In a meeting with US President Joe Biden on Wednesday, Brazilian President Lula da Silva said that Argentina’s democracy is in peril due to the rise of what he called “extremist sectors,” a reference seemingly aimed at La Libertad Avanza’s (LLA) presidential candidate Javier Milei.
“When we analyze the [state of the] world, we see that democracy is in peril because the denial of politics allows extremist sectors to occupy those places, just like it happened in Brazil and is now happening in Argentina and other countries,” Lula said during the meeting, in which both presidents launched an initiative to advance the rights of working people.
Lula has expressed concern about Milei’s electoral prospects before, saying that if the LLA representative comes to power, “it could set Latin America back 40 years.” In his analysis, he believes that Milei would be “worse than former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.”
The Brazilian president had already warned about the dangers of the rise of the far-right when he spoke in front of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. In his speech, Lula linked their rise to what he called the “legacy” of neoliberal economic policies.
“Neoliberalism has deepened the economic and political inequality affecting democracies today. Its legacy is a huge number of disenfranchised and excluded people. A group of far-right adventurers who deny politics and sell easy-fix solutions that are mistaken is arising from its ashes,” Lula said.
A initiative to furthers workers’ right
Biden and Lula got together before a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the high-level United Nations General Assembly to launch the initiative to further workers’ rights. They highlighted the importance of decent jobs, good wages and ensuring that workers benefit from the digital and green energy transitions underway broadly in society.
“The two largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere are standing up for human rights around the world and the hemisphere, and that includes workers’ rights,” Biden told Lula.
“Let me be clear, whether it’s the autoworkers union or any other union worker, record corporation profits should mean record contracts for union workers,” Biden said at a separate event launching the new initiative.
“It’s more than just another bilateral. It’s a faith relationship that we are building here and a new era for U.S.-Brazilian relations amongst equal partners,” he said, adding, “poverty and inequality is not in the interest of anybody.”
Biden and Lula traded personal stories about the importance of decent jobs at the start of their second in-person meeting. Lula – who noted that his education consisted solely of vocational training and that he had worked 27 years in a factory – said his labor minister met with striking workers on Tuesday.
“There’s no democracy without strong trade unions,” Lula said at the launch event, expressing his admiration for Biden’s strong support for organized labor. The Brazilian president also said it was critical to shore up workers’ rights and said the new initiative would help “arouse hope” for working families while deepening ties between the two countries.
Biden cited a recent U.S. Treasury report that showed the importance of unionization and how it improved economic outcomes.
When Lula visited Biden at the White House in February, both leaders focused on the climate crisis, and pledged to accelerate measures to protect the Amazon, as well as the need to fight for and advance democratic values.
Biden said the new initiative would work to end forced labor and child labor, mitigate the impact on workers of the clean energy and digital economic transitions, promote safe and decent workplaces, and end workplace discrimination, including against women, LGBTQ+ people and racial and ethnic minorities.
It would also focus on harnessing new technologies, like artificial intelligence, to benefit workers, he said.
Lula said the two leaders plan to raise the issues at multilateral forums such as the Group of 20 major economies, which Brazil is heading next year, and the COP 28 and COP 30 global climate events.
The initiative aims “to engage private-sector partners in innovative approaches to create decent jobs in key production chains, combat discrimination in the workplace and promote diversity,” the Brazilian government said in a statement.
International Labor Organization Director General Gilbert Houngbo welcomed what he termed a historic initiative.
“Decent work empowers workers to organize and to negotiate,” he told reporters. “It fosters social justice, which is essential if people are to have a brighter future.”
The joint project is part of a U.S. effort to strengthen ties with Brazil, which has maintained close links to China, its main trading partner, even as tensions have increased sharply between Beijing and Washington.
A second official said Washington had been very clear about its concerns over alleged human rights violations in China, as well as China’s economic practices and military expansion, and would discuss those issues with Brazil.
Biden and Lula also discussed the importance of restoring democracy in Venezuela. Biden outlined a step-by-step approach that could provide U.S. sanctions relief if Venezuela took concrete actions that lead to free and fair elections, the White House said in a statement after the meeting.
The two leaders also discussed the importance of continuing to support Haiti as it deals with a humanitarian and security crisis, and Biden urged Lula to support a multinational security support mission there, the White House said.
– with information from Reuters and Télam