The Continuation of Brazil’s New Foreign Policy

Michel Temer, President of Brazil, is determined to break from the ideology of his predecessor, President Dilma Rousseff. Aside from the changes he has made on limiting government spending, Temer has been working to actively change the government’s foreign policy. Unlike Rousseff, who viewed Itamaraty, Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a tool to spread the ideology of Brazil’s governing party, Temer views the Ministry as a vehicle by which to foster trade and encourage investment to Brazil.

Image Courtesy of Agência Brasil Fotografias, © 2017.
Aloysio Nunes, background, with José Serra.

On March 2, 2017 Temer announced that he would appoint Senator Aloysio Nunes to the vacancy of Minister of Foreign Relations of Brazil. Nunes is a career politician. He has served as a Congressman for three terms and one as a Senator, where he was the president of the Commission of Foreign Relations and National Defense. Nunes was also the running-mate of Aécio Neves in the latest Brazilian presidential election, running against then-President Rousseff and her running-mate President Temer.

The position of Minister became vacant when Senator José Serra stepped down, claiming that his recent surgery did not correct his back pains; as a result, he was unable to continue the duties as Minister. Some speculate that the current corruption investigations also played a role in Serra stepping aside, once it was rumored his name might be present in the next list of indictments to come out of Operation Car Wash (Operation Lava Jato). Operation Car Wash is the Brazilian Federal Police operation that has been investigating links between politicians and Brazilian construction firms that have won government contracts in the past.

The appointment of Nunes signals the continual break of President Temer’s foreign policy from his predecessor, Rousseff. Rousseff’s foreign policy centered around bolstering Brazil’s position as a geopolitical power in Latin America and the world, a foreign policy strategy she inherited and gave continuation to from President Lula, another member of PT (Worker’s Party). During Lula’s presidency, Brazil inserted itself into the regional geopolitics in an effort to demonstrate Brazil’s power, for example fostering Manuel Zelaya in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa in 2007. Under Rousseff, Brazil continued to insert itself in neighboring countries’ politics. Brazil grew ever closer to other left-leaning governments in the continent, particularly to Venezuela and Bolivia. This was met with a lot of criticism in Brazil. Some argued that Brazil was aligning itself to governments that shared a similar ideology rather than aligning itself to governments that would advance Brazil’s best interests.

Temer’s foreign policy has been less political and more pragmatic. Although he has assigned two career politicians to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, his foreign policy has been focused on attracting investments to Brazil. This is especially interesting considering Rousseff only appointed career diplomats to the position, but her foreign policy was far more political. When appointed Minister, Serra stated that Brazil’s foreign policy will be less focused on interfering in other countries’ politics and more geared toward signing new bilateral or multilateral trade agreements, making Brazil a destination for investment.

Temer transferred the Chamber of Foreign Commerce, CAMEX, from the Ministry of Development, Industry, and Commerce to Itamaraty. This move, requested by Serra and then Nunes, demonstrates the changes the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is going through under Temer. It is refocusing its role away from geopolitics to promote foreign trade and investment in Brazil. After his appointment, Nunes stressed that he agrees with his predecessor’s directives and hopes to continue what Serra started.

Brazil’s relationship with the United States will be important to follow in the coming weeks. Although Serra has steered clear of making any comments on the U.S. election and President Donald Trump’s victory, Nunes has not. After Trump’s election, Nunes took to Twitter to say that “Trump is the drunk version of the Republican Party. He is the worst, most uncontrollable and exacerbated of all members of his party.” It remains to be seen how Nunes’s comments, while still a Senator, will impact Brazil-U.S. relations.

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