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Brazil Urges Focus on Inequality as Cause of Terror - 2001-11-11

Brazil is making a concerted effort to assume a leadership role among emerging nations by calling for urgent changes in the international system to deal with the conditions that give rise to terrorism. Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a sociologist by training, has been an active foreign policy president, having briefly served as foreign minister during the early 1990s. Under his administration, Mr. Cardoso has attempted to move Brazil beyond its traditional role of exerting influence over South America to becoming more active in the wider world. Most recently, Mr. Cardoso has been positioning his country to become a leader of emerging nations.

This was evident in a speech he gave late last month in Paris to the French National Assembly, in which he warned that the war on terrorism should not obscure the need to address world inequality. He also criticized what he called the unilateral policies by some nations. Barbarism he said, is not just the cowardice of terrorism, but is also the intolerance and imposition of unilateral policies on the world scale.

His words, which French lawmakers greeted with loud applause, were seen to be directed at the United States, although Mr. Cardoso later strongly denied this.

Brazil specialist David Fleischer, who teaches at the University of Brasilia, says Mr. Cardoso appeared to be criticizing all leading industrial nations. "I think he was grouping the First World or G-7 developed nations together, and not singling out the United States as one country," he explained, "But that warning to the developed nations, if this neglect goes further, as has been accumulating over the last 50 years, and the development and progress and prosperity of these nations and their peoples are neglected, that this may be very disastrous for the developed world."

It is a message that appeals to many in developing countries, who believe the rich nations are not doing enough to address their needs. One such area is trade. Countries like Brazil criticize what they say are the protectionist barriers in the United States and Europe against their exports, especially of their agricultural products.

By sounding these themes, Mr. Cardoso is directly addressing the concerns of emerging nations. Professor Fleischer says it is a message that is likely to resonate. "One of the aspects of the [September 11] event ... is that you've had a general outpouring of discontent reflected in the comments in the press and by intellectuals in the developing world, saying that generally they have been neglected and this terrorist activity although condemnable and terrible, indirectly reflects the discontent of many developing nations," he said. "So this has generated this type of manifestation; not totally anti-U.S., but anti-First World, which should be a signal to the First World that it should do something."

Among these warning signs are opinion polls in developing countries that show growing opposition to the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan. Despite overwhelming condemnation for the September 11 attacks, many say they disagree with how the United States is trying to root out terrorism in Afghanistan.

In Brazil, the country's leading polling organization published a survey last Monday showing 67 percent oppose the U.S. attacks. Polls in other Latin American countries show similar sentiments.