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Este blog trata basicamente de ideias, se possível inteligentes, para pessoas inteligentes. Ele também se ocupa de ideias aplicadas à política, em especial à política econômica. Ele constitui uma tentativa de manter um pensamento crítico e independente sobre livros, sobre questões culturais em geral, focando numa discussão bem informada sobre temas de relações internacionais e de política externa do Brasil. Para meus livros e ensaios ver o website: www.pralmeida.org.

sexta-feira, 4 de março de 2011

Brasil-Estados Unidos: visita de Obama - entrevista Frank D. McCann

Minhas fontes secretas me passaram, antecipadamente, a entrevista que o historiador e brasilianista Frank D. McCann, especialista em Forças Armadas brasileiras -- autor de Soldiers of the Fatherland, já traduzido e publicado como Soldados da Pátria -- deu ao Estadão sobre a visita do Obama ao Brasil, que deve, em princípio, ser publicado no Estadão do domingo (ainda devem estar traduzindo).
Paulo Roberto de Almeida

Nota em 5/03/2011:
Um leitor deste post chama a atenção para a seguinte frase de McCann (destacada no seu comentário):
"For the first time in all the years I have studied Brazil, I thought that Brazilian government spokesmen seemed arrogant."
Bem, ela se refere especificamente à política externa de Lula, caracterizada por um anti-americanismo infantil e um desejo meio estúpido de confrontar os EUA, apenas pelo gosto de se mostrar independente ou anti-hegemônico. Coisas do petismo rudimentar...

Entrevista com Frank D. McCann, historiador brasilianista
O Estado de S. Paulo

O Estado de S. Paulo
1) Qual é a expectativa do senhor, um acadêmico americano que há tanto tempo estuda a história brasileira, tem da visita do presidente Obama ao Brasil?
Well, Wilson, I always hope for the best. A state visit by an American president is important and can have long lasting results. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s visit in 1936 cemented his friendship with Getulio Vargas which contributed to Brazil joining the Allied side in World War II and opened a period of intense relations that led to Brazil’s industrialization. Today Brazil is much more important than it was then, and I hope that Obama acts accordingly.

2) Qual é o balanço que o senhor faria da história das relações entre Brasil e EUA?
The history of relations between the two countries is dense and deep, reaching back to the late 1700s. Their relations have been marked by continuous trade, American suspicion of monarchial government and Brazilian worries about republican subversion, Brazilian fear of American interest in Amazonia, Brazilian dependence on the American coffee market, American worries over British influence, then German influence, and finally communist subversion. The United States has been a continuous presence in the Brazilian mind, while Brazil has been a rather vague one in the American mind. Underlying placid, generally friendly relations there has been tension that never rose to violence, but never completely disappeared. This tension was especially curious because so much of it seems to have been generated on the American side. Moreover, it existed regardless of the type of government ruling Brazil. Monarchial, republican, nationalist, developmentalist, left-leaning, right-wing military, and civilian-centrist governments have all had their share of problems with the United States. In recent decades as the United States pressured Brazil to end its atomic program, and more recently questioned why Brazil wanted to have atomic submarines, it never seems to have entered the minds of American leaders that Brazilians do not trust the United States to remain forever friendly. Washington failed to understand that when it ordered the invasion of Panama, the attack on Grenada, and the two wars against Iraq such actions made Brazilians nervous and somewhat suspicious.
The resurrection of the US Fourth Fleet was a perfect example of Washington’s tone deafness when it comes to understanding how its actions are viewed by others. That fleet number had been first used in World War II to designate the American naval forces based at Recife. That experience was generally positive for the Brazilian navy. The fleet was deactivated after the war, so its reactivation and its mission in regard to the Caribbean and the South Atlantic required careful explanation. But the official explanation was vague at best.
It turned out that the Fourth Fleet has no ships of its own, that it is merely a headquarters that has to request the loan of ships in case of some operation. It is not the powerful instrument of American power that many commentators in Brazil feared. Unnecessarily its “reactivation” raised the level of tension in Latin America and certainly in Brazil
One of the problems is that Washington thinks of Brazil as part of Latin America, when it should be thinking of it on its own terms first, and only secondarily as it relates to the countries around it. The reality is that Obama is making a Latin American tour, Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador, he is not just coming to see Brazil and its leaders. It is obvious that there is no commonality among the three countries that he will visit, they are just a grouping that satisfies some odd ideas that the State Department developed for this trip. Brazilians can consider their country truly important when foreign leaders go there and not make a grand tour.

3) É possível comparar a vinda de Obama com outras visitas de presidentes americanos ao Brasil?
Yes, the history of such visits is quite interesting. But,first, I should say that no American president has matched the standard set by Emperor Pedro II’s 1876 tour of the United States. The Emperor traversed the United States from New York to San Francisco, Chicago to New Orleans, Niagara Falls to Boston, and opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. It was a truly extraordinary event. He was the only reigning monarch to visit the US in the 19th century.
Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to ever leave the country when he visited the Panama Canal construction in 1906. After leaving the White House he, of course, made his famous journey with Colonel Rondon through Mato Grosso and Amazonia. Herbert Hoover, between his election and inauguration, made an extensive tour of Latin America that included a stop in Rio de Janeiro in 1928.
The first sitting president to visit Brazil was Franklin D. Roosevelt in November 1936. In a way that visit was a model for later ones, because he was en route by ship to Buenos Aires for an inter-American conference. During his stop in Rio de Janeiro he dined with President Vargas and addressed the congress. He emphasized the history of friendly peaceful relations between the two countries, characterizing them as being a “brotherhood.” He declared that “The fine record of our relations is the best answer to those pessimists who scoff at the idea of true friendship between Nations.” Although FDR was a political realist I think he did believe, or at least hoped, in true friendship between our governments and peoples. Unhappily, his idealism did not survive his presidency. He visited again in January 1943, at Belém and Natal en route and returning from the Casablanca conference. His meeting with Vargas in Natal was a key event in wartime relations. But note in both cases he was here because of a journey to somewhere else. He did not come solely because of Brazil’s importance. This kind of stop over became part of the model for American presidents traveling abroad.
Harry S Truman flew to Rio de Janeiro for the September 1947 Rio Conference (Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security); he spoke at the conference in Petrópolis, addressed the congress and attended the Sete de Setembro military parade. President Truman hosted festivities on the battleship USS Missouri, which had arrived to take him back home. He visited Brazil but only saw the capital and the road to Petrópolis. His primary purpose was to attend the conference.
His successor, Dwight Eisenhower came for three days in February 1960, stopping in Brasília, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo, as part of a tour that landed in Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile. The visit was made sadly memorable by the disaster of the plane that carried the US Navy band crashing into Pão de Açucar while trying to land at Santos Dumont.
It took until March 1978 for the next president to travel to Brazil in the person of Jimmy Carter. He came not as part of a Latin American tour but as part of a South Atlantic tour. After Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro he flew to Lagos Nigeria. Ronald Reagan returned to the Latin American tour model by visiting Brasília and São Paulo on November 30 through December 3, 1982, then flying off to Colombia, Costa Rica, and Honduras. His visit is best remembered by his awkward toast in Brasília, “to the people of Bolivia”! George H.W. Bush spent a day in Brasilia, in December 1990, before hurrying off to Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Caracas. In June 1992 he returned to Rio de Janeiro for the Earth Summit. He only visited the Cidade Marvelhosa, and at least did not then go to another country. Bill Clinton maintained the tour model in October 1997 stopping in Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina. In Brazil he did the triangle of Brasilia, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro in two days. George W. Bush, returned President Lula’s visit to Washington by spending a day at the Granja do Torto in November 2005 then flying off to Panama for a day. He returned in March 2007 for a day in São Paulo, thence to Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico for a day each.
Wilson, please excuse this tedious listing but it shows clearly that Obama is following the Latin American tour model. Clearly such visits have little to do with real diplomacy and much to do with projecting an image.

4) O que significa o fato de Obama ter dito que o presidente Lula era “o cara”, mas não ter vindo ao Brasil durante o governo Lula, e agora fazer uma visita de Estado com Dilma Rousseff há menos de três meses na Presidência?
You would have to ask President Obama what he meant by “o cara”. I don’t know what word he used in English. Perhaps he meant that Lula was “the guy”, the man, which in street talk would have been positive. Why he did not make a visit during Lula’s government is a bit strange, but he had a lot to do to correct some of the mess the Bush people left behind. In fact why he would leave the United States now, while it is in the midst of such a terrible economic and political crisis is a question that should be asked.
Frankly speaking, the Lula government projected a tone that felt mildly hostile to the United States. I said tone because there were no acts of hostility but an oddly antagonistic feeling. For the first time in all the years I have studied Brazil, I thought that Brazilian government spokesmen seemed arrogant. Certainly Brazilians were right to be upset with the failure of Washington to prevent the financial disaster. As the elections in November showed the American people are angry about it too.
It is a bit trivial but it is possible that Chicago’s loss of the Olympics to Rio de Janeiro may have affected Obama’s attitude a bit. After all he did campaign personally for his city and he is not a man who enjoys losing.
Lula’s embrace of Chavez makes sense from the perspective of Brasilia, but his enthusiasm looks odd to Washington. The same is true of his relations with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, as did the quixotic attempt with Turkey to negotiate an end to the danger of Iran developing an atomic bomb. The Obama administration was put off, not because Brazil did not have the right to use its diplomatic influence, but by the way it was done. The tone was off key.

5) Podemos dizer que Brasil e EUA vivem o seu período de maior afastamento ou houve outros períodos piores?
I do not think “afastamento” is the right word. During the last years trade has been very active, the Brazilian migrant or immigrant population is huge, Brazilians are investing heavily in the United States. And, of course, tourism continues strong and investment in Brazil is at all time high levels. The tension that I mentioned earlier has been higher than usual these past few years. But we have successfully weathered worse periods. The trade competition with Nazi Germany in the late 1930s was potentially much worse, but had a happy outcome.

6 ) O que contribuiu para o atual afastamento?
I think both sides failed to understand how the other perceived their words and actions. There is an impatience among some in the Brazilian government to see Brazil accepted as a world power. They are impatient for Brazil to have its rightful place in the world. I imagine that most educated Brazilians are tired of the idea of the country of the future. They want the future now. Brazil is not a country most Americans immediately think of as a world power. In fact Brazil is not a country that most Americans think of at all. The vast majority of Americans know very little, if anything, about Brazil, partly because it is rarely taught about in schools and universities. Portuguese is rarely taught in the universities. There is little financial support nationally for Brazilian studies except in a handful of institutions. The Brazilian government has arranged support for programs in a few prestige universities, but this has had little impact nationally. So it is not surprising that leaders in the two countries do not easily understand each other’s point of view.
If you read the speeches that American presidents from FDR to George W. Bush have delivered in Brazil you will see a lot of similarity. They all speak of friendship, of alliances, of potential, of great natural resources, of a dynamic people, and of economic growth. They call Brazil a regional leader, as Nixon said, “so goes Brazil, so goes South America.” But they do not think of it as an equal. They have difficulty seeing the world from the perspective of Brasília. For Obama to talk of forging “new alliances” is to serve old wine in a new bottle. I can’t imagine that such phrases excite anyone in the Itamaraty and worse I doubt that there is any reality behind them.

7) De que forma a política americana em relação ao Brasil também influiu para que os dois países se afastassem?
Again it is a matter of perspective. Washington does not see Brazil as itself, American leaders see it as part of Latin America, as the pattern of the presidential tours shows. Obviously, Brazil is today much more connected to its neighbors than it was fifty years ago, but it still does not see itself first and foremost as Latin American. It is Brazil, first and foremost, Brazil above all.
Unfortunately this difference in perspective is deep seated in the United States. Even in the universities, if Portuguese is taught at all, it is taught in Departments of Spanish. It would be interesting to know how many of the people in Obama’s entourage speak Portuguese fluently.

8) O que causou mais estragos à relação Brasil-EUA: a iniciativa brasileira (e turca) junto ao Irã, na questão nuclear, ou a posição do Brasil em relação à crise de Honduras?
The Obama administration reacted coldly to Brazil’s initiatives regarding Iran and Honduras. In neither case was the State Department expecting Brazilian involvement. It might have been American haughtiness, but certainly Washington was insensitive to Brazil’s interests in both cases. I wonder what kind of communications had gone on between the Itamaraty and the State Department? Mrs. Clinton seemed surprised and a bit annoyed in her comments about both cases. The two governments can’t develop supportive positions unless they are talking regularly and deeply. Of the two cases I found the Honduras one the most disturbing. Washington, in effect, was supporting or at least accepting a coup d’etat, while Brasilia was saying that it was not acceptable. Considering that Brasilia has had much more direct experience with coups than Washington has had, you would think the Americans would pay more attention.

9) A postura do Brasil no caso iraniano inviabilizou qualquer esperança brasileira de ir permanentemente para o Conselho de Segurança das Nações Unidas ou há outros motivos para a resistência americana à pretensão brasileira nesse sentido?
This is one of the most difficult questions in Brazilian-American diplomatic history. Brazil is one of the founders of the United Nations. Even in the dark days of World War II the State Department carefully consulted then foreign minister, Oswaldo Aranha, about his ideas for the new organization. Brazilian diplomats were active in the negotiations at the formative conferences at Chapultepec and San Francisco. Aranha was, of course, the first president of the General Assembly. I think that if FDR had lived he would have insisted that Brazil have a seat on the Security Council. Looking back it is very odd that two failed, even conquered, countries, France and China were given seats and veto power. We know that the British and the Russians opposed a Brazil’s membership, thinking that it would be an echo of the United States.
For Washington to now support India, over Brazil, is to violate the history since World War II. India was a mere colony when the UN came into existence. That does not mean it should be ignored, just that Brazil has a more senior claim that should be respected.

10) Qual é a visão que o governo Obama tem do Brasil, hoje?
I doubt that Obama has thought seriously about Brazil or its role in the world. If he had, or if his closest advisers have, he would not be doing another tour of Latin America but would be doing one solely of Brazil. To talk of trade with Chile or El Salvador, countries with populations of 15.2 million and 6.9 million is strange, when there could be much more trade with just the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, with their populations of 41 million and nearly 20 million respectively. Size matters, but seems to get diminished in the State Department. He will likely speak the same old platitudes and avoid strong backing of Brazil in the United Nations. It is odd in the extreme that the United States has negotiated trade agreements with small countries and has not done so with Brazil. Obama’s advisors should be constantly telling him that 200 million Brazilians and their seventh-ranked economy are important to the United States, or should be important.

11) Quais serão os temas críticos da visita?
Necessarily President Obama wants to strengthen the relationship. Trade dynamics will probably be discussed. The American subsidies of agriculture, particularly cotton, must be on the table. Likely there will be discussion of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and what can be done about them. Nice things will be said about Egypt and worries will be expressed about Libya, unless that crisis has been resolved by the time of the visit.
Hopefully there will be talk of importing Brazilian ethanol fuel into the United States. Domestic politics has delayed and side-tracked free entry and has raised pointless barriers, even while Washington has preached free trade to the world.
Apparently the Americans will be offering assistance with civil security for the coming 2014 World Cup and the Summer Olympics in 2016. I hope they recall that Washington has a checkered history with such assistance in Brazil. How much assistance the Americans can offer in controlling the narcotics problem in Brazil seems problematical. They have been singularly unsuccessful in controlling the narcotics trade in their own country or stopping the stream of drugs from Mexico.
It will be interesting to see what Obama has to offer regarding the FX2 jet fighter. France won out some years ago selling helicopters to Brazil by bribing decision-markers in Brasília. French law allows that sort of thing but American law forbids it. A multi-billion dollar contract would go a long way toward bringing the two militaries closer and would stimulate collateral trade deals.
And, of course, looming over these conversations is the Chinese giant. For the first time since the 1930s the United States is no longer Brazil’s major trading partner. The Chinese purchases of iron ore, other minerals, and soy beans have overwhelmed the American position. They have overwhelmed the Brazilians as well. The scale of the Brazil-China trade has no equal in Brazilian history. Both the Brazilians and the Americans are worried and uncertain what to do, so they both have reasons to find ways to manage the Chinese giant.
Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota will make the Americans feel comfortable. He speaks English with a near American accent and that will have a soothing effect. Unhappily the American side does not speak Portuguese in equally comforting tones.

12) Comenta-se no Brasil que o presidente Obama poderia intervir na licitação para compra de caças por parte da Força Aérea Brasileira, para ajudar a Boeing na disputa contra a Rafale (França) e Saab (Suécia). O que poderia acontecer? Uma oferta mais ampla, envolvendo garantias de transferência de tecnologia?
Washington has been signaling that it is willing to share the technology which could be a huge boost to Brazil’s aviation industry.

13) Brasil e EUA também têm conflitos na área comercial, com sobretaxas americanas sobre produtos brasileiros comprados pelos americanos, como etanol, suco de laranja etc. Há alguma possibilidade de Obama oferecer alguma boa mudança para o Brasil nessa área?
Wilson, you’ll have to ask the White House and State Department on this one. If Obama is smart that is exactly what he will do. Unfortunately, the contrary political pressures in the United States are very strong and very short-sighted about such things.

14) Apesar das divergências com os EUA, o Brasil pode argumentar que fez o seu “dever de casa” (home work). É um país formalmente democrático, que respeita os foros internacionais, aberto ao capital estrangeiro, signatário do Tratado de Não-Proliferação de Armas Nucleares, participa de operações de paz das Nações Unidas, assinou o Regime de Limitação de Tecnologia de Mísseis. Nada disso é suficiente para que o Brasil tenha sua cadeira permanente no Conselho de Segurança?
I think it is more than sufficient. Brazil should have had the seat decades ago. Unfortunately the United States does not have complete power to make such a decision. The British, Russians, French, and Chinese have a say. Brazil should pressure the Chinese to speak in its favor. President Obama should loudly and energetically support Brazil’s membership, but I do not know if he will.

15) O que deverá ficar de saldo dessa visita?
Honestly, I hope it deepens relations, but I doubt that it will. The history of such trips does not encourage me. The tour model of such trips necessarily weakens the possible impacts and confuses the thinking of the travelers. It is a shame that President Obama is not taking this opportunity to go to Salvador da Bahia, likely the most African city in the Americas. It would make have a huge influence on African Americans to see their first brother in the White House swaying to the rhythms of Olodum in the Pelourinho. And who knows what else he might have learned and might have stimulated.

Frank D. McCann
Professor of History Emeritus
University of New Hampshire
5 March 2011
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