To regain his prestige with the Universal Church, President Jair Bolsonaro has decided to appoint Bishop and former Minister Marcelo Crivella to the South African Embassy. The allocation of embassies to civilians is a traditional prerogative. Of the president. Many notables of the Republic have already passed through the diplomatic palaces of Paris, Lisbon and elsewhere. But the idea of giving a civilian a mandate that goes beyond the functions of ambassador makes the appointment of Marcelo Crivella unique, and probably impractical.
Everything suggests that Bolsonaro persuaded Universal that Crivella would be a special envoy for religious affairs in southern Africa, whose main mission would be to contain the revolt of the Universal bishops in Angola and prevent it from spreading to the United States. Mozambique. A compulsory passage point for African leaders, Pretoria would be the ideal base for the political articulations of the bishop-ambassador.
It did not correspond to reality. Under the command of statesman Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa is struggling to regain its status as a geopolitical reference in Africa, threatened by Nigeria and rising stars like Ethiopia.
Few capitals miss Brazil as much as Pretoria. The common response of the global South to the pandemic defended by Ramaphosa would gain another dimension with the support of Brazil. It is no coincidence that Lula, during his recent visit to Brasilia, met the South African ambassador for an hour and a half.
If the arrival in Pretoria last September of Sérgio Danese, one of Itamaraty’s most respected ambassadors, was seen as a sign of prestige by South Africans, his premature replacement by Crivella is more than a disappointment. It is an affront to the strategic relationship between the two countries. The bishop has a real chance of ending up like Eduardo Bolsonaro, the ambassador who strayed to the embassy.
South Africa’s misunderstanding makes it clear that the attempt to name Crivella is an amateur and thoughtless ploy. The government needed something new to hide its inability to help Universal in Angola and show who is in charge of Itamaraty, who has exaggerated his professionalism and morality. Under the command of Chancellor Carlos França, diplomats were once again doing unacceptable things like writing coherent sentences and working for peace in the Middle East.
The encouragement is that the soap opera around Crivella’s appointment, which is shaping up to be long and embarrassing, will reinforce the impression that the Bolsonaro government has no idea how to revive foreign policy. After the collapse of the ethno-nationalist arc with the defeat of Donald Trump, Brazil has simply decided to withdraw from the international game.
The powers will wait for the next elections to decide what to do with this strange case of diplomatic surrender. Until then, Itamaraty will continue its melancholy drift, punctuated by a few weak ideas like that of last week.
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