RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – For sunbathers on Rio’s famed Ipanema Beach last weekend, the sight was about as odd as an oncoming snowstorm.
“Respect life, Ahmadinejad!” read a banner trailing from an airplane flying above the shore.
Brazil’s warm relationship with Iran has become a surprise issue in October’s presidential elections, as candidates try to seize on fears that the ruling party is too cosy with foreign dictators and harbours authoritarian tendencies of its own.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has dedicated much of his final year in office to trying to defuse the confrontation between the West and his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, over Iran’s nuclear plans.
Lula, who says Ahmadinejad’s ambitions are misunderstood, is forbidden from running for a third term. But his preferred successor and former chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, has had to parry accusations that their Workers’ Party is soft on censorship and intolerant of opposing political views.