- Alessandra Correa
- From Washington (USA) to BBC News Brazil
After a recent cooling, relations between Brazil and the United States are expected to gain new momentum under the government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (PT), who takes office on January 1, 2023.
Before Lula took office, US National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan traveled to Brazil and extended an invitation from US President Joe Biden to the Brazilian White House.
“I look forward to speaking with President Biden and deepening the relationship between our countries,” Lula said after meeting with Sullivan in early December. Due to internal commitments, the visit to Washington was delayed until after the inauguration.
“It’s an important first step, and it’s more than code. But code is appropriate. It shows the importance the United States attaches to Brazil,” says Melvin Levitsky, a former ambassador to Brasilia from 1994 to 1998. He is currently Professor of International Politics at the University of Michigan.
“What should not be otherwise, after all, they are two large countries, with many mutual interests and some conflicting interests”, Levitsky emphasizes.
For the former ambassador, dialogue between the two countries suffered little during President Jair Bolsonaro’s government.
“Some people called (Bolsonaro) the Trump of Latin America, but in terms of close ties (during his government) there was not much communication. And Brazil, in terms of US foreign policy, fell on that particular scale”, he says.
“So now we have a willingness and good opportunity to work together more collaboratively,” he points out. “I believe the relationship will improve significantly.”
Levitsky also recalls that the US “already had experience with Lula,” referring to the PT’s two previous terms.
Analysts are betting that with the new government, Brazilian foreign policy will become more pragmatic and institutionalized again.
“It has to go back to the basic principle of any foreign policy, which is the relationship between nations, not the relationship between peoples,” Carlos Gustavo Poggio, a professor of international relations at Berea College in Kentucky, tells BBC News Brazil. .
“Bolsonaro started from a very wrong policy, (that) foreign policy was made with relations between people. He left,” he says.
“This is not the tradition of Brazilian diplomacy, never has been. Not with PT, not with PSDB, not with anyone. Not even with military governments”, points out Poggio, who specializes in relations between Brazil and Brazil. United Nations.
In Poggio’s analysis, the Bolsonaro government’s foreign policy can be divided into two phases. With Ernesto Arajo as foreign minister from 2019 to 2021, the analyst sees a “damage (from which) Brazil will take some time to recover”.
“There was an attempt to completely destroy, and it partially succeeded, Brazilian diplomacy and the image of Brazil. The foreign minister who claimed to be proud of turning Brazil into a pariah”, referring to statements made by Araujo in 2020.
“It can’t be reproduced that easily”, Poggio insists.
However, the professor estimates that Brazilian foreign policy returned to the center after Araujo’s departure. “A bit back on track, shall we say?”
In this scenario, Poggio does not believe in major changes in bilateral relations. “My perspective is that the relationship between Brazil and the United States will not change much, regardless of who is in government,” he says.
“Obviously there may be changes in rhetoric, changes in posture. But there is little change in terms of substantive principles,” he observes.
“Brazil does not have a close relationship with the United States like Mexico does. We are what we call distant neighbors”, emphasizes Poggio.
Environment and the Amazon
According to diplomats and analysts in both countries, the protection of the environment and the Amazon should be a focal point in bilateral relations with the Lula government.
“Climate change will be a very important area of cooperation for us,” Foreign Office spokesman Christopher Johnson told BBC News Brazil.
“(This is already evident in) the meeting between Special Envoy (for climate) John Kerry and President-elect Lula (during COP27, the United Nations Climate Conference in Egypt in November), Johnson observes.
Deforestation of the Amazon has accelerated in recent years. While he was still a presidential candidate, in 2020, Biden mentioned Brazil during a debate and suggested creating a US$20 billion international fund to help the country stop the destruction of the Amazon forest.
“Brazil is rarely mentioned in US presidential debates,” Poggio notes. “A series of opportunities are opening up for Brazil on the environmental issue, which the Bolsonaro government does not know how to take advantage of. Perhaps the Lula government will know how to handle the issue better.”
According to a State Department spokesperson, food security and international peace are critical issues for the United States and its relationship with Brazil. Solving the crisis in Venezuela is another area of cooperation.
“Democracy is very important in America,” says Johnson. “(If) Brazil can support us in advancing this goal of free, fair and transparent elections, that would be very welcome on our part.”
Many analysts note the hope in Washington that Brazil could help mend relations with Venezuela, one of the world’s largest oil producers, which is gaining importance in the face of an energy crisis stemming from the war in Ukraine.
Observers have also pointed out that the United States currently lacks a strong ally in Latin America.
But Berea College’s Poggio points out that Brazil’s performance on the international stage depends on domestic conditions.
“(In the first term) Lula had room to operate internationally, because from a domestic point of view, it was a moment when things were more or less balanced, there were no big problems of popularity, the economy was good”, he recalls.
“Dilma (Rousseff) herself is no longer an important role internationally. So there’s some control there and Lula’s personal preference. (We need to) see how much time she can devote to these external issues to see what Brazil looks like from the inside.”
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