Brazil’s Lula welcomed back by Latin American leaders

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Latin American leaders converged on Brazil to meet with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on his first full day in office Monday, welcoming him back to power and hoping his country assumes a great role on the international stage.

Lula’s predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, rarely traveled abroad or received visiting heads-of-state and found himself increasingly isolated.

But South American heads of state – some of them fellow leftists, though not all – clearly welcomed Lula’s third term in office and want greater participation from the continent’s largest economy.

“It was a very powerful symbol of desire in the region that leaders want Brazil to be back,” according to Oliver Stuenkel, a professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a university. “Latin American leaders want an active, engaged Brazil.”

On Monday, Lula met with presidents Argentina’s Alberto Fernández, Bolivia’s Luis Arce of Bolivia, Ecuador’s Guillermo Lasso, Chile’s Gabriel Boric and Colombia’s Gustavo Petro. Other leaders also traveled to the capital, Brasilia, on Sunday and congratulated Lula on his inauguration, including Uruguay’s President Luis Alberto Lacalle Po.

On Monday afternoon Lula also met with Wang Qishan, the vice president of China, by far Brazil’s biggest export destination. Although Bolsonaro toned down his attacks on China in the latter half of his administration, it is important for China to dialogue with Lula’s administration and ensure Latin America’s biggest nation remains a true partner, Stuenkel said.

Lula is later scheduled to receive the president of Angola and representatives from Cuba, Venezuela and Peru.

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