Brazil's newly elected Lula heads to Argentina on first trip abroad
Just weeks after taking office and the major violence that ensued in the capital Brasilia, leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is making his first trip abroad Sunday, swiftly putting in action his plan to return Brazil to the international stage.
Lula will head to Argentina, the customary first stop for Brazilian presidents. Beyond tradition, however, the trip will also allow him to meet with a faithful ally, President Alberto Fernandez, as well as regional counterparts at the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
"Brazil is back," Lula vowed on the evening of his October 30 victory against far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, whose four years in office were marked by international isolation.
"Everyone wants to talk to Brazil," Lula said earlier this week in an interview with the Globo TV channel, promising to rebuild Brasilia's ties with the international community.
Latin America is only the initial phase of his international push, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz paying a visit on January 30, and Lula headed to Washington to meet with his US counterpart Joe Biden on February 10.
Lula's priority "reconnect with Latin America" after ties with neighbors in the region were "relegated to the backburner," Joao Daniel Almeida, a foreign relations specialist at Pontifical University in Rio de Janeiro, told AFP.
Lula arrives in Buenos Aires on Sunday and will meet with Fernandez the following day. The center-left Argentine leader has already traveled to Brazil for a bilateral meeting, held on January 2, the day after Lula took office.
Discussion is expected to include trade, science, technology and defense, Brazil's foreign ministry said.
- Pink tide -
Brazil's 77-year-old leader could also meet several leftist counterparts on Tuesday in Buenos Aires -- Cuba's Miguel Diaz Canel and Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, with whom Brasilia has recently normalized ties -- who will all be attending a regional summit.
Under Bolsonaro, Brazil was one of fifty countries that recognized Maduro's main opponent, Juan Guaido, as interim president of the country.
Lula will then travel to Uruguay for a meeting with center-right President Luis Lacalle Pou.
In Buenos Aires, the CELAC summit aims to bring together more than 30 states from the region. Lula, who served two previous terms as president from 2003 to 2010, was one of the founders of the group, formed when a so-called "pink tide" of left-leaning governments washed over Latin America.
With a number of leftist leaders having recently come to power, the region's constantly see-sawing political map once again resembles that of the early 2000s.
Bolsonaro, a harsh critic of the left, suspended Brazil's participation in CELAC, alleging the body "gave importance to non-democratic regimes such as those of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua."
He also failed to establish warm ties with Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia, where the left had come to power.
Bolsonaro had "a reductive ideological vision," Lula's Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira said.
Foreign relations specialist Almeida said that Lula, on the other hand, wants to "prioritize economic cooperation" in the region.
Lula also expressed this week his interest in a regional policy for the preservation of the Amazon, as the international community waits with bated breath for changes following Bolsonaro's strong record of increased deforestation.
Lula makes his first trip abroad after the January 8 assault on the capital of Brasilia, during which Bolsonaro backers ransacked the seat of government, attacking the presidential palace, Supreme Court and Congress.
He leaves for Argentina with the strong backing of the international community in the wake of the violence.
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