Tea tasting and visit to the Forbidden City in Beijing, walk through Bruges, the “Venice” of Belgium, and gala night at the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental, the seven-star hotel in Abu Dhabi. These were some of the tours that meant that Rosângela da Silva, known as Janja, did not get bored when following the diplomatic visits of her husband, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT).
In nine months of government, the Brazilian president made 20 official visits to other nations and was accompanied by his wife, Janja Silva.
In all destinations she was present at protocol ceremonies, which are common to the position of first lady. Janja accompanied her husband, for example, on visits to Pope Francis, in the Vatican, and King Charles III, in Great Britain, and also visited the wife of Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing, among other commitments.
But it was his extra schedules, shopping, tours and stays in luxurious hotels that generated disapproval from a large part of the population and politicians, who began to accuse Janja of taking advantage of his position to engage in tourism. The fact that first ladies travel with their husbands and have their own schedule is commonplace in diplomatic circles, but Janja attracted attention by exposing these activities on social media.
Janja’s schedule includes a visit to the forbidden city and green tea tasting
During the president’s visit to China in April, the first lady had a tour of the city of Beijing while Lula had bilateral meetings with Xi Jinping, the government leader and general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.
On the itinerary was a guided tour of the Forbidden City, the palace complex built in 1406, in the Ming dynasty, that housed the emperors until the country was swept by communism between 1911 and 1912. Janja paraded through the historic complex wearing a red dress and a jacket reminiscent of oriental paintings. The adventure became a video on the first lady’s Instagram profile.
Janja’s agenda in Beijing also included a tasting of typical teas. “Drinking tea is a cultural habit that is very much alive in China, and I got to know this tradition up close […] I tried green tea, which is only harvested in spring,” he wrote on his Instagram account alongside a video of the trip. She also met with Peng Liyuan, the wife of Xi Jinping, President of China, at the People’s Palace.
7-star hotel in Abu Dhabi was part of the itinerary
At his next destination, Lula landed in the United Arab Emirates. While fulfilling a diplomatic agenda in the country, Janja took a walk with the minister of Arab culture, Noura Al Kaabi. Also on her Instagram page, the sociologist says that she paid a visit to the country’s Presidential Palace. “[Kaabi me] showed several works of art by local artists and also the library with more than a thousand copies, called Oasis”, wrote Janja.
In the country, the couple also stayed in one of the most expensive hotels in Abu Dhabi. With a 7-star standard, Lula and Janja stayed at the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental. The accommodation was courtesy of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the country.
The place, in itself, is a true oasis. In addition to a privileged view of the sea, the development has a high-standard SPA, 24-hour butler service, eight restaurants with menus prepared by renowned chefs and high-level comfort in all rooms.
Another Asian country that made Janja’s list was Japan. Between May 17th and 22nd, while the president participated in the G7 Summit, Janja visited the city of Hiroshima – the city chosen to host the group’s meeting. Without being able to participate in the meeting’s commitments, the first lady visited tourist attractions and temples in the city.
During tours around Japan, the first lady shared some moments from the trip on her Instagram. In the publication, she said she was “reflecting on peace”. In Japanese lands, Janja visited the Itsukushima Shrine, the main temple of the Shinto religion.
On the travel package website Trip Advisor, a trip similar to the first lady’s can cost up to R$846 per person with a private tour guide.
In June, when Lula and Janja went to France to participate in the New Global Financial Pact summit, the couple attended Coldplay’s rock concert, where Lula spoke. As the artists are also known for their activism in the area of the environment, months later Janja used social media to invite them to perform in Brazil. This is because the country is expected to host the world climate summit in 2025, in Pará.
Without first lady commitments, Janja went to Belgium’s “Venice”
In July, Lula and Janja traveled to Belgium so that the president could participate in the meeting between CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) countries and European Union nations. She was seen in official images getting off the plane with Lula and then disappeared from the press radar.
As there were no events planned for the first ladies on the trip, Janja traveled to Bruges, a tourist city located about 100 kilometers from the capital Brussels. The city is considered the “Belgian Venice” due to the canals and cobblestone streets that surround the region and resemble the Italian city. It is also a must-see for Belgian beer lovers.
But this time Janja did not publish more lasting records of the trip. She shared images in the “stories” format (which are only available for 24 hours) on Instagram moving through the city’s canals. According to a package offered by Trip Advisor, a complete boat trip around the center of Bruges can cost around R$228.
When he went to South Africa with Lula in August for the BRICS Summit (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), Janja visited the Johannesburg ballet, where he met Brazilian dancers. She also went to see the house where Nelson Mandela lived, now turned into a museum.
Janja and Lula’s luxurious accommodations
Between January and July alone, the presidency’s spending on international travel exceeded R$30 million. According to information from the Itamaraty Palace, the biggest cost would be allocated to accommodation: R$11.2 million.
According to a survey released by People’s Gazette, the biggest expenses with accommodation were: Beijing (R$ 2 million); Lisbon and Madrid, (R$ 2 million); Paris, Rome and Vatican (R$3.4 million) and London (R$1.5 million).
In the Asian giant, Lula and Janja stayed at The St. Regis Beijing, considered one of the best hotels in the Chinese capital. According to information from the portal Power 360, the daily rate for a suite in the development could cost up to R$2,500. With a jacuzzi bath in all rooms, the hotel has several meeting rooms and a SPA with various services dedicated to “relaxation and rejuvenation”.
In the city of Lisbon, Portugal, the president and the first lady spent their days at the Tivoli hotel, a traditional five-star hotel located in one of the city’s most exclusive areas. There, the daily rate for the largest and most luxurious presidential suite starts at R$22,000.
With imposing architecture, the place is considered one of the most traditional in Portugal. The building is also close to famous designer stores, such as Cartier, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. While staying there, Janja was seen shopping at Zegna, an Italian men’s clothing brand.
When questioned, the first lady said she had to buy a tie for Lula. According to press reports, the lowest priced piece at Zegna costs no less than 700 euros. Janja also said that she only resorted to the establishment because it was the closest to the hotel where she was staying.
During our two-day stay in Paris, our chosen accommodation was the Hotel Intercontinental Paris Le Grand. Lula and Janja stayed in a suite measuring more than 140 square meters. A five-star hotel, the development was built during the time of Napoleon II and has rooms with luxurious decorations.
Indian President asked Janja not to appear in photo
Last weekend, Lula and Janja went to India to participate in the 18th Summit of the G20 — a group formed by the 20 largest economies in the world and of which Brazil is a part. Upon disembarking the plane, Janja published a video on social media saying: “Hold me and I’ll come out dancing.” But he soon deleted it after receiving criticism for traveling and playing while a storm caused deaths in Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina.
Unlike the other spouses of presidents and heads of state from countries participating in the G20, Janja was the only wife to attend the group’s meetings. The Brazilian’s presence at the meeting still generated an uncomfortable scene.
At the end of some commitments, the presidents of the G20 countries were supposed to pose in a photo alongside the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. When it was Lula’s turn, Janja accompanied him and waited to greet the Indian leader. Modi, however, asked her to remove herself from the photo with the intention that only he and Lula would appear in the photo.
The title of first lady is symbolic and has no official character. Therefore, due to etiquette, Janja should not accompany Lula to absolutely all of her commitments.
Lula has maintained an intense routine of traveling abroad to the point of delaying political negotiations in Brazil, such as expanding the support base for the government in Congress. Its alleged objective is to make Brazil more relevant on the international scene.
In this context, Lula even considered ordering the purchase of a new plane, which would have more autonomy to reach distant countries without having to make refueling stops.
The current aircraft is an Airbus A319, which became known as “Aerolula” because it was purchased by him to replace the “Sucatão”, a Boeing 707 that had served 11 presidents between 1958 and 2005.
According to the newspaper The State of S.Paulo, the new plane being considered could cost up to R$400 million and have a special suite for Lula, such as a shower and double bed. But the PT member did not move forward with the idea given the negative repercussions about the possibility of more public spending.