- The Washington Times - Monday, June 28, 2004

SAO PAULO, Brazil — President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was heckled last Tuesday at the funeral of one of the country’s most prominent leftist leaders and called a traitor by many of those in attendance.

Mr. Lula da Silva was admonished by members of the leftist Democratic Labor Party (known by its Portuguese acronym PDT), whose president, Leonel Moura Brizola, died of a heart attack late June 21 in a Rio de Janeiro hospital. Mr. Brizola was 82.

His liberal ideals made him an enemy of the state during Brazil’s 21-year military dictatorship that ended in 1985. Mr. Brizola spent many of those years as an exile in neighboring Uruguay.

He also ran for president twice during the 1980s and recently said he would throw his hat in the presidential ring for the 2006 elections.

According to witnesses, security for Mr. Lula da Silva tussled with demonstrators as he attempted to pay his respects to the man who was a vice presidential hopeful alongside Mr. Lula da Silva in a failed 1998 election bid. Mr. Brizola had in recent years became one of the president’s most outspoken critics.

After Mr. Lula da Silva became president in January 2003, Mr. Brizola and the PDT accused him and his Workers Party of betraying their leftist roots. Among their chief complaints have been Mr. Lula da Silva’s economic policies, which cut social spending in 2003 to make sure Brazil met an International Monetary Fund-mandated budget surplus of 4.25 percent.

A former metalworker and union leader once known for his firebrand, liberal views, Mr. Lula da Silva tempered his position to win Brazil’s highest office and cobbled together a coalition from parties on the left and right. Mr. Lula himself has characterized his administration as “centrist,” much to the fury of the PDT, which once supported him and even some Workers Party lawmakers who feel the party’s integrity has been compromised.

One minister accompanying Mr. Lula da Silva to Mr. Brizola’s funeral tried to put the incident into perspective, saying the PDT members in attendance were bereaved at their leader’s death and didn’t mean to insult Brazil’s president.

“We have to give them a break,” said National Integration Minister Ciro Gomes, who attended the funeral, referring to the PDT members who booed Mr. Lula da Silva. “They are passionate confronted with Brizola’s death. But when they go home, they are going to realize how rude they were to [both] Lula and Brizola.”

The PDT jabs at the president appeared, however, to be a continuation of Mr. Brizola’s recent criticism of his one-time running mate and fellow “enemy of the state” during the military regime.

Mr. Brizola was quoted this year as saying Mr. Lula da Silva is a heavy drinker and that he had warned him about this during their 1998 run for the presidency, which they lost. In May, the New York Times reported that Mr. Lula da Silva may have a drinking problem and that the habit could be affecting his ability to lead.

The only political source to speak publicly on the matter was Mr. Brizola, who said Mr. Lula “drank a lot” during the 1998 campaign. The article sparked outrage in the administration and prompted the president to call for the expulsion from Brazil of the Times reporter, who apologized and was permitted to remain in the country.

“I alerted him that distilled beverages are dangerous. But he didn’t listen to me, and according to what is said, continues to drink,” Mr. Brizola had complained this year.

Despite the deterioration of relations between the two men, Mr. Lula da Silva announced three days of official mourning last week after Mr. Brizola’s death.

In an official note, the president said he “deeply regretted” the party leader’s death and that Mr. Brizola was a leading politician “he always respected and admired.”

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