France's Macron embraces Brazil's Lula -- and the memes poking fun at their 'wedding'

If social media is to be believed, French President Emmanuel Macron’s just-ended trip to Brazil left him swooning

David Biller
Friday 29 March 2024 01:22 GMT

If social media is to be believed, French President Emmanuel Macron's trip to Brazil that ended Thursday left him swooning.

Pictures showed him and his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, traipsing through the Amazon and posing beneath the soaring canopy in white button-down shirts. Then there they were again, standing close and clasping hands on a boat as Macron looked adoringly at Lula, both leaders' faces lit by a gentle sun.

There were hugs and handshakes aplenty; smiles and selfies, too. Lula on Thursday bestowed the highest honor for a non-citizen on Macron, draping a medal around his neck.

Brazilian social media gobbled up the bonhomie with gusto, and users posted photos of the duo that many said looked more like a wedding album than a state visit. On the last evening of his trip, Macron joined in.

“Some people compared the images of my visit to Brazil with those of a wedding, and I say to them: It was a wedding!” he posted on X along with a photo of himself and Lula photoshopped onto the movie poster from “La La Land” in place of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. “France loves Brazil and Brazil loves France!”

Lula replied to his post with the flags of their two nations and an emoji of swirling hearts.

Their meeting represented something of a rapprochement after relations soured between Macron and Lula's predecessor, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, as Amazon deforestation surged to a 15-year high on his watch.

And during 2023, the first year of his latest presidential term, Lula irked European leaders with claims that both Ukraine and Russia had decided to go to war and that the U.S. and European Union were “stimulating” the fighting. That drew sharp rebukes from both.

Macron's absence had also been noticed at the Amazon Summit in the Brazilian city of Belem last year. He instead sent France's ambassador to Brazil, representing its Amazonian territory of French Guiana. Deforestation in Lula’s first year in office fell by about half, to a five-year low.

The first day of Macron's visit took him precisely to Belem, which will host the COP30 climate conference in 2025. He and Lula announced a plan to spend 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in the Amazon, including parts of the rainforest in French Guiana. The next day, they launched a submarine built with French technology at a shipyard outside Rio de Janeiro.

It wasn't all roses. Addressing executives in Sao Paulo, Macron criticized the trade deal that Lula is pushing for the EU and South America's Mercosur bloc, saying it is “terrible” and outdated and needs reworking to take climate change into account. Macron has been the most outspoken among European leaders in opposing the trade deal.

Lula told reporters Thursday that the proposal as it stands is much more promising.

Before Macron's departure, Lula gifted him with five of Brazil's best cheeses, so that “he can tell me what he thought of them,” the Brazilian leader wrote Thursday night on X.

Macron, for his part, didn't immediately comment.

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