The Times, Lula and Lily Tomlin

Reading the New York Times (5/25) on Brazilian reaction to President Luiz “Lula” da Silva’s deal with Iran over uranium enrichment brings to mind comedian Lily Tomlin’s observation: “No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up.”

Iran inked a nuclear fuel swap deal in Tehran

Iran Deal Seen as Spot on Brazilian Leader’s Legacy,” reads the headline by Times correspondent Alexei Barrionnuevo, who tells the readers that Lula “has returned home to a cloud of criticism by opinion-makers and lawmakers” for his role in helping to engineer the deal.

The Times’s sources? For starters, none of them were “lawmakers,” and whether any of the three men cited are “opinion-makers” is certainly up for debate.

First out of the blocks was “political analyst” Amaury de Souza, a PhD from MIT in political science, and a consistent critic of “Lula” and his Workers Party. Besides being a “political analyst” he is a business consultant, a strong supporter of privatization, and a backer of the previous conservative government of Fernando Cardoso.

Next cited was Luis Felipe Lampreia, “former foreign minister,” who writes in the newspaper O Globo—the flagship of Brazil’s largest media conglomerate—that da Silva’s diplomacy could “cause incalculable material and political losses,” a statement he never explains or the Times bothers to examine. Lampreia is not only a Cardoso man, he recently criticized the Lula government for giving refuge to Manuel Zelaya, the president of Honduras ousted in a rightwing coup this past summer.

Lastly, Barrionnuevo cites columnist Clovis Rossi, who has been a consistent critic of Brazil’s efforts to construct a Latin America free of U.S. interference.

In short, the “cloud” is two opposition politicians and a columnist.

What the Times did not bother to mention until several days later was that according to Robert Naiman, policy director of Just Foreign Policy, Brazilian newspapers and Reuters reported that the Obama administration green-lighted the enrichment deal and then reversed itself because of homegrown congressional criticism.

Buried in Barrionuevo’s second to last paragraph is an almost impenetrable piece of prose on a recent poll suggesting that 48 percent of Brazilians “seemed proud to see Mr. da Silva mixing with world leaders.”

What the poll actually found was that 76 percent of Brazilians rated Lula and his government “excellent or good,” a three point jump over this past April.

In fact, most “opinion-makers and lawmakers” in Brazil have supported the Iran initiative and reacted sharply to U.S. criticism of the diplomatic breakthrough by U.S. The newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo headlined its editorial “Lula’s Feat,” and said the President’s “tenacity has triumphed.”

One would never know all this by reading the New York Times. Black Commentator and Portside columnist Carl Bloice suggests the reason is that the Times must have a banner over its Latin American desk reading, “The Monroe Doctrine is alive and well.”