Blinken meets with Brazilian president following controversial Holocaust comments

Blinken touted U.S.-Brazil ties as ‘stronger than ever’ without mentioning Lula’s comments equating Israel with Nazis. The State Department’s top spokesperson later said Blinken told Lula he disagreed with the remarks

Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Brazilian Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva shake hands during a meeting at Palacio Do Planalto on February 21, 2024 in Brasilia, Brazil.

Days after Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva compared Israel’s actions in Gaza to Hitler’s treatment of Jews during the Holocaust, he met with Secretary of State Tony Blinken in Brasilia. 

Public communications from the State Department about the Wednesday meeting did not mention Lula’s comments on Israel, although an official readout said the two men discussed the war in Gaza. Blinken tweeted afterward that U.S.-Brazil “ties are stronger than ever,” with a photo of the men smiling and shaking hands. 

The day before, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said “obviously we disagree” with Lula’s comments. “We have been quite clear that we do not believe that genocide has occurred in Gaza,” said Miller. 

On Wednesday afternoon, Miller said Blinken had raised the comments with Lula.

“The secretary had a chance to discuss the comments with President Lula today in his meeting, in the context of an overall discussion about the conflict in Gaza, and made clear — as I did yesterday, made clear that those are comments with which we disagree,” said Miller. 

Lula’s comments over the weekend led Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz to formally reprimand Brazil’s ambassador to Israel and summon him for a meeting at Yad Vashem. “The things that Lula said when he compared the righteous war of the State of Israel against Hamas, which murdered and massacred the Jews, and Hitler and the Nazis is shameful and unacceptable,” Katz said on Monday. 

Lula, who had previously been president of Brazil two decades ago, made the comments about Israel when speaking to reporters Sunday in Ethiopia.

“What is happening in the Gaza Strip and to the Palestinian people hasn’t been seen in any other moment in history. Actually, it did when Hitler decided to kill the Jews,” Lula said.

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