©Reuters. Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attends a meeting at the COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, November 17, 2022. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
By Catarina Demy
LISBON (Reuters) – Brazilian Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva traveled to Portugal from the COP27 summit in Egypt on Friday to tell officials his country is back to “normal” while he strives to improve foreign relations and Brazil’s image in the world improve abroad.
The left, who won the presidential election against right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro last month, is set to begin his third term in January. Until then, he’s on a mission to tell the world that “Brazil is back”.
During arsonist Bolsonaro’s four-year tenure, Brazil’s relations with many other countries crumbled, not least because deforestation of the Amazon (NASDAQ:) skyrocketed under his oversight.
On Wednesday, Lula was greeted by a superstar at COP27 when he vowed to recommit the rainforest nation to tackling the climate crisis and offered to host future UN climate talks. The President-elect met with climate envoys from China and the United States, as well as the EU climate policy chief.
In Portugal on Friday, Lula met President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Prime Minister Antonio Costa.
At a press conference with Costa, Lula said Brazil used to be a “happy” and “hopeful” country but was “sad” because Bolsonaro “didn’t want to talk to anyone”.
“Nobody wanted to visit Brazil because their (Bolsonaro’s) behavior was absolutely anti-Brazilian and anti-democratic,” Lula said. “(But) I want to tell you that Brazil has returned to normal.
“Brazil has returned to a happy country after the election.”
After landing, the President-elect had lunch at a restaurant in Lisbon and was greeted by a crowd of supporters. Brazilians – who speak Portuguese – make up Portugal’s largest immigrant community, and Lisbon has the largest number of Brazilian voters outside of the South American nation.
When he met Rebelo de Sousa at the presidential residence, supporters were gathering outside wearing red, the color of Lula’s Labor Party.
Andre Eduardo, 37, said Lula’s victory was a “gigantic victory against fascism”.
Some Bolsonaro supporters also showed up, shouting and accusing Lula of being a “thief”. One, Muria Tureiques, said Lula was “not elected by the people” and claimed he “stole the election”.
In the run-up to the vote, Bolsonaro had repeatedly made baseless allegations against the Brazilian electoral system. In the end, Bolsonaro did not give in, but did not block the transfer of power. However, some of his supporters have refused to accept the result.
The COP27 summit was Lula’s first trip abroad since his election, but Portugal is his first bilateral visit.
“We believe that by choosing Portugal as the first country for a post-election bilateral visit, he is sending a very strong signal,” Foreign Minister Joao Cravinho told the Lusa news agency.
Bolsonaro did not visit Portugal during his tenure and canceled a meeting with Portugal’s president in Brazil in July this year because the Portuguese leader had also scheduled a meeting with Lula.
“Let’s resume dialogue for the best of our peoples,” Lula wrote on Twitter on Friday.