Lula meets with foreign leaders on first full day as Brazil’s president

By Carlos Meneses

Brasilia, Jan 2 (EFE).- Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday sought to reestablish closer links with Ibero-America on his first full day in office with an intensive and extensive round of bilateral meetings with a number of key leaders from the region, as well as other foreign officials.

Less than 24 hours after being inaugurated to his third non-consecutive term as president, the 77-year-old leftist leader held meetings with Spain’s King Felipe VI; the presidents of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez; Bolivia, Luis Arce; Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso; Colombia, Gustavo Petro; Chile, Gabriel Boric, and Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo, among others.

“I think that President Lula is a regional leader who is going to give a very important push to Latin America,” said Fernandez, who added he will await with “open arms” the Brazilian leader’s visit to Argentina on Jan. 23 on what will be Lula’s first international trip.

Lula thus sent a strong signal that, as he governed during his first two terms from 2003-2010, foreign policy will be one of the pillars of his third term after four years of international “isolation” under the leadership of ultrarightist ex-President Jair Bolsonaro.

It has already been anticipated that Lula wants to return Brazil “to the place in the world it deserves,” as “a protagonist” in international forums, where Brasilia had been relegated to second-tier status under the previous administration.

During his marathon of meetings with foreign leaders, Lula first welcomed Felipe VI to Itamaraty Palace, the seat of the Foreign Ministry and where he held all of the day’s meetings with foreign dignitaries.

The pair spoke about “the Brazil-Spain relationship, Europe and Latin America,” Lula said in a short message on the social networks.

The Spanish monarch was heading his country’s delegation to Lula’s inauguration on Sunday, in which Spain’s deputy prime minister, Yolanda Diaz, and Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares also participated.

Before the inauguration, Felipe said in a meeting with members of the Spanish community in Brazil, that he hoped that “Brazil will have a very active international role.”

After their meeting, Diaz said on the social networks that Lula represents “the start of a period of rights, equality, joy and dignity for the Brazilian people.”

After meeting with Felipe and the Spanish officials, it was Arce’s turn, with Lula seeking new formulae for bilateral cooperation in “social policies, energy and the supply of fertilizers,” a significant regional concern ever since fertilizer-exporter Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and was subsequently hit with heavy Western sanctions.

Lula referred to Arce as a “friend,” the same term he used with Fernandez, with whom he has had a close relationship for years.

The Argentine leader has always been at Lula’s side through thick and thin. Fernandez visited Lula during his 580 days in prison on corruption charges that were later annulled by Brazil’s Supreme Court. He was in Sao Paulo right after Lula won the October presidential runoff – in which he defeated Bolsonaro – and now has attended his inauguration.

“Argentina and Brazil are inseparably united countries,” said Fernandez in a statement after their meeting.

The Peronist leader said that the bilateral relationship is entering a new phase of strengthening after the “difficult” years with Bolsonaro, whom he accused of “absenting” Brazil from multilateral organizations, something the world “cannot allow.”

Proof of that is that Lula, following Brazilian diplomatic tradition, will make his first international visit to Argentina, where he will also participate in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit after Brazil left the organization in 2020 during Bolsonaro’s 2019-2022 administration.

Lula’s meeting with Petro was also quite ambitious, with the two leaders speaking about forging a “great pact to save” the Amazon, “a change in anti-drug policy, Brazil as a guarantor of peace in Colombia and studying the electricity interconnections in the Americas with sources of clean energy.”

With Boric, Lula discussed regional integration, both in physical as well as economic and trade terms.

Besides strengthening his links with Ibero-America, Lula also welcomed the representatives of Venezuela, Cuba and Peru, several African leaders and Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan.

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