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Brazilian Foreign Policy under Lula - Paulo Roberto de Almeida (2010)

Foreign Policy of Brazil under Lula

Paulo Roberto de Almeida
June 28, 2010; First draft; to be revised.

1. Formulation and implementation of the Foreign Policy: decision making under the influence of the Workers’ Party (PT)
For the first time in decades, or ever, Brazilian foreign policy is being conceived and conducted without the dominant presence of professional diplomats. PT’s “foreign policy” has been the dominant element in current Brazilian foreign policy, but not in a structured manner, as PT never “produced” a complete set of conceptions and solutions for Brazil’s international relations. It always had a poor theoretical elaboration, simply relying on “Gramscian” people from the academy – fellow travelers or compagnons de route – for the preparation of more sophisticated papers and proposals relating to economics and political life. But the core of its “thinking” – if one can indulge with such a concept – is a confuse mixture of typical (and stereotypical) Latin-American leftism, with brushes of Guevarism, Castroism, Stalinism, classical Marxism and Theology of Liberation beliefs.
From the standpoint of its organizational structures, PT is a quasi-like Bolchevist party, but without all the old apparatchik apparatus of the Soviet-style communist party. It’s core was formed, at the origin, by “alternative trade-unionists” – refusing the traditional trade-unions linked to the Ministry of Labour, but that have adapted quickly to the facilities of the easy money provided by the compulsory “labor tax”, and forming a trade union became an industry in Brazil –, by the ancient guerrilleros recycled to party politics – that is, former dissidents from the old Communist Party, having adopted armed struggle Cuban style, defeated – and some groups from the progressive movements of the Church, the leftist Theology of Liberation, ecclesial communities, workers’ priests and so on. 
Their ideology is of course an old style socialist one, previous to the fall of Berlin wall, and many of the sects that integrate PT are still true believers in the socialism. In any case, they are anti-capitalists, anti-imperialists, and anti-Americans, as almost all of the leftist Latin-American parties are. In the case of PT, there are people who were trained by the Cuban DGS – Dirección General de Seguridad, or the Cuban intelligence – like José Dirceu. Others are totally reliable and subservient to the Cubans, like Marco Aurélio Garcia, the main organizer of the Sao Paulo Forum, the Cuban-sponsored coordinating mechanism for all leftist parties in LA (which included the Colombian FARCs), almost analogous to the old Cominform of the Soviet era. But, as PT has no structured thinking on Foreign Policy, the main guidelines are established by all those involved in “international relations” within PT, starting by Lula himself – who, as a trade unionist, developed links to other organizations, in Cuba, in the USA, in France, Germany, and elsewhere – and Marco Aurelio Garcia, PT’s “international secretary” for more than 15 years, speaking Spanish and French from his exile times. José Dirceu was also very influent in the definition of foreign policy, and still is, despite not being anymore in the Government.
PT was, and is, always a “consortium” of leftists, engaged actively in the their cause, sects’ or party’s cause, not a national cause according to normal lines of parliamentary democracy; their message always relied on “mass politics”, “popular organizations” (which they controlled, of course, like National Students Union, labor or peasant movements, and many others); their concept of democracy is instrumental: all that serves the major objective of holding power for the party fits its “philosophy” and practices. This is the major political component of the Brazilian foreign policy during Lula’s government.
The two other elements in the definition of Brazilian current foreign policy are the “bosses of the House” – minister Celso Amorim and ex-Secretary General Samuel Pinheiro Guimarães, this one even most important than the former, and the true ideological guide of PT’s foreign policy. Although Amorim is President Lula’s servile man-for-all-jobs-and-all-things, taking personally on him all that is needed to enhance the image and the figure of Lula on the world scenario, is Guimarães who is the ideological backbone of the new foreign policy. In fact, major initiatives of the Brazilian diplomacy since 2003 have all been taken with the main purpose to project Lula abroad, being indeed a superficial and rhetorical foreign policy, aimed at building a “great international leader” disguise to someone who has been, all his life, an opportunistic and “machiavellian” (in the bad sense of the word) trade unionist. Of all the major objectives of Brazilian foreign policy – gaining a permanent chair at UNSC, strengthen and expand Mercosur, and achieve multilateral trade negotiations – the sole to be achieved was to inflate the image of Lula at world level: this was a success of propaganda…
As for Guimarães, although not being a Marxist himself, only an old style nationalist and a “developmentalist” of the “structuralist” Latin-American economic school, he seemed perfect for the statist and dirigiste ideology of PT and leftist allies. He was chosen by the apparatchiks of the PT even before of Amorim, to be the “brain” behind the new, assertive, foreign policy of PT. He is the main “writer” and “penseur” of the new kids in the block, simply because PT had (and still does not have) nobody capable of articulating a meaningful foreign policy. Author of two books, and dozen of articles on a variety of subjects, he has operated a véritable retour en arrière in Brazilian diplomacy, bringing it again to the years of the “new international economic order” or the Seventies (perhaps even before that). 
The third, and less important, element of the current foreign policy is Itamaraty itself, but only as a technical basis for putting in place all the “prolific” ideas of the new group (and some follies of the president himself). Itamaraty has a good technical staff, with excellent intellectual preparation, and is a very professional service, although somewhat arrogant and it is, as already stated, too submissive to the powerful of the moment. With very few exceptions, Itamaraty has subjected itself to the worst initiatives of this government, diplomatic projects that would clearly be objected in the past: errors of judgment, gross mistakes of evaluation, failures of implementation and complete disasters in political manoeuvres. In its favor, most, if not all, of those initiatives were taken on request of the presidential advisor in foreign policy, aka “professor Marco Aurélio Garcia”, a total amateur in such things. 

2. An activist, and leftist, foreign policy as a compensation for a “neoliberal” economic policy making
Clearly, a “leftist” foreign policy is said to be a “compensation” for a neoliberal economic policy, but this is only a boutade by journalists. In fact, the leftist foreign policy is what the ideology of its commandeurs determined what it has to be: Lula, MAG, Amorim and Guimarães. Of course, the leftists followers, frustrated with the economic policy, find some respite in international affairs, but the mood is purely on the old style leftwing parties of LA: anti-imperialism, anti-Americanism, South-South solidarity, support for the oppressed everywhere, a North-South divide (and the perversity of the rich countries), strategic partnerships with developing or anti-hegemonic countries, in short, the periphery against the arrogant powers. 
This has represented a serious departure of an old tradition of Itamaraty: non-intervention, or non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. Since the beginning, Lula proclaimed, in the middle of electoral processes, his support for his preferred leftist candidates in neighboring countries: Nestor Kirchner, Evo Morales, Rafael Correa, perhaps Ollanta Humala (Peru; preferred by Guimaraes, instead of Alan Garcia), and, especially, Hugo Chávez, always and in every circumstance. Luckily for Lula, they all have been elected or re-elected, otherwise Brazil could be in an awkward situation thereafter. Some moves were perhaps illegal and started even before the inauguration of Lula’s government, such as providing Hugo Chávez with gasoline during the worst of the strikes at PDVSA, in December 2002. Other moves represented a clear abandonment of sovereignty by Brazil, as in the cases of Bolivian oil and gas nationalizations, Ecuadorian illegal measures against Brazilian companies operating there, Paraguayan pressures against Itaipu treaty, and, much more serious and detrimental to Brazilian interests, complacency towards Argentinean abusive and illegal protectionist measures against Brazilian exports in the framework of the free-trade zone (and customs union) that represents Mercosur. 
In the other side of the political tableau, there was no complacency regarding the tragic situation in Colombia and its struggle against the narcoguerrilla – remember that FARC is allied with PT in the Foro de Sao Paulo – neither in connection with the pathetic and ridiculous case of Honduras, where Lula was totally in line with Hugo Chávez. Never before, in the Brazilian diplomatic history, our legalist tradition was so alienated and baffled than in those months during which Manuel Zelaya used the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa to incite rebellion and political unrest; Brazil breached all the inter-American conventions on political asylum and many other established diplomatic practices and procedures. 
Those moves and initiatives – among them the constant action to isolate USA in the region, and to create new political entities restricted to South or Latin American countries – have a direct connection with domestic politics and the desire, by Lula and PT, to accommodate the anti-American feelings of their supporters, as well as the files and ranks of all other leftist parties. Different is the case of Haiti, where Brazil inserted itself in complete agreement with the USA: the intention was to acquire an entrance ticket to the UNSC, one of the megalomaniac projects of Lula and Amorim, disregarding totally the negative reactions of some neighboring countries, among them Argentina. 
In short: a leftist foreign policy is no compensation for other issues such a as land redistribution, social welfare, or inequality, first of all because each one has many different publics or clients. Land redistribution is no more a vital question in Brazil, despite all the talk around it: agriculture is capitalist in Brazil, and many small families of peasants, in Southern Brazil, for instance, are totally integrated in rural markets; those poor peasants could be farm workers or maintain other types of labor relations (including tenancies), as not everyone is capable or do need to be a farmer owner. This is a false question. The “clients” of movements such as MST (so called Landless Movement) are not really peasants, but rather lumpen recruited to be a mass of manoeuvre of a neo-Bolchevik party, less interested in land reform than in “revolution” along Cuban line. Social welfare is directed to a very poor fraction of the society, people who do not care about foreign policy. Inequality, at last, is question which regards intellectuals only, not the people; it a too abstract a question to attract attention.
International questions have no real importance in terms of domestic politics; they can be important topically in elections only by virtue of a really pressing issue. Haiti never had any importance in Brazil, before Lula decided to send troops there, just as a kind of payment for possible acceptation of Brazil in UNSC; it became important since, only because Brazil has some 1,200 troops there (so a lot of families are involved) and government keeps sending money for the mission. 

3. There was such a thing as a conservative foreign policy, as opposed to the activist, leftist, diplomacy of PT? What to think about nuclear questions and security matters?
It is important to state, as a departure, that a ‘neocon’ foreign policy never existed in Brazil, either as a concept or a reality. Brazil has always been multilateralist, and South-South diplomacy is not a novelty in Brazil, but of course never had received such a label, which is mostly used for questions of publicity and to remember that PT is “committed to the “Third World”. There is much rhetoric, and a lot of investment in those issues, but there is little, if any, independent analysis on the real benefits of this kind of option for Brazil as such.
Some members of the government, in different positions, have expressed their opinions about nuclear issues in a confuse manner. Those remarks HAVE NO real importance for Brazilian policy, because either they are naïf or irresponsible, or represent only personal opinions, without bearing on actual government policies; in any case, they can be viewed as mistakes, but probably reveal that Lula’s government has some people who never accepted the fact that Brazil, at Cardoso’s presidency, decided to sign the NPT. Some people believe that it was a wrong decision, and they are inclined to revert it if possible.
Brazil has a nuclear program, and it develops around the full ability over the complete cycle of nuclear enrichment, allegedly for pacific purposes (energy and nuclear submarine). There is no news concerning a nuclear weapons program, but it is possible to think that if the same people referred above would have the opportunity, they would divert some of the acquired capacity to prepare a military program (that is: there is none, but if the decision is taken, probably there will be enough human resources and some equipment to start one). 

 4. Brazil and its international role and the aspirations that come together
Many of the questions in this connection have no simple answers to them, as they involve issues of political thinking and strategic planning at the upper levels of the decision-making echelons. It depends primarily on who are deciding what in Brazil. Nowadays, there is a confuse and ill-informed foreign policy, a mix of the political feelings of PT, and the personal choices of the leftists in power and of one or two diplomats only. The result of all that is a presidential diplomacy tailored to enhance, enlarge and publicize the figure of Lula, the only tangible result of this diplomacy in eight years. No question that Brazil is today much more important and visible than eight years before, but that is due to its economic stability (a policy that was preserved from previous Administration), to the size of its internal market and attraction of it to foreign investment, and the good performance of its exports and international presence. Other negative factors are also relevant: Argentina and Venezuela are clearly tarnishing their respective reputations, and other countries are failing to modernize, so Brazil appears as a relative successful case. It does not need any projection through nuclear policy to become more important. The fact that some people in government are being ambiguous regarding nuclear policy only reverts in disfavor of Brazil, which is regrettable. 

5. Influence of the military in Brazilian politics and in foreign policy in especial
Military do not have much influence in the political process as such, but they still have some importance in certain number of issues related to their own organization, or security matters (equipment and doctrine). There is little integration between civilians and military, despite the creation of a Ministry of Defense and the integration of certain services. Nevertheless, a document, called the National Defense Strategy was delivered in December 2008, but it is still early to see if it will be a concrete and enduring doctrine, or just a reflex of a particular moment in the political life of Brazil. I have commented twice on this document but my analyses exist only in Portuguese.

Shanghai-Hangzhou, May 27-30, 2010.
Revised: Beijing-Shanghai, 28 June 2010.

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