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Brazil: elections, Lula and the Palestinian cause

October 13, 2022 at 4:32 pm

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s presidential candidate for the Workers’ Party attends a meeting with domestic workers at the Metalworkers Union in the city of Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, on Sunday, September 4, 2022. [Paulo Lopes – Anadolu Agency]

Brazil’s presidential election on 2 October was inconclusive, so a run-off between incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro and former President Lula da Silva will be held at the end of this month. Lula came through the first vote with a six million vote advantage.

However, the eventual result is not a foregone conclusion. Bolsonaro has the support of a wide range of extreme right-wing forces, including millionaire pastors of evangelical churches, Brazil’s great agribusiness entrepreneurs and the mainstream media, which has always backed the interests of the Brazilian elite. They all hold in common a privatisation project of handing over national sovereignty to large foreign corporations, clearly excluding and threatening Brazil’s democracy and institutions.

In contrast, Lula heads a project committed to the country’s development and social justice, valuing the diversity of Brazilian society, and proposing policies to promote national and social development. Lula leads a broad united front against the implementation of the far-right project that he believes would drag Brazil into a disastrous scenario in every way.

Their likely foreign policy is another difference between the two candidates. Bolsonaro allies himself with the political ideas of politicians such as former US President Donald Trump, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Viktor Orban, the fascist premier of Hungary. Such ideas are generally anti-democratic and fascist in nature.

From the very beginning of his term in office, Bolsonaro established strong ties with Zionists and fascists, and declared his unreserved subservience to the US. At the same time, he removed the role of protagonist that Brazil had taken on in forums such as MERCOSUR and BRICS, and dismantled its positive rapprochement with Africa and the Middle East.

READ: What does Bolsonaro’s loss mean to Israel?

Former President Lula’s government (2003-2010) presented another scenario, guided by diplomacy linked to respect for international law and permeated by pragmatism and multilateralism. His balanced posture at the UN, for example, attracted the attention and respect of world leaders.

According to the then US President Barak Obama speaking to fellow world leaders during the 2009 G20 summit, Lula was the “most popular politician on earth”. This was the result of his role in the negotiations that resulted eventually in the Tehran Declaration signed a year later by Brazil, Turkey, Iran and the UN Security Council, reaffirming Iran’s commitment to the Non-Proliferation of Arms Treaty and the Islamic Republic’s right to research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

There is one issue that definitely marks the difference between the two candidates for the presidency of Brazil in terms of international diplomacy. At the opening of the General Assembly of the UN every year, the Brazilian Head of State is usually the first to speak. Brazilian representatives have always addressed the Palestinian issue, offering support for a just solution to the problem of the Israeli occupation and the reparation of the rights of the Palestinian people.


Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva waves to supporters during a campaign rally in Guarulhos, Sao Paulo state, Brazil on October 7, 2022 [MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL/AFP via Getty Images]

This tradition was broken by Bolsonaro, who on the four occasions that he has spoken at the UN has not said a single word about the conflict in Palestine. The direction that this has given to Brazilian diplomacy was evident when he started to vote against the rights of the Palestinian people in international organisations.

During his two terms in office, Lula maintained a line of defence of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people and the two-state solution with the internationally recognised borders of 1967. In several international forums he took a position to demand greater involvement of the international community – the UN in particular – in the solution to end Israel’s military occupation and its constant violations of the rights of the Palestinian people.

The same position was adopted by his successor, President Dilma Rousseff. In her first speech at the opening of the UN General Assembly on 21 September 2011, she said that she regretted not being able to welcome Palestine as a full member state of the international organisation. “The recognition of the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to sovereignty and self-determination expands the possibilities for lasting peace in the Middle East,” she insisted.

READ: International eyes on the Brazilian elections, a race for the Deep Country

Bolsonaro’s subservience to the interests of the US State Department and Israel is not surprising. Nothing he has said and done is outside his political profile, which is disconnected from international debates. On several occasions, he has been ridiculed by international analysts and diplomats at the UN, which hit Brazil’s self-confidence and diminished its global reputation, contributing decisively to the isolation of the country.

One of the few international figures present at Bolsonaro’s presidential inauguration was war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu, who was presented with Brazil’s National Order of the Southern Cross, a medal and honour granted to Heads of State, Heads of Government and other personalities of equivalent hierarchy. In return, Bolsonaro’s first international trip was to the Zionist occupation entity.

The global and regional geopolitics of Latin America and the reintegration of Brazil in the concert of nations are themes and postures that need to be taken to the run-off vote on 30 October. It is unacceptable that people who claim to fight for peace and justice in the world, and who support the just struggle of the Palestinian people for their self-determination and sovereignty from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, can then vote for a far-right politician. The democrats and progressives cannot allow the continued association of Brazil with Zionism’s ultra-right imperialism and racial supremacy.

Brazil needs Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Brazil needs to resume alignment with international law, putting the cause of Palestine’s liberation at the forefront of its international political approach.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.