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12 Aug, 2023 22:26

Stop ‘thinking about war,’ Lula tells Biden

The Brazilian leader has claimed that he will try to persuade the US president to focus on investment rather than conflict
Stop ‘thinking about war,’ Lula tells Biden

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has unveiled a new campaign to boost infrastructure spending and attract foreign investment, partly by making an anti-war appeal to US commander-in-chief Joe Biden.

“We are going to tell Biden... the United States has only been thinking about war for many years and not thinking about investment in Brazil,” Lula said on Friday at an event in Rio de Janeiro to rally support for the spending program. “Spend a little money investing in our country because that is what will bring peace to our country.”

Speaking to government ministers, governors and business executives, Lula said Brazil’s leaders will need to travel the world “to sell these projects.” He aims to seek overseas financing and foreign investment – targeting the US, China, the United Arab Emirates and countries in Europe – to help fund his so-called Growth Acceleration Program, known by its Portuguese acronym PAC.

The pitch to Biden will be made in September, when he expects to meet with the US president on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Lula has maintained neutrality on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, calling repeatedly for peace talks to end the fighting. “The world is starting to get tired” of the Ukraine crisis, he said last month after a meeting of EU and Latin American leaders in Brussels.

Biden has led an international campaign to send billions of dollars’ worth of weaponry to Kiev and impose sanctions to punish Russia over the Ukraine conflict. Russian officials have claimed that Western military aid is only prolonging the bloodshed and increasing the risk of triggering a wider conflict.

The PAC initiative includes 1.7 trillion reais ($350 billion) in planned investments, ranging from renewable energy projects to housing to flood control. Around 36% of funding, or $125 billion, would come from the private sector, while more than $75 billion would come out of the federal budget. Lula plans to seek about $74 billion in loans to help fill the funding gap, while state-owned companies will be expected to invest $70 billion.

Some of the investments will involve completions of previously abandoned projects, such as a petrochemical plant that state-controlled energy company Petrobras quit when construction was about 80% finished. Brazil has thousands of unfinished projects from previous PAC programs.