Brazilian leftist president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, told an audience of US investors those who bet against the Brazilian Government will end up losers.
Brazil’s problems are not the fault of the US or anybody else, he said. He also promised that Brazil will grow once again.
In the audience of the New York Council on Foreign Relations, wealthy investors included David Rockfeller, George Soros and the former secretary of the US Treasure and current president of Citigroup’s executive committee, Robert Rubin.
Brazilian President "Lula" – an ex-labour leader who never finished high school, seemed well at ease, while telling stories and cracking the accessional joke like comparing Brazil to a couple who decided to “have a kid, and then another, and still another” without improving their income.
“The solution was to cut expenses,” he said.
Lula revealed that he had been forced to cut US$8bn in the 2003 government budget and explained what he did.
“I decided to act as if I were managing my own house, since there, I and Marisa (First Lady Marisa Letícia) only buy any material good when we are sure we have the money to pay for it.”
Lula, who came to New York for the opening of the 58th session of the UN General Assembly, on Thursday met with foreign big investors.
He told them what they wanted to hear and abandoned that challenging air he had used when talking at the UN about the way the United States had fractured the world organisation by waging war against Iraq.
He once was one of those shouting anti-IMF slogans, he confessed, but things have changed and the International Monetary Fund has become a friend of the house.
His PT Workers party government now believes in fiscal austerity and “the ‘risk Brazil’ has finished,” Lula guaranteed.
Moreover, the Brazilian leader warned that those who bet against Brazil will end up losers. There were other rosy touches: inflation will be kept under control and Brazil will grow once again.
Are his relations with President Bush strained? Lula told the audience that he had met George W Bush, that both had discussed the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and international trading and that he had let the American President know that Brazil wants to be treated as an equal by the US.
“I told Bush that we are ready to talk, but we don’t wish to be treated as second-class citizens,” he said.
Lula once again accused the rich countries of imposing protectionist barriers to developing nations.
“A true trade apartheid has been created between the developed countries and those nations in development. The rich countries are spending US$1bn daily in the form of
subsidies for production and export of agricultural products," he said.
"I am not looking for confrontation, but for a reorganization of the international commerce. Free trade cannot be a one-way street.”
Brazil has no one to blame but itself for its problems, continued the president.
He reminded the audience that Brazil is yet to tacle issues including land reform illiteracy in the country.
“Our problems,” he said, “are neither the fault of the United States nor the European Union or God. They are the fault of our elites. Not even during the decades from 1950
to 1980, when our economy grew seven per cent yearly, was there a policy of income distribution.”
Passing the hat came at the end.
Lula asked investors to trust the new government and to come back to apply their money in Brazil. He revealed German entrepreneurs would be in Goiânia, in the state of Goiás, for a meeting on 26 October that will deal with infrastructure investments.
“I hope that the international investors will be able to make a solid contribution to the resuming of productive investment in Brazil,” he said.