Brazilian president Lula da Silva knows the dangers of the far right all too well, and during his visit to the US last week he laid out exactly how to defeat such reactionaries: not by striving for a false unity but by confronting the foes of democracy head-on.

by Craig Johnson, Jacobin

Last Friday, two American leaders who faced would-be coup attempts, US president Joe Biden and Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, met in Washington, DC. The pair of presidents traded the usual pleasantries of diplomatic visits, but it was the Latin American visitor who was trying to teach the US president how to deal with an insurrection.

This was not Lula’s first time visiting the US capital, but it was the first since he defeated Jair Bolsonaro in last year’s Brazilian elections. Lula met with progressive members of Congress, including Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as the president of the AFL-CIO. The climate change and pro-worker rhetoric of Lula’s visit shined through in these meetings, with reporters asking him about Brazil’s plans to protect the Amazon and both Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez praising his commitment to labor rights. With Lula, Brazil will again become a leader in these fields.

US President Joe Biden and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva walk together along the Rose Garden colonnade at the White House in Washington

But the key reason for Lula’s visit was the January 8 insurrection in Brazil — Biden invited him to visit the United States the day after Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed the Brazilian capital. This was no typical meeting, and Lula knew it. It was an opportunity to show people in the United States how to deal with the far right.

Lula demonstrated this most clearly in his conversation with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the highest-profile interview he gave while on US soil. Amanpour asked about Lula’s political intentions, his stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the Amazon, but the first half of their conversation focused on the state of democracy in Brazil. She presented her questions as a challenge to President Lula, arguing that “Brazil is divided. . . . half the country loves you and half the country hates you,” and suggested that “unifying Brazil is the key to protecting democracy.”

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