Milei-Lula Differences Are More Visible Than Ever at G-7 Summit

Milei-Lula Differences Are More Visible Than Ever at G-7 Summit

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(Bloomberg) — They couldn’t be farther apart in the family photo of Group of Seven leaders, nor in real life.

Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Argentina’s Javier Milei crossed paths for the first time on Friday at the G-7 summit in Italy, part of a diverse cast of characters brought together by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. They have maintained a frosty relationship since Milei’s election last year, when Lula publicly supported his opponent and was called a “communist” by the libertarian.

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But unlike India’s Narendra Modi, who seized the opportunity to at least try to improve relations with the presidents of the US and Canada, the leaders of South America’s two largest economies flew thousands of miles from their neighboring nations to attend the same summit, and they still avoid each other.  

Mingling among global leaders including Pope Francis, their differences were on full display. 

Lula came to the meeting seeking to push the message that far-right leaders are harmful to democracy, a call that takes aim at many of Milei’s allies. And with his domestic agenda facing roadblocks in Congress, he remains focused on bolstering support for the key aims of Brazil’s rotating G-20 presidency, including global taxes on the super-rich, social programs to combat hunger and more aggressive action on climate change.

The Brazilian has forged closer ties with the global political establishment, and has filled his schedule in Italy with a list of bilateral meetings that includes France’s Emmanuel Macron, Meloni, Germany’s Olaf Scholz, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and Modi. He also met with the Pope, an Argentine who clashed with Milei during his election.

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Milei, instead, condemned abortion and spoke about the dangers of populism, which he sees as a threat coming from leftist leaders. He has spent the early months of his presidency positioning himself to ride a right-wing political wave internationally. He has irked Biden by fawning over Donald Trump and sparked an all-out diplomatic brawl with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez by appearing at a rally for the far-right Vox party.

He came to Italy on a sudden winning streak, after Argentine lawmakers approved the bulk of his package of reforms to cut spending and deregulate the economy. In Italy, he had a meeting with International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva amid expectations Argentina may negotiate a new program – and perhaps obtain fresh funds – from the Washington-based lender.

While Milei’s government expressed interest in an informal meeting with Lula in April, the Brazilian has so far given him the cold shoulder. It remains to be seen who will blink first, if anyone. Their next meeting opportunity will likely be in November, when Lula hosts G-20 leaders in Rio de Janeiro.

—With assistance from Manuela Tobias.

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