"Brazil is bigger than the political moment it goes through"

Celso Amorim

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil

Tuesday, February 5, 2019, at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS)

Effective January 1, 2019, Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro will visit the United States in March. It will probably be his first visit abroad. Hospitalized since January 28 for an operation to restore his bowel function after the knife attack that had nearly cost him his life in September 2018, the new head of the Brazilian state intends to mark its proximity to his American counterpart Donald Trump.

He promised during his election campaign to establish close ties with Washington after a decade of distance marked by leftist presidents Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) and Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016). "I am an admirer of President Trump. He wants big USA. I want a big Brazil, "said Jair Bolsonaro in October 2018.

Following his inauguration, Donald Trump congratulated him on Twitter, declaring "the United States is with you". The two men share the same hostility towards the outgoing Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and the Castro regime of Cuba. They deny the human origin of climate change and intend to rebalance their country's relations with China.

So many directions that distress or worry Celso Amorim, Minister of Foreign Affairs during the two terms of Lula then Minister of Defense Dilma Rousseff. This career diplomat has for decades been the vision of a multipolar world in which Brazil would be the pivot of Latin America, independent of the United States and weaving balanced relations with the major emerging powers by playing its economic surface. and commercial.

Speaking Tuesday, February 5 at a conference at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), the former head of diplomacy has not masked his bitterness, while explaining that the foreign policy of Jair Bolsonaro might not be modeled on his campaign remarks. Celso Amorim insisted that the election of this president from the far right was not illegitimate, the ballot being democratic. Before more than two hundred people came to listen to him, he pleaded patience. I reproduce here the essence of his remarks.

The deconstruction of multilateralism

"When Lula came to power in 2003, we worked for a multipolar world," he says. "It is in this context that we created the IBSA, a forum for dialogue that brought together India, Brazil and South Africa. After that, the Russians and the Chinese knocked on the door and Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Moscow, asked me to create a new group, the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China). But I wanted there to be South Africa and after a few years, it became the BRICS.

"All we did was to strengthen multipolarity: development of cooperation within Latin America, intensification of exchanges with Africa, especially Lusophone, relations with the Arab and Islamic world … It was all the merit of Lula, probably the only leader who could be the friend of both Bush and Chavez. Lula, throughout his life, was a man of dialogue. He had started as a union leader. In this function, it is necessary to know how to launch a strike but also to stop it and to discuss! "

"In 2008, we created Unasur – the Union of South American Nations – and then Celac – Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. It was the first continent-wide meeting held without the United States, Canada and the European states with possessions in the region – France, United Kingdom, Netherlands …. "

"All this began to be deconstructed after the dismissal of Dilma Rousseff in 2016. This was not done aggressively but rather by inertia, passively. His successor, President Temer, did not maintain the logic of regional integration and sometimes even played against it. He isolated Venezuela from Mercosur, which encouraged the most radical of this country.

"Temer was especially at the helm of an ultra-neoliberal government that made more privatizations in two years than during the entire history of Brazil. He dismantled legislation protecting the rights of workers. He had the constitution amended to impose a 20-year cap and freeze on public spending! But at least it remained in the spirit of multilateralism and respected international organizations.

"Today, Bolsonaro takes the worst of Trump. He refuses to sign the Marrakesh pact on migration while there are more Brazilians out of Brazil than inside. He wants to withdraw from the Paris climate agreements while since the Copenhagen COP in 2009, our country was very active in the mobilization against global warming. What will he gain by leaving him? Nothing ! It's ideology, like Trump, like Brexit. "

"Same with Venezuela. The principle of non-intervention is sacred to me and it is written in the Brazilian Constitution. But today, we are contaminated by the American attitude, which aims at regime change. Europe also follows Trump, it's a bad surprise. Faced with the president of the assembly who proclaims himself acting president – it is a kind of coup d'etat – it would have been necessary to create a contact group associating countries with different positions. We must always promote dialogue. That's what we did in 2003-04. At the request of the opposition, a recalling referendum was held with the support of the Carter Foundation. And in the end, it was Chavez who won! "

Create a democratic front

"Today, in Brazil, we lack a rational discourse. Faced with the discourses that play on emotion, in the face of expressions of fear and hate, the most important is to create a powerful democratic front, which associates the right, the left, the neoliberals; a rational discussion space that can not be manipulated.

"We will need a lot of patience. The current government is not illegitimate. He was elected. All our initiatives of the last fifteen years will undergo a deconstruction, but Brazil is bigger than the political moment that it crosses. It remains one of the ten or twelve countries that will weigh in the world, by its territory, its economy, its ideas too: the non-interventionism, the sovereignty of the States, the defense of the human rights. To be a nationalist in Brazil today is to work for the interests of the country but also for those of the American continent and the developing countries. Bolsonaro is in tow of Trump, who has been condescending to him.

"That said, we have to wait for the first decisions. Bolsonaro has a clearly far-right speech but there are nuances in his government. The vice president, Hamilton Mourão, is a former four-star general who shows pragmatism, for example in relations with China, on the question of the transfer of the Brazilian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or even on the attitude towards Lula ".

"Vis-à-vis Mercosur, it's not clear. This free trade zone is our second largest trading partner behind China. We sell a lot of manufactured goods while China buys us mostly raw materials. Bolsonaro lost interest during the election campaign but when he received Argentinian President Mauricio Macri in mid-January, they said they would focus on modernizing it and they wanted a swift trade deal with the EU. European ".

The future of Lula

"In fact, Brazil will have a bad image as long as Lula is in jail. The country can not boast of being a true democracy until it is released. The judge who condemned him without being able to prove his personal enrichment is now Minister of Justice! A campaign for Lula to receive the Nobel Peace Prize was launched by Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and has already received more than 700,000 signatures.

"When Lula left the presidency in 2010, his popularity rating was 85%. The economy was good. The improvement was noticeable for all categories of the population. Domestic servants, often black women, had new rights. The small middle class could fly. Even the rich became richer but now they had to share the plane with people who spoke Portuguese badly. "

"It's probably that – the effects of greater social justice – that has given rise to real hatred in the upper middle class. The Workers' Party has been hated for its virtues more than for its mistakes. But it must be remembered that his candidate, Fernando Haddad, unknown and gone very late, still got 45% of the votes against Bolsonaro. It's not despicable!

"It is also the fight against corruption, including the operation Lava Jato, which has had devastating effects on the pillars of Brazilian power, whether in the political class or among companies. For example, it indirectly allowed Boeing to buy Embraer's civil aviation division for the price of a major hotel in Rio! Yet it was a national flagship created during the military regime and the third or fourth largest aircraft manufacturing company in the world. We have thus destroyed vectors of Brazilian economic power without worrying about their international positions, particularly in Asia and Africa. "

"In fact, by trying to dismantle Lula's credibility, some have led to the discrediting of the entire political class. And they paved the way for the victory of a far-right candidate. "

For further

Bolsonaro Brazil, interview of Celso Amorim with Pascal Boniface. Podcast posted on the website of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) on February 6, 2019.

The article In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro's right-hand turn posted on the La Croix site on December 31, 2018.

The article The prophetic democracy of Jair Bolsonaro, pby Jean-Jacques Kourliandsky, posted on November 2, 2018 on the IRIS website.

The article Brazil, harder will be the fall, appeared in volume No. 81, No. 3, Fall 2016, the journal Foreign Policy and posted on the website of the French Institute of International Relations.

The article Lula, the Latin pride and the emergence of Brazil, posted on December 30, 2012 on the blog Paris Planet.

Jean-Christophe Ploquin

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