Brazil’s Lula presents his nation – and himself – as the new leader for the global south

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — “Brazil is back.” That was Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s refrain for most of the last year, with the president using the biting slogan to portray Brazil — and himself — as the leader of the United States Global South no longer content to endure the world’s outdated ways.

Last year, Lula defeated the re-election bid of the far-right Jair Bolsonaro, who showed little interest in geopolitics or diplomacy during his four years in office. In contrast, Lula has crisscrossed the globe in recent months, visiting 21 countries United States To China, Italy to India, Argentina to Angola. He has tried to bolster Brazil’s credibility with every state visit and speech, one multilateral forum after another.

On Tuesday, he will return to that podium for the first time since 2009, the final year of the second term of his previous presidency, to address the UN General Assembly.

“We will see hints of the ‘Brazil is back’ narrative as Brazil seeks to present itself more broadly as a country that wants to not only preserve the multilateral system but also lead the reforms in the coming years,” said Oliver Stuenkel, Associate Professor of International Relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a university in Sao Paulo. This also serves as a contrast to Bolsonaro, who was not seen as a reliable supporter of multilateralism.

Lula’s election victory last year was the narrowest in Brazil’s modern history, and the risk of intense polarization in Brazil’s young democracy was evident even after he took office. Bolsonaro supporter stormed the capital in an attempt to oust him from power.

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Many thought Lula needed to stay home to focus solely on domestic issues and healing a divided society. But he has simultaneously undertaken a whirlwind of international tours more typical of a president’s second term.


During Lula’s travels, he pushed for global governance that empowers the Global South and advocated for reducing the dollar’s dominance in trade. He has made it clear that Brazil has no intention of siding with the United States or China, the world’s two largest economies and Brazil’s two largest trading partners.

And he refused to join Washington and Western Europe in supporting Ukraine’s fight against Russian invasion, calling instead for a club of nations to mediate peace talks. According to the International Criminal Court an arrest warrant issued For the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lula said he would consider Brazil’s membership in the court.

Lula’s comments on some of these issues have already caused a stir in Washington even drew criticism. There are likely to be some at his speech on Tuesday.

“I expect Lula to give a very strong speech in defense of the Global South, in defense of a multipolar order with a much larger role for the United Nations and the need for wealthy countries, including the US, to pay their fair share on climate issues.” said Brian Winter, a longtime Brazil expert and vice president of the New York-based Council of the Americas. “I don’t think Lula will miss the opportunity to advocate for these causes in front of the world.”

When Lula took office in January, some in the Biden administration had expected him to become a loyal ally, but there has been a realization that he is more of a partner who, Winter said, “will not fundamentally change his worldview “.

Biden and Lula are scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting in New York on Wednesday and attend an event with union organizers, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Friday. The Brazilian and American presidents, who are the first and second to speak at the general assembly, usually meet backstage for a few minutes beforehand. That didn’t happen last year with Bolsonaro in office.

At least when it comes to the Ukraine war, Biden appears more willing to put behind differences with complicated allies that he desperately needs to keep close for stability’s sake. His pragmatic approach was evident in his friendly talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit in New Delhi this month. These two leaders have not shied away from saying “no” to Biden and have paid little attention when he has raised concerns about their human rights records.

Lula also visited Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela in May. There he said that allegations of the country’s authoritarianism were based on a false narrative – despite widespread political arrests and election interference, as well as threats against journalists. Some in Washington had initially hoped that Lula could help advance a common agenda in Venezuela, Winter said.


Lula is not the only one with the ambition to implement a vision he created for developing countries. Modi has sought to do the same, saying in a Independence Day Speech last month that “India is becoming the voice of the global South.” And India has greater economic and strategic importance to the world than Brazil, making Lula’s search for that role more difficult, according to Thomas Traumann, a Brazilian political analyst.

This was perhaps made clear earlier this month when Modi announced the African Union’s entry into the G20. Its chairman, Azali Assoumani, quickly walked across the room and the two men embraced warmly. As they stood hugging, Lula remained seated and applauded a few feet away and almost out of camera view. He then briefly shook Assoumani’s hand.

Lula will continue to have the chance to welcome foreign leaders to key multilateral forums in the coming years, hosting the G20 summit next year and probably next year as well UN climate conference in 2025.

Lula is already at least one of the “most important voices in defense of the reshaping of the political and economic architecture created after World War II,” if not the most important, said Paulo Peres, a political scientist at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. And his speech on Tuesday will reflect Brazil’s longstanding demands – namely a permanent seat on the UN Security Council – as well as Lula’s efforts so far this year.

Peres said: “The opening speech is the culmination of the last few months in which Lula has worked to reposition Brazil on the international stage.”

AP reporters Eleónore Hughes in Rio de Janeiro and Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed. David Biller is Brazil news director for The Associated Press, based in Rio de Janeiro. Follow him at

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