Opinion

Lula engages in diplomacy in another dig at Bolsonaro

While the Brazilian president is seen as an international pariah, the center-left former leader wants to portray himself as a gregarious figure

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa of Portugal shakes hands with former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as they meet in Sao Paulo on July 30. Photo: Carla Carniel/Reuters via Alamy
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa of Portugal shakes hands with former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as they meet in Sao Paulo on July 30. Photo: Carla Carniel/Reuters via Alamy

For all his legal travails in Brazil over the past several years, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s international reputation seems largely unscathed. This is mainly a result of the implicit and explicit comparison made by world leaders between the former president and Jair Bolsonaro, the current occupant of Brazil’s highest office.

At international meetings, Mr. Bolsonaro comes off as churlish, awkward, dim, and shallow, whereas Lula is gregarious, warm, informal, and open. Critics of the former president characterize his style as a cheap brand of populism, yet its effectiveness is hard to deny. 

Popularity matters in international diplomacy,...

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