During Friday’s historic meeting at the White House between left-wing Brazilian President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva (77) and his American counterpart Joe Biden (80), the leaders of the two largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere emphasized that they are continuing their relationship want to strengthen and pursue a common interest in a strong democracy in their countries.
That democracy has been heavily attacked in both Brazil and the US by their predecessors, the political allies and friends Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro. Brazil experienced with the storming and destruction of government buildings by Bolsonaro supporters a month ago, what the US experienced on January 6, 2021 during the Capitol storming.
“This kind of attack on democracy must never happen again,” Lula said. He stressed that with him in power, Brazil is back on the world stage and is no longer an isolated country.
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Under Bolsonaro, Brazil’s international relations were at an extremely low ebb. “Do you know that my predecessor’s world consisted mainly of fake news?” Lula told Biden before talks began. “Fake news morning, noon and night”. Biden replied with a laugh: “That sounds familiar!”
According to Biden, both countries will never again accept such an attack on democracy as the January storms. It was Biden who called Lula immediately after the extremely exciting and final round of elections last October and congratulated him. In doing so, he encouraged Lula, who narrowly won in heavily divided Brazil: the most powerful country in the world was behind him.
Once again, it was Biden who immediately lashed out and defended democracy when thousands of supporters of ex-President Bolsonaro stormed the three powers in the capital Brasilia last month.
That both countries now have to recover from previous authoritarian, far-right regimes and face a similar ‘enemy’ creates a bond between the US and Brazil that are not natural friends given the past. It was the US that supported the Brazilian military in 1964, after which a long military dictatorship of 21 years followed in the South American country.
For saving the Amazon, Lula also wants to get Biden on board. Brazil hopes that the US will become a participant in the so-called Amazon fund. In a time of climate crisis and deforestation, which has increased under Bolsonaro to a point of no return where the Amazon cannot recover, conservation is of paramount importance.
Germany recently pledged 200 million euros and the US may want to invest 1.3 billion dollars in the Amazon fund for the protection of the tropical rainforest, for projects and sustainable development.
Read also: For Lula, the Amazon is an ideal vehicle for international diplomacy
After the meeting, Lula told the press that he assumes the US will join, but has not discussed this in detail with Biden. “Rich countries must take their responsibility and contribute financially to the countries that have the forests, because we all need them so badly in the end,” said Lula.
While the two leaders held their talks in Washington, ex-President Jair Bolsonaro has been in Florida for about a month and a half. Bolsonaro flew to the US on a government jet two days before his term was due to expire on January 1. He recently applied to the US authorities for a six-month extension of a tourist visa.
Lula told CNN on Friday that the issue of Bolsonaro and whether or not to grant such a tourist visa is a matter for the US authorities. Dozens of charges are pending against Bolsonaro in Brazil, including for his policies during the corona pandemic when nearly seven hundred thousand Brazilians died.
Lula also accuses Bolsonaro of genocide against the Yanomami people. In their territory, where thousands of illegal gold miners have entered, there has been a food and health crisis for years without Bolsonaro intervening.
On a number of geopolitical issues, such as the war in Ukraine, Lula and Biden have different views. Brazil is neutral and Lula has no intention of supplying artillery ammunition to support the west in defending Ukraine. “If I sent ammunition, I would join the war,” Lula said.
The left-wing leader sees more in peace negotiations with a number of neutral countries. “It takes strong negotiators, people who believe the war can be ended,” Lula said after his talks at the White House.