LatinNews Daily - 13 February 2023

BRAZIL: Lula and Biden meet in Washington

On 10 February Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his US counterpart Joe Biden met in Washington, pledging joint support for democracy and environmental protection of the Amazon, but disagreeing over the war in Ukraine.


The visit was largely designed to demonstrate US support for the new Brazilian government. Biden said “we have to continue to stand up for democracy and our democratic values that form the core of our strength”. Lula said the two countries should never again allow attacks like the storming of the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 or the 8 January 2023 attack on Brazil’s presidential palace, congress and supreme court (STF). These incidents have been attributed respectively to far-right supporters of former presidents Donald Trump (2017-2021) in the US, and to equally far-right supporters of Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2023) in Brazil. Without mentioning Bolsonaro by name, Lula said his rival’s world “started and ended with fake news in the morning, afternoon and night”, causing Biden to laugh and interject “sounds familiar”.

  • There was not, however, a meeting of minds on the war in Ukraine, where Brazil has turned down German and US requests to send weaponry in support of the government of Volodymyr Zelensky. Lula repeated the Brazilian position condemning the Russian invasion but remaining officially neutral.
  • In an interview with CNN he said “if I sent the ammunition, I would be joining the war. I don’t want to join the war. I want peace”. Lula also repeated his interest in forming an international contact group with the US and European countries but also including China and India, to promote Ukrainian-Russian peace talks.
  • The Biden-Lula meeting also came at a time of raised tension between Washington and Beijing, caused by the discovery and shooting down of a Chinese-made high altitude surveillance balloon. Neither Biden nor Lula referred to the incident, but Brazil’s president is due to pay an official visit to China next month and will likely seek to step up economic cooperation, a development viewed with some concern in Washington.
  • The visit was short of major announcements on US-Brazil economic cooperation. The US has said it is considering providing “initial support” to the Amazon Fund, a US$1.2bn facility backed by Norway and Germany, which is designed to protect the rainforest. According to Brazilian officials the US is planning an initial donation of US$50m. Washington also expressed support for Brazil’s commitment to end deforestation by 2030.
  • Lula said his government would not seek the extradition of former President Bolsonaro, currently living in self-imposed exile in Florida, since that would be a matter for the courts that are currently investigating his role in the January attacks, as well as other allegations. Over the weekend (12 February) Bolsonaro said he would be returning to Brazil “in the coming weeks”.
  • However, his lawyers are known to have warned him he could face arrest on arrival.
  • On 10 February Brazil’s STF returned various investigations of the former president to lower courts since he no longer enjoys presidential immunity. These include charges of racism, promoting false news, and anti-democratic behaviours.

Looking Ahead: Concerned about Chinese influence in the Americas, the Biden administration can be expected to continue seeking closer ties with Brazil. Lula will rely on US support for democratic rule to strengthen his domestic position but will also seek to revive a non-aligned foreign policy placing significant emphasis on relations with China, which remains Brazil’s larger trading partner.

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