Last week, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva embarked on a trip to the U.S. with Finance Minister Fernando Haddad, Racial Equality Minister Anielle Franco, and Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira. In addition to meeting with President Biden, he met with Democratic congresspeople including Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as with AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler. Lula’s hurried trip aimed to repair Brazil’s relations with U.S. imperialism, after the departure of former president Jair Bolsonaro.
Lula emerged stronger after the right-wing January 8 coup attempt, and is seeking to establish an international role anchored in an environmental agenda and by positioning himself as diplomatic mediator. In his meeting with Biden, Lula once again defended the creation of a “Peace Club” to mediate the end of the war in Ukraine, navigating a third international position between the United States and China. The plan has been a point of contention with the Biden regime as it runs counter to the interests of U.S. imperialism.
The United States and NATO, responsible for the remilitarization of Eastern Europe and for arming Ukraine, are using Russia’s invasion to advance their imperialist interests. Lula rejected Olaf Scholz’s request a few weeks ago during a visit to Brasilia for Brazil to send ammunition to Ukraine, fearing that the move would jeopardize the fertilizer deals that the South American country has with Russia. However, Lula yielded to Biden in a joint statement after their meeting, highlighting that both countries deplore Russia’s “violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.” In this sense, subordination, although different from Bolsonaro’s, emerged already in the first meeting between the two heads of state.
Meanwhile, in the growing dispute between the United States and China, Lula and the Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT) are trying to play both sides to preserve the business of Brazilian capitalists. Biden invited Lula to an “International Summit of Democracy” in March, a proposed alliance to diminish China’s influence. However, Lula is already scheduled to travel the same month to meet with Chinese president Xi Jinping, who wants to increase China’s business in Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa.
Although he tries to disguise it, Lula is happy to play into the hands of the United States as long as the countries’ interests do not clash. In Uruguay, Lula pushed Lacalle Pou’s government not to accelerate unilateral agreements with China, which, in addition to favoring Brazilian agribusiness, aligns with Washington and NATO’s interests.
Lula’s regime also supports Dina Boluarte in Peru, who took power as a result of a parliamentary coup with the approval of U.S. imperialism and its extractivist multinationals. In fact, Brazil is directly exporting weapons and ammunition to repress the peasant and worker protests, which have left more than 70 dead. Lula’s complicity with the Peruvian coup government highlights Lula’s international policy when it comes to the struggles of the exploited and oppressed, much like the Brazilian army’s intervention in Haiti since 2004. Activists, socialists, and the labor movement in Brazil must show solidarity in support of the struggle of the Peruvian people, against repression and for a break in relations between Brazil and the illegitimate Boluarte government.
Biden and Lula are seeking to strengthen each other against their far-right political adversaries. Indeed, U.S. condemnation of the coup attempt in Brazil and its many warning signals were a brake on any coup adventurism by sectors of the Brazilian regime and even military segments which were organically linked to Washington.
This link between Brazil and the U.S. is evident in other ways. The United States has been involved in countless crimes against humanity, coups and coup attempts, like in Brazil in 1964, and more recently with the Lava Jato operation which culminated in the 2016 institutional coup against Dilma Rousseff and was condoned by the U.S. regime.
Lula was also willing to defend the actions of the Supreme Federal Court in Brazil as a supposed model in the fight against “attacks on democracy.” This is the same court that was instrumental in the 2016 institutional coup, Dilma Roussef’s impeachment, Lula’s arbitrary imprisonment, and the authorization of privatizations and labor and pension reforms.
Lula intends to sustain the elements of cohesion of the Brazilian regime, which arose in response to the January coup attempt. In doing so, he is prepared to strengthen reactionary Bonapartism internationally, and turn against the Left, the working class, and the social movements if they threaten to break the consensus of passivity in the class struggle — imposed by the new PT government — and become a source of political instability.
Lula also guaranteed that the United States would contribute to the Amazon Fund, an international fundraising project already joined by Germany and Norway, which serves the Biden administration’s ecocapitalist aspirations and serves as a greenwashing cover for the left wing of the Democrats. As countries like the United States participate in these environmental conservation policies, billionaire multinationals are destroying the environment around the world, including in their home countries.
While Lula has already established himself as Latin America’s top leader, we must reject his political and military support for the coup government in Peru, as well as the imperialism which has historically plundered and murdered across Latin America. We must raise an independent workers program in response to the structural problems facing Brazil, and fight for, among other things, the complete repeal of all reforms and privatizations, the end of the spending ceiling, and the non-payment of the fraudulent public debt.
Originally published in Spanish on February 11 in La Izquierda Diario.
Translation by Otto Fors