To be more precise: the Chief of Staff of the Brazilian presidency admits, for the whole world to listen, that the ascension of the PT (Workers Party) to power is due to the good efforts of the oldest dictatorship in the continent. He forgot, of course-or purposefully declined to mention-that even before the military took power in Brazil, Cuba was already sending arms to our guerrillas. This is actually the touchstone of the PT. One should never admit that the intervention by Cuba happened before 1964 [year of the revolution in Brazil, when the military took power]. For the PT to admit such a fact would be to have its argument crumble to the ground-that the guerilla was a reaction to the military regime. In fact, however, what happened was the exact opposite.
Nothing like power to loosen the tongue of the people holding it. The timing is tragically significant, too, with the news of the 78 Cuban "dissidents" arrested last March, now convicted and facing prison terms ranging from ten years to life. Dissidents, of course, is the press's favorite euphemism to designate political opponents, human rights' militants, independent writers and journalists. (If you read newspapers, you must have noticed that dissidents exist only in socialist countries).
Diplomats and foreign journalists have tried to obtain permits to watch the proceedings in Havana, but they were denied access to the courts. This is the Cuba to which our PT owes its victory, according to our Cuba-Brazilian José Dirceu. The same Cuba who sends to prison any person opposed to the regime. In Europe and in the U.S. there is protest coming from both the press and human rights' organizations against the escalation of the dictatorship. In Brazil, however, there is a deep silence.***
o Argentina's Kirchner, who campaigned against U.S.-backed free-market policies -- and made a point of not meeting the U.S. ambassador to Argentina during the electoral race -- has said he will end his country's ''automatic alignment'' with the United States. Instead, Argentina's new government says, it will side with Brazil on major foreign policy decisions.
o In Brazil, da Silva took office Jan. 1 as head of a proudly leftist government. A union leader who until only a year ago advocated not paying Brazil's foreign debt and rolling back his predecessor's free-market reforms, da Silva said during the campaign that a U.S.-backed hemispheric free-trade plan amounts to the ''economic annexation'' of Latin America to the United States. He gave a red-carpet welcome to Chávez and Castro on his first day in office.
o In Ecuador, Lucio Gutiérrez took office Jan. 15 after winning an upset victory with the backing of his Patriotic Society Party and Pachakutik, a leftist political movement that represents the country's marginalized Indians. A former army officer who led a failed coup in January 2000, Gutiérrez vowed in his inauguration ceremony to take strong steps against ``the corrupt oligarchy that has robbed our money.''
o In Venezuela, Chávez has gradually radicalized his ''Bolivarian revolution'' since taking office in 1999. In his first year in office, he proclaimed that ''Venezuela . . . is heading in the same direction, toward the same sea to which the Cuban people are heading: a sea of happiness, of real social justice, of peace,'' and added that he would turn over the government ''in the year 2013.'' Most recently, he has blamed the ''oligarchy'' for trying to topple him, and said he intends to remain in power until 2021.
o In Chile, Socialist Party leader Ricardo Lagos took office in 2000 as his country's first leftist president since the end of the rightist dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet in 1990.
o Haiti is led by a leftist president.
o And Castro remains firmly entrenched in Cuba nearly 45 years after seizing power.***