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  HOME | Brazil (Click here for more)

Lula Slams Wealthy Nations at Brazil Social Forum

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil – Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told activists gathered at an alter-globalization event in this southern city that he will upbraid wealthy nations at this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland for the global economic crisis and their “abandonment” of Haiti.

“I’m going to Davos just as I did in 2003 proud of what I have to say and demonstrate” and “with the mission of telling the developed world that if they had (taken their own economic advice to heart) we wouldn’t have had the crisis,” Lula told some 10,000 activists Tuesday at the World Social Forum, a rival event to the gathering in Davos.

As in 2003, just after assuming the presidency for the first time, Lula went to the “alter-globalization” summit before traveling to Switzerland, where this year he will receive the inaugural “Global Statesman” prize.

“Davos didn’t discuss the crisis that was coming,” while the WSF had already predicted it since its inaugural edition in 2001, the center-left president said.

He also promised to criticize the developed world for the failures of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round and the recent climate change summit in Copenhagen and addressed criticism from some European countries that Brazil’s sugar-based ethanol industry was causing a rise in global food prices and harming the Amazon.

“We won’t accept that anyone put their oil-stained fingers into the Brazil energy matrix, one of the world’s cleanest,” the president said.

He said he will also go to Davos “proud to say that Brazil no longer owes anything to the International Monetary Fund and, on the contrary, has just lent (that multi-lateral lending institution) $14 billion.”

Brazil has already pulled out of the recession caused by the global financial crisis and its government says it is convinced the country can withstand future turbulence thanks to its solid economic fundamentals and $241 billion in international reserves.

Speaking to an audience that frequently interrupted him with outbursts of applause, Lula, referring to his humble origins, added that he will also say in Davos that “a lathe operator was the one to create more universities and professional technical schools” and showed that “it’s possible to change the history of each and every country.”

Lula also reflected on the tragedy afflicting Haiti, which was devastated by a magnitude-7.0 earthquake on Jan. 12 that left more than 150,000 dead and hundreds of thousands more homeless.

“What happened in Haiti, more than neglect, was a lack of respect for people’s minimum sacred rights,” he said, referring to the desperate conditions of poverty in what was the hemisphere’s poorest country long before the quake.

He accused the so-called donor nations of using “excuses” to withhold money they had pledged to Haiti and said the devastation caused by the temblor should “provoke shame in governments that could have done something” to help the Caribbean country.

Lula also announced that he will visit Haiti on Feb. 25 and asked the WSF for “solidarity with (the nation’s) reconstruction.”

Referring to the WSF itself, Lula recalled that when he burst on the global political scene 10 years ago “it was just a civil-society experiment based on the idea that another world is possible.”

Today, the forum “remains intact, but is more mature” and has “much more space to grow” thanks to the global economic crisis it predicted a decade ago.

Lula said he will no longer return to the WSF as head of state because he will hand over power on Jan. 1, 2011 to the winner of the October presidential election, but he added that he will not distance himself from the social struggles that have marked his public life.

He also called on the members of the alter-globalization movement to continue in their search for the “utopia of the impossible” with determination, courage and respect for the diversity and solidarity that has characterized the WSF since its inception. EFE

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