My country caters to people the West can’t stand

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SAO PABLO, Brazil — During the government of Jair BolsonaroBrazil was an international pariah.

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These are not my words, but those of the Foreign Minister: apparently, it was”good to be an outcast”.

I don’t miss those people.

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When Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office in January after defeating Bolsonaro, most expected him to put Brazil back on the international stage.

The first signs were good:

In November, even before assuming the presidency, Lula went to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP27) to Egypt and made a friendly visit to the United States in February.

Later, Lula started doing it go off script

Argentine President Alberto Fernández shakes hands with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva after a meeting at the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, Brazil May 2, 2023. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Argentine President Alberto Fernández shakes hands with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva after a meeting at the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, Brazil May 2, 2023. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Within a few frantic weeks, he strove to initiate peace talks Ukraine, criticized the supremacy of the US dollar, went to China and received the Russian foreign minister.

Many in the West were outraged, with one commentator accusing him of offering “political support to anti-American despots.”

It’s a tantalizing view, especially when Lula, as he did in China, holds Russia and Ukraine equally responsible for the war.

But, in any case, it is wrong.

Taken together, Lula’s moves are not so much an attempt to frustrate the West as one to do so promote the national interests of Brazil, as well as his efforts to alleviate poverty and hunger in the Global South.

In keeping with the country’s history of multilateralism and sensitive to its needs, Lula is drawing its own direction.

China is the dominant player.

Lula’s visit to Beijing in April, where he met with the president Xi Jinping in the midst of a great uproar, it made the hairs of more than one stand on end.

The President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, EFE/ Andre Borges

The President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, EFE/ Andre Borges

But the visit, after the Argentina and Uruguay, was expected.

After all, China is the Brazil’s main trading partneras it imports huge quantities of iron ore, soybeans and, increasingly, meat.

For its part, Brazil imports from China most, from pesticides and semiconductors to the shiny knick-knacks and gadgets that fill our dollar stores.

Economic interests alone could explain the trip.

But Lula himself clarified that the visit had other reasons.

“We have political interests,” he declared, “and we are interested in building a new geopolitics so that we can change the government of the world.”

The comment was in line with an earlier obsession Lula had, when he was president from 2003 to 2010, with shaking off alleged Western dominance of international institutions such as the World Trade Organization and ensure greater representation of developing countries in the United Nations.

In this project, China is a clear ally.

Lula’s itinerary showed the importance of this concern.

First of all, his first stop was to attend the inauguration of his successor to the Brazilian government in 2011, Dilma Rousseffas chairman of the Shanghai New Development Bank.

This bank, popularly known as the “BRICS bank” — an acronym for emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa— intends to act as a counterweight to the wealthy nations of the global north.

In his accompanying speech, Lula said he could “liberate emerging countries from submission to the traditional financial institutions that seek to govern us”, in a strong criticism of the International Monetary Fund.

This is the crux of the matter.

For many developing country leaders, the global financial system, overseen by the IMF and World Bank and run in US dollars, serves to squeeze the poorest nations, locking them in debt repayment programs and preventing investments in infrastructure and welfare programs.

At the New Development Bank ceremony, Lula said he wonders “every night” why all countries are forced to trade in dollars.

While it sounds like a recipe for bad sleep, worry isn’t itself irrational.

Far more worrying was the free rein Lula seemed to be giving to China.

It is one thing to proclaim, as he did after a visit to Huawei’s research center in Shanghai, that “we have no bias in our dealings with the Chinese” and quite another to declare that Taiwan is not an independent state without saying anything about violations to human rights or government surveillance.

This silence demonstrates that Lula’s approach, widely described as a return to “pragmatism”, has its moral costs.

However, Lula is also inspired by the Brazilian tradition of foreign policy, based on the principles of multilateralism, non-intervention and peaceful resolution of conflicts.

This is what underlies his refusal to sell arms to Ukraine and his efforts to convene a “peace club” of neutral nations to broker Ukraine-Russia negotiations.

Sure, a just end to the brutal war in Ukraine is desirable, but Lula has stated his goal in strange ways.

He accused the United States ofstimulate war” and the European Union not to mention peace, and even said that “the two countries have decided to go to war”, which suggests that Ukraine is also to blame for the conflict.

Earlier in April, he had suggested that Ukraine could hand over Crimea and end the war.

These types of comments have not gone unnoticed.

The Russian foreign minister, on a visit to Latin America which has controversially included Brazil, expressed his gratitude.

Others were less happy.

A US official accused Lula of “parroting Russian and Chinese propaganda”, while a US spokesman reiterated that Russia alone was to blame.

The spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, although he was a diplomat, did His discontent is evident.

Faced with the claims, Lula moderated and stressed that his government “condemns the violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine”,

Despite this, he continued to support “a negotiated political solution” to the war and reiterated his concern “over the global consequences of this conflict”.

There’s no reason to think he wasn’t sincere.

Lula seems willing to give up the benevolence of his democratic friends in the West in exchange for food security, peace and sustainable development, in Brazil and around the world.

Brazil stopped being a pariah to become a pragmatist.

c.2023 The New York Times Society

Source: Clarin

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