Brazil isolated itself from the world after Lula, says new Cape Verdean president – 11/09/2021 – World

Cape Verde’s new president, José Maria Neves, 61, says that Brazil has moved away from the international scene in the last decade, since the end of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s (PT) government.

“Brazil has an extraordinary strength in the world, it exerts an impressive attraction. When President Lula was in power, he had a perspective of promoting Brazil in the world,” says Neves, in an interview with sheet.

Neves took office this Tuesday (9) for a five-year term at the head of the Portuguese-speaking archipelago with 590 thousand inhabitants, located in West Africa, just over three hours by flight from Fortaleza (CE). Before, he was prime minister of the country for 15 years,

A member of the center-left PAICV (African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde), he was elected in the first round, defeating the center-right government candidate. The country is considered a model of democracy in Africa, with parties taking turns in power frequently.

Neves knows Brazil well. In the 1980s, he graduated in administration from Fundação Getulio Vargas, in São Paulo, and closely followed the final phase of the military dictatorship.

About the risk of a democratic setback in Brazil, he warns. “In recent years, it has become very clear that even in countries with solid institutions like the US, democracy can regress and there can be advances by populist and anti-democratic movements.”

How was your experience in Brazil and how did it help your political career? I lived in Brazil between 1982 and 1986. I took a course in Public Administration at Fundação Getulio Vargas, which has a vast curriculum, with interdisciplinarity in terms of law, political science, economics, public finance, etc. When I arrived, Brazil was in full campaign for governors. These were the first elections for transition to democracy, when Franco Montoro, Leonel Brizola and Tancredo Neves were elected. I also followed the Diretas campaign, then the election and death of Tancredo. I lived through this moment of explosion, in which the conditions for an effective transition from the military to the democratic regime were created.

There is a fear in Brazil that there will be a democratic retreat, in the context of the current government, of President Jair Bolsonaro. Mr. have you been following this theme? In recent years, it has become very clear that even in countries with solid institutions, like the US, democracy can regress and populist and anti-democratic movements can advance. The important thing, from my point of view, is that we continue to invest in strengthening institutions. If we continue to invest in a free press and independent justice, we will resist, and the democratic field will continue to find antidotes for these most extremist, populist and demagogic groups.

What mr. expects the relationship with President Bolsonaro, since Mr. is he from the left and he is from the right? Relations are between States. We are going to work independently of the governments that are in Brazil or Cape Verde, which are always temporary, to strengthen friendship and cooperation relations.

Brazil has an extraordinary strength in the world, it exerts an impressive attraction. When President Lula was in power, he had a perspective of promoting Brazil in the world. Brazil had a very strong image. Managed to lead the WTO [Organização Mundial do Comércio], a FAO [Organização das Nações Unidas para Alimentação e Agricultura], and the president [Lula] was invited to the African Union summit. Afterwards he was here in Cape Verde for a summit with the 15 States of ECOWAS [Comunidade Econômica dos Estados da África Ocidental]. There was influence from Brazil on various stages around the world.

Mr. do you think Brazil has moved away from Africa? Not just from Africa, from the world. Brazil isolated itself a little after Lula’s departure. Even [ex-presidente] Dilma [Rousseff] had a very timid policy. There was a strong modernization with [o ex-presidente] Fernando Henrique [Cardoso], who effectively carried out the transition and “civilized” the government of Brazil. He had a very strong modernizing and transformative perspective, he gave an international dimension to Brazil with his prestige as an intellectual, as a visionary and modern ruler.

Then came Lula, from a different perspective, but with great sensitivity in relation to international relations. And then there was some timidity in the Dilma government and later a retreat, Brazil turned much more inward.

Lula is leading the polls for next year’s election. Mr. do you root for his return? No, I don’t support any particular candidate. I will work with the president who wins to strengthen the relationship.

Cape Verde is just over three hours by flight from Brazil. However, bilateral relations still seem to fall short of potential. How to intensify them? We speak Portuguese. We have a very strong identity with the Brazilian Northeast. If you reach the island of Santiago [uma das que compõem o país] and don’t be careful, you might think you’re in the Northeast of Brazil.

Cape Verde can serve as a platform, as Brazil’s gateway to Africa, in industry, tourism, higher education, science and innovation. There are Brazilian schools that can settle in Cape Verde and from there they can bring students from all over Africa.

Cape Verde’s economy fell 15% in 2020 because of the pandemic. How to reverse this situation? We are working so that by the end of the year we will have the population immunized. We already have more than 80% with the first vaccine, and close to 50% with the two doses. We want the resumption of tourism, which is the country’s growth engine. It won’t be easy, but the economy has already grown 6.2% in the last quarter.

Cape Verde is considered a model of democracy in Africa. We have recently seen the resurgence of coups and wars on the continent, in countries like Guinea, Mali, Sudan and Ethiopia. How do you see these setbacks? I am optimistic, even with these cases. Ethiopia’s is very serious, it is a great power in Africa, headquarters of the African Union and the UN Economic Commission for the continent. Africa must work in a more cohesive way to face these situations and, above all, create mechanisms to prevent conflict management. There are still many weaknesses, but we have to work so that Africa itself finds solutions.

As mr. Do you see the discussions at COP26, and what is the existential threat that global warming poses for an archipelago like Cape Verde? We have had severe droughts since the “finding” of our islands in 1460 [pelos portugueses]. The name Cape Verde is a misnomer, we are neither cape nor green. We had famines, mortality, and that is why Cape Verde has a large diaspora. In recent years we have had more droughts, increased temperatures, and of course we are subject to rising sea levels. The climate issue for us is very expensive.

We have been working hard in order to comply with the decisions in order not to exceed 1.5°C of global warming. Small island states are very concerned, especially those in the [oceano] Pacific, which could have immediate consequences far more serious than those in the Atlantic. But all archipelagos will be at serious risk if immediate action is not taken.

Another important issue in West Africa is piracy. Brazil has a support agreement for the Cape Verdean Navy. Mr. do you advocate that this cooperation be intensified? For me it’s fundamental. We must work to strengthen this agreement and expand it. There are enormous possibilities for cooperation in the field of security and stability. For Cape Verde it is strategic, and for Brazil too, as a large country in the South Atlantic.

Cape Verde recently extradited businessman Alex Saab, linked to the Venezuelan regime, to the US, prompting criticism from the Nicolás Maduro government. Mr. Do you think this process was well conducted? I don’t have all the data for this question. But this case went through all judicial instances.

Venezuela made very strong criticisms of Cape Verde. Mr. Do you intend to look for Maduro, who is also a leftist, like you? I’m from the left, but from a democratic left. The relationship has not broken off, and I hope it is not because of this matter. If there is room for some intervention, I will do it, according to the data I have.


José Maria Neves, 61
Born in Santa Catarina, Cape Verde, he graduated in public administration from Fundação Getulio Vargas, in São Paulo. He was prime minister of Cape Verde from 2001 to 2016, president of the Municipality (equivalent to mayor) of Santa Catarina in 2000, and president of the PAICV (African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde), acronym for which he was elected in the first round for the Presidency of the country.


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