Monday, November 07, 2005

A MESSAGE FROM BRAZIL

Welcome' Mr. Bush
By Frei Betto
Alai-amlatina Service (Latin American Information Service)

03 to 09 November Issue

President Bush: Welcome to a sovereign country called Brazil. As President Lula has already shown, we don't want the FTAA and we have a government that backs Chávez's Venezuela and Fidel's Cuba. We were a colony of Portugal for 322 years, so we know what it is to produce wealth for the benefit of others.

Even today the Brazilian people work very hard in order to pay the e(x)ternal foreign debt contracted by our elites without asking our people. Our tributary burden is one of the highest in the world, 36% of the GNP; our annual interest rate is more than 19%; every year our government spends (on interest payments of the debt) more than ten times the budget for new investments. Officially, our primary surplus is 4.45%. Actually, it's over 5%, because our government's economic pundits believe in all faith that the god market can produce the miracle of the nation's welfare without any structural changes, such as agrarian reform. And I'm not saying that it is our problem, because the IMF, which you order around, controls our economy. I don't know of a single country that has left poverty behind thanks to the IMF.

I come to ask for peace. Twenty-eight hundred years ago a Jew called Isaiah claimed that there will be peace only as a consequence of justice. You believe that peace will come by the force of arms. But war is the terrorism of the wealthy, as terrorism is the war of the poor. Wasn't the US defeat in Vietnam enough? One million people died in that war, 50,000 of which were Americans. Sooner or later your country will have to leave Iraq with no pride left, loaded with the burden of thousands of young Americans (many of them Blacks and Latinos) doomed to death because they believed that what is good for the United States is good for the world.

Your country has only 6% of the world's population. Yet it controls 50% of the planet's wealth. You have never asked for democracy in Saudi Arabia, where there are the greatest oil reserves in the world, because that country's autocratic government follows Uncle Sam's policy, although it's the source of bin Laden and the terrorists that blew up the Twin Towers. Last year, the spending of the whole world on weapons was almost $900 billion. The United States spent almost half of that sum - $390 billion. Only $50 billion a year, until 2015, would be needed to eradicate hunger in the planet!

Why does death deserve more money than life? Isn't there something wrong in that rationale? Why does capitalism place private property above human life and the collective welfare? Why do 5 million children under 5 years of age die every year while the wealthy countries give less than 10% of the money they spend in arms for international cooperation?

You should know that 86 million people have died in wars since 1940. The two atomic bombs, which your country dropped on the innocent populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, evaporated almost 100,000 lives and left a wake of cancer that stretches to the present in the offspring of the victims. Most of them young people. Around two thousand US troops have died in Iraq in that insane war re-launched in 2003. Your father invaded that country in 1991, and the result embarrassed your nation in such a manner that you felt the obligation of repeating the gesture, with the hope of toppling Saddam Hussein. So you did, but the resistance of Iraqis has challenged, to the present, your country's military might. Among civilians, some 130,000 Iraqis have died from attacks by the United States in 1991. Thanks to arms supplied by the US, including chemical weapons, particularly at the time of the Iraq-Iran war, Saddam killed some 200,000 Iraqis.

Recently, I visited your country. In Utah, many persons asked for my impression of the United States. I said that the difference between your country and mine is that in the US you are convinced that there is no happiness without money. And my people are happy without money. It's enough to have the five "Fs": beans (feijoa), flour (farinha), faith (fe), soccer (futebol) and party (fiesta). That irrational search for wealth is what prevents the people of the United States from feeling solidarity towards the poor of the world. We all saw what happened to many Blacks and poor people of New Orleans during the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. They were forsaken, until you responded when you perceived that, in the eyes of the world, the king was naked. And as a bonus, one of your advisors had the gall to suggest abortion for Black women as a measure of reducing poverty in the United States.

"Welcome", President Bush, to the nation of the future. We want to be fraternal friends of the people of the United States, without having the CIA threatening our democracy, as in 1964, when it helped to set up a dictatorship that lasted 21 years, and to have reciprocity in our trade relations, with full respect for our sovereignty.


Frei Betto, a writer, is the author, among other books, of Típicos Tipos (A Girafa), Jabuti Prize, 2005.
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