Cablegate: Diplomatic Dialogue in Brazil: Waiting On Obama

DE RUEHBR #1104/01 2461915
R 031915Z SEP 09




E.O. 12958: N/A


REF: (A) 7/28/09 WHA/PDA EMAIL

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a broad off-the-record discussion of
U.S.-Brazil foreign policy issues hosted by the CDA as part of U/S
McHale's Diplomatic Dialogue Initiative (ref A), the select group of
invited Brazilian opinion leaders were unanimous in stressing that,
although they have been pleased with the Obama Administration's more
active interest in and collaborative approach to Latin America, they
are beginning to fear that this will not be matched by actions.
Contacts observed that the USG should be prepared for tension in the
relationship as the Obama administration seeks to "re-occupy" the
diplomatic space in South America ceded almost entirely to Brazil
during the Bush administration. To mitigate potential tension it is
critical that the USG understand Brazilian interests and
insecurities, expand dialogue and conversation with Brazil across
the political, economic and military spectrum, and focus on concrete
initiatives to encourage further cooperation. Joint development
projects in third countries in Latin America and Africa, drug
trafficking, and mil-mil collaboration were cited as examples. END


2. (SBU) In response to U/S McHale's request (ref A) that Brazil
participate in the launch of the Diplomatic Dialogue Initiative, PAS
Brasilia organized a small gathering of notable Brazilian opinion
leaders to discuss the Secretary's foreign policy speech at the
Council of Foreign Relations. POL, ECON and PA Counselors joined
the CDA, who hosted the meeting.

Brazilian participants:

-- Antonio Jorge Ramalho da Rocha: a Fulbrighter, professor of
International Relations at the University of Brasilia (UnB) and an
adviser at the Secretariat for Strategic Affairs of the Presidency
of the Republic.
-- Juliano Cortinhas: professor of International Relations at UnB
and Catholic University; frequently called on to give interviews
about U.S. foreign policy.
-- Paulo Roberto Almeida: former Brazilian DCM in Washington, DC.
He is Professor of Sociology and Law at UniCEUB, writer, and
political analyst. A diplomat, he is currently on leave from
Itamaraty, so able to comment more freely on foreign policy matters.

-- Marcelo Barroso Lacombe: A Legislative Analyst in the area of
political science, he follows U.S. foreign policy very closely.
-- Bernardo Estelita Lins: A Legislative Analyst in the area of
economics, and member of a study group on the current economic
-- Joco Paulo Machado Peixoto: A Professor in the departments of
Political Science and Business Administration at UnB. A former
Woodrow Wilson visiting scholar respected for his expertise on
reform of the state and public policies.
-- Srgio Leo: Columnist and senior reporter with business daily
Valor Econtmico with extensive experience covering foreign affairs,
including presidential trips abroad and international events such as
UN, WTO and Mercosul summits.

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3. (SBU) Brazilian participants were quick to stress that the Obama
Administration should expect points of tension in the U.S.-Brazil
relationship as it puts in place a new policy and re-engages in
South America. While acknowledging Bush Administration initiatives
in the region, the group noted that the diplomatic space had been
largely ceded to Brazil. Brazil now thinks of itself as the leader
in the region, one whose opinions and views should be respected and
closely consulted by the Obama Administration as it re-engages on
issues in the hemisphere. As one participant observed, "the
challenge [for the U.S.] is how to re-occupy the diplomatic space
without conflicting with the Brazilian government, which thinks of
itself as the leader in the region."

4. (SBU) Participants observed that the Obama Administration will
have to manage this transition carefully lest it run the risk of
being viewed as imperialistic. As one person noted: "you can lead
as long as you don't isolate us." All recommended the Obama
Administration share much more information with Brazil than before,
and consult more frequently across the spectrum of the relationship.
When challenged on why Brazil does not contact the United States
when an issue or question arises, the response was clear: "Brazil

BRASILIA 00001104 002 OF 003

is waiting for a call from the United States."

5. (SBU) Colombia was cited as an example where the absence of
prior USG consultation with Brazil can increase tensions and create
the perception that the United States is acting in an imperialistic
manner within the region. One observer noted, "as soon as the base
issue came up everyone immediately forgot about the issue of the
FARC in Venezuela." When asked why, he responded that "Maybe one
[issue] is not so important as the other. Is it relevant to Brazil
that Venezuela is selling weapons to the FARC when the FARC is so
weakened or is it relevant that the U.S. has bases?"

6. (SBU) The group also stressed the need to distinguish between
Brazil and the current Brazilian government, and that the United
States should focus on the long-term with Brazil and not just on the
current Brazilian government: "You need to distinguish between the
petty issues and the areas for cooperation."

--------------------------------------------- --
--------------------------------------------- --

7. (SBU) Participants warned of the "dilemma" the U.S. faces in
re-engaging the region stemming from the recent diplomatic
isolationism: "too broad a dialogue too quickly runs the risk of
being perceived as interventionist." Instead they recommended
focusing cooperation with Brazil on joint projects in concrete
areas. One promising area mentioned in connection to the
Secretary's speech was science and technology, particularly as
related to technology transfer. Another suggestion was development,
specifically on joint development projects as a means to reduce
security threats or in third countries such as Bolivia, which would
be perceived as a gesture of goodwill. Africa was described as a
new frontier for Brazil, one that offered potential areas of
cooperation with the United States to revitalize African economies
and promote technical development. The United States should also
engage not only the GOB, but the private sector as well.

8. (SBU) Others suggested U.S.-Brazil military cooperation in
keeping the Southern Hemisphere stable and peaceful as a promising
avenue to explore. They noted the Brazilian military is generally
less anti-American in outlook than the Foreign Ministry (Itamaraty)
and shares many of the same interests with the USG; for example,
"objectively Brazil has the same interest in containing Chavez as
the United States." According to one participant, though, while
the military believes this, the government "mixes it up" by pursuing
political support for Chavez but military containment.

9. (SBU) Participants noted an opportunity to engage the region to
address drug trafficking challenges -- and that Brazil could be
helpful in setting up a regional drug strategy approach -- but
stressed it must be based on a different approach, "one open to
dialogue and not open to confrontation by Bolivia." It was
mentioned that one of the opportunities lost by the United States in
"ceding the space in Latin America during the Bush Administration"
was taking part in civilian-military cooperation in the region, and
cooperation to address drug trafficking.


10. (SBU) Mention of technology transfer led to discussion of the
FX2 sale, and highlighted a continuing lack of trust in USG motives,
despite CDA assurances that both the Secretaries of State and
Defense had signed letters assuring the transfer. Many cited the
need to take into account the U.S. historical record, with one
noting that "this could be one more attempt to avoid technology
transfer." Another warned that "the United States lost a good
opportunity" by not backing Boeing's bid in a serious way until very
late in the game, noting that it may be too late to roll back the
process as decision making was already well advanced.


11. (SBU) Guaranteeing Brazilian sovereignty of the Amazon remains
an underlying concern which emerged during discussions. The CDA's
reassurance that the United States has absolutely no interest in
taking over the Amazon prompted further elaboration from the group
as to the true source of this concern. As one participant
explained, its origin lies more in historic European attempts to
challenge Brazilian sovereignty of the region than specific USG
actions, though as the United States gained power the focus shifted
to U.S. intentions. As one person stressed, "the problem is not
Americans but other countries, and what the United States does to

BRASILIA 00001104 003 OF 003

empower [Brazil's] neighbors." However, the group also admitted
that this insecurity was often exploited by the military as a means
to gain more resources. They explained that the real concern over
"internationalization of the Amazon" stems from the fact that there
are 11 indigenous tribes amalgamated across the borders of the
Amazon and the GOB's fear (based in part on independence movements
elsewhere and NGO/international activities in the Amazon) that
outside elements will encourage these groups to declare their
independence or autonomy from Brazil.


12. (SBU) Participants repeatedly stressed the need for more
conversation now. As one pointed out, "consultation on the
[Colombia] bases is mandatory if you think Brazil is an important
leader." Several expressed the perception that the United States
only looks to Brazil if there is a threat or interest where Brazil
can be helpful. Others noted the need to work as well with other
actors outside government, particularly in the business community.

13. (SBU) The group sought to explain the difference between the
U.S. and Brazilian perspective, noting that Brazil is acting
globally on economic issues in particular, but does not have the
same global military presence or projection as the United States and
so will not think in the same terms regarding global military
security issues. As one person stressed, "we are strongly defensive
when we look at military issues, so the way we think and act is very
different from you."

14. (SBU) Others underscored that the U.S. needs to understand
Brazil is unique from other Latin American countries and other BRICs
-- with different interests -- and thus the U.S. needs to take care
not to mix Brazil's interests with others like China or Venezuela.
Lingering insecurities over a historic imbalance --now outgrown --
remain. "We have a different vision of the United States than other
Latin American countries. Our economic relationship is much
different. We still have a view of the United States as an economic
hegemonist selling junk." While Brazil has for the most part grown
out of a subservient relationship, these sentiments still linger,
and insecurities will manifest themselves most in areas where
balance in the relationship is more lopsided in favor of the United


15. (SBU) COMMENT: These Brazilian opinion leaders plainly favor
increased engagement with the United States, though cautiously,
specifically targeted on concrete areas, and on Brazil's terms as
well as ours. The message is clear, however, that the Obama
Administration should recognize -- and respect -- Brazil as an equal
actor in South America, one deserving of the consideration due a
regional leader whose interests are not always in lockstep with
ours. As we re-engage diplomatically in South America, we should be
prepared for sometimes contentious, tense relations with a Brazil
that sees itself as a regional leader. We need to understand that
Brazilians do not fully trust U.S. intentions in the region. And we
will need to be sensitive to, avoid being dismissive of, and seek to
work around the continuing insecurities that affect Brazil's
approach to our bilateral relationship. The best way to mitigate
tension and engage Brazil as a cooperative partner lies in increased
and expanded dialogue across all spectrums of the relationship, and
a focus on joint projects in defined areas. END COMMENT.


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