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"The US is a Terrorist State": Leonardo Boff

by Leonardo Boff Wednesday, May. 10, 2006 at 2:59 AM

Everyone feels we are on a wrong track because we do not have a social contract any more..The US is a terrorist state. The US acts with violence, crushes human rights and tortures Americans and foreigners.. As humanity, we stand at a crossroads.


Interview with Leonardo Boff, Brazilian Co-founder of Liberation theology

[The former priest Leonardo Boff was a co-founder of liberation theology in the 1970s and is a successful author today. At the 2005 World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Lateinamerika Nachrichten spoke with him about Lula’s controversial policy and the actuality of liberation theology. This interview published in March 2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

Mr. Boff, two years ago president Lula was cheered at the World Social Forum. Now a minority boos him. Is the dream of “another Brazil” over?

Lula is attempting a transition from a state that decided for privatization, neoliberalism and the world market to a welfare state and another policy for the people. Continuity and the new coexist in every transition. The continuity is upholding the macro-economic policy, the old neoliberal policy. The new lies in the zero-hunger program and the related social initiatives. Which of these poles will prevail? Lula must decide. We must pressure him so he remains faithful. 2005 is decisive for the question whether he will succeed in actually introducing something new in Brazilian history or hold fast to the old policy for the elites.

Doesn’t he make a fool of people by promising them another social policy while holding to a macro-economic policy that leads to more inequality?

Resignation is not an option. The majority of humanity is not condemned to exclusion. This is also an ethical question, not only a political and economic question. The economy and politics must be oriented in ethical criteria. In this sense, Lula’s policy is very significant. He cannot simply adopt socialism since that would lead to total isolation. He also cannot and will not adopt neoliberalism, which would amount to nothing new. In my opinion, Lula is playing with new values. He is trying to introduce the question of hunger in world politics and the question of international social justice.

In the mammoth corporations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, people sense that our current way leads into a great crisis for the whole world system, not only for the poor. The inequality, inhumanity and barbarism are a disgrace. We have all the technical means, political power and economic and financial resources to overcome this predicament. We do not overcome it because world politics lacks sensitivity for humanliness, cooperation and solidarity. Everyone wants endless accumulation. The question is whether endless accumulation is compatible with the earth and humanity. These are basic questions that are pre-political and at the same time very political because they orient certain decisions. I believe Lula has the moral weight to raise these questions in world politics.

In 2001, the World Social Forum arose as the counterpoint to the World Economic Forum. Doesn’t Davos clearly have the upper hand over Porto Alegre?

The question is: Where does hope lie? Everyone feels we are on a wrong track because we do not have a social contract any more. This wrong track leads only to wars as in Iraq. The military, economic and ideological hegemony of the US is maintained with force. Relying on force is a very dangerous way to any kind of world order. The system is no longer enforced with arguments. Bush declared endless war on terror. For me, this means the US is a terrorist state. The US acts with violence, crushes human rights and tortures Americans and foreigners.

The alternatives are not clear to anyone. In Porto Alegre, a world civil society is gradually arising with the consciousness that we cannot be satisfied with the state of the world and changing persons and communities is vital. The interweaving of all possible movements leads to a kind of accumulation of energy or utopia. Convergences could gradually bring political pressure.

What will be the concrete results?

As humanity, we stand at a crossroads. The reflections and utopias in Porto Alegre are the humus in which things ferment. Perhaps measures showing the way for the future will arise from the humus. In Davos, material values are central; in Porto Alegre, spiritual, human and ethical values predominate. If the two coincided, that would be ideal. Then we could present a holistic vision of humanity.

Are we witnessing a renaissance of liberation theology?

Liberation theology always existed. It is not as visible as in the past because it is not as polemical. Now we have again the great interweaving of theologies that had been completely destroyed by Rome. The environment of the World Social Forum, a secular meeting space, was ideal without any oppression from Rome or elsewhere. In the 1970s, we spoke of the necessity of another society and another world order. Thus an affinity exists between liberation theology and the World Social Forum.

How has the discourse of liberation theology developed in the last 30 years?

Liberation theology started from the concrete economic situation, from the cry of the poor. In the 1980s, we discovered the different faces of poverty, the faces of the indigenous, blacks and women. In the 1990s, the cry of the poor was heard and the oppression of the water, forests, animals and the earth by the unparalleled devastation from modern industrial society and consumerism was recognized.

For an integral theology, ecology must be included. At the same time, the globalization problematic, the massive exclusion of people and the genetic manipulation in agriculture, are all questions that are now discussed.

How do you judge the Cuban way?

Differentiation is necessary because Cuba has gone its own way. Cuba is the only country of Latin America that resolutely continues this socialist vision. Cuba has made a revolution like no other land in Latin America. However it has not complemented its revolution against hunger with a revolution of freedom. Persecuting people because they are not socialists is a violation of human rights. For me, this is not ideal. Still one must understand 40 years of embargo by the US makes everything harder. Nevertheless Cubans believe their kind of organization represents a more human cooperation that the pope himself acknowledged.

Is Hugo Chavez a beacon of hope for you?

I believe Chavez is presented in a distorted way. People believe he is a populist, a crackpot or a clown. He has introduced another form of democracy with a social policy. He seeks an alternative to the ALCA free trade zone. He has the courage and readiness for decision that a politician needs. I have a cautious hope. It is cautious because all power must be criticized. Still I support him as a political figure because he tries to understand and solve his own problematic with his own methods and resources.

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