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President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) was the first president to speak at the 78th General Assembly of the United Nations this Tuesday morning (19), in New York. In a speech loaded with leftist ideology, he said that neoliberalism had failed and was replaced by a “primitive, conservative and authoritarian nationalism”. He also defended Cuba and Palestine and said the “far right” is creating adventurers who deny politics.
When referring to the right and neoliberalism, Lula was talking about the current global context of transition from a neoliberal economy to a scenario in which great economic powers, such as the United States and China, are adopting practices of market protectionism and using the economy to achieve geopolitical interests.
Without referring to former president Jair Bolsonaro, who adopted liberal economic practices during his term, Lula said that governments need to “break with the increasing dissonance between the voice of the markets and the voice of the streets.”
“Neoliberalism has worsened the economic and political inequality that plagues democracies today. Its legacy is a mass of disinherited and excluded people. Amidst its rubble, far-right adventurers emerge who deny politics and sell solutions that are as easy as they are wrong. Many succumbed to the temptation of replacing failed neoliberalism with a primitive, conservative and authoritarian nationalism”, he said.
Lula defends Cuba against the USA and supports the creation of a Palestinian State
The Brazilian president also defended the communist dictatorship of Cuba, which has been the target of an economic embargo by the United States, without UN approval, since the 1960s.
“Brazil will continue to denounce measures taken without the support of the UN charter, such as the economic and financial embargo imposed on Cuba and the attempt to classify this country as a state sponsor of terrorism,” said Lula.
But he did not mention the island’s authoritarian government, human rights crimes and political prisoners. He also failed to remember that Havana sent guerrillas to participate in coups d’état in African and Latin American countries and that he is currently considering sending volunteers to support Russia in the invasion of Ukraine.
In addition to covertly criticizing the US in relation to the embargo, Lula defended the creation of a Palestinian State, but without making reference, for example, to the extremist movement Hamas, which currently controls the government in the Gaza Strip and is trying to impose the State of Palestine through through violence.
Lula uses campaign slogan and demands international resources to preserve the environment
Lula used a campaign slogan saying: “hope once again conquered fear” and claimed to have rescued the “universality” of Brazilian foreign policy. The speech was a reference to Bolsonaro, who placed less emphasis on foreign policy compared to Lula’s current mandate.
Regarding the fight against climate change, Lula demanded the promise of world powers at the world climate conference in Paris, in 2015, to provide resources to developing countries to carry out environmental actions.
“The promise to give $100 billion a year remains just that, a long promise,” he said.
He also announced his diplomatic effort to strengthen the integration of the countries that make up the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, which encompasses the countries that are home to parts of the Amazon rainforest.
West uses summit to get closer to developing countries
Lula spoke before representatives of the other 193 UN member countries. The General Assembly takes place annually and aims to discuss issues of relevance to humanity.
This year’s summit takes place in a unique scenario, in which the United States and its Western allies compete with China and Russia for support in the so-called Global South, made up of developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
This is due to global polarization intensified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Western powers should use the UN Assembly, which takes place between Tuesday (19) and Wednesday (20), to listen to the demands of developing countries and possibly take actions to contain the increase in Chinese and Russian influence in the countries of the Global South.
In addition to the Brazilian, 15 other heads of state also spoke at the event this Tuesday morning, including the President of the United States, Joe Biden.
The UN Secretary General, Antônio Guterres, opened the event and defended Ukraine, making it clear that this will be one of the main themes of the summit. He was assisted by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, is present at the summit.
Lula again relativizes war in Ukraine with negotiation rhetoric
Without mentioning Russia, Lula said that the war in Ukraine “exposes our collective inability to make the purposes and principles of the UN Charter prevail.” The PT member also said that the difficulties in achieving peace should not be underestimated and argued that “no solution will be lasting if it is not based on dialogue”.
“There will be no sustainability or prosperity without peace. Armed conflicts are an affront to human rationality. We know the horrors and suffering produced by all wars. Promoting a culture of peace is a duty of all of us”, he said.
He did not mention that it was Russia who invaded a peaceful neighbor with the aim of annexing territories.
The PT member also once again relativized the conflict with a veiled criticism of countries that are supplying weapons to Ukraine to defend itself against Russian attacks. “I have reiterated that work needs to be done to create space for negotiations. There is a lot of investment in armaments and little in development,” he said.
Lula says the UN Security Council is losing credibility
After a nod from the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, about the need for reforms in world organizations, Lula’s speech criticized the UN Security Council and its permanent members.
“The UN Security Council has been progressively losing its credibility. This fragility arises in particular from the actions of its permanent members, who wage unauthorized wars in search of territorial expansion or regime change,” he said without mentioning Russia.
The PT member has already repeated this speech on other occasions and emphasized the need to include new countries to the list of permanent members of the Council. Currently only the United States, France, United Kingdom, Russia and China have veto power in the organization.
Lula has defended the inclusion of Brazil, India and South Africa in the select group. “Its paralysis is the most eloquent proof of the need and urgency to reform it, giving it greater representation and effectiveness,” she said in her speech.
Lula, Guterres and Biden converge in speech on global governance
The topic of reforming the UN Security Council was also addressed by Guterres, who defended the need for reforms in global institutions. He stated with great emphasis that global governance has been frozen in time. “The world has changed and our institutions have not changed,” he said. According to him, bodies like the UN run the risk of instead of solving problems becoming the source of problems.
American President Joe Biden said in his speech after Lula’s speech that the UN Security Council “needs more voices”. He said he wanted to make progress in discussing reform next year.
Debts of poor countries and inequality mark Western speeches
Guterres also addressed the problem of external debt in developing countries. He stated that African countries spend more on debt payments than on investment in public health.
Biden, in turn, argued that these inequalities must be combatted by strengthening international development banks, such as the World Bank. He also said that reforms are needed at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization.
Lula had criticized the IMF minutes before, stating that the fund distributes more resources to European countries than to African countries. But he did not make it clear whether his account contained the resources that were sent to Ukraine to keep the country functioning amid the Russian invasion.
The American president also celebrated the inclusion of the African Union in the G20, the bloc of countries that brings together industrial powers and developing countries in a single discussion forum.
The points addressed by the UN Secretary General and the American President are part of the West’s effort to get closer to developing countries, which are being harassed by China and Russia.
The themes also converge with part of Lula’s agenda, who addressed in his speech the need to combat climate change, hunger and inequality on the planet. The Brazilian president has been using this agenda to try to sell himself internationally as a spokesperson for developing countries. He was applauded five times during his speech.
However, controversial statements by Lula this year in support of Russia against Ukraine and of an anti-American nature have placed the Brazilian in a supporting position to assume such a role. The role of leader of the Global South has been disputed internationally by Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Indian President Narendra Modi, who are not present at the event.