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Brazil welcomes Lula at ‘returned’ Latin America summit

Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva has declared his country “returned to the region” after attending a regional summit with heads of state and governments from 14 Latin American countries in Buenos Aires.

Lula arrived in the Argentine capital to rebuild the bridge after his far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, withdrew from the group.

“Brazil is back in the region and ready to work with you with a very strong sense of solidarity and affinity,” said the 77-year-old leader at the 7th Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). ).A summit attended by 33 states in the region.

Lula was one of the founders of CELAC during the continent’s first left-wing political shift “pink wave” in the first decade of this century.

But Bolsonaro has pulled Brazil out of the group with what he perceives as supporting undemocratic governments in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba.

Lula spoke of “multiple crises” affecting the world, from pandemics to climate change, geopolitical tensions, food insecurity and threats to democracy.

“All this is happening at a time when inequality, poverty and hunger have risen unacceptably,” said Lula, the only leader to give a speech at the summit.

Democracy and the threats it faces were central themes of the summit, especially from the far right.

“We cannot allow the rebellious, fascist far right to endanger our institutions and people,” said Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, who presides over a summit to be held in his country.

The Peronist leader pointed to riots by Bolsonaro supporters in the seat of power in Brasilia earlier this month and an alleged attempt to assassinate Vice President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner in September.

But Fernandez did not address accusations of political persecution against communist Cuba and radical leftist regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia.

‘Latin America is bankrupt’

Host country Argentina this week welcomed a “new climate in Latin America” ​​that has seen a new wave of left- or center-left governments since 2018, including Mexico, Argentina, Honduras, Chile, Colombia and Brazil.

As a forum for consultation and cooperation, CELAC does not have the authority to enforce agreements between members.

Fernandez stressed the need to “strengthen institutions in our region”, but CELAC has struggled to bring its members together amid a series of regional crises, such as Peru’s.

Ignacio Bartesagui, an international relations expert at the Catholic University of Uruguay, told AFP that “Latin America is bankrupt from an institutional point of view…” have not been successful in

“There is not even a basic consensus in Latin America, such as the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship,” Bartesaghi stressed.

“[CELAC]have presidents who don’t even recognize each other,” he noted, alluding to a situation like Paraguay’s Mario Abdo Benitez, who cut diplomatic ties with Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela in 2019.

‘Lack of dialogue’

Maduro canceled his own trip to the rally at the last minute, citing “risk of attack” from the “neo-fascist right.”

Other key absentees in Buenos Aires include left-wing Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He is the leader of his second largest economy in Latin America and host of his last CELAC summit in 2021.

However, CELAC remains the partner of choice for China and the European Union to negotiate when working with the region.

But nevertheless, “the impossibility of holding an EU-CELAC summit since the last EU-CELAC summit in 2015 demonstrates the lack of a robust bilateral political dialogue.” ,” said Bernabe Maracalza, an international relations researcher at Argentina’s national research center CONICET. .

In this sense, the return of Lula could boost certain subregional issues, such as the free trade agreement between the EU and the Mercosur group, which consists of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

The deal was finalized in 2019 but was never ratified, particularly due to concerns about Bolsonaro’s environmental policies.

Lula has indicated her willingness to resume contact.

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Philippe Bernes-Lasserre & Mauricio Rabuffetti, AFP

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