Thursday, January 29, 2009

Brazil's Lula Shuns Davos

The forces of anti-globalism -- at least within our Hemisphere -- have grown stronger. Brazil's President, the "B" in the fast-rising BRIC economies, will not be taking up his standing invitation to Davos this year. He has attended at least 3 Davos events since 2003, raising Brazil's profile. Instead of the World Economic Forum, the leader of the the world’s tenth-largest economy will be attending an anti-globalist panel with Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, whose influence in the region, despite the low oil price, is significant. From Bloomberg:

"Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is shunning the World Economic Forum in Davos this week and the chance to hobnob with business leaders and 41 heads of state. Instead, he’ll join more than 100,000 activists from around the world at an anti-capitalist jamboree in the Amazon.

"Lula’s government is spending 78 million reais ($34.4 million) to bring groups from 59 countries to the 8th World Social Forum. They include a sex workers union from India and Belgians seeking to abolish the World Bank. Today, he’ll discuss the global financial crisis on a panel with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, one of the U.S.’s harshest critics, and Chavez’s presidential allies from Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay.

"'He’s picked sides,' said Oded Grajew, a former businessman who organized the first Social Forum as a counterpoint to Davos in 2001 and has been a friend of Lula’s for 20 years. 'Lula doesn’t want go to Davos and hear the same ideas that led the world into bankruptcy.'"

The relationship between Brazil's President and Venezuela's is more complex than this post can do full justice. Under the Bush administration, left-leaning Populist leaders -- Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador -- have risen in stature across Latin America as, perhaps, a counterbalance to Washington's "aggressive unilateralism" (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment). Clearly this is part of da Silva's political calculation in this moment with his sometimes rival, also the global economic crisis -- perhaps unfairly pinned in incendiary rhetoric on Europe and the United States -- doesn't help our cause.

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