Brazil Countdown, Part III
The Ex-Drug Czar and Lula’s Team
By Luis A Gómez
Narco News Andean Bureau Chief
October 27, 2002
From Sao Paulo
Today, there’s no more time to wait. On Friday night the last debate was held, broadcast to all Brazil by the Globo Network from Rio. The voting will be simply a pretext for the grand party that the Workers Party (PT, in its Portuguese initials) already has planned… Today, Lula turns 57, and nothing indicates that he will pass his birthday badly.
Before reporting on this historic Sunday, we will get to know a former judge and the ex drug czar of President Fernando Hernrique Cardoso, also one of the intellectuals who works most actively in the development of the policies of the next government: Walter F. Maierovitch.
At the same time, we will review a little of what happened in the aforementioned debate. And to close this part of the Narco News election coverage, we will introduce you to José Dirceu, perhaps the most important figure inside the Workers Party after Lula, the man who might be the next Speaker of the House or maybe the top member of the cabinet of the former metalworker who, as a result of today’s vote, will govern Brazil.
Tonight, when the results are official, we’ll file a brief report of what is happening in Sao Paulo where, for almost 25 years, a group of workers and militants of the Left began to build this dream that, today, brings hope and merriment for democracy in América.
The countdown continues…
4: Walter Maierovitch and the DEA
He was, for years, an electoral judge (the one who presided over charges against José Serra, Lula’s rival, for abuses in his congressional campaign). During those years he exercised justice honestly while, at the same time, he became a known political commentator locally and internationally, as well as a professor in various universities.
Years ago, the government of Fernando Hernrique Cardoso invited him, after his successes in the fight against drug mafias, to become the national anti-drug secretary. But Walter F. Maierovitch realized that in reality all the government sought was someone to coordinate the repression, not effective policies. It wanted merely total submission to the policies of Washington… So he resigned.
Today, Maierovitch is one of the intellectuals who works inside the Workers Party structure, and, according to our sources, he will be one of the people charged with designing Lula’s policies and cabinet on the drug issue. We spoke with him about the United States, fundamentally about the DEA, with which he had some confrontations as an official…
Narco News: What kind of influence does the United States drug policy have on Brazil?
Walter F. Maierovitch: I’m very worried about some things, due to the presence of the United States in Brazil. It’s a very old political party line. It comes from the 1970s, from the New York Convention on Drugs. When I was the anti-drug secretary of the current president of the Republic, I insisted strongly in breaking with this line… And that was fundamentally my motive to resign from the post.
In the first place, I filed complaints against U.S. agencies in Brazil, against deposits of DEA money in the personal checking accounts of two officials of the Federal Police in Brazil. In second place, we realized that the CIA in Brazil was tapping telephone calls with the pretext of the drug war, including the phone of the president. Brazil didn’t change its position, as I had proposed, and instead it joined in the United States program, that has been intensified now with the government of Bush.
They want to make Latin America dependent on them… And, here, the government adopted a euphemism that they call “therapeutic justice,” that at its root is authoritarian: Go to jail, or go to treatment. And if the accused doesn’t go into treatment, he is suspected of everything, his word means nothing. This is most evident with adolescents. For example, there is a pentaly in the Supreme Court of Rio de Janeiro that says that if a minor in treatment is caught with drugs (publishers note: Like Noelle Bush?), his or her entire family is banned from receiving public assistance… Thus, there is a North American political temptation in this sense and it’s already a false policy of prevention, because in reality the benefits don’t reach the minor. And this is being repeated in Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile and Uruguay. What’s more, in this country security programs that don’t even exist in the United States, like having armed guards in the schools… they use this as a symbol of Law and Order, to demonize the use of drugs by children.
The police have to prevent the supply, not the demand: the latter should be done by a psychologist, a psychiatrist or by the teachers. In the schools they have distributed a flyer that says, for example, that children should not wear hats or baseball caps, because those who do are drug addicts. This is very serious. The United States pressure also comes to Brazil in the form of constant and false propaganda that the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) are coordinating the distribution of drugs with the narcos of Rio de Janeiro… With this they are forcing the Brazilian government to support Plan Colombia, which is now called the Andean Regional Initiative.
There’s a double moral in all of this. In a report that came out two months ago in the United States, by the Bush government, they claim they have succeeded in lowering the consumption of cocaine by 50 percent and of synthetic drugs by 70 percent. If that’s so, how do they explain the military bases and interventions in Perú, Ecuador, Colombia and part of Panama? What are those bases controlling? If this is proposed in Brazil, it’s going to be very delicate… right now they are discussing the implimentation of the Amazon Radar System (SIVAM, in its Portuguese initials) and whether to shoot down planes from the air or not… This is a violation of human rights.
Another problem is the fumigation of crops. The U.S. government is fumigating the Putumayo region in Colombia, where there are rivers that enter Brazil in the Amazon region and flow towards the sea. They are using glyphosate. In sum, there is a large U.S. presence in Brazil, making political pressures, fumigating crops and promoting the criminalization of drug users… and the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso is incapable of eliminating the use of drugs… That also impedes the development of effective health policies, of harm reduction and risk reduction, as has already been put into march in Europe.
Narco News: What’s your opinion of the new anti-drug laws approved last January in Brazil?
Walter F. Maierovitch: The president vetoed 30-percent of that law, because it was inadequate. It established, for example, that people captured with drugs would lose their rights as civilians (to have bank accounts or to marry). It had a series of mistakes, like sending anyone who didn’t enter community treatment centers to jail, and it interfered with real treatment for those accused. Now we have a law more similar to the old one, from 1976, in which although drug use is still criminalized for the user of small personal doses or those who work for the distributors, the small capitalists of drugs, but the law doesn’t touch the mafia chiefs.
Narco News: And what’s the story with money laundering in Brazil?
Walter F. Maierovitch: I don’t have concrete data, but we have a governmental agency that controls laundering. The man who presides over it said, last week, in an interview with the magazine Valor Economico (“Economic Value”), that in four years they have been able to detect 568 cases of money laundering… And, in any country, this number of transactions can be detected daily… Thus, Brazil continues being a financial base that is very attractive for money laundering, even more so with the devaluation of the Real currency and the growth of the real estate market… Clearly, the principal center of money laundering is the Triple Border (between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina).
Narco News: And what about the DEA?
Walter F. Maierovitch: The DEA investigates drug trafficking in some regions of the country. But in one case, on the border of Peru, there is a treaty because the drugs that enter there are destined for Europe, not for the United States, and the DEA simply monitors it but doesn’t act, it simply lets the drugs pass through. On the other hand, an Andean Intelligence Group has been formed to train police in the region and in Ecuador… and the head of that operation is responsible for the entire Amazon region… (the assassinated rubber workers union organizer and environmentalist) Chico Mendes, before he died, left a tape recording in which he said that if anything happened to him the Federal Police chief in charge of the drug fight would be responsible… When Chico died, the chief was temporarily relieved of his job but now he’s returned as the director of the DEA’s school. His name is Mauro Spósito.
Narco News: What relationship did the DEA have with that official?
Walter F. Maierovitch: When I was the anti-drug secretary, I had a confrontation with the former U.S. Ambassador because I demanded that they inform me of all the activities of the DEA since it arrived in 1966. There, the problems began, they began to say they were not satisfied with me. In fact, I had a conflict with six DEA agents in the state of Acre (on the Bolivian border) who I found in the airport, where they were arriving to deal with a narco-trafficking case in that region. They presented themselves to me and told me that they had just come from the problem zone. At that moment, I asked for the help of the police to arrest them, because they didn’t have authorization to operate in this country… That generated a huge scandal.
Narco News: Knowing that Donna Hrinak, the current U.S. Ambassador in Brazil, has worked before in Bolivia inspecting the progress of “Plan Dignity” for the eradication of coca, and in Venezuela in the beginnings of the conspiracy leading to the failed coup d’etat last April against President Hugo Chávez, do you think that her role here will be destabilizing?
Walter F. Maierovitch: Even in her statements last web, in the sense that nothing at all will happen in the relations with our country, there are statements of the kind that are made by someone who works behind the scenes.
Narco News: How will the Workers Party implement a new drug policy?
Walter F. Maierovitch: The problem, I think, is that the new government is going to find itself with a Congress that is a bit conservative and a Federal Police that is very corrupted. And against all possible projects will be counted the opposition of the United States. To change the criminalizing philosophy of the current government is going to be very difficult. To dismantle all this is going to be very difficult, but it must be done, without a doubt.
3. A few words on the final debate
When the debate began, 56 of every 100 homes (according to a ratings firm) were watching. Lula agreed to meet his rival in the studios of the Globo Network of Rio de Janeiro. The format of the program, that lasted a little more than two hours, was unprecedented in Brazil: Both candidates sad in the middle of the stage, without attacking each other, and surrounded by 150 citizens chosen by the TV station by lottery, among them a group of undecided voters, who asked questions of the candidates.
In the beginning, the cameras showed a Lula who was tired from the campaign (he has crossed the national territory three times in the last two weeks). But he recovered and on Saturday, according to an online poll by Globe, a little more than 72 percent thought he was the winner of the debate.
What happened? José Serra, in his last attempt to avert his next defeat, dedicated himself to attacking the PT and Lula. The PT candidate, for his part, used the time to speak of his proposals for governing. The issues were many, but the majority of questions were noted by the Brazilian people’s great worry over social security, education and public services.
At the end, and pardon, please, the brevity – the clock is ticking in Brazil faster and faster toward its date with destiny – Serra’s face, as the program ended, said it all: a bitter expression and a puckered frown… The PT is already a parade of happiness throughout the streets, and has been for hours, predicting the grand victory. The last campaign poll, published hours ago, gives 66 percent of the votes to Lula and 34 to his opponent…
2: Dirceu, the radical wizard
Before retiring to await the final chapter, at Narco News we would like to introduce you to a man who for various decades has been a protagonist in Brazil’s history. He has fought and fights for democracy. He’s the current president of the Workers Party, a congressman-elect, and may well be the head of Lula’s cabinet. His name is José (“Ze”) Dirceu…
In recent days, throughout the world, alarmist reports have circulated about his personality, his history and his interests: That he’s still an extreme radical, that it was he who convinced Lula to steer his politics to the right, that his ambitions are dangerous… a mountain of idiocies.
The public life of Dirceu began as a student leader in 1968. He was then an unpredictable player in the resistance against the dictatorship. In Brasilia, where he lived, his workspace seemed more like a hippie commune than an activist center. That year, after beginning to collaborate with the armed struggle, he participated in the historic “clandestine” student congress, attended by youths from all over Brazil… They were invaded and the leaders were jailed.
Like Fernando Gabiera, Dirceu got out of prison thanks to the exchange for the U.S. Ambassador, Charles Elbrick, in 1969. But he was deprived by the dictatorship, together with his companions, of his national citizenship. “I never accepted that three officials of the Brazilian Armed Forces could decide that I no longer was a citizen and that I would be prohibited to walk inside national territory. And so I did become clandestine in 1971 and later, in 1975, I returned for good,” Dirceu says about this era of his life.
In 1975 he received military training in Cuba (including on how to disguise himelf), and for a year carried a false identity and after submitting to plastic surgery, he installed himself in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná. There he started a clothes factory and met his first wife. For various years, his presence in the country was a secret, but his political work ended up bringing him close to the new leader of the workers of Brazil, with whom, among others, in 1979, he founded the Workers Party.
Lula and Dirceu, who have been friends already for more than two decades, are inseparable in the local political spectrum. Neither makes a decision without consulting the other and they’ve never, in all this time, had problems with each other.
And in fact, yes, it was “Ze” Dirceu who convinced Lula to wear a suit, to begin a series of alliances with organizations and politicians considered to be of the Center. Why? It’s simple: to take power definitively and change the country… avoiding the electoral disaster they had eight years ago, when the PT remained at the threshold of the government palace. It is Dirceu who is now in charge of negotiating, personally, the entire agenda with the outgoing government, and who will hold the leading posts in his party.
But Ze Dirceu doesn’t forget his past nor has he changed his ideals. We are speaking of the times of dictatorship in Brazil. He says that “if in thos years Brazil had advanced in democratic reforms, in the expansion of social and citizen rights, we would not have had the situation of violence, criminality, social inequality and oppression that our people endure… And we would never have had the political farce that is the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso.”
Last Monday, during the presentation of the PT’s cultural platform, he said about this election campaign: “On the 6th of October our people stood up and began to learn to walk. When the people elect Lula it is because they are prepared to be governed. You, the artists, are the soul. Our people need you. They are going to need happiness, dreams, and, principally, a new life. Help them.”
Kind readers, after reading this brief biography, I ask you: Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? We already know who…
Read part I of this series
Read part II of this series
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