Without automatic alliance, Lula and Biden are on opposite sides in election – 05/04/2023

The government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will support the Portuguese Antonio Vitorino in the election for the command of the IOM (International Organization of Migration). With the decision, Brazil distances itself from the American candidate and former adviser to Joe Biden, Amy Pope, in a dispute that has mobilized capital around the world and has become a point of friction between western allies.

The White House was betting that, with the approach between the Biden administration and the support given to President Lula in the face of the risk of democratic rupture in the country, there could be a space for the Brazilian to support the American.

But Brazil chose to ally itself with the Portuguese, at a time when Lisbon and Brasília are trying to renew alliances after four years of a troubled relationship with Jair Bolsonaro.

As soon as he took over the Itamaraty, Chancellor Mauro Vieira made it clear that his management would not allow for automatic alliances, a message to the powers.

But this is not the only reason for Brazilian support for Portuguese. The election is causing a bitter dispute and rift between Europeans and Americans. Vitorino is the current director and, in international agencies, it is tradition to allow a second term for the person in charge.

To the surprise of the Europeans, the American government decided that it would like to interrupt the Portuguese mandate. Pope is its deputy director and her move to run against her own boss was seen as a shock to the relationship between Europe and the US, especially at a time of international tension.

Within the institution, the dispute between the current boss and his deputy ended up causing deep discomfort, with employees being forced to choose sides.

Brazil, therefore, chose to maintain tradition and avoid setting a precedent. Another consideration was the fact that the Brazilian government defends the end of seats reserved for countries.

Historically, the IOM has always been led by an American. The process experienced a rupture in 2018 with the Portuguese victory. At that time, however, it was a reaction from the international community against Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Both Pope and Vitorino were in Brazil, seeking Lula’s vote. But only Portuguese was accepted by the government’s high echelons, in a clear sign of the country’s preferences.

The American has also been seeking votes outside Europe, hoping to obtain a sufficient number of votes from dozens of smaller countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America to unseat the chief.

In 2023, the government announced Brazil’s return to the Pact on Migration, a mechanism created to allow for a coordinated debate on migration flows. Under the government of Jair Bolsonaro, then Chancellor Ernesto Araújo followed Trump’s ideology of rejecting any international action on migration issues, suggesting that the matter was the exclusive competence of national states.

The election is scheduled to take place on May 15 in Geneva.

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