Brazil’s president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has indefinitely postponed his trip to China and key talks with President Xi Jinping so he can recover from pneumonia, the presidential palace said.
The left-wing leader, 77, was admitted to a hospital in the capital, Brasilia, with flu-like symptoms and was diagnosed with “bacterial and viral bronchopneumonia due to influenza A”, the palace said in a statement.
Lula’s health was reassessed on Saturday, and despite improvement, he was advised to “postpone the trip to China until the cycle of viral transmission ends”, the statement said.
The government has informed Chinese authorities and informed them of Lula’s desire to reschedule the visit, the palace said.
Lula, who succeeded the far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro at the start of the year, had hoped to use the trip next week to reclaim his country’s role in global diplomacy. The discussions in Beijing were expected to focus on the reinforcement of trade and the war in Ukraine.
Lula narrowly defeated Bolsonaro in October’s election to win an unprecedented third presidential term after a hiatus that saw him spend a year and a half behind bars on corruption convictions, which were later overturned.
Just three months into his latest term as president – he has already visited Argentina and the United States – the six-day trip to China, Brazil’s largest trading partner, was seen as key for Lula.
Lula drew Brazil closer to China and travelled twice to Beijing during his two previous presidential terms from 2003 to 2010.
This marks a departure from Brazil’s foreign policy under Bolsonaro, who showed little interest in international affairs or travel abroad.
A delegation of ministers, senators, lawmakers and hundreds of businessmen had been set to accompany the president.
Lula’s health has been a source of concern in recent years.
In November, Lula had surgery to remove a lesion from his vocal cords.
In 2011, the president was diagnosed with throat cancer, shortly after he left the presidency. He went into remission after undergoing treatment.