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Lula’s audacity on the international stage must also be replicated domestically

Henrique Canary
Ricardo Stuckert/PR

Paris, França, 22.06.2023 – Presidente Lula discursa no evento “Power Our Planet”, em Paris.

It is not about a complete subversion of the imperialist world order, but it causes discomfort among certain figures. And that’s a good thing. During his trip to Europe since the beginning of the week, Lula has been making a series of statements that aim to question some established mechanisms and patterns in global diplomacy and the relationship between poor and rich countries, including issues related to the war in Ukraine and the fight against climate change.

Lula’s most forceful and important statement came during a rally in Paris on Wednesday, where he questioned, in front of a crowd of several thousand people, the idea that all countries should contribute in the same way to the fight against the climate emergency. According to Lula, different countries have contributed differently to the climate crisis, and it is not fair to impose the same obligations on long-industrialized nations and those still developing. He stated, “It wasn’t the African people who polluted the world. It wasn’t the Latin American people who polluted the world. In fact, those who polluted the planet in the last 200 years were the ones who underwent the Industrial Revolution, and therefore they have to pay the historical debt they owe to planet Earth.” He made this statement in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, where French President Emmanuel Macron hosted world leaders to discuss climate change and the measures to be adopted by the international community.

Later, alongside the French president himself, Lula criticized the agreement project between the European Union and Mercosur, referring to the mechanisms introduced by the EU in the document under discussion as “threats.” He stated, “I am eager to make an agreement with the European Union. But it is not possible because the additional letter drafted by the EU does not allow for an agreement to be reached. We will respond, and we will send our response, but it is necessary for us to start a discussion. It is not acceptable for us to have a strategic partnership and, at the same time, an additional letter that poses a threat to a strategic partner.”

The Brazilian president also delivered a harsh analysis of the functioning of international institutions and advocated for changes in the global system of states. He stated, “The institutions created after World War II no longer work. If we don’t change, the climate issue will become a joke. Who will fulfill the decisions emanating from the forums we hold?” Lula’s criticism pertains not only to the fulfillment of greenhouse gas emission reduction targets but also to the promise made by rich countries to provide $100 billion to poorer countries for climate change mitigation. Despite the promise being made several years ago, not a single cent has been transferred so far. Lula added, “Let’s be frank: Who fulfilled the Kyoto Protocol? Who fulfilled the decisions of COP15 in Copenhagen? The Paris Agreement? They are not fulfilled because there is no global governance with the strength to make things happen.”

Lula also highlighted that discussions on climate change in international forums often neglect the social and economic situations of the involved stakeholders, particularly the issues of economic and social development and food security for populations. He stated, “It is not possible that among presidents of such important countries, the word ‘inequality’ does not appear. If we do not discuss inequality and prioritize it as much as the climate issue, we may have a very good climate, but people will continue to die of hunger in several countries.”

The discomfort increased when Lula connected the issue of social inequality to the conflict in Ukraine, advocating for a negotiation table that takes into account the interests of both sides and immediately ceases the fighting. He stated, “It is necessary to have the actors at a negotiation table, to stop shooting and seek peaceful solutions because the world has 800 million people who go to sleep without having anything to eat, and it is not fair to spend billions of dollars or euros on a war.”

Lula also pointed out that the invasion of sovereign countries is not exclusive to Russia but a common practice among the wealthier nations. He stated, “It has become a trend for people who participate as permanent members of the UN Security Council to invade other countries without asking permission from anyone. The United States invaded Iraq, England and France invaded Libya, and now Putin has invaded Ukraine,”  highlighted the Brazilian president.

In general, since taking office, Lula has shown a great deal of boldness on the international stage, making statements and taking actions appropriate for a sovereign and important country like Brazil., which is exactly the opposite of what Bolsonaro did. This stance of Lula’s can only be praised. This includes his statements on climate change and global inequality, which have greatly displeased Macron, but also his opposition to arming Ukraine for the continuation of the war and his reception of Nicolas Maduro in Brazil for an important meeting of Latin American leaders in late May.

What is needed now is to better align the discourse and international practice with domestic actions. Within the country, it is necessary for Lula and the government to take the lead in questioning the established order and building a new governance based on fulfilling campaign promises and mobilizing the population to defend the government against attacks from the far-right and fascism. It is not coherent to confront Macron and Biden on the international stage and concede everything to Lira and the Centrão [the right-wing political coalition that controls the Congress. t/n] in negotiations in Congress. After all, Lula’s greatest strength lies within the country, not outside. Just as historical justice needs to be addressed among states and nations, it is also necessary for Brazil to repay its debt to the poor, working-class, and oppressed people.

It is true that the national economy has shown some improvement, which has been reflected in reasonably high levels of support for the government. However, let us not be deceived. All of this can crumble in the face of the first crisis. It is necessary to prepare for the battle by delivering everything that was promised to the people during the campaign, which can only be achieved through a confrontational approach to the elites, the mainstream media, the Centrão, and the military. This is what is expected from someone with the strength and authority of Lula.