Sullivan’s visit to Brasilia reveals Washington’s certainties and weaknesses – 08/08/2021 – Mathias Alencastro

The most important official visit of the US government to Brazil since the coming to power of Joe Biden has brought certainty about the American position in the face of the worsening democratic crisis promoted by Jair Bolsonaro.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan has made a point of making public that any attempt to change the electoral system just over a year before the Brazilian presidential elections would be viewed by Washington as a ploy to undermine the confidence in the elections.

A clear position which only amplifies Bolsonaro’s detachment from reality. During his audience with Sullivan, the president deemed it relevant to repeat Donald Trump’s coup arguments against the Biden administration’s head of domestic terrorism.

While Sullivan went beyond what was necessary to defend democratic foundations, his intervention in other areas left much to be desired. There is something embarrassing about the repetition of the Trumpist strategy of seducing the state military apparatus through privileges, in this case with the entry of Brazil as NATO’s military partner.

The possible entry of the Chinese company Huawei into the first auction of radio frequencies in technology, the main motivation for Sullivan’s trip, is seen as a step in the China-Brazil strategic integration project which is strongly supported by various sectors of Brazilian society. The attempt to reverse this process by offering small items as corporate benefits to the military reveals the limits of the Biden government’s response to the Asian rival’s claims.

The NATO episode also had implications for climate diplomacy. While the deepening of relations between the Biden government and Brazilian governors is exciting, Sullivan’s arrival on the scene confirms the impression that environmental cooperation is subordinate to geostrategic issues. An unsustainable situation in the long term.

China is developing a carbon market, which experts say is the most efficient at reducing emissions, which will be the largest in the world. Sooner or later it will fight for space in the transnational governance of the Amazon, and Washington cannot limit itself to replicating the blocking strategy used in the dispute for control of 5G.

The United States lacks a new project for Latin America. From Cuba to Colombia via Haiti, the Biden government has opted for a damage containment strategy. He was absent during the pandemic, and now appears unable to prevent the democratic collapse of Nicaragua and El Salvador.

Accustomed to solving almost all regional problems with Cold War methods, the Technocratic Democrats seem unable to accept the idea that the United States needs to talk more about industry and innovation, and less about national security, for counterbalance China.

Returning to Washington after a visit to Brazil and Argentina, one of the countries most invested in relations with the Chinese, Sullivan is expected to inform Biden that the United States will need to be much more ambitious and creative to return to Latin America.

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