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Brazil: Historic Speech at UN for Brazil's First Female President

Dilma Vana Rousseff, the first female president elected in Brazil, also became the first woman to open an annual meeting of the General Assembly of United Nations (UN), on September 21, 2011. Historically Brazil has been the country that opens the sessions since the first, which took place in 1947.

Besides the historical moment, the speech (full version available online) was marked by courage through Rousseff's indirect criticism of a “first world” in crisis; she also spoke about the defense of human rights, the recognition of Palestine as a state and member of the UN, the continued occupation in Haiti and Brazil's renunciation of the use of nuclear weapons – even though more nuclear power plants are to be built in the country.

Dilma Rousseff. Cartoon under CC by Carlos Latuff.

Dilma Rousseff. Cartoon under CC by Carlos Latuff.

Historical moment

Hugo Albuquerque, from the blog Descurvo, sums up [pt]:

Nunca na história deste planeta uma mulher fez o discurso de abertura da Assembleia Geral da ONU. (…) Dilma foi precisa ao enfocar a gravidade da crise mundial, saudar a ascensão da Primavera Árabe, tocar no problema de gênero e, sobretudo, exortar o reconhecimento do Estado Palestino.

Never in the history of this planet had a woman made ​​the opening speech at the UN General Assembly. (…) Dilma was precise on focusing the seriousness of the world crisis, on welcoming the rise of the Arab spring, on touching on the issue of gender and, above all, on urging the recognition of the Palestinian state.

Cristina Rodrigues, from the blog Somos Andando, complemented [pt]:

(…) falou pela paz, criticou a violência, em um recado direto aos Estados Unidos. Pediu o espaço pro Brasil. Afirmou o papel das mulheres. Defendeu, sem meias palavras, deixando implícita uma crítica, a criação do Estado Palestino (no que foi muito aplaudida, o que demonstra que uma minoria poderosa impede os anseios da maioria). E deu uma aula de humanidade e solidariedade, refletindo a atitude do governo do qual foi parte por oito anos: “Queremos para os outros países o que queremos para nós mesmos”.

[Dilma] spoke for peace and criticized violence, in a direct message to the United States. She asked for space for Brazil. She affirmed the role of women. She defended, in no uncertain terms, implying a criticism, the creation of a Palestinian state (in what she was very applauded, which shows that a powerful minority prevents the wishes of the majority). And she gave a lesson of humanity and solidarity, reflecting the attitude of the government she was part of for eight years: “We want for other countries what we want for ourselves.”

Journalist and blogger Rodrigo Vianna selected some key parts of President Dilma's speech and published them on his blog, Escrevinhador, besides explaining [pt] the relevance of the speech:

Foi importante porque Dilma se diferenciou da baboseira (neo) liberal que ainda sobrevive no chamado mundo desenvolvido (e sobrevive também entre “colunistas” e “analistas” que pensam o Brasil feito girafas: têm os pés na América do Sul e a cabeça em Londres ou Washington). Dilma falou na necessida de controlar capitais. Os colunistas de economia brazucas devem ter sofrido uma síncope nervosa. Controle? Capitais devem ser livres. Controle, só para as pessoas.

It was important because Dilma differed from the (neo) liberal crap that still survives in the so-called developed world (and also survives between “columnists” and “analysts” who think of Brazil as a giraffe: with its feet in South America and its head in London or Washington). Dilma spoke of the need to control capital. The “Brazucas” [slang for Brazilians] columnists on economy must have suffered a nervous reaction. Control? Capital must be free. Control, only for the people.

Criticisms

Dilma's speech was historic but it has also been target of several critics, either for its tone or for the gap between it and the actual practices of the Brazilian government, as analyzed [pt] by teacher and journalist Mauricio Santoro:

Em suma, a presidente está em bom momento internacional, mas convém não esquecer que os problemas e contradições de seus aliados no governo representam obstáculos para que o país alcance os objetivos ambiciosos de sua política externa.

In short, the president is in a good international moment, but let us not forget that the problems and contradictions of her allies in government represent obstacles to the country to achieve the ambitious goals of its foreign policy.

Blogger and activist Leonardo Sakamoto pointed out serious problems [pt] on the difference between the speech and practice, especially concerning Belo Monte, the powerplant that has raised huge controversy and legal fights that, according to Sakamoto, puts the most basic rights of the Brazilian indigenous communities in jeopardy:

(…) Mas soa irônico o governo brasileiro pagar de progressista lá fora e ser reacionário aqui dentro.

O Brasil tem tentado parecer o “bom moço” da comunidade internacional, mas nem sempre aplica a mesma cartilha internamente. Por exemplo, a defesa dos direitos humanos. (…)

Como um país que declara em seu discurso à Assembléia Geral das Nações Unidas que deseja um assento no Conselho de Segurança ignora uma solicitação de outro organismo internacional, a Comissão Interamericana de Direitos Humanos (CIDH), ligada à Organização dos Estados Americanos, para que interrompa a construção da usina hidrelétrica de Belo Monte até que os indígenas sejam devidamente ouvidos.

Kind of ironic that the Brazilian government plays as progressive out there and is reactionary in here.

Brazil has been trying to look like the “good guy” of the international community, but it does not always apply the same tactic internally. For example, the defense of human rights. (…)

As a country, it declares in its speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations that it wants a seat on the Security Council, while ignoring a request from another international body, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), linked to the Organization of American States, to stop the construction of the hydroelectric plant of Belo Monte until the indigenous people are properly heard.

Criticism was also made by the left wing party PSTU published [pt] on the Diário da Liberdade against keeping Brazilian forces in Haiti, against the cuts in public spending and the impoverishment of workers and especially against the economic model adopted by the president:

Entre omissões, distorções e meias verdades, o discurso de Dilma não trouxe nenhuma novidade, apesar do simbolismo de sua própria presença naquele palanque.
(…)
O discurso de Dilma foi bonito. Seria melhor, porém, que fosse embasado na realidade, para que o entusiasmo de tanta gente, em especial a de mulheres trabalhadoras, não fosse em vão.

Among omissions, distortions and half truths, Dilma's speech did not bring anything new, despite the symbolism of her own presence at the podium.
(…)
Dilma's speech was beautiful. It would be better, however, if it was grounded in reality, so that the enthusiasm of so many people, especially women workers, was not in vain.

Moreover André Kenji, from the blog Dissidência, commented [pt] on Brazil's wish to be part of UN Security Council:

Muitas das críticas – incluindo deste blog – da participação do Brasil no CS partem do princípio que a política externa do Brasil é pouco consistente e de que a diplomacia brasileira não tem respostas para algumas das questões mais cruciais envolvendo questões diplomáticas (Isso quando não passa a mão na cabeça de ditadores brutais tendo em vista apenas interesses comerciais).

Many of the critics – including this blog's – on Brazil's participation in the Security Council assume that Brazil's foreign policy is weak and that the Brazilian diplomacy has no answers to some of the most crucial issues involving diplomacy (All this when it is not cherishing brutal dictators only with commercial interests in sight).

Blogger and judge Saraiva, on his blog Saraiva 13, sums up [pt] what he considered to have been a historical moment for Brazil in defending the promotion of peace and human rights around the world:

Dilma defendeu as liberdades democráticas e os direitos-humanos, como era previsível. Surpreendente foi Dilma tirar apenas o foco de países africanos e do oriente, como as potências imperialistas gostam de fazer, e chamar à responsabilidade o chamado primeiro-mundo, condenando as violações de direitos humanos nestes países ricos através da xenofobia, do racismo, da pena de morte, da miséria. Em todo o discurso defendeu uma ordem mais justa para os países pobres, desenvolvimento sustentável em vez de bombas, soluções para o Oriente Médio, o Estado Palestino. Enfim, arrastou as fichas, conquistando corações e mentes do terceiro mundo, já bastante simpáticos ao Brasil.

Dilma defended the democratic freedoms and the human rights, as expected. Surprising was the fact that Dilma took out the usual exclusive focus on the East African countries and, as the imperialist powers like to do, called the so-called first-world to account, condemning human rights violations in these rich countries through xenophobia, racism, the death penalty and misery. Throughout the speech she called for a fairer order for poor countries, sustainable development instead of bombs, solutions to the Middle East and the Palestinian state. Eventually, she dragged the chips, winning hearts and minds of the third world, already quite sympathetic to Brazil.

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