US President Joe Biden became the first western leader on Sunday night to congratulate Brazil’s president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in what experts suggest will be a potential thaw in relations between Brasilia and Washington.
Mr Biden’s statement came 40 minutes after the official results were announced in Brazil, followed by a tweet from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulating Mr da Silva.
“I look forward to working together to continue the co-operation between our two countries in the months and years ahead,” Mr Biden said.
With all votes tallied, Mr da Silva clinched a narrow victory by gaining 50.9 per cent of the vote, compared to 49.1 per cent for his far-right rival, President Jair Bolsonaro.
Mr Bolsonaro has been called the “Trump of the tropics” and was endorsed by the former US president for his right-wing populist agenda.
While there is no love lost between Mr Biden and Mr Bolsonaro, it is not only the Trump connection that soured relations between the two.
On environmental issues, globalisation, fighting the pandemic, relations with Russia and boosting the UN, the ideological rift between Mr Biden and Mr Bolsonaro was too big to overcome.
“The election of Lula as president for a third term will lead, among other things, to a substantial change in Brazil’s environmental agenda,” said Abrao Nato, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
“As a consequence, this is likely to benefit Brazil’s external image and improve its relationship with several countries, including the United States.”
He expected US-Brazil economic relations to be driven by pragmatic mutual interests and to be subject to constructive engagement — even as Mr da Silva's election could lead to deepening economic ties between Brazil and China.
The left’s return to power in Latin America's largest country is resurrecting talk of the “Global South” that Mr da Silva championed while president from 2003-2010.
Colombia, Chile, Peru, Mexico and Honduras have seen a resurgence of leftist leaders and movements, a trend the Biden administration has welcomed by increasing interaction with these governments.
Brazil’s daily Folha newspaper reported on Saturday that White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will be travelling to the country in the coming days in a bid reinforce US support for a peaceful transition and establish good rapport with Mr da Silva.
The incoming Brazilian president had a tense relationship with former US leader George W Bush, in part due to differences over the Iraq war, the war on terror and economic policies.
But two decades on, both countries' international policies have shifted.
“Lula has pledged to return Brazil to its more traditional role as a supporter of regional multilateral institutions,” wrote Diana Roy of the Council on Foreign Relations.
She also expected warmer relations with the US and European Union and a rekindling of Brazil's involvement in regional affairs.