Cardoso's Brazil: A Land for Sale

In This Review

Cardoso's Brazil: A Land for Sale

By James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer
Rowman & Littlefield, 2003
160 pp. $60.00
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It was only a matter of time before the old sociological left attacked Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the Marxist sociologist turned Brazilian president, as an apostate. Here, in full force, comes the heavy brigade, led by the old battle horse Petras with Veltmeyer beside him. Cardoso, they argue, was the great hope of the "third way": a path to development between socialism and neoliberalism. Instead, according to their harsh review, he became one of the worst presidents in Brazilian history, destroying one of the "twentieth century's most successful capitalist models of growth ... the old economic model of state-led development." In an extensive analysis of how Cardoso went about dismantling the state sector, they argue that Brazil has come full circle: "from a liberal raw material exporting country to a dynamic industrializing country and emerging industrial power ... to a regressive stagnant foreign owned subsidiary of overseas credit holders and investors dependent on the largesse of international financial institutions." But as Cardoso learned the hard way, theory is easier than practice. Although he was not the great president he might have been, he was not the disaster depicted here. Even Brazilian politicians, a hardhearted crowd, are more generous in their judgment than are these former colleagues from Cardoso's own academic discipline.