- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 1, 2002

As Washington focuses on Afghanistan and Iraq, a time bomb ticks in our hemisphere.

Brazil which occupies half a continent, has borders with every country in South America save two, and has more people and a larger economy than Russia could soon be ruled by a radical anti-U.S. leftist.

Brazil's presidential election is Oct. 6, and polls show Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, now in his fourth run for the presidency, with a 20-point lead.

Mr. da Silva is co-founder with Fidel Castro of a network of terrorist groups, Marxist parties, and radical enemies of the United States, known as the "Forum of Sao Paulo," named after the Brazilian city where it first met in 1990.

Revolutionary leftists (like Nicaragua's Sandinistas, El Salvador's FMLN, the Cuban Communist Party, and Brazil's Worker's Party), terror-sponsoring states (such as Iraq, Libya, Syria), and terrorists (like the Irish Republican Army, the Basque ETA, Colombia's FARC, and some of the most notorious Middle Eastern terror groups), converge and conspire at the Forum of Sao Paulo. The most recent meeting was last December in Havana, Cuba.

To have Mr. da Silva take the presidency of Brazil is, in the words of Latin America analyst and former Reagan speechwriter Mark Klugmann, "Fidel Castro's top political objective for 2002."

Rather than face the challenge, Clinton administration holdovers on Voice of America's governing board ended broadcasts to Brazil, "transmitting" instead the appearance that the U.S. has downgraded its interest in Brazil in this critical election year.

Meanwhile at the Bush White House, the Brazil problems are sent to John Maisto.

Mr. Maisto, who is from the State Department, was placed on Condoleezza Rice's National Security Council staff to oversee all of Latin America. Yet he appears to have lodged no complaint about the VOA walking away from the largest country in his region last year, even as House International Relations Chairman Rep. Henry Hyde had called upon the VOA board to resume broadcasting to Brazil.

It is hardly news that a political-ideological struggle is under way for control of Brazil. The most populous Catholic country in the world with 175 million people, and home to a thriving Protestant evangelical movement, Brazil is also the birthplace of Marxist liberation theology.

Mr. da Silva's Worker's Party already controls the Brazilian state government of Rio Grande do Sul and is reported to be inserting Marxism into public school textbooks and imposing party politics and ideology on the running of the police force.

Nor would the effects of a da Silva victory stop at Brazil's borders. On Sept. 6, Mr. da Silva said his election would "change many things in the region, with repercussions in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Colombia." In previous years he had stated he favored nuclear weapons for Brazil and a much closer relationship with Communist Cuba and China, but he had kept his views about international issues out of the campaign. Then on Sept. 13, Mr. da Silva publicly said Brazil should move toward resuming its nuclear weapons program by leaving the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Yet Washington appears passive.

Mr. da Silva is said to be considering a visit to Washington. U.S. policy is to deny visas to groups and individuals that support terrorism. But Mr. Maisto has given no indication that da Silva, Mr. Castro's partner in creating the Forum of Sao Paulo, will be denied a U.S. visa.

Mr. Maisto's tenure as Bill Clinton's ambassador in Venezuela may shed light on his passive approach in Brazil. Columnist Robert Novak reported that Ambassador Maisto "privately advised Congress not to worry about accession of the leftist populist Hugo Chavez to that nation's presidency" in 1999.

In office, Col. Hugo Chavez threw out the constitution and sent armed brigades to attack his civic opposition. He began aiding the FARC terrorists trying to subvert Colombia. Former Reagan National Security Council official Constantine Menges warned in 1998 and 1999 that Mr. Chavez would be an ally of Fidel Castro as well as other state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran and Iraq. That has happened. Mr. Maisto saw no such problem.

Today Col. Chavez provides a $2 billion petroleum subsidy to Fidel Castro and allies his government with states like Iran, Iraq and communist China.

Mr. da Silva calls Col. Chavez "an example to emulate." Col. Chavez calls Mr. da Silva "a great man," and predicts: "The left is going to win in Brazil. Changes are coming step by step on this continent. I think about it day and night."

Robert Novak reports that since arriving at the Rice NSC, Mr. Maisto has "pressed for normalization with communist Cuba" and has worked to maintain the Clinton-era guidelines that impede a stronger U.S. policy against Colombian terrorist groups.

The Washington-based Center for Security Policy, directed by former Pentagon official Frank Gaffney Jr., describes Mr. Maisto as "a career Foreign Service officer known for his soft line on narco-terrorism and other security issues," and says he is "a major roadblock to realization of the President's agenda."

Has Mr. Maisto provided President George W. Bush the advice and help he deserved as the United States seeks to preserve political democracy and avoid what Mr. Menges recently called the possibility of a "nuclear armed axis of evil in the Americas" including Mr. Castro, Mr. Chavez and a radical da Silva regime in Brazil? We will know next month.

Faith Whittlesey is chairman of the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of international affairs. Under President Reagan, she was U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and served on the senior White House staff as director of public liaison where she headed the White House Outreach Working Group on Central America.

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