Inside and outside Brazil there is a growing mistrust about Lula da Silva’s true political intentions. The recent invitation to that country of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an appalling symptom. Iran’s defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi, is sought by Argentina for organizing the terrorist attack on the Jewish center (AMIA) in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people and left more than 300 wounded. Besides, Ahmadinejad has never taken back his threat to wipe Israel off the map.

Why that Brazilian compulsion to serve the Iranians amid the efforts of Teheran (along with Venezuela) to coordinate the diplomatic strategy of countries hostile to the West and to build atomic weapons? “That’s another proof of Lula’s moral duplicity,” a Venezuelan diplomat told me, on condition that he not be identified.

To this, he added an irrefutable observation: “In 1990, Lula da Silva and Fidel Castro created the São Paul Forum to revitalize Latin America’s communist stream, at the time totally demoralized after the toppling of the Berlin Wall. That political family includes the FARC and ELN narcoterrorists and Hugo Chávez’s Fifth Republic Movement. [Lula and Fidel] regrouped them to continue the combat. Lula’s only ideological constant is his rejection of the West.”

However, inside Brazil, Lula da Silva enjoys a remarkable popularity, because he has not departed from the prudent economic behavior outlined by Fernando Henrique Cardoso, his predecessor. In Brazil, Lula acts like a democrat intent on promoting a market-based model of development and the private control of the means of production, while supporting his country’s growing insertion in the international mechanisms of global capitalism.

Who, really, is Lula da Silva? Is he the Third World revolutionary intent on destroying the First World and replacing it with a socialist planet ruled by rowdy caudillos of the collectivist ilk, a dream held by Hugo Chávez and other hallucinating troublemakers in that political family?

Or is he a moderate social-democrat devoted to the development of a market economy similar to that which rules the world’s 30 wealthiest and happiest nations?

I fear that he is the two, simultaneously, as dreamt (literally, dreamt) by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886, when he wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to explain the moral duality of a kind scientist who became an aggressive and detestable being after drinking a brew that turned him into another person. To Stevenson, the novel was a metaphor that revealed the struggle between good and evil that exists in the nature of all human beings.

We’re looking at Dr. Lula and Mr. Chávez. When the Brazilian president reasons with his head, he is Dr. Lula, an affable and commonsensical man who knows his limitations and his country’s, behaves according to the law, and respects individual freedoms.

When he is ruled by the heart, an organ that lies to the left (an observation often made by Lula’s chief adviser, Marco Aurelio García, a product of the Communist Party), Mr. Chávez pops up, the “revolutionary comrade,” a fellow convinced that the Third World’s poverty is due to the plunder of the United States and the other imperialist nations, to the greed of the national and foreign capitalists, to the unfair terms of exchange, and to the rest of the whining diagnoses of this querulous ideological sect.

When Lula rules with his heart and becomes Mr. Chávez, he incites his Workers Party—perhaps under the influence of his advisers M. A. García and José Dirceu, a former guerrilla trained in Cuba and a former member of the Cuban secret services—to cooperate with the Colombian narcoguerrillas, as disclosed by the computers taken from Raúl Reyes, the FARC commander killed in 2008 by Colombian soldiers.

When he is Mr. Chávez, he turns over to his friend Fidel Castro three poor boxers who had sought asylum in Brazil, or colludes irresponsibly with Mel Zelaya to shelter the deposed president in a Brazilian diplomatic building in Tegucigalpa, denying (childishly) that he gave his consent.

In Stevenson’s novel, Dr. Jekyll commits suicide, unable to suffer any longer the pain of also being Mr. Hyde. How will Lula da Silva end up? As a respected statesman, I expect, though secretly crushed by the anguish of not knowing which of the two characters he really is.