Lula observed her interlocutor for a few seconds. She saw his messy hair, the square glasses, the slanted eyes when she smiles, the pink shirt tucked into a blue suit. And she came out of her soul to say it: “You are a very young president.” Veteran Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, 77, saw in Gustavo Petro, 62, the president he once was, in 2003, when he surprised the world by taking over the presidency of Brazil with an enthusiasm that he detected in his visitor from today. Now Lula begins his third term, and with the serenity that experience gives him, he has received what he considers to be a young Petro, who has brought him a typical Colombian hat as a courtesy. Lula has given him back a bottle of cachaça. The two could well toast, one for being an atypical president in the history of Colombia and the other for returning to the presidency after having been imprisoned. Lula has said that he feels touched by a finger of God.
In that almost mystical state, both have sealed this Monday the progressive alliance with which they intend to govern Latin America in the coming years. The president of Colombia has taken advantage of the return to power of who was the first worker leader in Brazil at the beginning of this century to promote the fight against climate change in the region and, internally, give international legitimacy to the peace process he is negotiating simultaneously with seven different armed groups, including guerrillas, paramilitaries, drug traffickers and gang members. Petro became president in August and has spent six months waiting to have a politician whom he admires and with whom he shares some biographical similarities as his interlocutor.
“A great pact to save the Amazon jungle in favor of humanity. Towards a change in drug policy; a Brazil guarantor of peace in Colombia and the study of the electrical interconnection of the Americas with clean energy sources”, Petro tweeted at the end of the meeting. Regarding the latter, in an interview with this newspaper, the Colombian president announced that he plans to propose to his colleagues in the region to connect all the countries with a large solar and wind power line that crosses the continent. Lula was the first head of state to officially explain the matter to him.
Lula’s arrival means breaking with the Brazilian isolation of recent years. Bolsonaro had disconnected with his neighbors in the region, he did not speak with the United States and was distanced from the European Union. And he had been left very alone in a continent where there are more and more presidents from the left, after a decade of reigning conservatism. The wind has completely changed and the spitting image of that are Petro and Lula, who this Monday embraced in Itamaraty, the headquarters of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry.
The Colombian president has moved comfortably through Brazil. On Sunday, he was one of the most anticipated presidents at the Foreign Ministry headquarters, where in the evening a grand reception was held for the 120 delegations that participated in Lula’s swearing in as president. Petro briefly crossed paths with his peers in the Senate, where the formal inauguration took place, and then a protocol photograph was taken at the Planalto Palace, the seat of the Executive Power in Brasilia.
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Petro has put Colombian foreign policy at the service of his total peace policy, which includes both a more determined implementation of the peace agreement with the FARC and the ongoing negotiations with the ELN, the last active guerrilla in the country. The dialogue table, which has already completed its first cycle of talks in Venezuela and will move to Mexico in January, has also invited Brazil to join as a guarantor country, a status that opens the door for it to host new negotiation cycles. The robust support for the process is evidenced by the fact that Cuba, Venezuela, Norway, Mexico and Chile have already accepted this invitation, waiting for Lula to do so once installed in the presidency.
With Brazil, the five main economies in the region are for the first time in the hands of progressive leaders or those who boast of it – Petro and Lula are joined by the Mexican Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Argentine Alberto Fernández and the Chilean Gabriel Boric. The dismissal of Pedro Castillo in Peru, however, has made it clear that differences and nuances abound in that bloc. The Petro-Lula duo, however, seems quite solid. The Colombian wants the Brazilian to embrace his plan to defend the Amazon and agree with him in demanding that the most developed countries, those responsible for most of the planet’s pollution, pay a fee for using the jungle as a sponge that absorbs all that pollution.
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