Cablegate: Brazil Foreign Policy: Interests Vs. Ideology, and Maybe

DE RUEHSO #0497/01 2671057
R 231057Z SEP 08 ZDK




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: RIO 236



1. (SBU) A significant number of academics and international
relations consultants in Sao Paulo are frustrated with Brazil's
current foreign policy. In their view, left-wing elements in both
the Workers Party (PT) and in the Foreign Ministry put ideology
ahead of national interest. The critics maintain that this has cost
Brazil economic and diplomatic opportunities, though President
Lula's pragmatism has limited the damage. Despite the lost
opportunities, our contacts do not think that Brazil's foreign
policy will change any time soon, bolstered as it is by
protectionist elements in the business community, ideologues in
academe and government and, most importantly, by a series of beliefs
- the critics would call them myths - about both the U.S. and
Brazil. Though the academic ideas get little play now, they could
provide a leverage point for programming on foreign
policy-formation, one that could broaden the domestic conversation
on Brazil's foreign relations. This is a debate we should encourage
as both Brazil and the U.S. increasingly share common interests in
promoting greater democracy, stability and free markets in the
hemisphere. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Poloff spoke to a wide variety of Congen interlocutors on
Brazil's foreign policy including: former Ambassador to the United
States Rubens Barbosa, Communist Party Congressman and Sao Paulo PT
Deputy Mayoral candidate Aldo Rebelo, University of Sao Paulo (USP)
Political Scientist Guilhon de Albuquerque, USP Professor of
International Relations Amancio Jorge de Oliveira, Globo TV
journalist Jose Alan, translator and commentator John Fitzpatrick,
and think tank researchers Rogerio Schmitt (Tendencias) and Thiago
Aragao (Arko Advice).

Old Thinking vs. New Status

3. (U) The vast majority of these interlocutors criticized GOB
foreign policy for its ideologically-based naivet, which they saw
as out of step with Brazil's status as an emerging major power. On
the one hand, Brazil is an increasingly prosperous country that
enjoys "absolute [democratic] stability," in the words of journalist
Jose Alan. On the other, these observers said repeatedly that the
country's foreign affairs remain locked in a 1960s-era leftist
straightjacket, one that makes it impossible for the GOB to defend
increasingly important economic interests in neighboring countries.

Ticking Off the Costs

4. (U) Interlocutors cited a variety of areas in which they
believed Brazil had sacrificed its interests for ideological
reasons. These included:

-the loss of Petrobras' Bolivia-based refinery as a result of the
Bolivian government's nationalization of the facility in March

-the likely increase in cost of electricity obtained from the Itaipu
dam in Paraguay, pending renegotiation of the terms of the treaty
governing the sharing of electrical generation there;

-the lack of protections for Brazilian investors abroad. According
to former Ambassador Rubens Barbosa and others, for ideological
reasons, the GOB is simply not comfortable defending Brazilian
business interests in neighboring countries;

-missed opportunities to mediate conflicts in Bolivia, Colombia and
between Uruguay and Argentina;

-the waning of influence among Brazil's neighbors, as Paraguay,
Bolivia and Argentina have all, to varying degrees, fallen under the
influence of Hugo Chavez;

-economic "missed opportunities" due to Brazil's political
commitment to Mercosul; and,

-a failure to appreciate and exploit synergies with the United
States, with which Brazil increasingly shares common interests.

SAO PAULO 00000497 002 OF 003

5. (SBU) Ambassador Barbosa maintained that Brazil focused too much
attention on China (which is a competitor) or the other BRIC
countries or South Africa, rather than looking at potential partners
in terms of the actual benefits they offer. (Note: This
contradiction was apparent during the recent Doha negotiations,
where Brazil's position was at the end closer to that of the U.S.
than to its nominal G-20 allies such as Argentina and India. End

Ideas that Limit Brazil's Vision

6. (SBU) Foreign policy experts and observers noted a powerful
consensus that frustrates an interests-based consideration of
Brazil's foreign policy. Several elements stood out, including:

-The continuing influence of 1960s-era Marxist/nationalist ideas
among PT leaders and some in the Foreign Ministry. Some in the PT,
for example, reportedly welcomed the Bolivia's 2006 nationalization
of Petrobras facilities in that country as legitimate resistance to

- Brazil's "Manifest Destiny"

USP Professor Albuquerque cited a lecture that Foreign Minister
Celso Amorim gave to students at the University of Sao Paulo in 2004
as emblematic of some of the more far-out notions that influence
Brazil's foreign policy. In that lecture, Amorim told students that
Brazil would soon emerge as a major world power. He said the U.S.
was "in decline" and that external factors hobbled all other major
contenders for influence. (Japan would block China's rise; India
suffers too much misery; and Russia's population is falling.) In
his view, only Brazil had the right combination of technology,
resources and absence of barriers to transform itself into a
"rule-maker" in the international system. (Note: Albuquerque
thought Amorim's lecture went too far, and observed that even some
students seemed perplexed by it. At the same time, Albuquerque
thought it accurately represented one element in a highly - and some
might say grandiosely - nationalist world view that influences some
in the GOB Foreign Ministry. End Note COMMENT: It is notable that
this interlocutor selects a 2004 speech to criticize, rather than
taking into account the many later speeches, or any possibility in
evolution in Amorim's views, that could serve to undercut his own
entrenched perspective. End Comment.)

-Fear of Becoming "Another Mexico"

USP Professor of International Relations Amancio Jorge de Oliveira
said that Brazil's foreign policy elites resist engagement with the
U.S., particularly a broad-style free trade agreement, out of fear
of becoming "another Mexico." Post-NAFTA, 90 percent of Mexico's
foreign trade is with the U.S., a fact that, according to Oliveira,
effectively pulls the country out of Latin America. Brazilian
foreign policy elites do not want to follow this path, and so will
only engage in piecemeal deals with the United States. For this
reason, the GOB always refers to "South American unity" in its
foreign policy statements, since it sees Mexico and Central America
as essentially "lost" to the United States, according to Oliveira.

Consequences for the Foreign Ministry

7. (SBU) Professor Albuquerque and other interlocutors cited how
Foreign Minister Amorim's and Secretary General Samuel Pinheiro
Guimaraes' nationalist/leftist inclinations have altered the
pipeline for diplomats in the Brazilian Foreign Ministry. In recent
years, the Ministry has imposed ideological litmus tests for
promotions, moving up relatively inexperienced (and left-wing
oriented) officers to key positions, and requiring that officers
read a list of books selected for their nationalist and leftist
credentials. These measures, combined with the recent expansion of
incoming classes, could institutionalize the leftist slant of
Brazil's foreign policy, these interlocutors fear.

Lula's Pragmatism Does Damage Control

8. (SBU) Most observers cited President Lula's overall personal
influence as positive, particularly where relations with the United
States were concerned. While Lula is a man of the left, he is
fundamentally a grassroots-oriented, pragmatic politician and not an
ideologue, they believe. (Note: While our interlocutors stressed

SAO PAULO 00000497 003 OF 003

Lula's pragmatism, some of his recent statements about new oil
discoveries suggest that where that potential bonanza is concerned,
he remains attracted to certain statist ideas. End Note.) They
note that President Lula also enjoys excellent chemistry with
President Bush and is less than supportive of Hugo Chavez, whom Lula
sees as having usurped his leadership role as the voice of South
America's poor while Lula was occupied by the scandals that wracked
his administration in 2004-2005, according to these observers.

And Yet, Does It Matter? Consensus and Complacency

9. USP Professor of International Relations Amancio Jorge de
Oliveira tied together the analyses offered by others and offered a
pragmatic evaluation. He agreed with the criticisms of almost all
those cited in this cable. Oliveira concurred that Brazil's
emphasis on South-South and regional solidarity in foreign policy
was misplaced, that the country was missing opportunities to both
protect its economic interests and promote itself. Nonetheless, in
Oliveira's view, while the criticisms of Brazil's contemporary
foreign policy are true, they are also irrelevant. Brazil is a big
country that is enjoying rapid economic growth. Between
protectionist industrialists and ideologues in government and the
universities, there exists a strong consensus in favor of the status
quo among key members of Brazil's elite, and, in this context,
foreign policy simply does not capture the center stage in the minds
of most Brazilians.

Comment: Foreign Policy and Opportunity

10. (SBU) Brazil's present foreign policy is unlikely to change any
time soon, these sources believe. Sources interviewed complained of
an absence of real debate about foreign affairs in this increasingly
prosperous yet still inwardly-oriented society. In fact, the
conflict between interests and ideology described here is not
limited to political aspects of foreign affairs, but also affects
economic policy. The debates about what to do post-Doha as well as
how Brazil can best develop its new large offshore oil reserves also
feature this same conflict between statist/third world-ist
ideological habits and how best to pick partners/use markets to
enhance trade and develop resources.

11. (SBU) Despite the entrenched positions among many key
opinion-makers, we should promote and develop forums - university
events, think tanks and the like - where Brazilians can consider a
wider range of foreign policy options, including those that would
take their concrete interests more clearly into account. The
critics interviewed here represent a current in local thinking that
deserves wider play and will likely become more important as Brazil
continues to emerge as an exporter of capital and as an increasingly
developed society, interested in investment promotion, democracy
promotion and hemispheric stability.

12. (U) This cable was coordinated/cleared by Embassy Brasilia.


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