To be, or not to be? The Lula Conundrum

 

A few days ago, Lula Da Silva –the former president of Brazil, the 8th largest economy on earth, between Russia and the UK–  inexplicably, openly, and unmistakably endorsed Hugo Chávez’s nth campaign for the presidency of Venezuela.

Lula declared:

“Chávez can count on me, can count on the PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores – Brazilian Workers Party, Lula’s party), can count on the left’s solidarity, and of every Latin American: your victory will be our victory.”

“… under Chávez leadership the Venezuelan people have achieved extraordinary accomplishments … that need to be preserved and consolidated”.

His endorsement is truly incomprehensible for five reasons:

1. Lula ended a bright 8-year term (including one reelection) in December 2010 as president of Brazil.

2. Lula’s astonishing success as president of Brazil was based on a highly pragmatic approach to politics and a very commendable evolution to what seemed to be a true statesman (analysis of Lula’s profile and transformation story in my recently released book, Globalization).

3. Although Lula’s beginnings –in fact most of his career before becoming president– were decisively on the left –even extreme left–, as president he was wise enough to reconcile Brazilians’ conflicting interests across the whole political spectrum.

4. Chávez’s track record as president of Venezuela has been deplorable. Indeed, it is very difficult to achieve a worse performance than Chávez’s presidency:

a) The standard of living has deteriorated in an alarming way.
b) Population liberties have been increasingly lost.
c) Chávez has been reforming the Venezuelan constitution to allow him a virtual dictatorship.
d) The government is full of cronies.
e) PDVSA –the old oil state monopoly– has been consistently decreasing its production.
f) Chávez unsuccessfully tried a coup d’état against the Democratic Action government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez’s government in 1992.

5. And finally, Lula had no need whatsoever to do so.

By all means, is Lula trying to reposition himself politically? And if so, towards what end?

It is indeed very sorrowful to see a man of the former political stature of Lula’s, fall from grace in such a sad and puzzling manner.

Will Mobile Money Revolutionize Commerce in Developing Countries

Mobile money in the world’s developing and poorest regions is transforming lives and transitorily eliminating the need for checking accounts, credit cards – even cash.

In Niger the poorest families are lining up to get free mobile phones from the Word Food Programme. Through these phones the WFP will be distributing the equivalent of $65USD per month to help needy families survive the hunger season — families like Mamoudou’s.

Now her five children won’t go hungry when food is scarce or inaccessible. She tells AlertNet, “This is what my family needs.”

Funds transferred and used for commerce through mobile phones is called mobile money and is a “game changer,” as Citi CEO Vikram Pandit told a recent USAID Frontiers in Development forum held at Georgetown University. He explains that mobile money has “the potential to improve lives, create jobs, catalyze new enterprises and expand financial inclusion, particularly in the emerging markets that are critical to the growth of the global economy.”

Niger is just one example where mobile money technology has been applied intensively in poor nations, more so than in developed ones, because financial systems are underdeveloped in these countries.

In third-world countries most people don’t have basic checking accounts. As a result, using technology to transfer money through mobile phones, people otherwise having no or very limited access to technology are suddenly immersed in it.

This type of technology and access to money begins to equalize societies and breaks barriers where, otherwise, families like Mamoudou’s would not have survived the hunger season.

Interestingly, news of improving life in the third-world is good news, and it’s evidence that the time has come for programs like my Turbo Charged Global Project to be embraced.

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