AFP, published on Monday, January 23, 2023 at 9:49 p.m.
Brazilian President Lula began his return to the international scene on Monday with a visit to his neighbor and close ally Argentina, where he tried to reassure about an imminent return to “normality” in Brazil, after the recent convulsion which threatened the places of power in Brasilia.
Three weeks after the start of his presidency, and barely two weeks after the Bolsonarist assault on the seats of Brazilian institutions, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was received on Monday on an official visit to Buenos Aires. This will be followed on Tuesday in the Argentine capital by a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC- 33 member countries), in the presence of around fifteen Heads of State and Government.
Lula will then complete this first international outing in Uruguay on Wednesday, before receiving German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Brasilia on January 30, then going to Washington on February 10 to meet his American counterpart Joe Biden.
In Buenos Aires, the 77-year-old left-wing leader, who is entering his third term (after those from 2003 to 2010), was overtaken by questions about the internal situation in Brazil.
He said his conviction, three days after the dismissal of the army chief, that Brazil will return “to normality” and that the armed forces there “will fulfill their role” without “serving a politician”, as he says they were able to do so under his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.
He was speaking for the first time since the sacking of General Julio César de Arruda on Saturday, two weeks after the January 8 attacks in Brasilia. The Minister of Defense had mentioned a “break in trust” with the officer.
“I had chosen an army chief but it didn’t work. I had to choose another one”, explained Lula on Monday at a press conference, when asked about trust now restored or not, with the appointment of General Tomas Ribero Paiva. “I had a good conversation with him. He thinks exactly the same as me about the armed forces”.
“The armed forces do not serve a politician, they do not exist to serve a politician,” he insisted. The military, like “State agents, cannot get involved in politics during the exercise of their functions”.
“A phenomenon happened in Brazil (…) I don’t know how to explain it, but Bolsonaro obtained that the majority in all the military forces, from the police of each state to the traffic police, part of military police and armed forces,” support him, Lula added.
– Distant dream of a “common currency” –
On the bilateral level, the Brazilian president came to Buenos Aires to reconnect with a strong bilateral relationship from his first terms and recalled his gratitude to his Argentinian counterpart Alberto Fernandez (center-left) who had come to see him in detention in 2019.
Lula, asking “forgiveness to the Argentines” for Bolsonaro’s disinterest in recent years, promised that at the end of his term “the relationship with Argentina will be the best (bilateral) that can exist in all of Latin America” .
Brazil and Argentina, the first and third largest economies in Latin America, also signed a battery of bilateral agreements on Monday: energy, science, health, education, agriculture, finance…
The two Heads of State discussed the prospects for Argentinian gas for Brazil, Brazilian electricity for Argentina. And even first steps, towards a “common currency” for the two countries which would facilitate their transactions and consequent commercial exchanges – Brazil is 1st economic partner of Argentina, Argentina 3rd of Brazil.
“We want our finance ministers to be able to make a proposal to us” along these lines, Lula said. “We don’t know how a common currency could work in Argentina and Brazil or in the region. But we know how national economies work with foreign currencies…”, lamented Mr. Fernandez, in reference to the Argentina’s de facto dual-monetary economy, with a peso under the yoke of the dollar and constantly depreciating.
Tuesday, Lula was in Buenos Aires to seal the return of Brazil within CELAC, a forum for dialogue and consultation of the countries of the region – apart from the United States and Canada. Bolsonaro had removed Brazil from it, denouncing the place given to “undemocratic” regimes, such as Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua.