Brazil stands up to Cuba, Venezuela
Brazil reacted strongly against Cuban and Venezuelan claims that there
has been a right-wing "coup" in Brazil
Brazil's new government issued a statement accusing the two governments
of spreading "falsehoods"
It's ironic that Cuba and Venezuela, which systematically violate human
rights and democratic rules, are lecturing about democracy
BY ANDRÉS OPPENHEIMER
When I first read that Cuba and Venezuela are leading a diplomatic
offensive against Brazil following the constitutional ouster of
suspended leftist president Dilma Rousseff and the transfer of power to
interim president Michel Temer, my first reaction was that it was a joke.
It's certainly ironic that Cuba — a dictatorship that hasn't allowed a
free election, political parties or even one independent newspaper in
more than five decades — even dares to criticize Brazil's democracy over
Rousseff's suspension through a series of congressional steps in strict
adherence to the Brazilian constitution.
And it's just as ironic that Venezuela, which has become a de facto
regime by refusing to accept the opposition-controlled National
Assembly's laws and by imprisoning opposition leaders, claims against
all evidence that Rousseff's suspension was a "right-wing coup."
But, indeed, a May 15 story in Brazil's daily O Estado de Sao Paulo
reported that "Cuba is leading a campaign against Brazil," citing an
email sent by Cuba's mission to the United Nations in Geneva to more
than a dozen international institutions to protest against an alleged
"legislative and judicial coup d'etat in Brazil."
Hours later, Brazil's Foreign Ministry issued a strong statement that
"emphatically" denied the statements of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia,
Ecuador and Nicaragua, "which allow themselves to opine and spread
Curious about the clash between Brazil's new government and leftist
regimes that were close Rousseff allies, I called former Brazilian
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the architect of Brazil's
prosperity in recent decades and probably one of the most respected
former presidents in Latin America.
Asked what's behind the "coup" denunciations by Cuba and its allies,
Cardoso told me that it's most likely a defensive move, prompted by fear.
"Look, they either don't have any idea of what's happening in Brazil, or
they have a very good idea, and are scared," he told me, adding that two
thirds of the Brazilian congress — including a sizable part of
Rousseff's coalition members — voted for her impeachment in a
constitutional process that enjoyed widespread popular support.
"It's probably a preventive reaction by Venezuela, Cuba and the others,
for fears that things will change a lot" under the new government, he
said, referring to Temer's expected shift away from the previous
government's strong support for leftist regimes around the world.
Cardoso added that Cuba and Venezuela are supporting Rousseff's
narrative of an alleged "coup" in Brazil, which seeks to blame her
downfall on an alleged right-wing conspiracy, rather than on her own
government's ineptitude, administrative paralysis and rampant
corruption. "It's a way to divert attention from reality and say 'we
were ousted by right-wingers,' " Cardoso said.
The former president, who is close to the new government, said that Cuba
and its allies have nothing to fear in terms of diplomatic or commercial
relations, except for a more assertive Brazilian stand to defend
democracy and human rights across the hemisphere.
New Brazilian foreign minister Jose Serra is a progressive democrat who
was forced into exile during Brazil's military dictatorship in the
1960s, and who will react strongly "against those that try to meddle in
Brazil's internal politics without knowing the facts, and in support of
one faction. That's unacceptable," Cardoso said.
Cardoso added that "Brazil's new government will have a much firmer
stand" on human rights and democracy issues in the region, in sharp
contrast with Rousseff's administration. "It will not accept situations
of aggressions against democracy that [the previous government] failed
to speak out against," he added.
Asked whether the Temer government would support the Venezuelan
opposition's request that the Organization of American States invoke its
democratic charter against the Venezuelan regime, Cardoso told me:
"Without a doubt, Brazil's government, to the best of my knowledge, will
be more supportive of the use of the Democratic Charter."
My opinion: There was no coup of any sort in Brazil, but a perfectly
legal suspension of a president during an impeachment process, much like
the one that was carried out against former Brazilian president Fernando
Collor de Mello in 1992.
What's really outrageous in this Brazil vs. Cuba diplomatic clash is
that some — although fortunately increasingly fewer — members of the
international community are listening to Cuba's and Venezuela's lectures
about Brazilian democracy, as if they had the moral authority to talk
about it. The problem is not Brazil, which did not break the rule of
law, but Cuba and Venezuela, which do it on a daily basis.
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