Lula da Silva skips G20 because of floods and presidential election
Brazilian President Lula da Silva has cancelled plans to attend the G-20 economic summit in Toronto, Canada after flooding in the northeast of the country left at least 51 people dead and 120,000 others homeless.
A government spokesman said Friday that President da Silva chose not to attend the Group of 20 summit of world leaders in Toronto Saturday and Sunday because he feels he needs to stay close to home to follow relief operations.
The Brazilian leader and other government officials Thursday travelled to the north-eastern states of Pernambuco and Alagoas, hit hardest by recent heavy rains and flooding, to assess the situation.
While the death toll has risen, civil defence officials said Friday the number of people missing has been scaled back from several hundred to 76. Government officials announced Thursday that the affected states will each receive millions of dollars in emergency funds.
Rescuers continue to work to reach communities isolated by mud, water and debris, but the effort is hampered by floodwaters that have washed away bridges and cut roads. Officials say the floods destroyed thousands of homes.
The northeast region is a stronghold for Lula da Silva's government ahead of presidential elections in October in which the popular leader wants Brazilians to elect his former chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff. Pernambuco is also Lula da Silva’s home state.
Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega will instead represent Brazil at the summit.
The G20 group includes the world's biggest economies and covers two-thirds of the world's population: Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey in addition to the big European economies, the United States and Canada.