- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2005

Brazilian President Luis Ignazio “Lula” da Silva has a strong desire to see his country, with its large economy and population, positioned as one of the main actors on the stage of global politics. He has chosen to pursue this by casting himself as the de facto leader of the developing world.

As part of the quest for geopolitical relevance, President Lula da Silva has given new energy to one of Brazil’s old wishes: a permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council. Brazil, and other countries such as Germany, India and Japan, also known as the G4, has taken advantage of the current U.N. crisis of credibility and the growing calls for reform.

No date has been set yet for a General Assembly vote, but the so-called G4 ambassadors hope it will come at the end of June.

Brazil has been rallying support for this cause, with Lula himself traveling to Japan and China recently to drum up support and show Brazil a hemispheric power.

In Latin America, reactions to Brazil’s aspiration have been mixed. Chile supports the bid — in fact has supported it for decades — but makes clear it doesn’t want new permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to have a veto power. Mexico and Argentina have opposed Brazil’s cause very openly.

Leaving aside for the moment the topic of U.N. reform, and in particular Security Council reform, I believe there are two very important reasons to oppose Brazil’s bid for a permanent Security Council seat. The first has to do with Brazil’s idea of Third World leadership and its views on global topics. The second is a matter of legitimacy.

Developing countries, hampered with their Robert Mugabes and their Hugo Chavezes, could alas really benefit from an inspired leader, one who helps their voice to be heard in international forums. But at the same time, such a positive leader would need to guide developing countries toward the right path of growth, development and finally geopolitical relevance.

Brazil has not behaved as a constructive and positive leader of developing countries in the international arena. And its misguided type of leadership has strong ideological roots, which are very dear for Mr. da Silva and his team.

We could only expect more of the same if the country gained a permanent Security Council seat. We only have to judge Brazil’s past behavior: In the face of unfair circumstances in global trade, Brazil has chosen to undermine trade negotiations and send its delegates to press briefings, where they cried tired old North versus South arguments.

Brazil faces important health-care challenges, as do most developing countries do. Its answer has been another North versus South solution: violate patents.

Still more worrisome is Brazil’s approach to terrorism, a topic that will certainly be part of the U.N. Security Council agenda. According to President Lula da Silva, the solution is to eradicate “hunger and oppression,” which he believes are its real causes. Obviously, one of the greatest problems with this argument is its possible use as a moral justification for terrorism.

But it’s also simply false. It ignores the current realities of terrorism. Of course, for leftists educated in Marxist theory, like Lula, it’s a heresy to think terrorism might be motivated by ideological or religious grounds. They must find an economic explanation for it, even if to do so they must twist reality and ignore facts. I would love to see hunger and oppression eradicated, but I don’t believe they are the cause of terrorism, and I don’t believe Lula’s approach will help eradicate them.

Let us not forget how vulnerable the U.N. is to ideological contamination of its decisionmaking processes: Remember the case of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, where the world’s worst human-rights violators have had a seat and a voice.

The world should start asking Mr. Lula da Silva, when and where he was elected as the global emissary of the poor.

This is exactly the same problem with activists and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), who travel the world claiming to speak for a “development agenda.” Their arrogant position does nothing but hurt the poor more.

Perhaps there might be an economic explanation for this: If the poor of the world could get out of poverty, NGOs, activists and Lula-style politicians would lose their constituencies, which are in fact their markets. Their business would be over.

Andres Mejia-Vergnaud is the director of the Institute for Development and Freedom in Bogota, Colombia.


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