Lula’s latest dodgy friend

Lula’s latest dodgy friend

As part of what seems like a quest to get in a good photo-op with every one of the world’s most despotic leaders before the end of his presidency, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva stopped in Equatorial Guinea yesterday for a meeting with President Teodor Obiang Nguema Mbasogo:

Both presidents expressed their agreement to safeguard democratic principles, cooperate against organized crime and to combat other challenges facing both nations. President Obiang was pleased with the support of the Government of Brazil concerning the candidacy of Equatorial Guinea as a full member of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP). President Obiang hoped that Equatorial Guinea would become a member of the Community in time for the next CPLP Summit to be held July 2011 in Luanda, Angola.

The two countries issued a Joint Communique, highlighting the good relations that exist between the two and called upon developed countries to "ensure that measures taken to remedy the worldwide economic crisis not affect the economies of developing countries."

As George Ayittey wrote in our most recent print issue, Obiang has been a kind of one-man economic crisis for Equatorial Guinea, having reportedly amassed a personal fortune of over $600 million off his country’s massive oil reserves while his country remains one of the poorest in the world. 

Responding to questions about the trip in the Brazilian press, Foreign Minister Celso Amorim replied, "business is business." But al Jazeera‘s Gabiel Elizondo seems broader aspirations in Lula’s recent trips to Africa, which have taken him to an astounding 25 of the continent’s 53 countries:

As the clock ticks down on Lula’s term as president, it is becoming increasingly clear that he wants to play a large role on the international stage and his frequent trips to Africa as president will probably help shape his post-presidency life

He recently acknowledged this, saying that he will be looking for opportunities to work against poverty and hunger, particularly in Latin America and Africa…..

There has been some talk about Lula being a perfect fit to lead the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), or to take on a special envoy role with Africa. He most certainly will start a foundation, possibly run by Amorim, his foreign minister.

But, whatever the future might hold for Lula after his presidency expires, it is a good bet it will involve work directly with the African continent – after all, he has an authentic knowledge of the continent like few other non-African leaders.

On the other hand, doing business with leaders like Obiang is not necessarily the best place to start combating African poverty.