Carlos Alberto Montaner-Miami Herald, 09/15/2009
Naturally, the United States would prefer it if the Latin American countries were democratic, prosperous and sensible, like those in the European Union, for instance, but Washington no longer feels an urgent need to guide them in that direction. However, Washington would like it if Brazil replaced it in that forsaken leadership and is trying to coax that country’s leaders to assume that role.
That wish is nothing more than a naive and unreal illusion.
Brazil is the size of the United States, with a population of 200 million, and has certain partially developed zones, such as Sao Paulo. But it is far from being a regional power. Brazil’s economy totals barely $2 trillion, and the nation is not the leader or an innovative force in any really important field. More than 30 percent of its population is very poor.
It has one of the world’s most unequal distributions of income, while its annual per-capita income, measured in terms of purchasing power parity, is barely $10,000. Eight Latin American countries surpass it in this regard, and one of them, Chile, does so by 50 percent.
Brazil’s level of corruption — 3.5, according to Transparency International — is shameful and worse than that of several African countries.
It maintains a protected economy that hampers competition and intense international trade. The Index of Economic Freedom assigns it a value of 56.7, which translates into a “nonfree economy” (the Index contains 104 countries that are freer than Brazil). Its bureaucracy is slow and clumsy. Its universities are mediocre, with few excellent learning centers. The number of its original scientific patents is ridiculously low, smaller than that of Israel, whose population is only eight million.
But there is something even more important than all of the above: Brazil hasn’t the slightest vocation for being a regional power.