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What will be the foreign policy of the new Lula government in Brazil: the inauguration could be his trial test

The elected president of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (AP/Eraldo Peres)
The elected president of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (AP/Eraldo Peres)

the ceremony of investment of the President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, on January 1, will be a showcase of his government’s foreign policy. at least some 30 presidents and heads of government They have already confirmed their presence almost double of those present at the investiture ceremony Jair Messias Bolsonaro in 2018. This is an increase that, according to the Brazilian press, symbolizes the reopening of Brazil to the world after the Bolsonaro era, more pro-Trump and focused on internal issues. On behalf of Latin America, the presidents of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Suriname and Costa Rica will attend, representing the return of Brazilian leadership in the region. King Felipe VI of Spain will also be present. French President Emmanuel Macron will not participate but has announced an official visit to Brazil early next year.

The great absent will be instead Nicolas Maduro, despite the fact that Lula has done everything possible to have the dictator in Brasilia. The current government, like other countries in the world, including the United States and the European Union, do not recognize him as head of state. In addition, an official inter-ministerial document from 2019 prohibits his entry into Brazil, as well as that of his relatives and his senior officials for being a threat to “democracy, the dignity of the human person and the prevalence of human rights.” .

On behalf of the President Joe Biden A delegation headed by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior Deb Haaland accompanied by the Director of Western Hemisphere Affairs of the National Security Council, Juan González, and the Chargé d’Affaires of the United States Embassy in Brasilia, Douglas Koneff, will land in Brasilia. But the welcoming esplanade of Brasilia will also open its doors to the Putin’s Russia, busy in the war against Ukraine and that will send a delegation headed by its President of the Senate, Valentina Matviyenko. Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan also arrives, along with three ministers, Trade, Foreign Affairs and Development.

Is the group photo taken at the end of the ceremony then an admirable exercise in diplomatic skill of the new president’s future foreign policy that manages to contain all the opposites? Or the beginning of an ambiguous strategy that winks at the United States but in the end prefers to go hand in hand with the dictators of the earth? Lula will see Biden in Washington at the start of his term, as he has already arranged with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who met with the president-elect in Brasilia in early December. As for Putin, Lula announced on Twitter Last week I had spoken to him on the phone. “He congratulated me on my victory,” she wrote, “he wished good governance and the strengthening of the relationship between our countries.” Lula added that “Brazil once again dialogues with everyone and commits itself to the search for a world without hunger and in peace.”

Brazil remained neutral towards Moscow after the outbreak of the war in Ukrainenot only because it belongs to the group of BRICSthe economic alliance of emerging countries such as China, India, Russia and South Africa, but also because it is a large importer of fertilizers. 99% of its ammonium nitrate comes from Moscow. Due to the Ukrainian conflict and the drastic cut in Russian exports, the cost of fertilizers has tripled worldwide. This explains why both Lula and Bolsonaro have declared their opposition to sanctions against Russia. Lula’s controversial statement to Time magazine that “Zelensky is as guilty of the war as the Russian president” landed him on the Ukrainian government’s list of speakers promoting Russian propaganda, from which he was later removed due to the media impact.

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, and Lula da Silva, who will take office in Brazil on January 1, 2023
Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, and Lula da Silva, who will take office in Brazil on January 1, 2023

China it will also play a prominent role in the foreign relations of the future government. After Lula’s victory, the Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory letter highlighting “the global strategic partnership between the two countries.” The Brazilian has praised the Chinese regime on several occasions, including recently, calling the Asian giant an “example for the world” and a “strong State that makes decisions and the people respect them.” China is Brazil’s largest trading partner since 2009, ahead of the United States. Bilateral trade between the two countries reached 135 billion dollars in 2021. Brazil exports soybeans, steel, raw materials and meat, while China mainly exports technology. In the government of Bolsonaro Brazil, despite pressure from the United States, ended up allowing the participation of the Chinese company Huawei, accused of corporate espionage by the Washington government, in the 5G network. Furthermore, according to a recent report of the non-profit human rights organization Safeguard Defenders, the Xi Jinping regime has set up three clandestine police stations in Brazil with the aim of monitoring and intimidating the Chinese living there. This is an issue that could cause diplomatic problems with Beijing.

Brazil’s relations with the United States, Russia and China will put Lula’s foreign policy to the test. According to the final report of the transition government, Bolsonaro made a strategic mistake by turning “South America into a scenario of the geopolitical dispute between the United States, Russia and China” and also “by isolating Venezuela.” Venezuela could be precisely the issue where Biden and Lula could need each other. In fact, the United States is reaching out to Maduro, despite the fact that he is on the State Department’s list of the most dangerous drug traffickers, to use the country’s oil resources in exchange for gradual easing of sanctions.

Lula will visit Joe Biden in 2023
Lula will visit Joe Biden in 2023

Ricardo Zuniga, US special envoy for Central America and coordinator of Biden’s policies for Brazil, he said in an interview with the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo that Washington expects Lula to commit himself to “improving the conditions of democracy in Venezuela” which, with a very high number of 7.1 million people, continues to be the second country in the world, after Syria, in number of refugees. Among the first decisions of the new government is the green light for Maduro and his family to enter Brazil. In addition, the Brazilian embassy and consulate in Caracas, closed since the beginning of 2020, will be reopened. Maduro for his part last week appointed his future ambassador in Brasilia, Manuel Vicente Vadell, already consul in São Paulo in 2013.

The question remains as to how this “realpolitik” suggested to Lula by Biden can coexist with organizations created with an anti-United States function, whose protagonists are precisely the Brazilian left of Lula and Venezuela. It is the case of Saint Paul Foruma group founded in 1990 by Lula himself and Fidel Castro after the fall of the Berlin Wall to rescue the communist ideology promoting it in Latin America.

according to the newspaper Folha de Sao PauloLula will make Brazil return to the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Latin American bloc created by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 2008 against the influence of the United States and from which Brazil left in 2019 along with other countries such as Colombia, which in 2018 accused him of complicity with “the dictatorship of Venezuela.”

With the new government, Brazil will also return to the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), from which she had dated Bolsonaro. CELAC was created at the behest of Chávez in 2011 as a Latin American challenge to the Organization of American States (OAS). Neither the United States nor Canada are members. The next CELAC meeting will be the reason for Lula’s first trip as president to Argentina, on January 24, where he will meet his colleague Alberto Fernández, who had personally invited him during his visit to São Paulo, immediately after his electoral victory. .

As to Iran, the Vice President of the Workers’ Party (PT), José Guimarães, met with Ambassador Hossein Gharibi in Brasilia last week. “We will resume our good bilateral relations between both countries and we will expand international investments,” wrote on Twitter. Brazil sells halal corn and meat to Iran and has begun importing fertilizer. The fear is that trade relations will also open the door for Tehran politically. In her two terms (2003-2010) Lula has promoted relations with former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and, in 2010, she collaborated with Iran and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a controversial nuclear fuel deal.

The future Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mauro Vieira, tried to minimize criticism from those who fear a extreme multipolarism in the new government and declared that, at the beginning of his term, Lula will not travel to Nicaragua, Cuba or Venezuela, although “Brazil intends to support the return of Venezuela to Mercosur.” Regarding the free trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur, Vieira was positive. “The European Union is now better prepared because Lula’s statement on his environmental strategy, which was one of the obstacles, was very clear.” Environmental diplomacy is precisely intended to be the visiting card of the new government in the world. At the COP-27 on the environment held in November in Egypt, the president-elect met with the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, whom he asked to host the 2025 Climate Conference in the Amazon.

Finally, great importance will once again be attached to Africawhich Lula considers a key continent for the so-called South-South policythat is, a proximity diplomacy with the countries of the South of the world to strengthen commercial and cultural ties, already launched in his first term.

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