President Lula talks to Sir David Frost
Sir David Frost: Mr President, one vital question. How is it that you and Brazil go on producing such fantastic footballers?

President Lula: I believe that Brazil continues to produce the world's best football because we are exporting players abroad and also because of the blend – the melting pot – of races. We have indigenous people, blacks and whites –all this mixture helps us to produce a swing of excellent quality – not only for soccer but also for samba.

DF: A real United Nations there. Tell me; back in 2003 when Goldman Sachs put Brazil, Russia, India and China together as the countries which would dominate the world economy until 2050 – called by some people the BRICs – do you think that, of those four, your country is somewhat lagging behind?

PL: No. I believe that it is important to understand the reality of each country. Brazil is a country that had a lot of opportunities, but never took advantage of them, because in the past people tried to make magic of the economic policy. 

We decided that we would take the economic policy very seriously. So we developed three aspects. One would be to build domestic and foreign credibility. Second, we would have to control inflation. And thirdly we would have to make the country grow. And that is exactly what is happening in Brazil.

Today, Brazil is experiencing the best economic moment of its history. So, Brazil has everything to become a great economy even before 2050.

DF: In terms of President Bush's recent visit to Brazil – and indeed to Latin America as a whole – there were a number of hostile demonstrations. Do you think that America has a lot of work to do to win back Latin America?

PL: I believe that this is due to the fact that the Americans developed wrong and mistaken policies in the past; and this helped to generate this anti-Americanism in Latin America. And that is why it is said in the region that poverty is caused by US actions.

I think that the policies, which the Americans developed for the region in the past, were a mistake. But I don't think that they are the only ones to put the blame on. Our ruling class is to blame for not solving the poverty problem in the region. But if the Americans change their policy and help us to get out of poverty, that sentiment will change.

DF: What are the mistaken policies which you referred to? What are the policies that they need to change?

PL: For example, the Americans supported the military coups that we had in Latin America – they supported coups in Chile, in Uruguay, in Argentina and in Brazil – just to give some examples. And then, whenever the Americans needed to come up with a policy which would help bring development to the region, nothing came of it, and it was that policy which created the anti-American feeling.

And they have such a negative image now – because of intervening in Vietnam, intervening in Iraq, intervening in the Bay of Pigs – examples like this do not help to build a favourable image for the Americans. 

DF: Of course, President Bush and President Chavez are really very different people. But you have good relations with both of them, don't you? Do you think that you can serve as a bridge between them?

PL: I believe that between President Bush and President Chavez it is almost impossible to develop a new relationship. But I believe that with a new president in the USA, it will be possible to develop a better relationship between the two countries.

I also think it is very funny that Presidents Bush and Chavez are fighting, because on the one hand the US needs to buy oil from Venezuela and on the other hand Chavez needs to sell the oil to the US. So I don't understand this fight very well.

One of the reasons for it is that for years, the ruling class in Venezuela was subordinated to US interests, and that is what Chavez is now trying to change, to put the relationship on a better footing. But I think that only with a new US president the relationship will change.

And in terms of dealing with President Chavez: is he the sort of man that you can criticise him – or he can criticise you – and it is all good for the relationship. Or is he not that sort of guy?

PL: I have very good relations with President Chavez – not only in the role of heads of state which we both are – buy also a friendship. We have friendship and we have brotherhood. That is the kind of relationship that we have between ourselves. We trust each other. I can trust him and he can trust me.

If there is divergence then - no big deal. I can state very clearly my position, he can state very clearly what he thinks. If there is divergence, I will continue with my position, he will continue with his, and we move on.
DF: One example of that, I suppose, would be ethanol and bio-fuels which you are great producers of – and which President Chavez and Fidel Castro are not keen on. But you think they are wrong on that?

PL: Of course, Chavez has a lot of interest in oil and oil production because Venezuela has a lot of oil. And so biofuel will never have the same interest for him that it has for other countries like Brazil. The other point is that Venezuela buys ethanol from Brazil. So what we see is that every country has the right to define and decide its own energy interest. And that is a decision for each country to make.

Although we in Brazil are self-sufficient in oil production, we want to make our contribution to depollute the world, to generate jobs and to help the poor African countries get rich. My dream is that with biofuels and with Ethanol we can help these African countries to become wealthy countries. What I want – to sum up in a nutshell – is to create wealth, jobs and income distribution.

DF: And while we are on the subject of world trade. Do you think there is any chance of an agreement in the world trade talks which have been stalled for a year or more – and the 'fast track' that President Bush has in America runs out on June 30th. Do you think there is any hope for a deal on that before June 30th?

PL: I have hope. We can advance – if there is willingness from Europe, the US and the G20. I have been working hard towards this direction. I have telephoned all the major world leaders – twice since last December.

All the economic issues have been dealt with – now is the time for political decision-making. That means that Europe has to grant more market access to the poor countries. The US has to diminish its subsidies. And the G20 countries – Brazil is part of the G20 – have to bring more flexibility to the service industries and to the industrial sector.

If we don't manage to reach an agreement, this will be an act of cowardice on the part of the world leaders. Because with no agreement, they cannot dare to continue talking about terrorism and peace matters because it is the poor that will suffer and we will continue to have peace threatened, more terrorism and so on.

The moment is now. Now is the time to make agreements that will give a chance for the poorest countries in the world to develop.

DF: There is one bold policy you have just announced, and that is for subsidising birth control pills. Obviously Brazil is the biggest Catholic country in the world. But obviously in doing this you think this will be popular because you think there are more Catholics who would like birth control than the leaders of the Catholic Church admit.

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PL: What we just announced is a policy for family planning. And it had broad support from all sectors of society.

We want women to get access to birth-control pills to prevent unwanted pregnancies. We want men to be able to have free vasectomies if they want it on our national health service.

The pills for women will be 90 per cent cheaper than they can be bought privately. And we are developing a public education programme: the middle class already know how to access family planning. A middle class family will not have more than two kids. It is among poor families that we have too many kids – so we have to develop campaigns targeted at the poor.

It is a policy that I am sure will have the support of the majority of the society. Our aim is to take care of the lives of the very poor.

DF: In Mexico City, they even have a programme to encourage or subsidise abortion. Is abortion part of family planning, or not?

PL: No. I am against abortion, personally speaking. In the case of adolescent pregnancy, or unwanted pregnancy, the national health service cannot turn its back on people's desperate situation – people just look elsewhere for abortion and can die trying to do that.

It affects the very poor; not the middle class. So there is a split here. I as an individual, as a Christian, as a family man am against. As head of state, I must develop policies to help the very poor.

This episode of Frost Over The World aired from 08 June 2007

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