© Reuters. Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attends a meeting at the COP27 climate conference, in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, November 17, 2022. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
By Catarina Demony
LISBON (Reuters) – Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva left the COP27 summit in Egypt for Portugal on Friday to tell officials his country is back to “normal” as he works to improve foreign relations and Brazil’s image abroad.
The leftist, who won last month’s presidential election against right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, is set to begin his third term in January. Until then, he is on a mission to tell the world that “Brazil is back”.
During Bolsonaro’s four years in office, Brazil’s relations with many other countries have deteriorated, mainly because deforestation in the Amazon has increased dramatically.
On Wednesday, Lula received a warm welcome at COP27 when he pledged to re-dedicate the country’s forests to combat the climate crisis and presented the future of the UN climate talks. The president-elect met with climate delegations from China and the United States, as well as the EU’s climate chief.
In Portugal, Lula met with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Prime Minister Antonio Costa on Friday.
During the press conference with Costa, Lula said that Brazil used to be a “happy” and “hopeful” country but it has become “sad” because Bolsonaro “doesn’t want to talk to anyone”.
“No one wants to go to Brazil because his (Bolsonaro) behavior was anti-Brazilian and anti-democratic,” Lula said. “(But) I want to tell you that Brazil is back to normal.
“Brazil, after the election, is back to being a happy country.”
‘THE BIG DEFEAT’
After landing, the president-elect had lunch at a restaurant in Lisbon and was welcomed by a group of supporters. Brazilians – who speak Portuguese – are the largest immigrant group in Portugal and Lisbon has the highest number of Brazilian voters outside the South American country.
When he met Rebelo de Sousa at the presidential palace, his supporters dressed in red, the color of Lula’s Workers Party, gathered outside.
Andre Eduardo, 37, said Lula’s victory was “a great victory against fascism”.
Some supporters of Bolsonaro also appeared, shouting and accusing Lula of being a “thief”. One, Muria Tureiques, said that Lula “was not elected by the people” and said that he “stole the election”.
Before the vote, Bolsonaro repeatedly criticized Brazil’s voting system. Finally, although he did not agree, Bolsonaro did not stop the transfer of power. However, some of his followers refused to accept the results.
The COP27 meeting was Lula’s first foreign trip since his election but Portugal is his first bilateral visit.
“We believe that by choosing Portugal as the first country to visit two countries after his election, he is giving a very strong signal,” Foreign Minister Joao Cravinho told the Lusa news agency.
Bolsonaro did not visit Portugal during his time in office, and in July of this year he canceled a meeting with the Portuguese president in Brazil because the Portuguese leader had also planned to meet with Lula.
“Let’s restart the conversation about our good people,” Lula tweeted early Friday.