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.