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“Brazil is back in the region”: Lula at the summit of Latin American leaders



Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said on Tuesday that his country was “back in the region”.

Buenos Aires, Argentina:

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Tuesday said his country was “back in the region” after joining more than a dozen other Latin American leaders at a summit in Buenos Aires.

Less than a month after his inauguration, Lula arrived in the Argentine capital to rebuild bridges after his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro withdrew from the group.

“Brazil is back in the region and ready to work side by side with you with a very strong sense of solidarity and closeness,” said the 77-year-old leader during the seventh Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Summit bringing together 33 nations.

Lula, who previously served as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010, was one of the founders of CELAC during the first “pink wave” of leftward political shifts on the continent over a decade ago.

But Bolsonaro pulled Brazil out of the group over what he saw as support for undemocratic governments in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba.

Lula spoke on Tuesday about the “multiple crises” affecting the world – from the pandemic to climate change, geopolitical tensions, food insecurity and threats to democracy.

“All of this is happening amid unacceptable increases in inequality, poverty and hunger,” said Lula, the only leader to publish his speech at the summit.

Democracy and its threats – especially from the extreme right – were a central theme of the summit.

“We cannot allow the unruly and fascist extreme right to endanger our institutions and our people,” said the forum’s host, Argentina’s center-left President Alberto Fernandez, in his opening remarks.

He referred to the riots by Bolsonaro supporters in the seats of power in Brasilia earlier this month and the alleged assassination attempt on his Vice President Cristina Kirchner in September.

But Fernandez made no mention of communist Cuba or allegations of political repression against radical left regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia.

In fact, in the presence of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Fernandez called for an end to the US-led blockade of Cuba and Venezuela.

They are “a perverse method of punishment, not of governments but of people,” Fernandez said.

– “Latin America is bankrupt” –

Host Argentina this week hailed a “new climate in Latin America,” with the region ushering in a fresh wave of left-wing or center-left governments since 2018 — including Mexico, Argentina, Honduras, Chile, Colombia and Brazil.

CELAC is a forum for consultation and collaboration and has no authority to enforce agreements between its members.

And while Fernandez stressed the need to “strengthen the institutions in our region,” CELAC is struggling to unite members over successive regional crises such as Peru.

“Latin America is bankrupt from an institutional point of view,” Ignacio Bartesaghi, an international relations expert at the Catholic University of Uruguay, told AFP.

“There isn’t even a certain basic consensus in Latin America about the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship,” he stressed.

“There are (at CELAC) presidents who don’t even recognize each other,” he noted, alluding to situations like Mario Abdo Benitez of Paraguay, whose country severed diplomatic ties with Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela in 2019.

– ‘lack of dialogue’ –

Maduro canceled his own trip to the gathering at the last minute, citing “a risk of aggression” from “the neo-fascist right,” a possible reference to some Argentine opposition politicians who called for his arrest upon arrival.

He was due to meet with Lula on Monday, who instead held talks with Diaz-Canel.

He sent a message to the forum exposing the “criminal sanctions” against his government, specifically against state-owned oil company PDVSA.

Other notable absentees from Buenos Aires include Mexico’s leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, leader of Latin America’s second largest economy and host of the last CELAC summit in 2021.

However, CELAC remains the preferred negotiating partner for China and the European Union when it comes to cooperation with the region.

But the last joint EU summit was in 2015, which highlights the lack of regional consensus, says Bernabe Malacalza, a researcher at Argentina’s national research center CONICET.

In this sense, Lula’s return could give a boost to certain sub-regional issues, such as the free trade agreement between the EU and the Mercosur group, which includes Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

The deal was finalized in 2019 but never ratified, largely due to concerns about Bolsonaro’s environmental policies.

Lula has signaled his willingness to resume contacts.

Meanwhile, Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou proposed a free trade zone that would stretch from “Mexico to southern South America.”

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by TOI.News staff and was published by a syndicated feed.)

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