Lula made the comments amid a brewing crisis over Venezuela's rejection of U.S. Ambassador-designate Larry Palmer. Lula didn't directly refer to the row between Caracas and Washington in comments reported by MercoPress and Spain's EFE news agency.
Relations between the United States and Latin America haven't changed in any meaningful way under U.S. President Barack Obama, said Lula during a breakfast meeting with journalists at the presidential palace in Brasilia.
Lula is to hand over power Saturday to President-elect Dilma Rousseff, marking the end of his two four-year terms as president. He has hinted he wants to return to power at the end of Rousseff's presidency.
Lula indicated he was frustrated by the lack of change in relations with the United States since Obama was elected, MercoPress reported.
"The truth is that nothing has changed and I view that with sadness," Lula said, citing several conversations with the U.S. president about the need for "a change of vision" in Washington's relations with Latin America.
Lula said he isn't confident the message has been received in Washington.
"In the United States they should understand the importance of Latin America," the Brazilian leader said, calling it "a democratic region ... without nuclear bombs."
He said this was all the more necessary because 35 million Latin Americans lived in the United States.
Lula repeated a criticism, often heard in Latin America, that he finds it hard to understand why Washington continues to behave as an "empire" in its dealings with the region.
"I hope Obama visits Brazil in 2011 but the important thing is that he visits not just this country, but all our countries, to know our reality," Lula said.
The Brazilian leader, who built strong ties with Iran and defended Iran's nuclear power program, also criticized the U.S. policies in the Middle East. "There will be no accord in the Middle East while the United States believes it can build peace alone, because it is part of the conflict," Lula said.
He said the people of the United States and many sections of Israelis and Palestinians want peace in the Middle East, but those negotiating for peace did not seem to share that goal.
Brazil under Lula led a wave of formal recognition by Latin American governments of a Palestinian state including territories Israel occupied in 1967.