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A short news item in Brazil's news magazine Veja suggested that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is considering running for United Nations Secretary General after he leaves office at the end of this year. If true, that would explain a lot of things.
Until now, the conventional wisdom was that Brazil's recent foreign policy of open support to the world's most ruthless dictatorships is tied to the country's emergence as a new power in the world economy, and its desire to flex its muscle as a new -- and fiercely independent -- player in international affairs.
That's probably true. But the Veja report -- stating that Lula "has been sounded out by more than one person to be a candidate for U.N. Secretary General in 2011" -- is adding a new element to the puzzle of what's behind Brazil's foreign policy. The Brazilian government says it will not comment on the magazine's report.
Diego Arria, a former chairman of the
In recent days, Lula has made some shocking statements that are hard to understand coming from a former union leader
who opposed military dictatorships. In an interview with
Lula, who recently visited Cuba and posed smiling with that country's military dictator Gen. Raúl Castro shortly after political prisoner Orlando Zapata was dying from a hunger strike, said that hunger strikes should not be used "as a pretext" to defend human rights. Lula added, "Imagine if all bandits who are imprisoned in Sao Paulo went on a hunger strike and demanded freedom."
Days earlier, Lula had reiterated his decision to visit Iran in May, despite international efforts to impose sanctions on that country amid growing evidence that its regime is building nuclear weapons in defiance of international rules.
Lula gave Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a much-needed propaganda boost late last year, when he gave him a red-carpet welcome in Brasília only months after the Iranian autocrat had proclaimed himself winner of highly controversial elections in Iran.
In addition, Brazil is increasingly using its vote at
Does Lula have a chance of becoming U.N. Secretary General?
Most diplomats say current Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a South Korean diplomat whose term expires
"Lula's name would be an honor to Latin America, but it's a tradition for Secretary Generals to run for reelection, and I don't see a reason why Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would not go for a second term," Chile's U.N. Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz told me.
Others noted that, if for some reason Ban decided not to run, Asian countries may want to have one of their own diplomats at the job for another five years, in keeping with the tradition that each region gets a two-term mandate. And many point out that Lula doesn't speak English or French, a major obstacle for a candidate to the top U.N. job.
Most likely, Ban will get a second term, even if many countries would want a higher-profile U.N. chief. Lula is more likely to be offered the job of head of the Rome-based
Lula would be a perfect candidate for that position because of his successful "Fome Zero" anti-hunger program in Brazil and the international recognition it has given him. In addition, the FAO has never had a Latin American chief.
Granted, Lula may find that job too small, but -- considering his awful human rights stands -- it would be the perfect place for him.
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