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Wednesday February 21, 2024

Biden, Lula vow to defend democracy in Americas

In Brazil, Lula defeated right-winger Jair Bolsonaro and took office this January, but a mob of Bolsonaro supporters stormed government buildings shortly after

By AFP
February 11, 2023
US President Joe Biden and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva walk together along the Rose Garden colonnade at the White House in Washington, DC, February 10, 2023.— AFP
US President Joe Biden and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva walk together along the Rose Garden colonnade at the White House in Washington, DC, February 10, 2023.— AFP

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said at the White House that the two biggest countries in the Americas have successfully seen off attacks on their democracies and will now work together on fighting the climate crisis.

"Both our nations' strong democracies have been tested," Biden told Lula, and "both in the United States and Brazil, democracy prevailed."

Meeting in the Oval Office, Biden and Lula expressed solidarity over their similar paths.

Biden defeated Donald Trump in 2020, but two months later a mob of Trump supporters stormed Congress believing his conspiracy theory that he'd been the real election winner.

In Brazil, Lula defeated right-winger Jair Bolsonaro and took office this January, but a mob of Bolsonaro supporters stormed government buildings shortly after.

"We have some issues on which we can work together," Lula told Biden. "First is to never again allow" the anti-democratic mob attacks.

Touting Brazil's return to the international arena, Lula said his predecessor's "world started and ended with fake news - in the morning, afternoon and at night. It seemed that he despised international relations."

Biden, referring to Trump, quickly answered: "Sounds familiar."

Amazon financing?

Biden and Lula stressed their mutual commitment to saving the Amazon rainforest and fighting global warming — efforts that Bolsonaro and Trump both sidelined.

Biden said their "shared values... put us on the same page, particularly, especially, when it comes to the climate crisis."

However, it's not clear whether the Biden administration will agree to contribute to the Amazon Fund, an international scheme to finance anti-deforestation efforts in Brazil.

"I think they will," Lula told reporters. "I not only think they will, but I think that it's necessary they participate."

However, he then said that in the talks "I didn't specifically discuss an Amazon Fund. I discussed the responsibility of rich countries to assume responsibility to fund countries with rainforests and not only in Brazil."

Lula told Biden in the Oval Office that during his earlier presidency, between 2003-2010, he had committed Brazil to drastic reductions in the deforestation of the world's largest rainforest, which is often described as the "lungs of the world" for its massive greenhouse gas absorption.

However, "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," he said, referring to Bolsonaro.

Biden has made US leadership on fighting climate change one of his own main priorities — starting by putting the United States back into the Paris climate accord after Trump exited the historic deal, which aims to slow global warming.

Ukraine divide

One area where Biden and Lula sharply disagree is over Ukraine, and the subject of Russia's invasion did not come up during their introductory remarks, before reporters were ushered from the Oval Office.

Biden has spearheaded an unprecedented Western effort to rally behind Ukraine, providing aid, weaponry, military training and diplomatic support as the country struggles to repel the Russian war machine.

But several major democratic countries — notably India, South Africa and Brazil — have largely remained on the sidelines, refusing to help Ukraine militarily and sending mixed messages politically.

After his meeting was over, Lula told reporters that he wanted to assemble an international "group of countries that aren't directly or indirectly involved in the war of Russia against Ukraine so that we can have a possibility to build peace."

"That is, I'm convinced that we need to find a way out to end this war. I found Biden shared the same concern," he said. "The first thing is to stop the war."