Following Attacks On Their Democracies, Biden Hosts Brazil's Lula
White House —
U.S. President Joe Biden is welcoming Brazil’s newly installed leftist president, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, to the White House Friday, seeking to strengthen relations with the South American nation following attacks on their respective democracies.
Da Silva, commonly known as Lula, took office after narrowly defeating then President Jair Bolsonaro, in an October run-off, election. A week after Lula’s inauguration, on January 8, 2023, thousands of Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed the capital and trashed main government buildings, demanding that the election results be overturned. The attack echoed the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 by supporters of former president Donald Trump who would not accept that Biden won the November 2020 election.
Biden spoke with Lula following the Brasilia attack, condemning the action, pledging U.S. assistance, and invited him to the White House for “in-depth consultations.”
The pair will discuss their “categorical rejection of extremism and violence in politics” and how the two countries can continue to work together to promote inclusion and democratic values in the region and around the world, particularly in the lead-up to a March 2023 Summit for Democracy, a senior Biden administration official said in a statement.
Confronting insurrection attempts is a converging point for the presidents, who have been through the same experience.
“Of course, this creates a good narrative for them to stay together regarding democracy and the values of democracy and the strength of institutions,” said Thiago de Aragão, director of strategy at consulting firm Arko Advice, and non-resident senior associate of the Americas Program at the Center for International Studies.
“We can certainly expect that they will do a joint message in relation to the strength of democracy, condemning what happened in Brasilia and what happened in Washington as a symbol of how democracy should be preserved, given the fact that these are the two largest democracies of the hemisphere,” he told VOA.
U.S. relations with Brazil had cooled under Bolsonaro and Washington is looking to renew ties to address common challenges, including combating climate change and managing irregular migration. It’s also seeking to bolster the relationship with the biggest economy in Latin America that has a huge commercial dependency on Beijing. Brasilia is part of the informal group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), an economic grouping that consists of more than a quarter of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and about 40% of the world’s population.
It will be difficult for Biden to expect that Lula can be an ally against Chinese influence in Latin America, said de Aragão. “I don’t see Lula being an active player pro-China but Lula’s neutrality and Brazil’s neutrality in their approach toward China is a win for China and a defeat for the U.S.,” he added.
Brazil has also taken a neutral stance on the war in Ukraine. Russia supplies a quarter of Brazil’s fertilizers, and Western sanctions meant to punish Moscow for its invasion has threatened the supply. The historic relationship of Brazil’s Workers Party with the Soviet Communist Party before the end of the Soviet Union also inhibits Brazilian leaders from taking a stronger position to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Biden and Lula are expected to announce that Washington is considering contributing toward a multilateral fund aimed at fighting Amazon deforestation. Following Bolsonaro’s disengagement on the fight against climate change, an endorsement from Biden will strengthen Lula’s effort in returning Brazil to its environmental diplomacy.
The pair is not expected to comment publicly on the uncomfortable fact that Bolsonaro remains in the United States following his electoral loss, de Aragão said. He is “just this guy in Florida, trying to make a noise with the audience that he has,” with little impact on the Biden-Lula meeting.
Published on 2023-02-10