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Biden and Lula talk democracy, Amazon in Washington

February 11, 2023

Lula and Biden showed a united front on safeguarding democracy, after far-right mobs attempted to overturn each of their election wins. They are also set to discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Joe Biden with his arm around Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as he disembarks from a jet
Lula's visit to Washington so soon after taking office is highly symbolicImage: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met with US President Joe Biden in Washington on Friday, as the two countries look to reset ties.

The two leaders discussed preserving democracy after each of their far-right opponents tried to overturn their election victories. They also planned to focus on foreign policy and protecting the Amazon rainforest.

Biden, Lula unified on safeguarding democracy

Lula's visit to Washington comes not long after he took office on January 1. The visit is considered highly symbolic.

"Both our nations' strong democracies have been tested of late," Biden said at the start of their Oval Office meeting. "But both in the United States and Brazil, democracy prevailed."

Lula said he wants to restore Brazil's status on the world stage after former President Jair Bolsonaro's chaotic term in office.

"Brazil marginalized itself for four years," Lula said, adding that his predecessor's "world started and ended with fake news."

Biden responded by saying, this "sounds familiar," a clear reference to his predecessor Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, and the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Joe Biden and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the Oval Office
When Lula said his predecessor was embroiled in "fake news," Biden quipped that it "sounds familiar"Image: Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

Protecting the Amazon

Brazil is eager for more countries to contribute to an international 'Amazon Fund' started by Germany and Norway that is designed to protect the world's largest tropical rainforest and promote sustainable development .

Germany and Norway temporarily froze their donations after Bolsonaro argued that Amazon management is a domestic affair and dissolved the fund's steering committee.

Lula said "in the last few years, the rainforest in the Amazon was invaded by political irrationality, human irrationality, because we had a president who sent people to deforest, sent gold diggers into the indigenous areas."

Now, with the election of Lula, the Biden administration is considering joining the $1.3 billion (€1.2 billion) fund, two US officials told Reuters news agency.

Last month, Germany already announced a new package to defend the Amazon.

Ukraine on the agenda

Biden and Lula also plan to discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine — a key point of disagreement between the two leaders.

Brazil is one of several major democratic countries, along with India and South Africa, that have largely remained on the sidelines of the conflict and have called for a negotiated peace.

Brazil's Lula: 'We don't want to get involved' in Ukraine war

Earlier, in an interview with US news channel CNN, Lula defended his decision not to provide German-made artillery ammunition to Ukraine.

"If I sent the ammunition, I would be joining the war. I don't want to join the war. I want peace," he said.

zc/ar (AP, AFP, Reuters)