After Trump and Bolsonaro, are Biden and Brazil’s Lula ideological allies?


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President Biden receives his Brazilian counterpart at the White House on Friday. The visit of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to Washington marks the meeting of the leaders of the two largest economies and democracies in the Western Hemisphere. And it is being framed as a chance for a fresh start after the turmoil left by both of these presidents’ predecessors – tenures marked by polarization, political turmoil and thought convergence of far-right nationalists in both countries.

Lula arrived in Washington a month after supporters of the defeated former president Jair Bolsonaro stormed key institutions of the federal state in the capital Brasília in a failed attempt to topple the leftist leader and his new government. In the weeks since, Brazilian officials have emphasized that Biden’s swift and strong backing of both Lula and Brazil’s democratic institutions, as well as the solidarity of many other countries elsewhere, have proved crucial during difficult times for Brazil’s still-nascent democracy.

Lula’s visit also comes a week after Bolsonaro, who has yet to officially accept his defeat in last year’s election and is in the midst of a lengthy stay in Florida, spoke at an event held in a hotel owned by former president Donald Trump. “Brazil did a great job,” Bolsonaro lamented to a sympathetic crowd. “I can’t understand why [the election] decided to turn left.”

Bolsonaro supporters in the stands chanted “cheating”. Before the Brazilian elections, the far-right president spent months reinforcing the integrity of his nation. election system in questionalthough his claims are not supported by meaningful evidence. According to the Associated Press report on the Miami event, Charlie Kirk – the head of Turn Point USA, the far-right group that gave Bolsonaro the platform – smirked as the shouts of “cheating” subsided. “All I can say is, that sounds very familiar,” said Kirk, who has spent months spreading misinformation about Trump’s election defeat.

Undeniable US hand in anti-democracy riots in Brazil

The longstanding relationship between Trump and Bolsonaro, both of whom are grappling with leaving office, will come to light when Biden sits down with Lula. Bolsonaro’s movement seems lost many of its signs from Trumpism – Bolsonaro himself was one of the last major world leaders to congratulate Biden on his election victory, while his son appeared to support the rioters in America who participated in the January 6, 2021 uprising at the Capitol. That thing Radical uprising sees its turn in Brazil This year on January 8. For good reason, Biden and Lula are expected to jointly condemn the influence and threat posed by violent far-right politics in both their countries. .

Brian Winter, veteran Brazilian analyst and editor of Americas Quarterly, said: “Trump and Bolsonaro bromance brought the two countries closer together during those years, but now both are gone and are replaced by these two leaders, who also had much in common. I. “These are two elderly statesmen who managed to defeat the threat of dictatorship at the ballot box and survive revolts in their capitals.”

For all divisions in Washington, Lula presided over an arguably more delicate situation. Bolsonaro is a longtime fan of era of Brazil’s right-wing military dictatorship; After suffering defeat at the ballot box, some of his supporters have been calling on the armed forces to somehow overturn the outcome of the election for weeks. Brazilian civil organizations organized the fight and that outcome did not materialize. Analysts say the Biden administration’s strong support for Lula played a role in containing military elements that may have contemplated some form of intervention.

Oliver Stuenkel, professor at the School of International Relations at Fundação: “There is a profoundly asymmetrical nature to this – what happens in Brazil doesn’t have much of an impact on the United States, but the Biden administration is very important. in the inspection of the Brazilian armed forces”. Getulio Vargas of São Paulo, told me, points to the signals that US military officials send to their Brazilian counterparts that existing cooperation and security relations will be jeopardized if the military chooses to how to subvert Brazilian democracy.

Brazil uprising investigation raises Bolsonaro’s legal risk

Stuenkel said Lula’s trip to the White House was about “anti-coup” in Brazil and “consolidating his power over the armed forces”. Send America’s shadow in recent tumultuous events In Brazil, some argue that Biden’s support for Lula’s defense of democracy is right.

“The United States shares responsibility for the attack on democracy in Brasilia last month,” wrote Bloomberg Opinion columnist Eduardo Porter. “The Americans have come up with blueprints for how to sabotage elections, guidelines for getting seats of power. That alone is enough to justify deploying American leverage to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

Given how early in Lula’s tenure is, it’s likely that the visit to the White House will be symbolic and light in substance. Still, there is the prospect of a new type of presidential sentiment emerging. “I think this is an opportunity for leaders to establish or re-establish a personal relationship between themselves,” said Filipe Nasser, a senior adviser to Brazil’s foreign minister. at a recent Washington think tank conference.

Other major issues are also on the agenda, mainly discussions of climate action, with Brazilian officials hoping to secure specific U.S. commitments to advance efforts to limit efforts. Reducing deforestation in the Amazon and reverse some damage forged during Bolsonaro’s time in office. Last week, Lula .’s government secured a new pledge of $217 million from Germany.

Lula’s meeting with its German partners also offered a preview of what could happen. the main cause of friction between him and Biden. The deeply rooted leftist who served two terms as president in the first decade of the century, faltering in the transatlantic position to Ukrainerejects the notion of sending military aid to indirectly support Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russia’s aggression and asserts that what the West is doing is not enough to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict .

Such claims are not surprising, nor are they much different from Bolsonaro’s divergent stance on Ukraine. Brazil has a long relationship with Russia and considers itself a major player among the world’s “non-aligned” nations. “In the Latin American context, “what Lula is saying is completely midway, a typical global south talk,” says Stuenkel.

And it could resurface at the White House, with Lula previously saying he is willing to mediate to end the Russo-Ukrainian war alongside countries like China and India. Such a proposal is met with disdain by US officials; The malice continues to linger between US and Brazilian diplomats Lula’s failed move in 2010 to find a solution to the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.

“If Lula pushes too hard [Ukraine at the White House], it’s not going to go well,” Winter said. He added that the meeting with Biden could eventually mark a return to the older hemispheric status quo: “We are back to normal and normality is two great continental democracies that share common interests but also have common interests. have a history of not seeing each other. eye.”


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