate Crime in America
Ron Jacobs
Death to the Fascist Insect! The SLA and the Cops
Cesar Chelala
Embargo on Cuba is an Embarrassment for the United States
Jack Smith
And the Winner Is….
Ken Knabb
Beyond Voting: the Limits of Electoral Politics
Matt Peppe
An Alternate Narrative on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
Uri Avnery
The Israeli Trumpess
James Rothenberg
Water Under the Bridge
Louis Yako
Remembering Rasul Gamzatov: The Poet of the People
Jonathan H. Martin
When Nobody Returns: Palestinians Show They are People, Too
Louis Proyect
The Outsider-Insider: Isaac Babel’s Big Mistake
Simon Jones
The Human Lacunae in Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake”
Martin Billheimer
Now and Then, Ancient Sorceries
Charles R. Larson
Review: Brit Bennett’s “The Mothers”
David Yearsley
Bach on the Election
October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love