[DEBATE] : Lula and Africa
tintinyana at gmail.com
Wed Feb 15 02:37:39 GMT 2006
Excerpt: Lula's foreign policy is "one of the interesting aspects of
his government, where he has remained true to his leftist roots,"
unlike in economic policy, said Joel Rufino dos Santos, a black
historian and writer.
BRAZIL: LULA PROMISES BRAZIL WILL NO LONGER OVERLOOK AFRICA
by Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb. 13, 2006 (IPS/GIN) -- Brazilian President Luiz
Inácio Lula da Silva returned to Brasilia Monday after his fifth tour
of Africa as the controversy over quotas for black and indigenous
students in Brazil's public universities continued to rage.
The closer ties being forged between Brazil and the African continent
are a positive development, in terms of both foreign policy and in
fighting discrimination suffered by black Brazilians, Geraldo Rocha,
director of the Center for the Mobilization of Marginalized
Populations (CEAP), told IPS.
President Lula "has opened up a new era in Brazil's relations with
Africa," thus strengthening the Brazilian identity, which is heavily
influenced by the country's black population, said Rocha. "It was more
than necessary to reestablish these relations, which were previously
scorned by Brazilian governments," he argued.
Lula visited Algeria, Benin and Botswana from Wednesday to Saturday
before taking part in the Progressive Governance Summit in Pretoria,
the capital of South Africa, over the weekend. He had already been to
17 countries in Africa on four different trips since taking office in
Brazil will no longer overlook Africa, Lula said in Gaborone, the
capital of Botswana, where he offered Brazilian aid to combat the
HIV/AIDS epidemic that affects 30 percent of the population of 1.8
In that southern African nation, the president spoke of Brazil's
"debt" to the Africans who helped give rise to "one of the most joyous
and beautiful people on earth."
Brazil's historical and cultural ties with Africa had already been
highlighted in Benin. In that West African nation, Lula visited the
"Gate of No Return" where slaves were shipped off, but through which
some came back after Brazil -- Latin America's giant -- abolished
slavery in 1888. The president met with the descendants of one of the
families that returned, whose last name is also Silva. In addition, he
took part in a local voodoo ceremony.
His tour began in Algeria, the only country on his route where Brazil
has economic interests. The visit was of great importance because of
the need to reduce Brazil's nearly $2.5 billion trade deficit with
that North African country, Lula said in a summary of his trip during
his weekly radio program Monday.
Algeria is Brazil's biggest foreign supplier of oil. To achieve more
balanced trade with that country, the Lula administration is seeking
to expand exports of food products, especially beef, and industrial
Among his offers of aid, Lula pledged to unilaterally phase out
tariffs on all imports from Africa's poorest nations, and to provide
Brazilian agricultural technology and health assistance, especially in
the fight against HIV, the AIDS virus.
Lula's foreign policy is "one of the interesting aspects of his
government, where he has remained true to his leftist roots," unlike
in economic policy, said Joel Rufino dos Santos, a black historian and
His repeated visits to Africa are in keeping with his government's
affirmative action for the black population, he told IPS.
These initiatives include the creation of a Secretariat for the
Promotion of Racial Equality, which has the status of a government
ministry, and the incorporation of Afro-Brazilian history and culture
in the educational curricula as of 2003.
However, the implementation of that provision has run into
difficulties, said Rocha, due to the lack of teachers with training in
those areas. CEAP's aims include the promotion of teacher training
courses and the publication of books and teaching material on African
and Afro-Brazilian culture and history, he noted.
Another measure pushed by the Lula administration, the adoption of
quotas for black students, is the focus of heated debate. Committees
in the lower house of Congress have approved a bill that would reserve
half of all spots in public universities for students who completed
their last three years of secondary school in the public education
The bill is designed to favor low-income students whose families
cannot afford to send them to the private schools that put
middle-class and wealthy children at an advantage when it comes to
being accepted in the best universities, which are public.
The quota reserved for public school graduates would include a share
exclusively aimed at black and indigenous students, proportional to
their presence in each of Brazil's 26 states, according to the bill.
The Lula administration "is on the right path," despite difficulties
and shortcomings, in its attempts to overcome the discrimination that
blacks have always suffered in Brazil, a country marked by extreme
social and economic inequality, said Rocha.
The president's tours of Africa have contributed to "giving visibility
to these issues," he underlined.
>From Sean Jacobs
tintinyana at gmail.com
"Only intellectuals love poverty. Poor people love luxury" (from a
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