â€œThis is a low-point of Lulaâ€™s presidency,â€ says Marcos Arruda of PACS, a political and social research institute based in
Sister Dorothyâ€™s assassination by two hired gunman reflects the continued assault by landed and logging interests on those who stand in the way of their plundering of the Amazon. Stang, a naturalized Brazilian citizen, worked in the Amazonian state of
Lula did respond dramatically to Stangâ€™s assassination. He established a cabinet level task force, set aside two huge preservation parks, declared that large â€œland usurpersâ€ in the Amazon would not be tolerated anymore, and sent over 2000 Federal police to pursue the assassins and their backers.
While this scene was unfolding, an upheaval took place in the elections for the president of the lower house of the Brazilian congress. In the previous two years Lulaâ€™s Workerâ€™s Party had secured the post by pasting together a coalition of parties. This year, however, the Workerâ€™s Party itself was deeply divided between those backing Lula, and those who were fed up with the slow pace of social reforms. As a result the right wing along with the centrist parties maneuvered to put their own candidate in the presidency, Severino Cavalcantia. He is known as â€œthe king of the lower clergyâ€ because of his alignment with right wing oligarchic and religious interests. One of his first actions was to increase congressional salaries and extent vacation times.
This takeover comes as a campaign is taking place to roll back even the limited reforms of Lulaâ€™s early years. A few paltry taxes were levied on the rich, and a modest, and some would say â€œvery meagerâ€ anti-hunger program was launched. Headlines in the right wing dominated press now scream about the high taxes that Brazilians supposedly pay while proclaiming that the Brazilian government, unlike the rest of the world, is not in lockstep with neo-liberalism by cutting back on â€œwastefulâ€ and â€œcorruptâ€ federal spending programs.
Within the Workers Party, the dissidents are divided. A limited group is opting to abandon the party and calling for the formation of a new political organization. Most believe a struggle should be waged within the party to reclaim its historic agenda of fighting for the poor, the workers and the dispossessed.
The largest social organization in
The Landless Workers Movement is calling for an â€œApril Offensive.â€ Starting in mid-month landless people and their sympathizers from divergent parts of the country will launch a massive march on the capital of Brazilia.
Marcos Arruda, a friend of Lulaâ€™s since the 1970s who numbers among the dissidents fighting within the Workers Party, says: â€œWe canâ€™t give up to the opportunists surrounding Lula who are only interested in power. They are cutting deals just like any other traditional party in
*Roger Burbach is director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) and a Visiting Scholar at the