The bets that failed

March 21, 2014

The Economist, 3/22/2014

SINCE it is the only big power in South America, Brazil inevitably catches the eye of outsiders looking for a country to take the lead in resolving the region’s conflicts—such as the one raging in the streets of Venezuela. Yet leader is not a role that Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president, is keen to play. She has reasons for her reluctance—and they explain why Brazilian foreign policy has run into trouble.

Ms Rousseff has behaved as a loyal ally to the elected, but autocratic, government of Nicolás Maduro, which faces opposition protests almost daily. Brazil worked hard to thwart any role in Venezuela for the Organisation of American States, which includes the United States. Instead, the foreign ministers of the South American Union (UNASUR) have agreed to promote talks in Venezuela. It is an initiative without teeth: the ministers expressed their solidarity with Mr Maduro, disqualifying themselves as honest brokers in the opposition’s eyes.

Brazil’s wrong-headed calculation is that the protests will fizzle out. Mr Maduro took a UNASUR statement on March 12th as a green light to launch another crackdown. Faced with a deteriorating economy and mounting unpopularity, Mr Maduro’s rule is likely to remain repressive. Given that Brazil’s ruling Workers’ Party (PT) claims to stand for democracy and human rights, he is a strange ally.

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Brazil, Argentina push for join cyber shield for South America

November 25, 2013

Shobhan Saxena – The Hindu, 11/24/2013

Alarmed by large-scale spying on their state-owned oil and mining firms and monitoring of personal communication of their top leaders and bureaucrats by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), South America’s two biggest countries are urging all other countries in the region to form a joint cyber shield to deflect such surveillance. The move, led by Brazil and Argentina, is the first such effort by a group of countries since NSA revelations about mass surveillance began to come out in June.

In a crucial meeting in Brasilia on Friday, Argentine Defence Minister Agustin Rossi met his Brazilian counterpart, Celso Amorim, and the two leaders agreed to incorporate all the 12 countries in the continent, which together form the UNASUR (Union of South American Nations), in their bilateral treaty on cyber defence.

In August, when top-secret documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden had revealed that Brazil was one of the most-monitored countries by U.S. intelligence agency, the two ministers had met in Buenos Aires to discuss how to jointly fight the existing and potential cyber threats — mostly coming from the North.

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Is Brazil a regional hegemon?

October 31, 2013

Oliver Stuenkel – Post-Western World, 10/31/2013

Brazil’s economic rise over the past two decades has caused the country’s foreign policy making elite to seek a more prominent role for Brazil in the international community. On a global scale, it has sought to assume more responsibility and engage in international institutions, often criticizing established powers for not providing it with the status it deserves. Brazil’s newfound status has also caused Brazilian governments to reassess its regional role, although Brazil remains ambivalent about which strategy to adopt in South America. There is clearly a gap between Brazil’s global ambitions and its reluctance to adopt a more assertive role in its region. The country’s strategy in the region remains indecisive, combining restrained support for Mercosur, the creation of the Union of South American States (UNASUR) and the South American Defense Council (CSD) with a growing notion that a clearer vision is necessary to mitigate neighbor’s fears of a rising Brazil. Brazilian policy makers disagree on how they should characterize and understand their region – some see it as a source of problems, some as a shield against globalization, and some as a launching pad for global power. Brazil’s self-perception as a ‘BRICS country’ has fueled worries that it will pay little attention to regional matters (given that its trade interdependence with the region is far lower, percentage-wise, than that of its neighbors), causing critics of Brazil’s global focus to call it a ‘leader without followers’.

While Brazil has kept UNASUR relatively toothless, its decision to exclude Central America and Mexico from this institution is a clear sign that policy makers in Brasília have defined South America as Brazil’s immediate sphere of influence. With the majority of the continent’s landmass, population and economic output, and Venezuela’s faltering attempts to turn into a second pole, it is largely up to Brazil to define and design ‘South American Regionalism’. Brazil thus in theory holds a key coordinating role regarding important regional challenges, ranging from China’s growing economic importance, poverty, inequality, integrating the economy and security threats such as drug trafficking and smuggling.

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Is Brazil the new regional champion of democracy?

October 29, 2013

Oiliver Stuenkel – Americas Quarterly, 10/29/2013

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in September 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama appealed to rising democracies around the world to help spread the democratic message, declaring that “we need your voices to speak out,” and reminding them that “part of the price of our own freedom is standing up for the freedom of others.”1

Many observers regarded this as wishful thinking. Democracy promotion, they argue, is a typically Western endeavor. While governments and NGOs in Europe and North America spend billions of dollars every year on democracy-related projects, emerging powers have traditionally avoided such projects—underlining the view held by some skeptics that there is no place for democracy promotion in a “post-Western world.”

Yet even the skeptics might find reason to pause when it comes to Brazil. Latin America’s largest nation has quietly turned into democracy’s “defender-in-chief,” in sharp contrast to emerging democracies in other regions, such as Turkey, South Africa or India—none of which regard democracy promotion beyond their borders as a priority.

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Hardening Brazil’s soft power

July 16, 2013

Celso Amorim – Project Syndicate, 07/16/2013

It is, perhaps, a truism for Brazil’s citizens that their country is and always will be a peaceful one. After all, Brazil has lived with its ten neighbors without conflict for almost 150 years, having settled its borders through negotiation. It last went to war in 1942, after direct aggression by Nazi U-boats in the South Atlantic. It has forsworn nuclear weapons, having signed a comprehensive nuclear-safeguards agreement with Argentina and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Through the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), Brazil is helping to integrate the region politically, economically, socially, and culturally.

But is soft power enough for one of the world’s major emerging countries?

To be sure, Brazil’s peaceful foreign policy has served it well. Brazil has used its stature to advance peace and cooperation in South America and beyond. Its constructive stance derives from a worldview that accords pride of place to the values of democracy, social justice, economic development, and environmental protection.

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Celso Amorim is Brazil’s Minister of Defense. He was previously Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1993 to 1994 and from 2003 to 2010.

Burdened by domestic problems Brazil’s Rousseff will be absent from Unasur summit

November 29, 2012

Mercopress, 11/28/2012

Dilma faces a full agenda of controversial problems, Mercopress.

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has cancelled her attendance to the Union of South American Nations, Unasur summit in Peru on Friday because of “agenda problems” and previous “domestic engagements”, according to the Planalto press secretary office. Vice-president Michel Temer will be attending in her name.

The cancellation motive, according to congressional sources is linked to the fact that on Friday the president must decide whether to veto or sanction a controversial bill on the sharing of oil and gas revenue which modifies the current arrangement to benefit all states but the oil producing areas strongly reject.

The official news agency said the agenda problems refer to the fact that on Wednesday President Rousseff was in Argentina for an industrial and trade forum and on Saturday must be present in Sao Paulo for the drawing lots of the coming Football Confederation Cup, which will be a test for the 2014 World Cup. Besides, the president is involved in the arrangements for the Mercosur summit to be hosted in Brasilia on December 6/7.

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Brazil and Colombia draw up bilateral plan to combat organized crime on border

January 18, 2012

Daniella Jinkings – Agencia Brasil, 01/18/2012

On Tuesday, January 17, the Colombian minister of Defense, Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno, was in Brasilia for talks with the Brazilian minister of Defense, Celso Amorim, on the creation of a joint border defense plan as part of greater cooperation between the two countries in the military area.

According to Amorim, a bilateral commission will be set up to implement the plan with a technical meeting scheduled for February or March.

“In the past we exchanged information. With this plan everything will be more transparent,” explained Amorim, adding that the consolidation of South America’s defense industry and combating transnational crime organizations were issues that Colombia and Brazil would discuss at a Union of South American Nations (“Unasul”) ministers of Justice and Defense meeting in May in Colombia.

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Latin American integration: Peaks and troughs

November 28, 2011

The Economist – from the print edition, 11/26/2011

Hugo Chavez. Credit: The Economist

IT WILL, says Hugo Chávez (pictured), be “the most important political event to have occurred in our America in 100 years or more.” Well hardly. But the inaugural get-together of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, a 33-country outfit known as CELAC from its initials in Spanish, to be held in Caracas on December 2nd and 3rd, does reveal how Latin America is changing.

For a start the influence of the United States is declining in a region it once called its “backyard”. The new body includes all the countries of the Americas except the United States and Canada. Meanwhile, the Organisation of American States (OAS), which includes them, is in such disarray that it may not survive. Brazil, Venezuela and Republicans in the US Congress have all either withheld, or have threatened to cut, funding for the OAS, for differing reasons. The clout of Spain, once seen as a model by Latin America’s restored democracies, is also receding: only half the heads of state bothered to turn up last month at an Ibero-American summit, a Spanish-inspired annual event.

Yet, the proliferation of regional bodies does not necessarily mean that Latin America is any more united. The English-speaking Caribbean apart, it has three broad trade blocks. Brazil dominates Mercosur, a relatively protectionist trade group. Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, all on the Pacific coast, are more open economies trying to forge closer ties. And then there is Mr Chávez’s Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), an idea he launched ten years ago. Conceived as a political block, rather than a trade group, its aim was to free the region from the grip of the United States and “the tyranny of the dollar”. ALBA signed up Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador and three tiny Caribbean nations (Dominica, St Vincent and Antigua). But Honduras withdrew in 2010 after its president was ousted in a coup.

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Brazil, Peru Foreign Ministers sign agreements on crime, jobs

November 1, 2011

Dow Jones/WSJ, 11/01/2011

The foreign ministers of Peru and Brazil signed Monday a series of agreements intended to promote cooperation between the neighboring countries in the areas of new job creation, fighting drug trafficking, digital television, social development and health.

Peru is a “strategic ally” of Brazil and both countries are committed to increasing and improving regional cooperation, Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguiar Patriota told reporters.

In addition to signing agreements, Patriota and Peru’s foreign minister, Rafael Roncagliolo, discussed several subjects of bilateral interest, including cooperating on social programs, fighting drug smuggling and other forms of cross-border crimes, and strengthening the Organization of South American Nations, or UNASUR in its Spanish abbreviation.

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Meeting in Buenos Aires to “recondition Argentine missiles” with Brazilian technology

September 6, 2011

Mercosur, 09/06/2011

Celso Amorim is scheduled to meet with his counterpart Arturo Puricelli

Brazil’s Minister of Defence Celso Amorim is in Buenos Aires for several scheduled meetings this week with his Argentine counterpart Arturo Puricelli and to establish closer ties in defence issues in the framework of Unasur (Union of South American nations).

This is Amorim’s first visit to Argentina as Defence minister and according to the official release from the Brazilian Ministry of Defence they will be discussing Argentina’s intention of “reconditioning Argentine missiles in Brazil” with Brazilian technology.

This is the second time both ministers will be meeting: the first was ten days ago in Sao Paulo where during a defence seminar Puricelli proposed the creation of a South American Space Agency following on the European experience and acting advantage of the Unasur working structure.

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