U.S. President Joe Biden met with Brazil’s leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Friday in a restart of relations between the hemisphere’s two largest democracies following the end of the stormy government of Jair Bolsonaro, an ally of Donald Trump.
During the visit, Washington said it would work to provide support for a fund to protect the Amazon rainforest and Biden agreed to travel to Brazil, according to a joint statement released by Brazil, while the two leaders discussed shared values in fighting climate change and protecting democracy against rising authoritarianism.
“We have to continue to defend democracy and our democratic values, which form the core of our strength,” Biden told Lula before a private session in the Oval Office of the White House between the leaders, adding that the two were on the “same page” on the “climate crisis.”
Bolsonaro enjoyed the express support of former President Trump, a Republican, but Brazil’s diplomatic relations cooled with other traditional allies during the far-right leader’s tenure.
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 Bolsonaro supporters denying the election results stormed Brazil’s presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Federal Court.
Brazil “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 “begun and ended with fake news in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening,” prompting Biden to laugh and point out, “Sounds familiar.”
Lula said Brazil was trying to reposition itself in the world, and that both countries should never again allow the kind of attacks like the one Bolsonaro’s supporters last month or echoed: the January 2021, 2020, riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the certification of Biden’s <> 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. Biden has led an international coalition to punish Russia for invading Ukraine.
“They deplored Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and annexation of parts of its territory as flagrant violations of international law and called for a just and lasting peace,” according to the joint statement.
Lula wants to see a peace negotiation involving more neutral global actors, a position he said he discussed with Biden, adding that he perceived in Biden the same interest in ending the war.
Lula defended his decision not to provide German-made artillery ammunition requested by the West to support 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.
Biden and Lula did agree to work together on reforming the U.N. Security Council to include “permanent seats for countries in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean,” according to the joint statement.
Lula’s visit to the White House came after a meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders and Democratic lawmakers.
SUPPORT FOR THE AMAZON
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.
During the trip, Washington agreed to work with the U.S. Congress to provide “initial support” to the Amazon Fund initiated by Germany and Norway to support rainforest protection and sustainable development projects, according to a joint statement that confirmed an earlier Reuters report.
The United States is planning an initial donation of $50 million, according to a Brazilian source, underscoring the restoration of ties between the two countries after the recent period of freezing relations. Brazil wants more countries to contribute.
Brazil this week reinforced its commitment to protect the Amazon rainforest by launching an operation against illegal miners of gold that have devastated the Yanomami indigenous reserve in northern Brazil.
Lula’s predecessor relaxed environmental protections, encouraging mining and logging in the Amazon and allowing deforestation in the region to reach its highest level in 15 years.
At the White House, Lula said the Amazon rainforest had been “overrun” under the previous administration, adding that he was committed to achieving zero deforestation by 2030.