Brazil’s Lula looks to revive neglected ties with Portugal

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Brazilian president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva met Friday with the president of Portugal in an effort to rekindle ties between the two Portuguese-speaking countries after four years of cool relations.

“Portugal is a brother country and an important partner for Brazil in Europe,” Brazil’s incoming president, nicknamed Lula, tweeted ahead of the talks. “We will resume our discussions in the best interests of our two countries.”

Da Silva and Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa held talks behind closed doors at the presidential palace in Lisbon.

More than 200,000 Brazilian immigrants live in Portugal, making them by far the largest foreign community. Some 80,000 were registered to vote in Brazilian elections last October that returned da Silva to power.

Portugal is the second most popular choice for emigrating Brazilians after the United States.

Da Silva takes office on Jan. 1, but he is keen to set a new tone in Brazil’s foreign relations.

He flew to Lisbon from the U.N. climate conference in Egypt where he vowed to crack down on illegal deforestation in the Amazon and resume relationships with countries that finance forest protection efforts.

That has set da Silva apart from outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro whom he defeated on Oct. 30.

During Bolsonaro’s four-year term, no bilateral summit took place with Portugal’s leaders.

During his two consecutive terms between 2003-2010, da Silva cultivated ties with Portugal and Portuguese officials are hoping for a return to those days.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Joao Gomes Cravinho says bilateral trade hasn’t grown under Bolsonaro, adding that joint renewable energy projects might offer a new way forward.

Da Silva was also due to meet later Friday with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

Da Silva belongs to Brazil’s leftist Workers’ Party. Costa, Portugal’s government chief for the past seven years, leads the center-left Socialist Party.

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