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Lacerda Attacks Brazilian Military Regime; Proposes New 'Popular' Opposition Party

Seeks Political Coalition To Further Social Reform

By William Woodward

Carlos Lacerda is a Brazilian liberal democrat, a leading contender for the presidency of his country., and an articulate critic of military authoritarianism.

In this second and last part of an interview conducted at Harvard lat week, Mr. Lacerda comments on his view of contemporary Brazilian politics, their implications for the United State, and his own plans to organize a popular progressive party to return his country to a more democratic tradition.

Lacerda and ex-president Joscelino Kubitscher, were both candidates in a presidential election the military regime had promised to hold last year. The election was cancelled.

General Castelo Branco is the leader of this military regime which came to power after overthrowing leftist President Joao Gotildart, Castelo Branco will be replaced this March by General da Costa Silva who was elected in an indirect vote by the Brazilian Congress.

Free Elections

I would be interested to know whether you think that in the forseeable future there will be a "free election" in Brazil in which all political candidate will be able to participate.

It's very hard to preview that because [Congress has just elected] a new president [Arthur da Costate Silva] who is also a general, who was minister of war, and who was forced upon Castelo Branco as a way of getting rid of Castelo Branco without disrupting the army unity. So they chose the minister of war and said. "You are going to be the next president." But still be is a general. He had some supporters and some enemies, but away he is different from Castelo atanco in his concept of government. BeCastgelo Branco is a so-called military intellectual, while da Costa Silva is a "troupier"--a man from the barracks. And perhaps this is better, because he is more humble in his endeavors.

For the time being the new constitution provides that we can only have a president by indirect elections--that is, elected by Congress--which is a thing that disturbs the whole scene in Brazil. I don't think the people will willingly wait a long time before they try to change that.

The constitution, also has many authoritarian trends. I believe that as soon as da Costa Silva takes over he will be a strong popular movement towards a revision of the present constitution that Castelo Branco enforced.

Right now when I left Brazil he had two very bad laws. One is already before Congress, which has 30 days to vote on it. If not voted on, it automatically controling the press, fine government has a very vague and broad concept of national security, and under that law a thing like that letter to the President [Johnson] by you [100] student leaders [sent in December to protest the Vietnam war] would never be allowed to be printed unlses we were prepared to go to jail.

The second project, not formally proposed but being elaborated, is a new national security law which would be one of the most strict and dictatorial trends that Castelo Branco could make. It would put practically the whole country under that tutorship of a Council of National Security Everything the government dislikes will involve a problem of national security. This is so broad and so vague a term the every move, every action, every preaching, every expose, every statement that is distasteful to the government eye will be considered a breach of national security. So it is a very dangerous thing. The press is reacting strongly against it while who can, but I really don't know what will become of it.

Castelo Branco

what do you think have been the beneficial aspects of Castelo Branco's running Brazil for the past few years?

I don't see many, I think he failed in conquering the true democratic ways the people support. On the contrary, by fighting inflation he meant the he should be unpopular, Actually, he did not curb inflation but to a certain extent, but he could have curbed it bylaw and order and by simply making an effort for more productivity and production.

So I think they [the government] try to follow a prescription standardized for all nations by the international monetary fund, which deliberately ignores the degree of development and the degree of culture in each country and prescribes a standardized recipe for all countries to curb inflation. In our case, for instance, we must have a slight degree not of inflation but of emission--provided we increase productivity to get it back next year, or two years ahead. By giving the financial aspect of inflation a first priority and ignoring all the social cultural, and political implications of it, the government not only hurt badly their social program, but also alienate the people's support.

'Clean-Up Campaign'

One of Castela Branco's main ideas in taking over the government was to "clean up" Brazilian politics. To what extent do you think he has cleaned up politics in Brazil?

He failed also in this area because actually he did not renovate the methods and the procedures of our traditional oligarchs' politics. For instance, he did create, by decree, two parties. One is supposed to be the government party and the other is supposed to be the opposition.

And just recently, he felt compelled to sign a decree extending the terms of the leaders of the opposition party. The opposition party as to have an internal election, but the president. Castelo Branco, decided that the present leaders should continue to lead the opposition party for another six months, I think, So when a single opposition party is allowed and when that opposition party has its leaders appointed by the president, you can imaging what kind of opposition they can make.

Political Alliance

Do you see any alliance between or among the present political candidates in Brazil for the purpose of presenting a united front and thus forcing the military regime to step down?"

I tried and was successful in my understanding with former president Kubitschek. We were, the two of us, rivals, competitors in the election that did not take place [last year]. I was leader of the opposition to his government. I was put in exile when he came up to power, not by him but by the generals that put him in power after his election. So recently I got to Lisbon where he is living, and I shook his hand. We printed a manifesto saying that it was about time we forgot all the troubles and the quarrels of the past and faced the future in order to get some reforms made and a new political democratic force in a broad sense. Not a united front in the sense of an opportunistic and temporary thing, but a deep-rooted movement that can become in the near future a strong popular party--progressive--let's say center minded and with a few leftist actions in the sense of an opening towards progressivism.

Is that what you are presently working on?

Yes. Now from here I am going to Lisbon again to go ahead and start elaborating this program and trying to organize a party in that line with Kubitschek and others.

Will you go back to Brazil and organize such a party?

Yes, I believe so. It is very difficult because the rules that Castelo Branco applied practically don't leave a place for such party. There is one party in government and one party in the opposition. But I believe many who are in government and many who are in the opposition will get together with us and try to organize not a third force, but an authentic independent force.

POpular Force

By an authentic popular force do you mean primarily the middle classes or some other social group?

I believe the middle class will combine with a growing workers force which is yet inarticulate because our trade unions movement, was never free. They were under the paternal authority of the state. They were the property of a single party that controlled unions through the minister of labor.

So now we have to develop a way to let the workers speak freely in a trade union movement, democratically oriented, combining it with the students' movement, and opening the way for a unity between the workers' class, the middle class, certain segments-of progressive and active industrial class. There is a nation a bourgeosie that wants to industralize, to make money, profits. But this is a positive force. So when some people make a wholesale condemnation of the present order, I think they make a mistake.

In that order there are many positive points, which you can develop in order to transform it without just destroying it, since there is no new order that you can buy at Sears Roebuck to put in its place. So you have to transform to reform, and not just condemn the whole thing and try to do the whole thing anew again. And in that sense I think there is a strong possibility provided that the new president understands that point. Then we can support him. If he doesn't understand that, we have to organize is very strong opposition movement to make a road open for these ideas.

Clash or Accommodation?

If you organize a strong opposition movement is this going to lead to an open clash in Brazil, or do you think that there will be an accommodation?

Well, how could I answer that ... because it all depends on the antagonists, I mean, if they accept the fact that the people are not happy with the present situation, they accept to change it, let's say a 50 percent change. I don't see necessarily a clash in the sense of open hostility, of armed revolution, or anything of that kind. But if they do resist, I think that the situation can easily evolve towards a break a clear-cut division of waters.

But I still hope that there will be some understanding because even in the army I would say that the major it is more or less neutral to those problems. As usual in any community, in any group, there are minorities who-lead it for good or for worse. But I think a minority, in the army, sort of an "avant-garde," understands [the real situation], so they can eventually agree and compromise with the public opinion.

U.S. Brazil Relations

If and when Brazil does have a free election, do you see any worsening of Brazil's relations with the United States as the result of a more free play of political expression?

That's a very interesting question but perhaps so interesting that it makes it very difficult to answer. I think that as you government lets it be believed in Brazil, true or not, that it is supporting military regimes in the name of preventing Communism to spread--in the name of anything--it would be a very ad and disturbing situation. Because nowadays 'we have a growing anti-Americanism in Brazil which is no more inspired nor controlled by the Communists.' You-see many industrialists--some of the most powerful Brazilian industrial groups--who are more anti-American than many students I know, for the first time in our history.

And if that sort of association, guilty by association, goes on, in other words, if your government does not detach itself from any responsibility in the military regime, there will be an identification of America with the destiny and the fate of the military regime. And then, of course, any candidate who run in a free election will run, for good or for worse, sincerely, hypocritically, or demagogically, on an anti-American platform. Which I think is very bad for us and eventually for you.


So anti-Americanism exists basically because we have chosen to identify ourselves with the interests of the military government?

At least it appears like it. And in the beginning it was true. And it was justified, in a way, because instead of intervening, eventually, your government preferred to support the Brazilian group which overthrew Joao Goulart [former leftist president]. But I think after it, they should not be so happy about Castelo Branco's way of ruling the country. They should be just, well, a little aloof. And at least wash their hands and not try to let Castelo Branco identify himself too much with the American goals in Latin America.

'We have a growing anti-Americanism in Brazil which is no longer inspired or controlled by the Communists."

We have a minister of foreign affairs, a former ambassador to Washington and a general in retirement, Juracy Magalhaes, who paraphrased the famous phrase by the General Motors man here who said "Everything that is good for the United states is good for Brazil." This is not necessarily true. And it is a very unhappy way of putting it. Of Course Brazilinas resent this, and when they resent it they blame America.

I think somebody like my friend Lincoln Gordon [former U.S. ambassador to Brazil, and presently Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America], who way very effective, and I consider him one of the best friends that Brazil has had up to now--I like him as a person very much and I respect him very much--but I think he should do something to show that the American government has nothing to do with the military regime in Brazil, that it is not necessarily a must for your policy to support any kind of regime, not even good ones, but even less, bad ones

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