Luiz Inacio “Lula” Da Silva won the Brazilian elections with a minimal difference over the current president Jair Bolsonaro.
Unlike his first two consecutive governments (2003-2010), Lula’s popularity has dropped considerably. His victory appears to be more the result of fear of a second Bolsonaro term than outright support for the leader of the workers party. Lula, despite his previous conviction for corruption, seemed to be the only alternative to a chaotic, anti-liberal government with fascistic and authoritarian instincts. Bolsonaro’s negligent disregard for the effects of the pandemic led to Brazil having one of the highest rates of deaths from covid per capita worldwide. Bolsonaro resisted wearing masks, blocked efforts by local governments to impose lockdowns, dismissed the pandemic as a “little flu” and underestimated the importance of vaccinations.
Thus, Bolsonaro took several months to buy the vaccines. What’s worse, following Trump’s advice, too prompted the purchase of hydroxychloroquine. It’s also unclear what role her racist and misogynistic public comments played in defeating him.
Having said all this, it is important to focus on what Lula is going to do next.
Lula said that he will govern for everyone and not just for those who voted for him. This makes sense since her win was a narrow one.
Lula will now have to listen not only to his traditional supporters of the Landless Movement and the Workers’ Union (CUT), and other strongly ideological leftist groups that have influenced domestic and foreign policy issues. Lula will not have a majority in Congress. In the last legislative election that took place in early October, Bolsonaro and his supporters gained control of half of the lower house of Congress. in the Senate, Bolsonaro won several important seats. In these circumstances, Lula will find it difficult to pass laws unless he wins the support of center-right lawmakers who have refused to support Bolsonaro or other non-traditional allies.
In the past, Lula respected the democratic and constitutional process. Internally, he included the business class in his cabinet and carried out a social democratic economic policy. However, his foreign policy was very dangerous for the region and for the world.
Lula was the main leader of the democratic left to support the Chavez and Castro regimes in Venezuela Y Cuba (although it did not join the formal alliances that these regimes established, such as ALBA). Under Lula, Brazil claimed leadership over a region that wanted to disassociate itself from the influence of the United States. In that sense, it helped to strengthen Chavez’s ideology that allowed and protected regional tyrannies. On the global stage, Lula joined BRICSan international organization of emerging economies made up of Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africawhose political agenda was his opposition to a unipolar world dominated by USA. He then promoted South-South relations that were aimed at strengthening relations between Latin American countries and other “oppressed” post-colonial nations, including Arab states and Iran.
Lula’s arrogance reached the extreme of trying to take away the role of the United States as a peacemaker between Israel and the Palestinians and together with the Turkey of Erdoğan proposed an unacceptable plan to resolve the Iran nuclear crisis that stunned even the pacifist former president Barak Obama. He also paid a visit to the Iran of Ahmadinejad not without fanfare at the time when attempts were made to stop the nuclear development of the Islamic Republic and this continued its genocidal declarations against the State of Israel.
Under previous Lula governments, the idea of ”national autonomy” led him to refuse to join the Global War on Terrorism. As the Brazilian academic reminds us Sophia Luiza ZayaLula’s Minister of Institutional Security pointed out that “even if a problem appears, we will not admit that the problem exists.”
But more recently, Lula’s public statements were not particularly encouraging either. When referring to the recognition that the international community granted to Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela, Lula called Guaidó an impostor and said that the world is not respecting the sovereignty and legitimacy of the internal political process in Venezuela. He promised to treat Venezuela with respect. Of course, he did not say a word about the fact that the Maduro government is a dictatorship that won the elections through fraud, intimidation and the use of government machinery, without regard for the sovereignty of the people. Lula it has also refused to condemn human rights violations in Nicaragua and Cuba.
Lula has also spoken out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He believes that the USA and the European Union They are also responsible for expanding the NATO and not commit to Russia that Ukraine will not join the transatlantic alliance. In the United States, scholars like John Mearsheimer and others believe the same. But none of them is able to provide a justification for the massacres, human rights violations and random killings of civilians that Russia is carrying out. Furthermore, Lula’s arrows pointed at the Ukrainian president, Vladimir Zelensky, whom he described as a fraud and as guilty as Putin for this war despite the clear aggression and victimization of the Ukrainian people by Russia.
Lula’s concepts of foreign and security policy and international relations present serious challenges. He is not a guaranteed partner and cannot be trusted for now. This means that the Biden Administration must treat the man carefully and come up with a realistic strategy. Nice words won’t help. Biden could approach Lula by the carrot and stick method.
On the one hand, the United States could help Brazil stop deforestation. If Lula accepts this offer, it could be a great opportunity. Today, China is fully involved in infrastructure projects in Brazil, which also include the region amazonian, where the Asian giant has contributed to a large deforestation. Given that China imports agricultural products massively, in the areas of the Amazon jungle and the Cerrado savannahTwo-thirds of the land was stripped of vegetation to allow cattle grazing. Illegal deforestation, forest fires, illegal mining and the invasion of indigenous lands and conservation units have taken place in Brazil with the help of China and to serve China. This problem generated a serious debate on environmental policies around the destructive effect of these projects.
This environmental disaster, the encroachment on indigenous lands and the role that China has played, have been a source of great debate and conflict in Brazil. If the United States can find creative ways to help Brazil, it is likely to increase its influence over the South American giant.
The Biden Administration can also talk about import oil from Brazilparticularly given the current energy crisis generated by the war in ukraine. Brazil is a major oil producer and its exports also go largely to China. Setting up oil deals with Brazil might be a better idea than doing it with Saudi Arabia, let alone Venezuela.
But Biden must insist that Lula not give legitimacy to authoritarianism in the region. Likewise, he must convince him to support Ukraine’s efforts to survive and stay away from Iran.
Putting pressure on Lula is crucial, particularly at a time when Iran and Russia have strengthened their partnership due to the war in Ukraine (Iran has provided drones and other war materials to Russia). Both are interested in Latin America, and both seek to increase their influence on the continent. The Venezuelan and Cuban regimes are the gates through which these two outlaw entities enter the region. Russia is likely to increase the authoritarian character of countries like Venezuela and Cuba and perhaps also Colombia, Peru and certainly Nicaragua. Iran is already using Hezbollah and its drug connections and local Shia communities to raise money for its wars in the Middle East. Iran is likely to increase its ability to carry out an act of terror against a US or Western entity.
However, the truth is that, given his latest statements, mere persuasion will not work with the stubborn 76-year-old labor leader.
The Biden administration should take advantage of the relative weakness of the next Lula administration, particularly its reliance on the center right.
The Administration must play its cards accordingly. Lula should not be the only target of such persuasive efforts. The Administration must send delegations to the Congress to discuss all these issues with our Brazilian colleagues. The Brazilian center-right and other non-traditional allies of the president should be the key vehicle through which Lula’s moderation could be ensured. In other words, the US government, directly or indirectly, must become a lobbyist. A classic Lula will be nothing more than a disaster for the security of the region.