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Brazil’s Lula slams US ‘lackeys’ for ruining country

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and US President Donald Trump shake hands during a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House March 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has blasted the current leadership, saying the country is governed by a “bunch of lunatics” and United States “lackeys.”

Lula, who served as Brazil's president between 2003 and 2011, made the remarks on Friday in his first interview published by The Guardian since his imprisonment over corruption charges last year.

“What we can’t have is this country being run governed by a bunch of lunatics. The country doesn’t deserve this and above all the people do not deserve this,” Lula said, referring to President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration and its close ties to US leadership.

The 73-year-old leftist said Brazil needed to undergo a period of “self-reflection” after what he described as the “crazy” fake news and hate-filled election of far-right populist Bolsonaro last year.

Bolsonaro, also known as "Tropical Trump" for his hardline policies, visited the US last month to prove his close relations with US President Donald Trump.

"I've never seen a president salute the American flag. I've never seen a president go around saying, ‘I love the United States, I love it!'" Lula said. "You should love your mother, you should love your country. What's all this about loving the United States?"

Lula also said he profoundly regretted “the disaster that is taking place in this country,” and rebuked Brazil’s political approach towards Washington under Bolsonaro.

"Does anyone really think the US is going to favor Brazil?" Lula asked. "Americans think of themselves first, second, third, fourth, fifth — and if there's any time left over they think about Americans. And these Brazilian lackeys go around thinking the Americans will do anything for us."

Bolsonaro took office in January, defeating Workers' Party presidential candidate Fernando Haddad, who replaced Lula after he was barred from running less than a month before the election.

Lula was convicted as part of Operation Car Wash, a wide reaching probe into corruption surrounding state oil firm Petrobras, and was sentenced to 13 years in prison last April over charges of corruption and money laundering.

Bolsonaro is an avid admirer of Trump and his policies, particularly those with regard to opposing anti-imperialist governments in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.

The Brazilian president has sparked controversy by following Trump on calling for the relocation of his country’s embassy to the occupied city of Jerusalem al-Quds.

Bolsonaro personally made the promise to Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu while he attended the Brazilian president's inauguration ceremony on January 1.

Bolsonaro has also said that he is open to considering the establishment of a US military base in Brazil as a way to “counter Russian influence” in neighboring Venezuela.

The move was later rejected by Brazilian Defense Minister General Fernando Azevedo e Silva.

Bolsonaro’s assimilation plan 

On Friday, thousands of people representing the more than 300 tribes native to Brazil marched to government offices in the capital, Brasilia, to protest Bolsonaro's perceived threat to their reservation lands.

Brandishing bows and arrows, about 4,000 protesters beat drums and chanted resistance songs as part of a three-day rally called the Free Land Encampment.

Indigenous demonstrators march in Brasilia on April 26, 2019 on the last day of a protest to defend indigenous land and rights. (Photo by AFP)

"Many of the people who have come here have come from their communities, their towns, to give their voice to the fight against miners, against agribusiness, against hydroelectric plants that kill, that displace, that destroy indigenous people and mother nature," said Sonia Guajajara, the national coordinator of Brazil's Association of Indigenous People.

"We have resisted for five centuries and we are not going to surrender in four years. We will continue fighting," she added.

Bolsonaro was elected in October with the support of Brazil's farm sector that has pushed for access to more land and fewer environmental controls.

The Latin American country has more than 850,000 indigenous people that make up less than 1 percent of its population. They live on reservations that make up about 13 percent of the country's territory.

Indigenous demonstrators stand in front of riot police during a protest march to defend indigenous land and rights in Brasilia, Brazil, on April 26, 2019, on the last day of a protest camp. (Photo by AFP)

Bolsonaro has said that is "too much land for so few people" and has vowed to review some reservation borders. The Brazilian far-right president claims they live poorly and has plans to assimilate them by allowing large-scale farming and commercial mining on reservations.

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