Until the beginning of the last decade, Brazil has asserted itself as the great catalyst for political consultation and multisectoral cooperation mechanisms in South America, also acting as an articulator of consensus and a mediator of tensions and instabilities between neighbors. .
In recent years, however, the country appears to lack a clearer strategy for the region, with marked ideological disagreements with key partners, as well as adopting hasty and proactive positions that contradict decades of pragmatism and caution in the field. relations with neighbors.
END OF PRAGMATISM IN FOREIGN POLICY
In the case of Venezuela, the hasty recognition of Juan Guaidó as the country’s president and the attempt to force allegedly humanitarian aid undermined any possibility of a real contribution to the exit from the crisis in an important neighbor.
Simply supporting sanctions against the Maduro government in fora like Mercosur, the OAS or the Grupo de Lima is not much for a country used to acting confidently in favor of sub-regional stability.
Breaking bridges of dialogue with the world has become a recurring practice in Bolsonaro’s diplomacy.
The current foreign policy is lost and permeated with erratic and incongruous positions not only in the big questions of international policy, but also in the Brazilian regional environment.
The search for regional leadership that characterized the country in the 2000s has given way to a support role incompatible with the weight and representation of Brazil in the region.
The country has limited itself to embarking on initiatives launched and idealized by neighbors who, taking advantage of the vacuum left by Brasilia, end up gaining in centrality and projection. Prosul, for example, was designed and formatted away from the offices of Planalto and Itamaraty.
The presence of Bolsonaro in the possession of Guillermo Lasso a few weeks ago has only reinforced his limited and Manichean perception of the future of South America. The defense of “the union for the freedom of the region” seems to reflect an irreconcilable antagonism with central governments. – on the left or on the left, as in the most critical moments of a cold war which ended more than 30 years ago.
In the not so distant past, Brazil has been able to engage in fruitful dialogue with governments of various political shades, such as Colombia under Álvaro Uribe and Venezuela under Hugo Chávez. Thus it was possible to create, for example, the South American Defense Council within Unasur.
CRISIS IN BILATERAL RELATIONS WITH ARGENTINA
The unprecedented interference in Argentina’s 2019 electoral elections, with explicit support for the re-election of Maurício Macri, not only broke with consolidated practices throughout the country’s foreign policy history, but ended up lead to a close ideological incompatibility with President Alberto Fernández.
The absolute lack of will to overcome differences is notable, despite a virtual meeting without practical result which took place in December 2020. Getting carried away by partisan passions of exclusion is incompatible with that of the president of a country whose recognized traditions diplomatic activities are based on universalism and the diversification of partnerships.
At such a delicate time for the whole region due to the serious health crisis and its devastating economic consequences, it would be up to Planalto to urgently promote an agreement with Casa Rosada.
The trade decline of recent years and the loss of space for Brazilian exports to the neighboring market, for example, demand pragmatic and accommodating attitudes on the part of the country. Bilateral trade flows in 2020 were just over US $ 16 billion, less than half of the US $ 39 billion in 2011.
In relative terms, Brazil has lost space for Chinese exports to the Argentinian market, with the Asian giant already having a head start on Brazil in 2020 as Argentina’s main trading partner.
Given the importance of this market for sales of higher value-added Brazilian manufactures, it is clear that the bilateral agenda is full of pressing issues that should overlap with personal squabbles.
REBUILDING FOREIGN POLICY
The delicate moment in relations with Argentina overshadowed the celebration of Mercosur’s 30th anniversary. Important decisions regarding the common external tariff and the model of external negotiations have to be taken, but the distance between the two main partners is an additional obstacle.
The future of the bloc necessarily depends on better coordination between its members, and any attempt to ideologically isolate a member is unacceptable because of the momentary differences of the governments in office.
It would do very well for the Brazilian government to also know and better respect the history of its neighbors, especially with regard to military dictatorships, whose memory is very vivid and present in the countries of the Southern Cone. such a traumatic period for the region The region has already caused a sensation and embarrassment even among governments with which there is a greater ideological affinity, such as that of the Chilean Sebastián Piñera.
Faced with so much excess in the conduct of the country’s foreign policy, it is urgent not only to save Brazil’s image in the world, but also to restore a more sensible, plural and pragmatic position in its own region. Dialogue, tolerance and prudence are the best agents of vaccination against the political myopia virus that has characterized the Brazilian government’s relations with its neighbors.
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