By Juliana Tafur, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – During a meeting at the sidelines of the G-8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and U.S. President Barack Obama discussed climate change, politics and diplomacy. Brazil was invited to the three-day summit of the “great eight” as a member of the G-5, a group of fast developing countries, which also includes India and China.
“There are a number of issues of mutual national interest that the [U.S.] president believes the United States and Brazil can and should cooperate on,” said White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs.
But all issues were put aside as Lula brought up his country’s victory over the U.S. at the Confederations Cup final played in South Africa last month. Lula even presented Obama with a Brazilian soccer jersey autographed by team members. “Hey, look at this, beautiful,” said Obama while holding up the green and yellow t-shirt.
Reportedly, Lula told the U.S. president that he was very tense during the game’s first half as the Americans led the game 2-0. He also confessed to using Obama’s catchphrase “yes, we can!” to rally behind his team. But the Brazilian offense trailed from behind, scoring a goal just one minute into the second half, winning the game 3-2.
Gibbs told reporters that he “could sense some relief on the Brazilian president’s part that he wasn’t meeting with the President of the United States having lost to him in soccer.”
The heads of state then moved on to discuss more pressing matters, such as climate change. Obama told Lula there was still time to close their gap on this issue before the U.N. talks on a new climate change treaty are held in Copenhagen in December. At the summit, the richest countries and the fastest growing ones agreed that global temperature should be kept from rising by more than two degrees Celsius.
The G-8 Summit countries – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States – committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by eighty percent and set a goal of cutting all emissions in half by 2050. Obama said the leaders did not solve the problem, but “made some important strides forward.”
Another topic of conversation between the Brazilian president and his U.S. counterpart was Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Obama urged Lula to help convince Iran to focus its nuclear technology on energy, not weapons. Brazil and Iran have a history of close commercial ties.
“Because of the depth of those relationships … Brazil can have an impact on reiterating … that the Iranian government still has responsibilities to the international community as it relates to their weapons program,” said Gibbs.
On the political front, the leaders talked about the crisis in Honduras, where a military coup ousted President Jose Manuel Zelaya last month. At the meeting, Obama told Lula that he appreciates the efforts of several countries that are seeking a diplomatic resolution for Honduras. “The position of Brazil and the United States is very firm in condemning the coup,” said Lula’s Foreign Policy Adviser Marco Aurelio Garcia.
But the bilateral talk between the leaders didn’t end there. Lula had already taken off his earpiece providing interpretation, when the U.S. president indicated that he had one more thing to add. Obama then patted Lula’s back, said “we will not lose a 2-0 lead again,” and abruptly stood up. Lula burst out laughing.
“So it was good, no hard feelings,” said Gibbs later, recalling the moment.