Biden and Lula project unity on democratic values and climate change By Reuters
© Reuters. Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrives at Blair House across the street from the White House where he will be staying during his visit to Washington, U.S. February 9, 2023. REUTERS/Leah Millis
By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden held talks at the White House on Friday with Brazil’s leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in a reboot of relations after the end of Donald Trump ally Jair Bolsonaro’s stormy rule.
The two leaders opened their late-afternoon Oval Office meeting by telling the press about their shared values on fighting climate change and protecting democracy against a rise in authoritarianism.
“We have to continue to stand up for democracy and our democratic values that form the core of our strength,” Biden told Lula before a private session between the leaders, adding that the two were on the “same page” about the “climate crisis.”
Relations between the hemisphere’s two largest democracies grew strained under Lula’s far-right predecessor.
Bolsonaro flew to Florida two days before his term ended on Jan. 1, having challenged the results of the Oct. 30 runoff election that he narrowly lost to Lula. Days later a violent movement of election-denying Bolsonaro supporters stormed Brazil’s presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court.
Brazil “self-marginalized itself for four years” under the former president, Lula said at the White House, without mentioning Bolsonaro by name.
His world, Lula said, had “started and ended with fake news in the morning, afternoon, at night,” prompting Biden to laugh and interject, “Sounds familiar.”
Lula said Brazil was trying to reposition itself in the world, and both countries should never again allow the kind of attacks like the one by Bolsonaro supporters last month or the one it echoed – the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot to prevent the certification of Biden’s 2020 victory over former President Trump.
Lula also said the two leaders could also work together to combat inequality and climate change.
Biden and Lula are not expected to agree on the war in Ukraine, given Brazil’s neutrality. Lula wants to see a negotiated discussion of peace with the involvement of more neutral global players.
Lula defended his decision not to provided German-made artillery ammunition sought for the West’s support of Ukrainian defense. “If I sent the ammunition, I would be joining the war. I don’t want to join the war. I want peace,” he said earlier on CNN.
Lula’s visit to the White House followed a meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders and Democratic lawmakers.
Brazil’s foreign ministry had said support for democracy, human rights and the environment would be at the center of Lula’s agenda in Washington.
Brazil is eager for more countries to contribute to an ‘Amazon (NASDAQ:) Fund’ started by Germany and Norway to back protection of the rainforest and sustainable development projects.
The Biden administration is looking into joining the $1.3 billion fund, the two U.S. officials confirmed to Reuters.
A U.S. contribution to the Brazilian-administered fund would underline the resetting of ties between the two countries after the recent period of frosty relations.
Lula traveled to Washington with Environment Minister Marina Silva, expected to meet with Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry. The ministers of foreign relations, finance and racial equality are also part of the delegation.
The new administration signaled its commitment to protecting the Amazon rainforest this week by launching an enforcement operation against illegal gold miners that have devastated the Yanomami indigenous reservation in northern Brazil.
Bolsonaro had relaxed environmental protections, encouraging mining and logging in the Amazon and allowing deforestation in the region to hit a 15-year high.
At the White House, Lula said the Amazon rainforest had been “invaded” under the previous administration, adding that he was committed to reaching zero deforestation by 2030.