In a parting speech which signalled Brazil’s continued interest in bolstering relations with Guyana, outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said yesterday that his successor is ready to advance and expand the bilateral agenda with an immediate focus on Guyana’s hydro project and the paving of the Linden-Lethem road.
Brazilian funding is available to advance both projects, he said, noting that they are “ready to support the move to the next phase” as both governments work towards cleaner and cheaper energy. He identified movement in these areas as critical as Guyana and Brazil strengthen their close partnership.
The Brazil/Guyana bilateral agenda remains a priority according to Lula, who said his country is interested in “consolidating the continental destiny of Guyana”.
His comments came shortly after the Order of Excellence was conferred upon him at a special ceremony at the National Cultural Centre yesterday; the event was scheduled for the UNASUR summit which wraps up in Georgetown today.
The Order of Excellence, this country’s highest honour, was awarded to the Brazilian President for his commitment and active involvement in promoting and strengthening relations between Guyana and Brazil, in addition to his efforts in pursuit of regional integration.
President’s Bharrat Jagdeo speaking on Lula’s imminent exit from office said, “As we deepen ties yet further in the years ahead, we will miss President Lula’s wise counsel, but we are also delighted to see in President-elect (Dilma) Rousseff someone who shares President Lula’s commitment to building a better continent and world for us all”.
President Jagdeo said also that Guyana has benefited from Lula’s solidarity over the years, noting that the physical, economic, social and personal links between the countries are stronger than ever, and are “laying the foundations for the full realization of Guyana’s South American destiny”.
He continued that Guyana and Brazil are working closely in the international fora, including those that address climate change. In particular, he said the two countries are working to advance a global solution to addressing deforestation.
Lula also mentioned how bilateral relations have progressed between Guyana and Brazil, pointing to the Takutu Bridge and the “rapid increase in economic activity” since it was opened; he said there has been a positive impact on both sides of the border.
The prospects for trade are tremendous, Lula said, pointing to the bridge and the potential which lies in the Linden-Lethem highway. He said also that Brazil will help with capacity building for local exports, noting that the opportunities for expanding the relationship are immense.
In addition to the hydro-project which he discussed with much enthusiasm, Lula said, his country is looking forward to a closer connection with Guyana as proposed in the fibre-optic cable project of the government. He spoke of a working group being set up to explore new areas of cooperation between the two countries, adding that one of Brazil’s interests includes boosting Portuguese lessons here so that Guyanese students could take up scholarship offers in Brazil.
Since Guyana assumes chairmanship of the Union of South American States (UNASUR) today Lula used the opportunity to offer Brazil’s support. He said that UNASUR offers an opportunity to advance regional integration, adding that with Guyana at its helm the opportunities are even greater because of its ties to CARICOM
Lula expressed certainty that this country will perform its role as UNASUR chair with competence and seriousness. He said that Brazil is ready to facilitate any meetings, working group sessions and related-UNASUR gatherings during Guyana’s chairmanship. He explained how much his country supports Guyana’s role by pointing out that two Brazilian diplomats were assigned to work at the local foreign Ministry until the period ends.
Brazil is seeking access to the Caribbean region and is waiting for Guyana to organize a meeting between MERCOSUR and CARICOM, Lula said, noting that one of the strategic objectives of the regional bloc is to deepen relations with the Caribbean. He expressed hope that Guyana will initiate negotiations between CARICOM and MERCOSUR as soon as the Caribbean bloc is ready to meet.
UNASUR, he said, has to confront challenges to regional cooperation by strengthening dialogue and cooperation across the South, but must also look towards building stronger relations in the Caribbean region and according to him, Guyana is that critical link.
In honouring Lula, President Jagdeo lauded him as “a true South American hero” and noted the Brazilian leader’s humble beginnings and his drive to better himself and those around him, a trait which he carried into the political sphere and beyond his country’s borders.
“Alongside his deep-seated love for, and dedication to, his own country, his leadership and compassion saw him deploy his personal influence and national position to advance the lives of millions of people across the world. Partly because of his actions, the G20 now exists and ensures greater influence for the peoples of the developing world in shaping the decisions that impact on them.”
The Guyanese leader also noted Lula’s role in the creation of UNASUR and his outreaches to Africa, the Arab world and elsewhere to bring people closer. He added that the World Social Forum which Lula established in 2003 enables progressive global policies to be advanced and at every international forum Brazil leads in a way that advances the needs of the less powerful across the world.
“It is this leadership that influenced Guyana’s early decision to support Brazil’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. And it is this leadership that is also addressing the most (important) global challenge our planet has ever faced – the fight against climate change,” Jagdeo stated.
According to Jagdeo, Brazil’s success in reversing historical deforestation trends in the Amazon will benefit every citizen on this planet and stands as one of the outgoing president’s greatest legacies.
“The global statesman who fought to put billions of poor people at the centre of international decision-making has laid the foundations for a world that is freer, fairer and more prosperous. Few people on this planet have contributed as much to human progress as His Excellency, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. History will record him as a titan of our age. Guyana will remember him as a true friend,” Jagdeo said.
President Lula was also on November 19 selected for the prestigious Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2010. He was selected by an international jury chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Indian press reported.
The prize was bestowed for his outstanding contribution to the cause of eliminating hunger and promoting inclusive growth in his country, his advocacy for strong ties among the developing countries and for his significant contribution to the cause of India-Brazil partnership, a statement from the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust said.
“Mr. Lula has championed the cause of the global south, and worked to strengthen bonds among the developing countries… His priority from the start was inclusive growth and the consolidation and expansion of social programmes,” noted the release.
The Indira Gandhi Peace Prize or the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development is accorded annually by India to individuals or organisations in recognition of creative efforts toward promoting international peace, development and a new international economic order; ensuring that scientific discoveries are used for the larger good of humanity, and enlarging the scope of freedom.
The prize carries a cash award of 25 lakh Indian rupees and a citation. A written work, in order to be eligible for consideration, should have been published.
The panel constituted by the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust consists of prominent national and international personalities including previous recipients. The recipients are chosen from a pool of national and international nominees. Past recipients include former US President Jimmy Carter; Sir Shridath Ramphal; former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.