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Brazil's president hopes to revive ties with the U.S. during White House visit

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is in Washington, D.C., to visit President Biden at the White House. The two presidents have a lot of common ground to draw on. Both have dealt with false claims of election fraud, and both took power as extremists storm their respective capitals. Here's NPR's Carrie Kahn.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Today's brief visit is being billed as a show of commitment to democracy. President Biden's support of Brazil's democracy has been vital, says Celso Amorim, Lula's foreign affairs adviser.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CELSO AMORIM: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: "Look, the U.S. is undeniably an important partner in helping Brazil through what are very dramatic times," says Amorim recently in a YouTube interview. Last month, supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro ransacked Brazil's Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace.

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AMORIM: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: "Not only was Biden one of the first world leaders to congratulate Lula after narrowly beating Bolsonaro," says Amorim, "he also called immediately after the storming of Brazil's capital." Relations between Brazil and the U.S. were strained under Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist who was a close ally of former President Trump. But Bruna Santos, a senior adviser at the Wilson Center's Brazil Institute, says Biden and Lula now have similar goals, including fighting extremism and climate change.

BRUNA SANTOS: But also, there are, like, significant change in the world that are happening and that are bringing more and more tension to Brazil and the U.S., especially when it comes to defending democracy.

KAHN: Looming over the two leaders' celebration of democracy is the continuous presence of former President Bolsonaro in Florida. He's been giving talks to Trump supporters and right-wing election deniers.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Ladies and gentlemen, get on your feet, and join me in welcoming President Bolsonaro.

(CHEERING)

KAHN: Investigators back in Brazil are looking into the former president's role in the storming of the capital. But it's unclear if Lula will bring up Bolsonaro's stay in the U.S. What he will be looking for is help for the Amazon Fund, which was halted under Bolsonaro. The $1.3 billion fund helps rainforest protection and sustainable development. In one of his first acts since taking office, Lula sent hundreds of federal officials into Brazil's largest Indigenous reserve to drive out illegal miners.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: Videos like this one of a woman asking for help to leave the Yanomami reserve have been circulating on social media. Authorities say there are an estimated 20,000 illegal miners in the Indigenous area who have polluted the Yanomami's rivers and land. Thiago de Aragao, who runs a political risk consultancy firm in D.C. and Brasilia, says he doesn't expect major announcements from the visit.

THIAGO DE ARAGAO: It's much more symbolic than policy generation.

KAHN: Particularly since there are many points on which the two leaders do not agree. Lula has made it clear he won't take sides in the Ukraine war. In fact, he has proposed brokering peace alongside other nonaligned nations, including India. And de Aragao says Lula won't meddle in the U.S.'s escalating conflicts with China.

DE ARAGAO: He will not label China as an evil empire as something that is true. Finally, the U.S. and many European countries label it (ph).

KAHN: China is Brazil's No. 1 trading partner. Lula is planning a trip there next month. In D.C., he has no scheduled public appearances. He does plan to meet with a few Democratic lawmakers and then return home tomorrow.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEVON REA AND FNONOSE'S "CANDLELIT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.