For much of the past two decades, Brazil and Mexico seemed at times to be on a collision course. Diplomats from Latin America’s two largest nations were often preoccupied,if not obsessed, with a competition for an elusive role as regional leaders and players in the post-Cold War shifting global scene. The 2013 battle for the post of director general at the World Trade Organization, won by Brazilian diplomat Roberto Azevêdo over Mexican Herminio Blanco, a former trade minister, left plenty of hurt feelings. Ironically, the dispute for influence also led to convergence. The 2011 creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations (CELAC), proposed by Mexico to affirm its Latin American identity and counter a perceived Brazilian effort to separate it from the region, was warmly embraced in Brasília as a way project leadership by promoting formats that excluded the US.
“We know the return is going to take place and we hope it occurs before the end of the year, so that Paraguay can participate in the summit of Caracas in December” said President Dilma Rousseff’s advisor.
Paraguay was suspended from Mercosur since 29 July 2012 until last 15 August when current president Horacio Cartes took office. Paraguay with Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay are founding members of the bloc which incorporated Venezuela in 2012, virtually the same day it applied the ‘democratic clause’ suspending one of its members.
Paraguay was sanctioned following the removal of then president Fernando Lugo, which Mercosur defined as a ‘rupture of democratic order’ but was overcome with the presidential elections of last April and the inauguration of Cartes.
Renaud Lambert – Le Monde Diplomatique, 06/28/2013
João Paulo Rodrigues and Rubens Barbosa seem to have little in common: Rodrigues has been involved in the Brazilian Landless Peasants Movement (MST) since childhood; Barbosa was Brazil’s ambassador to the UK, then the US, from 1994 to 2004, and is now a consultant. I met Rodrigues at a small house in São Paolo; Barbosa’s offices are on the very chic Brigadeiro Faria Lima Avenue, where helicopters ferry chief executives between skyscrapers. Rodrigues had just been leading a training session for MST activists; Barbosa managed to “take a few minutes out” between calls from clients who wanted to know about the terms of a government tender — presumably ahead of everyone else (that’s what it sounded like to me).
But these men sometimes agree in what they say. When Rodrigues talks about MST’s political aims — “overthrowing neoliberalism and building a fairer economic system” — he identifies regional integration as a priority. Barbosa dreams of Brazil “transforming its geography into a political reality”. He sees Latin America as “Brazil’s backyard, the natural territory of Brazilian businesses” (1). He too identified a priority: “defending our own interests” and reinforcing the process of regional integration.
Since the Great Liberator, Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), dreamed of unity, there have been many attempts to promote collaboration between Latin American countries and further their integration into a larger entity, bringing different countries together depending on the ultimate goal — independence in the 19th century, regional industrialisation after the second world war, neoliberal alignment in the 1990s.
Brian Winter, Ana Flor – Reuters, 01/14/2013
Brazil is urging Venezuela’s government to hold elections as quickly as possible if President Hugo Chavez dies, senior officials told Reuters on Monday, a major intervention by Latin America’s regional powerhouse that could help ensure a smoother leadership transition in Caracas.
Brazilian officials have expressed their wishes directly to Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro, the officials said on condition of anonymity. Chavez has designated Maduro as his preferred successor if he loses his battle with cancer.
“We are explicitly saying that if Chavez dies, we would like to see elections as soon as possible,” one official said. “We think that’s the best way to ensure a peaceful democratic transition, which is Brazil’s main desire.”
Each Friday, through the Brazil Portal feature “The Week in Review”, the Brazil Institute will highlight Brazil’s news topics in one concise summary.
News this week continued to revolve around Brazil’s continued measures to stimulate the economy. With a falling trade surplus and factory output on the decline, the government has been eager to recoup their losses, accelerate production, and encourage consumer spending. Cuts to steep oil taxes are being discussed to reinvigorate ethanol production, as well as tax cuts on common household goods aimed at increasing stagnating sales. Some of these stimulus measures have seen results; car sales have jumped markedly after a similar tax cut, although auto output itself has not rebounded. However, the results of similar stimuli, such as the monumental new agricultural loan program announced this week, have yet to be seen.
In hemispheric news, Brazil’s ties to its Latin American neighbors have been both tested and strengthened this week. On the one hand, regional tensions have been high since the expulsion of Paraguay from Mercosur after last week’s demi-coup/impeachment that ousted Fernando Lugo. Though Brazil was one of the many nations that criticized the impeachment proceedings and questioned their constitutionality, the country also stands to benefit. Given that the coup led to Paraguay’s removal from Mercosur, lawmakers in Asunción can no longer block Venezuela’s entrance into the trade union, a development which could potentially profit Brazil greatly. Outside of South America, Brazil and Mexico are strengthening their relationship, as Mexico’s newly elected President vowed to ally with the South American giant.
The case pitting Brazilian laborers against corporate giants BASF and Shell Oil has also seen some development this week. Investigations into workers’ claims that they were exposed to harmful pesticides are ongoing. The workers’ victory seemed ensured when a judge mandated that Shell and BASF put aside 328 million for their compensation, however this measure was blocked later in the week by a different judge.
July 1 marked the 18th anniversary of the Plano Real, the landmark fiscal legislation that introduced the real as Brazil’s currency. O Estado de S.Paulo interviewed Persio Arida, a former Wilson Center Public Policy Scholar and one of the men responsible for the plan’s design and implementation, about the plan’s success almost two decades later.
The formal incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur next July will benefit mainly Brazil and Argentina since they could considerably increase their exports to the oil-rich country at the expense of the local production sector weakened by the economic policies from the administration of President Hugo Chavez, according to analysts.
Main producers such as Brazil and Argentina will become the main beneficiaries of the incorporation because they will have greater access to the Venezuelan market, which is highly dependent on imports” said economist Pedro Palma from consultants Ecolatina.
Palma added that Venezuela “has virtually dismantled the private sector production capacity since many companies have been taken over by the state and once under state management they lose competitiveness and their level of productivity.”
Luis Andres Henao – Associated Press, 06/28/2012
MENDOZA, Argentina (AP) — South American foreign ministers plan to recommend that Paraguay be suspended from the Mercosur regional trade bloc over last week’s ouster of former President Fernando Lugo, Brazil’s foreign minister said Thursday.
But Antonio Patriota said that ministers attending a bloc summit in Mendoza, Argentina will recommend against economic sanctions in retaliation for the impeachment of Lugo. Speaking to a small group of journalists outside closed-door meetings, Patriota said he could not give any further details about Paraguay’s possible suspension, nor say how long it might last.
Mercosur’s final decision on what to do about Paraguay will be announced Friday following a meeting of regional heads of state.