Sat, Mar 28, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Brazilian president slams ‘white, blue-eyed’ bankers

THE GUARDAIN , BRASILIA

White, blue-eyed bankers are entirely to blame for the world financial crisis that has ended up hitting black and indigenous people disproportionately, the president of Brazil declared on Thursday.

In an outspoken intervention as the British prime minister Gordon Brown stood alongside him, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva pledged to make next week’s G20 summit “spicy” as he accused the rich of forcing the poor into greater hardship.

“This crisis was caused by no black man or woman or by no indigenous person or by no poor person,” Lula said after talks with the UK prime minister in Brasilia to discuss next week’s G20 summit in London. “This crisis was fostered and boosted by irrational behavior of some people that are white, blue-eyed. Before the crisis they looked like they knew everything about economics and they have demonstrated they know nothing about economics.”

Challenged about his claims, Lula responded: “I only record what I see in the press. I am not acquainted with a single black banker.”

The remarks by Lula, a former trade union leader who had an impoverished upbringing in the poor northeast of Brazil, enlivened Brown’s five-day trip to North and South America designed to pave the way for a global agreement on how to tackle the global downturn at next week’s G20 summit in London, to be chaired by Brown.

Brown traveled to Brazil, the world’s 10th largest economy, to talk up his latest initiative to stimulate world trade. He wants to win agreement at next week’s summit for a new US$100 billion global fund to increase credit flows.

Lula lavished praise on Brown for always rallying to the help of Brazil as he made clear that he accepts many of the prime minister’s interventionist ideas for stimulating global growth. But as they stood in the formal entrance to the president’s palace, Brown had to watch as the pugilistic former trade union leader embarked on one of his familiar tirades.

Lula said world leaders had to be prepared for a political fight to ensure no repeat of what Brown called the global financial “power cut.”

“This meeting in London has to be a bit spicy because there has got to be a political debate,” Lula said. “I want a London consensus.”

The president indicated that he is uneasy about the US, which has been arguing that the most important measure to take is a further coordinated global fiscal stimulus. Lula used a colorful analogy to illustrate his demand for tougher regulation of financial markets.

“We do not have the right to allow this crisis to continue for long. We are determined to make sure the world financial system is vigorously regulated. You go to a shopping mall and you are filmed. You go to the airport and you are watched. I can’t imagine that only the financial system has no surveillance at all,” he said.

The president then turned his fire on the media for demonizing immigrants: “The great majority of the poor are still not getting their share of the development that was caused by globalization. They are the first victims. I follow the press and I see that prejudice is a factor against immigrants in the most developed countries.”

The behavior of developed countries contrasted badly, he added, with Brazil, which is a member of the “BRIC” group of emerging economies — Brazil, Russia, India and China.

“Here in Brazil, on the contrary, we have made the decision to permanently regulate thousands of Bolivians who were undocumented. We can’t put on their shoulder the responsibility for the crisis caused by very few people,” he said.

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