The head of American diplomacy in Brazil amid tensions between Lula and Israel

The head of American diplomacy in Brazil amid tensions between

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Brazil for the diplomatic G20. But on site, it is the crisis between Brazil and Israel which is making headlines, around controversial remarks made by President Lula on the sidelines of the war in Gaza.

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The head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken is due to meet Lula on Wednesday February 21 in Brasilia for his first visit to the Brazil, a few days after the Brazilian president’s controversial remarks comparing the war in Gaza to the Shoah. The Secretary of State, who will also visit Argentina during this South American tour, arrived early Tuesday evening in the Brazilian capital, where in the morning he will have an interview that promises to be lively with the president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Since Lula compared the deaths of civilians in Gaza to the victims of Nazism, the diplomatic dispute between Tel Aviv and Brasilia has continued to amplify, points out our correspondent in São Paulo, Martin Bernard. The two countries engaged in a standoff. Israel summoned the Brazilian ambassador and Brazil took the same action with respect to the Israeli ambassador, while recalling its own representative for consultations. Lula was declared Monday persona non grata by the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Israel Katz, who saw in Lula’s remarks ” a serious anti-Semitic attack against the Jewish people and the State of Israel “.

On Tuesday, the presidents of Colombia and Bolivia, two neighboring countries of Brazil, expressed their support for Lula, in turn accusing Israel of “genocide”. “ In Gaza there is a genocide […]. Lula only told the truth. Either the truth is defended, or barbarity will destroy us “, declared Colombian President Gustavo Petro on X. His Bolivian counterpart Luis Arce, for his part, congratulated the Brazilian leader “ for telling the truth about the genocide committed against the valiant Palestinian people “.

Since then, the tone has gone up a notch and Israeli Foreign Minister Daniel Katz said that this comparison was “ delusional, as if we were spitting in the face of Brazilian Jews “. His counterpart responded sharply. Mauro Vieira assures that Tel Aviv wants to establish a smokescreen to hide, he says, “ the real problem posed by the ongoing massacre in Gaza “.

A warming of American-Brazilian relations, but points of tension

American officials said on Friday that they expected a “ dynamic conversation » between Antony Blinken and the Brazilian head of state. The relationship between the UNITED STATES and Latin America’s largest economy has warmed significantly since the return to power of Lula in 2023, who succeeded far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, close to Donald Trump. The left-wing president, 78, has already gone to Washington to meet Democratic President Joe Biden.

The two leaders share the same ambitions of fighting global warming, defending labor rights and democratic values, but many other points separate them. Starting with Ukraine. Lula opposes the policy of isolation of Russia adopted by Washington since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, believing that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Western powers have some responsibility for the war. The other major subject of contention is Venezuela: President Lula has remained silent, unlike the Americans, in the face of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s refusal to authorize opposition candidates to run in the elections.

The remarks provoked reactions in Brazil itself. Brazilian senator Jacques Wagner, an old traveling companion of Lula, criticized him for having alluded to the Holocaust. As for the President of the Brazilian Congress, Rodrigo Pacheco, he simply suggests that he withdraw his remarks, but this seems less and less likely.

(And with AFP)