Lula, international return: first stage, neighbors
Neighborhood before world: President Lula begins his return to the international stage on Monday with a visit to neighbor and ally Argentina, then holds a Latin American regional summit even as the Brazilian leader faces more domestic emergencies.
Three weeks into his presidency and just two weeks after an attack that saw the Bolsonarians threaten their seats of power in Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrived in Buenos Aires on Sunday evening for an official visit, followed on Tuesday by a summit of the Latin Community of American and Caribbean States (CELAC – 33 member countries), with the participation of about fifteen heads of state and government.
Lula will then wrap up his first international trip in Uruguay on Wednesday, meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Brazil on January 30, and then travel to Washington on February 10 to meet with his American counterpart, Joe Biden.
The trip is very important for Argentina. Brazil is its largest trading partner – Argentina is third. But the ideological distance between the government of Alberto Fernandez (center-left) and the far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro, as well as “the absence of the latter in international forums, has made it very difficult to reach an agreement on a whole series of issues,” Gabriela Cerruti, spokeswoman for the Argentine presidency, recalled on Friday.
In fact, Lula’s visit should seal large-scale bilateral agreements in various fields: energy, science, health, agriculture, finance… A step towards the “integration we have longed for years” between the 1st and 3rd economies from Latin America, the two countries “in the face of future challenges “food production and energy (which are very important for the world)” emphasizes the headship.
The symbolism is very strong for Latin America. The Buenos Aires summit seals Brazil’s return to Celaja, which the Bolsonaro government withdrew in January 2020, judging that the organization, created in 2010, gave a “leading role to non-democratic regimes” such as Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua.
“Bolsonaro’s government saw Latin America as a problem, not as a foreign policy solution, a very negative view,” Felicio de Sa Guimaraes, academic director of the Brazilian Center for International Relations, told AFP.
CELAC is certainly not a regional integration institution, but a regional forum for dialogue and cooperation. However, it is the only country besides the United States and Canada that unites the countries of the region and a de facto regional counterpart of the European Union or China.
– Everywhere “rebuilding bridges” –
The reintegration of CELAC is “a first step”. The Brazilian analyst believes that “if Lula is going to try to restart something from the leadership”, the fact remains that achieving this “requires more opportunities and more time from Brazil”, especially “economic opportunities”.
And recovery doesn’t necessarily mean priority. “The initial instructions of the president (Lula) were clear: to rebuild ‘bridges’ not only with Latin America and Africa, but with equal importance and priority with the United States, China and Europe,” the Brazilian Foreign Ministry said. Minister Mauro Vieira on Saturday.
Moreover, after more than a decade since Lula as the leader of the influential BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) group of emerging economies, or more precisely, the promoter of CELAC, is leadership Lula’s priority for 2023?
Bernabe Malacalza, a researcher on international relations at Argentina’s Conicet National Research Center, believes that “any attempt at Lula’s leadership in foreign policy will run counter to his domestic demands.”
Also on Saturday, Brazil’s president fired army chief and defense minister Jose Mucio, citing “a breach of trust after the last episodes of January 8 (…)”.
“Brazil’s wounds are open,” Malacalza said. “And on the present horizon,” his biggest challenge will be to rebuild his democratic structure.
“Unless the tendencies of authoritarianism, the radicalization of a part of Brazilian society, and the increasing weight of the military in politics are eliminated, Brazil will lose an important basis for becoming a reliable international power and being accepted.”