About 1,000 people gathered this Sunday morning in Ipanema beach, in Rio de Janeiro, to protest against the visit to Brazil of the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who arrives Monday for a one-day visit. The demonstration brought together groups linked to Jews, blacks, feminists, homosexuals, among others.
Even the Gypsy Coalition and a member of the Charitable Society for Islamic Development took part in the demonstration.
The protesters, under sunny skies and temperature of about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, denounced the lack of freedom and democracy in Iran as well as Ahmadinejad's refusal to acknowledge the Holocaust. The rally was animated by the Filhos de Gandhi band. The demonstrators walked on the beach and then released white balloons from a huge cage with messages like: "peace," "sexual freedom,"and "women's rights."
They also handed out red cards on the beach to symbolize the Iranian president's expulsion from Brazil. And they carried banners with messages like: "The holocaust didn't exist?" And "Mr. president Lula, freedom of expression: explain to the guest."
Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defended today, once again, in Brazilian capital Brasília the visit of the Iranian leader, soon after voting in the elections to choose the next Workers Party president.
He commented that he was very happy to be the host in the last few days of Israeli president Shimon Peres and then Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian National Authority and now to be able to receive Ahmadinejad.
"This shows the diversity of Brazil's international relations," said Lula, "And with all of them I am going to talk about peace."
The Brazilian leader stated that the people and "some rulers" of the Middle East want peace. "What we need to find out now is who doesn't want peace, to whom would interest not having peace in the Middle East," he added.
"Whoever is profiting with the absence of peace needs to be put aside. With peace in the Middle East, we are going to have a much more peaceful world, we're going to stop hearing so much about war."
He supported the idea that the whole world should participate in the UN to try to find a way out for the Middle East conflict. Lula wants to see a bigger effort by the United States and the European Union to solve the region's problems too. "They need to be more positive and more constructive," he concluded.
Ahmadinejad has left Teheran earlier today accompanied by politicians and business men. One of the goals of the trip is to try to leave the international political isolationÂ in which his country is immersed right now.
Lula says he is against new sanctions against Iran and supports a dialogue between that country an the rest of the world. The Brazilian president wants to work as a mediator between Iran and the international community.
After meeting Lula, in Brasília, Ahmadinejad, who preaches the destruction of Israel and denies that the Holocaust ever happened, goes to Bolivia, and then to Venezuela to meet Hugo Chavez, his biggest ally in the region.
"This is a strategic visit. It is going to be limited to agreements and to open other areas of cooperation and understanding with countries that are friends, be it on the political or the economic area," explained to the press Ali Akbar Javanfaker, Ahmadinejad's adviser for the international press.