In relation to our ongoing coverage of the rise of the BRIC economies, we’re grateful to present the following contribution on Brazil from Georges D. Landau, a professor of international relations from S. Paulo. One month before the elections on 3 October 2010, Brazil finds itself as a cross-roads. The most likely winner of these elections is Dilma Rousseff, president Lula’s former Chief of Staff, whose candidacy he created and lifted from a top hat: Pygmalion, as it were. It is a foregone conclusion that, if she wins – by a landslide in the first ballot, as expected – Lula will in fact continue to govern for another four years (2010-14), if not eight. The Brazilian people will in fact be voting for Lula, through Dilma’s intermediary. Thus, it is easy to appreciate the importance of Dilma’s campaign slogan: continuity. And yet while Lula’s system of government continues to prevail in Brazil, the rest of the world will move, and change. It is important to reflect on Brazil’s position, within this dynamic context, over the next few years.
For the first time in a Brazilian election, foreign policy is part of the electoral campaign. Lula has exercised this policy virtually at his will, under the near-imperial powers granted to the president under the Constitution. However, Lula has never understood the difference between the state and the government, and the foreign policy of his administration has been that of his political party, PT (the Workers’ Party), heavily ideological in content, and questioned by the opposition and a large portion of the business community, academia and the media. Particularly distasteful to these groups are Lula’s embrace of tyrannical régimes, and his inexplicable failure to sanction their gross human rights violations. Lula enjoys an extraordinary popularity rating (75 per cent) after his nearly eight years in office, thanks to his raw charisma and his uncanny, intuitive communication with the common people. These same qualities propelled him to a prestigious position on the international scene, but it is more his persona – his rags-to-riches life history, the exploit of a humble lathe operator rising to the presidency of the fifth largest world economy – that has impressed foreign audiences and multilateral institutions. Not the ideas he has actually expressed, although some of them have a highly idealistic ring to them, e.g. the fight against hunger, a programme that in Brazil itself has failed completely.It is undeniable that Lula, thanks to his proactive, pyrotechnic diplomacy, has placed Brazil on a much higher level of exposure to international decision-making than had ever been the case. Occasionally, given his self-over estimation and lack of understanding of complex historical processes, this has led to resounding fiascos (e.g. the sanctions against Iran, and a botched attempt at Middle East mediation), which however leave him undaunted. However, this kind of highly personalised presidential diplomacy, which favours form over content – often ignoring Brazil’s very professional foreign service – is unique to Lula, and cannot be replicated. It certainly will not be emulated by Dilma Rousseff, a pallid technocrat who feels uncomfortable with the vagaries of domestic politics, let alone the international variety.Dilma will have to confront the challenges of globalisation, and (if PT party lets her) it is probable that the foreign service will resume its position of controlling foreign policy and its implementation Lula had placed Brazil on a privileged situation, first in the G-8 (as part of the Outreach 5, with the Heiligendamm process), them in the G-20. The obsolescence and decline of the United Nations; Brazil’s inability (for the past 65 years) to secure a permanent seat on the Security Council, an aspiration to which the Lula government made heavy sacrifices; the failure of “strategic partnerships” launched with China, India, Africa, to bear fruit when it came to the crunch (witness the melancholy end of the Doha Round); the growing irrelevancy of UN and regional specialised agencies, incapable of modernising themselves to face new times; all of these factors, and others, led Brazil under Lula to seek new alliances in groupings such as the BRICs and IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa), to cultivate a South-South relationship (which has proved beneficial in the field of trade) , and to strengthen ties with Arab and African countries (Lula made eleven tours of Africa).All of these initiatives, quite costly to the Brazilian taxpayer, have nevertheless not had an impact on global governance. Universal peace and security are still the purview of the UNSC (on which Brazil currently sits as a rotating member, not a permanent one). The rise of China and India (the former now Brazil’s chief trading partner) has not yet been reflected in UN technical bodies and sectorial programmes. Despite minimal increments in the voting power of emerging economies, including Brazil, the Bretton Woods financial institutions, confronted with a revolution in the world economy, have not been structurally modernised to face new challenges; and WTO, minus Doha, is afraid of its own shadow.Under Lula, Brazil has created many expectations in the Latin American region, Africa, and the world at large. So far, they remain largely unrequited.; Rhetoric in the G-20 has not been followed by concrete action. The president’s vibrant personality and personal protagonism has not led to change on a planetary scale. Two achievements stand out: Brazil’s role in maintaining stability in Haiti (albeit not in the country’s reconstruction). And the commitment made at the COP-15 Copenhagen conference of December 2009 to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions (GHG), even if Brazil is still a large polluter, from primitive slash-and-burn agriculture practices. Aside from this, Brazil’s diplomatic successes on the world stage are all conceptual. The country is now a necessary, inescapable participant in all fora and venues on global governance. This is in itself commendable, but the fact remains that, if given a rostrum from which to address mankind as an audience, there have to be concrete, viable proposals aiming at peace, security, and sustainable development. It remains to be seen if Dilma Rousseff’s government will be able to avail itself of the opportunity, created by Lula, to make a significant contribution.Georges D. Landau is Member of the Board of Trustees, CEBRI (Brazilian Centre of International Relations, Rio de Janeiro). Professor of International Relations, FAAP, S. Paulo. The opinions expressed in this paper are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those of any of the institutions with which he is affiliated.