Good news for Latin America

by Atilio A. Borón, Buenos Aires

 The assumption of office by Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva as president of Brazil is good news for Latin America and the Caribbean. It is likely that the South American giant will regain the international importance it had in the past and that he will help revive or advance the various integration processes in the region. On the 200th anniversary of the ill-fated Monroe Doctrine, this is more important than ever.

The agenda ranges from the revival of MERCOSUR to CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and UNASUR, to name but the most important. A sign of the reorientation of Brazil’s foreign policy is the new president’s commitment not only to attend the next CELACsummit – to be held in Buenos Aires on 24 January – but also to return Brazil to this organisation, from which it had withdrawn following a decision by Jair Bolsonaro’s government.

Obviously, however, this is only part of the agenda that Lula’s foreign minister, Mauro Vieira, has to deal with. Strengthening relations with the countries of the global South is another priority, as is pushing for reform of the United Nations Security Council to give Brazil a permanent seat on that body. Another priority issue will undoubtedly be the revival of the BRICS, the agreement between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which is currently undergoing a difficult (but not intractable) Beijing-sponsored enlargement process that will see the inclusion of Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Senegal and Thailand. After his trip to Argentina, Lula has two highly explosive visits coming up: first to the White House and then to Beijing. Both in the first quarter of the year.
However, Lula will have to use all his diplomatic negotiating skills to avoid getting caught up in the crusade that the Biden government is waging against two of Brazil’s partners in the BRICS group: against Russia, through the “proxy war” being waged on Ukrainian soil with the participation of Europe’s unworthy neo-colonial governments; and the increasing escalation of the war against China, the “main enemy”, as it is named in the latest document of the US National Security Council. For China is the only country that has the will and the ability to reshape the current world order in its favour. Russia has the will, but not the ability. The war in Ukraine is a move aimed precisely at weakening this capacity.
But it is different with China. For Brazil, this Asian country is by far the most important trading partner: In 2022, the volume of trade between the two countries reached $ 135 billion, more than twice as much as with the US. Biden’s approach to the Asian giant could not be more aggressive and at the same time more unpleasant for Lula: Biden invited a representative of Taiwan to his inauguration – an unprecedented gesture since the US officially recognised the People’s Republic of China –, and he did the same on the occasion of his failed “Summit for Democracy”, where the envoy from Taipei sat next to none other than Juan Guaidó1 and other representatives of his ilk. We should also remember the constant provocations of US forces in the South China Sea or Nancy Pelosi’s visit and her attempts to deny China access to microchips.
Lula knows that another of his BRICS partners, India, is also not welcome to Washington today, because its trade with Russia has doubled and this is interpreted as economic support for the military action in Ukraine and as a weakening of Biden’s sanctions against Russia. Therefore, it is likely that behind the friendly smiles on display in the official photo in the Oval Office of the White House, the tensions that characterise the international system today will come full force to the meeting of the two heads of state once the photographers have left. Washington needs unconditional allies for its holy crusade against Russia and China, but the worst thing Brazil and any other Latin American and Caribbean country can do is to get involved in a conflict that is completely alien to us and in which there is almost everything to lose and nothing to gain. Lula surely knows that one of the few options he has to avoid being hired for this war is to strengthen the Union of the Countries of Our America. Hopefully he can act accordingly or, respectively, will be allowed to do so. 

1Juan Guaidó was the self-proclaimed and US-backed “interim president” of Venezuela. He has meanwhile also been dropped by the USA.
Source:  of 3 January 2023
(Translation Current Concerns)

Brazil attempts a fresh start

by Gisela Liebe

On 1 January  2023, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has come into the presidential office of Brazil for the third time. Great hopes lie on the newly elected president, yet he is facing a very strong opposition as well. His election victory against Jair Bolsonaro was a close one with 50,9 % of the votes. The centre and right-wing parties, including those parties confederate with former president Jair Bolsonaro, will continue to control congress.
    During his inaugural speech as chief of state in parliament, Lula complained about the catastrophic state of the country with increasing poverty and extreme inequality:
    “20 years ago, when I was elected president for the first time, I opened my inaugural speech with the word ‘Change’, together with vice president José Alencar. Our change back then had the simple intention of implementing the constitutional laws into practice. Starting with the right to live a life with dignity, without hunger, with access to employment, health and education.
    On this occasion I stated that my life’s work would be fulfilled by the time every Brazilian man and every Brazilian woman could eat a proper meal three times a day. Having to repeat this obligation today – facing the ever-increasing misery and the return of famine which we already had overcome – is the main symptom for the devastation which was laid upon the country during the last couple of years.” In addition to the consequences of Bolsonaro’s neoliberal policy, the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil resulted in 700,000 deaths, an extremely high number in relation to the population.
    Furthermore, according to Lula it is his prime goal to reduce the clearing of the Amazon rainforest to zero and to protect the indigenous territories. “We will initialise an energetic and ecologic shift to a sustainable agricultural production and sustainable mining and strengthen peasant agriculture”, he said in front of the national congress. The Amazon trust equivalent to 600 million USD, which is composed of German and Norwegian funds and had been suspended by Bolsonaro in 2019, will be reactivated. The future minister of the environment Marina Silva had already been employed as such under Lula before and had retired under protest in 2008, being without a chance against the agricultural lobby. Tensions with the agricultural industry are to be expected in the future, as the new minister of Agriculture Carlos Fávoro comes from the agricultural industry at Mato Grosso, where soy is produced in particular.

Stop of privatisations

On the very first day of his term in office, Lula signed several important decrees:

  • The already initiated privatisations of eight federal enterprises will be cancelled, among them the oil company Petrobras, the Post Office, the Brazilian communications company and the federal data processing service. Lula declared that it would be necessary to “guarantee a strong analysis of the consequences of privatisation on public services or the market” and thus stopped the national privatisation program of the former government.
  • The last decree of the Bolsonaro government, in which the tax rates for large businesses had been halved, has been superseded.
  • The benefit program Bolsa Familia, which supports 21 million families with 600 Reals or 112 USD, will be continued.
  • The liberalisation of possession of firearms issued by Bolsonaro will be revoked. All firearms acquired since 2019 have to be registered anew, gun clubs and schools will not get new registrations. Between January 2019 and May 2020, over 1.000 gun clubs had been established, catering to civil armament rather than the shooting sport.

The extent to which Brazil will succeed in leading a sovereign foreign policy, challenging the USA, remains to be seen. The connections between the Biden administration and the newly elected Brazilian government have been tied quickly, as Daniel Kersfeld writes in “Pagina 12” from 5 January 2022.  On the 5 December, a two-hour meeting between Lula and Jake Sullivan, security advisor of Biden, took place where the domestic situation in Venezuela and Haiti and “the future of democracy in the region” was debated, as well as global issues like global warming and the conflict in Ukraine.


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