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Cablegate: Pt Shows Its Undemocratic Side

VZCZCXRO0206
PP RUEHRG
DE RUEHSO #0496/01 1591810
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081810Z JUN 07
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7068
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 8179
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 2759
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3018
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0505
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 2356
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 3365
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 2062
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0286
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 0047
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 0041
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 8124
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 3612
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SAO PAULO 000496

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/FO, WHA/BSC, INR/IAA, INR/R/AA
NSC FOR FEARS
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
PARIS FOR ECON - TOM WHITE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR PHUM KDEM BR
SUBJECT: PT SHOWS ITS UNDEMOCRATIC SIDE

REF: (A) BRASILIA 1034; (B) CARACAS 1081 AND PREVIOUS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) On May 30, Workers Party (PT) President Ricardo Berzoini
signed an amorphous "Party Cooperation Agreement" with Syria's Baath
Party. On June 4, while senior politicians and commentators across
Brazil's political spectrum were expressing outrage over Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez's denunciation of Brazil's Senate (ref A), the
PT's International Affairs Secretariat published a note defending
Chavez's decision not to renew RCTV's concession. In both cases,
the PT appears motivated by a desire to stake out a public position
at odds with the United States. President Lula's latest statement
in defense of President Chavez's action against RCTV is in line with
the PT's position, even though he has generally been distancing
himself from his party, especially its more radical elements. End
Summary.

------------------
ORDER OF THE BAATH
------------------

2. (U) Workers Party (PT) President Ricardo Berzoini and Secretary
for International Relations Valter Pomar visited Syria May 30-31 at
the invitation of the Arab Socialist Baath Party. According to the
PT's website, they were received by Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad, lunched with the Baath Party's National Directorate, met
with senior Baath Party officials and with the Minister of
Information, and visited two cities outside of Damascus. The
Cooperation Agreement, which covers a period through 2010, cites the
"common desire" of the two parties to "develop for relations for
structured cooperation...with the objective of strengthening the
ties of friendship between the peoples of the Syrian Arab Republic
and the Federative Republic of Brazil, and to better serve the
common interests of the two countries and peoples." It provides for
exchanges of official delegations to promote exchanges of ideas and
points of view on common causes; exchanges of experiences on
technical and logistical issues; sharing of publications; attendance
at each other's congresses and other events; coordination in
regional and international fora; and strengthening relations between
popular and social movements in the two countries.

------------------
SIDING WITH CHAVEZ
------------------

3. (U) On June 4, with Pomar back in Brazil, the Secretariat for
International Relations issued a statement on the RCTV issue.
Noting the controversy generated by the BRV's decision not to renew
RCTV's license, the PT stated that Venezuela is a democratic country
with free elections and an active opposition; that the non-renewal
of the license was carried out in compliance with Venezuelan law;
and that it was well-known that RCTV "openly involved itself in the
failed coup against the Chavez government, an attitude that in any
country in the world would justify questioning the public concession
of a television network." The statement concluded by reiterating
the PT's strong support for freedom of expression and freedom of
press while opposing "the communication monopoly of large companies,
which use public concessions to defend the private interests of a
minority."

4. (U) The PT's statement came in the wake of a small war of words
that broke out between Presidents Chavez and Lula (see ref A) after
Chavez denounced the Brazilian Senate for issuing a resolution
asking the BRV to reconsider its decision in the RCTV case. Lula's
foreign affairs advisor, Marco Aurelio Garcia, who was quoted
defending Chavez and praising freedom of expression in Venezuela, is
first Vice-President of the PT. In a June 7 interview with

SAO PAULO 00000496 002 OF 002


large-circulation daily "Folha de S. Paulo," Lula defended Chavez's
right to deny a broadcasting concession to RCTV. This is the first
clear statement of support Lula has made for Chavez on the RCTV
question, and is political red meat for many in the PT's base.

-------
COMMENT
-------

5. (SBU) Lula helped found the PT in 1980 and has been its
presidential candidate in every Brazilian election since the
restoration of democracy. Though he still sometimes resorts to
populist rhetoric, he has governed as a pragmatic centrist. A
significant portion of his party, however, continues to consider
itself in the vanguard of Brazil's radical leftist militancy. While
the PT played an important role in the struggle against dictatorship
and the transition to democracy, some in the its leadership have
never entirely abandoned the authoritarian tendencies and mind-set
of party ideologues. It is hard to imagine what the PT thinks it
can learn or what benefits it can gain from an alliance with a party
that is the instrument of the Syrian dictatorship, or how the PT's
experiences fighting authoritarian government and operating in a
pluralistic democratic society could be relevant to the Baathists.
Nor is there a public relations advantage to be gained from this
agreement: the overwhelming majority of Brazil's approximately 10
million people of Middle Eastern origin are (mostly Christian and
Sunni Muslim) Lebanese who abhor Syria's support for Hizballah and
its intervention in Lebanese affairs. The only explanation that
makes sense is that PT leaders think that if Syria has bad relations
with the United States, the Baath party that runs the country must
be on the side of the angels.

6. (SBU) Comment continued: Some in the PT, especially in the
extreme leftist social movements that form one part of the party's
base, consider Hugo Chavez a friend and a mentor. They have on a
number of occasions expressed disappointment with what they consider
Lula's betrayal of his class. These groups - the Unified Workers
Center (CUT), the Landless Movement (MST), and the National
Students' Movement (UNE) - supported by the PT, organized
demonstrations against President Bush during his November 2005 and
March 2007 visits to Brazil. These elements think Chavez is a hero
for opposing the United States. They also believe that the PT and
the Lula administration have been the targets of elitist, oligarchic
media companies, and probably envy Chavez's ability to silence an
unfriendly voice while disdaining domestic and international
opinion. It is partly out of deference to this base that President
Lula has been reluctant to criticize either Chavez or Evo Morales,
despite considerable provocation. Though in governing Brazil he has
for the most part disregarded these groups and shorted their agenda,
he still feels the need sometimes to pay rhetorical lip service to
their views, or at least not to provoke their ire. End Comment.

7. This cable was coordinated with Embassy Brasilia.

MCMULLEN

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