Foreign Policy Blogs

Lula, the Squid

Credit: Havana Times

Credit: Havana Times

In Brazil, nicknames are very common, especially for famous people and even politicians. President Lula da Silva received his nickname when he was  young, since the common nickname for Luiz, his given name, is Lula (similar to calling a person named Robert, Bob). However, given that lula means squid in Portuguese, the president has really grown into his name in terms of domestic politics and foreign policy, managing to embrace a wide range of figures across the political spectrum.

During his two terms in office but especially during the past year, President Lula has managed to maintain friendly relationships with several countries with strong enmities. It is on relatively good terms with the United States: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is making her first official visit to Brazil this week, and there are rumors that President Obama will make a visit in the next few months, despite a commerce conflict and differences on Iran. In fact, Clinton’s visit is supposedly to iron out issues with the cotton conflict and to try to reach an agreement to get tougher on Iran.

Nevertheless, Lula remains allies and friends with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and the Castro brothers in Cuba. Last week, he made an official visit to Havana, where he visited government leaders but avoided meeting with dissidents. He is considered one of the most important leaders in Latin America, and his administration has helped intervene with regional conflicts, including border issues with Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador, and the political crisis in Honduras.

In addition, he recently met with the leaders of Israel, Palestine, and Iran, and plans a trip to the Middle East this spring, with an official visit scheduled in Tehran. He has expressed interest in getting involved in the Middle East peace process, to be a major player alongside the United States, and the upcoming trip should reveal further details. Plus, Brazil is a major trade partner of China, and also has strong commercial ties with Europe.

Lula’s adept diplomatic juggling is not merely a feat of his administration; his charisma and popularity also play an important role. While Brazil is known for its diplomacy, it’s uncertain whether the next administration would be capable of maintaining so many delicate alliances. Even if Lula’s party wins, the new president will likely face some difficulty to continue Lula’s foreign policy agenda. Not everyone can be a squid.



Rachel Glickhouse

Rachel Glickhouse attended the George Washington University, where she studied Latin American Studies and Spanish at the Elliott School of International Affairs. She studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She spent two years living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil after graduating in 2007. She now lives and works in New York.