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US and Brazil Get Ready for Lula-Bush’s Washington Summit

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his American counterpart George Bush are expected to get together in Washington before the semester is over.

The meeting would most likely happen in April and the agenda would include trade discussions as well as the political situation in Cuba and Venezuela. Lula is good friends with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers in Havana.

While the information of the encounter was given by BBC, which cited as its source an American government official, Brasí­lia's Palácio do Planalto (the presidential office) says that the visit still doesn't have a date.

It's known, however, that the ambassadors of both countries are already discussing the details of the meeting.  According to the Brazilian government, the invitation for Lula to visit Washington was made at the end of October when Bush called Lula to congratulate him for his reelection. The Brazilian president promptly accepted.

The White House is apparently waiting for Lula  to choose his new cabinet before it settles on a date and guidelines for the encounter.

Lula, who is vacationing until January 15 is not expected to announce the new ministers until the beginning of February. Before that he should be in Rio for a Mercosur summit and is expected to announce on January 22 a new economic plan that would guarantee a solid sustained growth in the four years of his second mandate.

The last time Bush and Lula met, the US president was in a short tour of South America and paid a courtesy call to Lula in Brasí­lia.

Lula had been received in the White House on June 2003. At that occasion Bush said: "I'm very impressed by the vision of the President of Brazil. He's a man who clearly has deep concerns for all the people of Brazil. He not only has a tremendous heart, but he's got the abilities to work closely with his government and the people of Brazil to encourage prosperity and to end hunger."

The discussion between both presidents should include besides free trade and the political transition in Cuba, other themes like security, ethanol, environment and science and technology.

Among top American officials who will be visiting Brazil before Lula's trip there are the Secretary of Justice, Alberto Gonzales,  the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, plus the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Thomas Shannon. These three are expected in Brazil in early February.

A top White House aide confided that the Brazilian government is seen by the Bush administration as a country that is respected in Latin America "for its size, for its relationship with other countries and for the leadership that president Lula exercises in the region."

And he added: "We hope that Venezuela's neighbors act as a moderating influence in the region. We hope that Brazil will be engaged in this effort."

For Bush, the meeting with Lula will be an attempt to disprove those who say that the United States has neglected its neighbors to the south since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The American president wants to show that South America is a priority in his government.

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