Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will travel this weekend to Tehran for talks with his Iranian counterpart President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The leaders will discuss Iran’s nuclear amibitions and Lula da Silva is expected to try to persuade Iran to revisit an enriched uranium swap deal before other world powers impose additional sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Mr. Lula da Silva is in Moscow today for meetings with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev—another key player in ongoing negotiations with Iran. When asked to comment on the prospects of success for Brazilian efforts to revive the stalled swap deal, Medvedev said, "As my friend the Brazilian president is an optimist, I shall also be an optimist. I give 30 percent."
Critics of Lula da Silva’s foreign policy argue that Brazil doesn’t have the clout to transform Iran’s agenda and is acting out of pure national self-interest. Others, like Brazilian foreign policy advisor Marcel Biato, argue that a fresh approach to the negotiations by neutral third parties is precisely what is required. Most observers agree, however, that Brazil’s newest attempts to restart the negotiations are likely the last resort before new sanctions are imposed.
The announcement today by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that Rio de Janeiro will be the host of the 2016 Olympic Summer Games is a fitting acknowledgement by the international community that Brazil’s time has arrived. It is also a bouquet to the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and an effort to get the Games—finally—to South America. Beating out Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago (my hometown), the Rio selection was immediately hailed by many across the region and offers the opportunity for Brazil to showcase itself to the world, much as China used the 2008 Games in Beijing.
The Olympics are part of a strategic approach to sport that Brazil has recently employed as yet another means to raise its international profile. Starting with the XV Pan American Games in 2007, also held in Rio, and the upcoming World Cup soccer championship in 2014, the Olympics offer Brazil the crown jewel of international sport, a trifecta only accomplished once before over such a short period of time (the United States also achieved the feat, with the Pan Am Games held in Indianapolis in 1987, the World Cup in 1994 and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics).*
Much will be made of the fact that President Lula’s star power apparently eclipsed that of President Obama, as well as the new Prime Minister of Japan and the King of Spain and Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, all of whom dutifully traveled to Copenhagen to implore the IOC to select their respective bid cities. And, indeed, President Obama’s riding in on Air Force One to rescue the bid for Chicago was a high-risk strategy that, had it not been his own home town, the White House might very well have chosen to bypass.
Last night, 21 people were injured when a home-made bomb exploded at Largo do Arouche, a plaza in central São Paulo, Brazil. No serious injuries were reported, but it was one of several hate crimes reported during the annual Gay Pride parade—the world’s largest with an estimated 3 to 3.5 million people in attendance.
Activists called on the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) to support a bill in the Senate that classifies homophobia as a crime. On the issue of same-sex unions, only the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul recognizes their legality, but São Paulo Governor José Serra is a strong supporter of gay rights and has publicly declared his support. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva also supports same-sex unions and has expressed his distaste for homophobia calling it a “perverse disease” at the First National Conference of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals in Brasilia in 2008.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.