Contribution for Syrializm
Since his return to power in Brazil, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been trying to revive that political circle, if you will, which he adopted during his presidency in Brazil from 2003 to 2010.
At that time, when the world and the international politics were different from what they are today.
The quality of the developments that have occurred in the world over the past decade, spanning all continents, requires books and novels to cover and discuss them.
Latin America has remained a victim of Western hegemony, primarily by the United States, for decades.
The era of military rule and the dictatorships of the School of the Americas in Latin American countries during the height of the Cold War flames, was one of the worst periods in the history of this continent and its peoples.
These countries had just emerged from the era of European colonialism at the beginning of the 20th century, only to enter into a series of internal and external crises, leading them to the 1960s and for three decades into an era of dictatorship and tyranny, where human life had no value, and the justification was always “fighting the communist threat”.
Brazil, like other countries in this continent, suffered from these calamities, but it has, to some extent, reached a better place today than it was in the past.
On the international blocs front, which played a significant role in promoting Brazil’s presence on the international stage, it was initially necessary to restore the unity of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR in Spanish, UNASUL in Portuguese), with its economic part MERCOSUR.
This organization, founded by Brazilian President Lula da Silva and the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in 2008.
UNASUR was established during a period when several left-wing governments came to power in the continent.
This characteristic made the organization a bloc that brought these countries together, serving as a counterbalance to Western blocs and a barrier against the return of colonial domination to the continent.
The last meeting of this organization was held in 2014 in Ecuador.
Since then, most countries in the region have experienced political changes, including the rise of right-wing governments in several countries, including Brazil itself.
After President Lula’s first term, the country experienced a series of fluctuations over the following ten years, with three presidents taking office, the last being the right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro.
During his tenure, polarization reached its peak, especially with the presence of right-wing President Donald Trump in the United States.
On May 30th of last year, the organization’s summit was held once again after a hiatus since 2014.
Brazilian President Lula da Silva welcomed his counterparts from Latin American countries in Brasilia in an attempt to restore relations that had become strained due to ideological differences and domestic crises in the continent.
The summit brought together the leaders of 11 countries, with Peru being absent as it didn’t respond to the invitation.
Another noteworthy development was the return of the socialist Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to Brazil after an eight-year absence, Maduro, who had faced a fierce Western and US campaign that almost toppled him, and even the continent had shunned him, and during Bolsonaro’s presidency in Brazil, Maduro was “Persona non grata,” in Brazil.
Aside from the efforts to restore relations among the continent’s countries, the most prominent item on the summit agenda, which Brazil currently presides over, is the topic of the free trade agreement between UNASUR/MERCOSUR and the European Union.
The negotiations for this agreement, including its principles and conditions, have been a cumbersome issue in discussions over the past years without reaching for an agreement.
Under the leadership of Lula da Silva, Brazil seeks to gain an upper hand in this agreement by:
Firstly, working to overcome obstacles to reaching the agreement.
Secondly, ensuring that Brazil and the countries of the UNASUR primarily gain economic benefits from this agreement, as the EU has been insistent on imposing conditions related to the execution mechanisms of the agreement, such as imposing demands, conditions, specifications, and European standards on South American countries regarding agriculture, industry, what products should be cultivated and manufactured, and how to do so based on European conditions and standards.
These conditions have been rejected by the organization, with Brazilian President Lula da Silva describing them as an “attempt to reintroduce European colonialism to the continent through the imposition of this agreement and its terms and dictate its mechanisms on the continent”.
Therefore, Brazil aims, through restoring the unity of the organization, to lead efforts to prevent the imposition of this agreement under full European conditions.
As the case of UNASUR, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva played a significant role in the formation of BRICS group in 2006, with the idea of its formation emerged during his first presidency of Brazil.
During the right-wing’s rule and due to different international circumstances, there was a period of stagnation within this group to the extent that some believed it might not return, perhaps even fading during the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
However, the surprise was the resurgence of the group with strength over the past two years, driven by the developments in the international arena.
And this includes China’s economic rise, the growing influence of Russia and India, and South Africa maintaining its leading position in the African continent.
But with the return of the left to power in Brazil, there have been recent signals of uncertainty from Brazil’s side.
Brazil’s primary objective, through its presence at the helm of international blocs like UNASUR and BRICS, is to export itself to the world as a country with significant regional and international influence and capabilities.
Brazil aims to establish itself as a leader of the Latin American continent, given the continent’s potential, cultural heritage, geography, history, and strategic importance, combined with its significant economic, military, social, and sports capabilities, and the list goes on.
Thus, the primary goal of Brazil was to position itself as a leader of Latin America.
Consequently, Brazil sought to obtain certain assurances from its BRICS counterparts, particularly Russia and China, along with the other member states, especially after the outcomes of the BRICS summit in South Africa resulted in expansion.
Brazil aimed to secure guarantees from BRICS member countries to support its bid for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council.
This pursuit aligned with the discussions in recent years regarding potential changes to the structure of the UN Security Council, including increasing the number of permanent members.
In this context, Brazil aspired to become one of those permanent members alongside the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France, with the possibility of other major countries like India and Germany also entering as permanent members.
As a result, one of Brazil’s objectives within the BRICS group was to garner support for its quest for a permanent UN Security Council seat.
Additionally, Brazil sought economic gains and benefits, especially with efforts to strengthen the position and capabilities of the New Development Bank, the financial arm of the BRICS group.
This was particularly significant as Dilma Rousseff, the former President of Brazil and President Lula’s longtime colleague, assumed the post of New Development Bank chairperson.
The inclusion of new countries in the group with substantial financial capabilities, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, was a vital step in enhancing the position of the New Development Bank.
Under Brazilian leadership, Brazil’s interests converged with those of its BRICS founding members (Russia, China, India, and South Africa) to establish the New Development Bank as a global force in the economic and financial arena, challenging the dominance of other Western organizations like the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as they had, for years, imposed unfair and authoritarian conditions on lending to developing and impoverished nations while aligning its mechanisms and policies to serve the interests of the United States and the West in general.
Therefore, Brazil aimed to gain support and endorsement from the world’s developing nations to serve as an additional pillar in its pursuit of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
In the upcoming period, it’s expected that Brazil will secure one of the non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council.
Hence, Brazil needs to secure the greatest possible support and endorsement from countries worldwide.
It’s worth mentioning that the upcoming period holds significant developments, especially with the organization of the G20 meeting in Brazil in the next year, 2024.
Nevertheless, Brazil may have a lingering sense of losing its position within the BRICS group, now that it has expanded to include six additional countries.
Previously, Brazil was one of the founding members of the group, ranking third in terms of GDP after China and India.
However, now will share its position in the group with 10 other countries following the new members’ accession.
This sentiment is perhaps only a concern, as there are undeniable facts regarding Brazil’s status as a founding member of the group, distinguished by its significant influence.
The reality is that the BRICS is expected to expand further in the coming years to include additional countries.
Nonetheless, the first letter in “BRICS” will continue to symbolize Brazil.
The reality of the relationship with the United States
In light of everything mentioned, the relationship between Brasilia and Washington has experienced a continuous ebb and flow, as Brazil is keen on maintaining its relationship with the United States due to numerous historical, military, political, and economic ties that both countries share, which neither side would want to lose.
It’s widely known that the United States has remained Brazil’s top trading partner for decades until this spot was overtaken by China.
This fact underscores the United States’ eagerness to maintain its relations with Brazil, so as not to gradually lose influence in the Latin American continent, as the situation of France with its influence over Africa is fading day by day.
Another concern for Washington is not allowing China to become the dominant player in Latin America, a region often referred to as “Washington’s backyard”.
Recently, China became Brazil’s leading trading partner with a trade volume of approximately $88.3 billion in 2021, followed by the United States at $30.2 billion, Argentina at $12 billion, the Netherlands at $9.29 billion, and Germany at $5.48 billion.
The dynamics of Brazilian-US relations can be described as a continuous tug of war, with Brazil sometimes making moves that appear contrary to the US interests and then quickly works to repair the situation.
This was evident in the speech made by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during the last BRICS summit in South Africa, where he sent reassuring messages to the United States and Western nations, emphasizing Brazil’s lack of interest in eliminating the global role of the American dollar.
This message might be just a political or diplomatic move to perpetuate the principle of Brazil’s foreign policy, which has been maintained for years – with step in a balanced distance from all sides without fully aligning with one side against the other.
Even Brazil’s official stance on the Russian war in Ukraine has been largely balanced, without leaning toward one side at the expense of the other.
While Brazilian President Lula da Silva openly expressed his country’s rejection of and non-support for the Russian war in Ukraine, emphasizing the need for dialogue to resolve conflicts, Brazil also declined to join countries supporting Ukraine by providing equipment, weapons, or aligning with the Western approach against Russia.
The approach in Brazilian-US relations is unlikely to change in any case, as both cannot afford to abandon this partnership given the numerous ties that bind them together.
The United States is keen on maintaining its relationship with Brazil, especially in the current international context.
Both the United States and Brazil hold significant positions in the global food market, competing for vital food markets such as protein and soy.
In light of the Russian war in Ukraine, which caused a strong shock to the global food market, both due to Ukraine’s inability to export food products and the Western sanctions imposed on Russia (the world’s biggest food provider), the United States has no interest in destabilizing the situation in Brazil.
Ultimately, the good state of Brazilian-US relations depends on who holds power in Washington.
Currently, Brazilian-American relations are excellent under the leadership of President Joe Biden, however, the threat lies in the potential return of the American right to power.
If Donald Trump returns to the White House in the upcoming elections, Brazil could face its worst days.
The Brazilian right, which reluctantly returned to opposition, will exert pressure to return to power with full support and endorsement from the American right.
For all these reasons, one of President Lula da Silva’s first visits after he become president, last January was to Argentina, its neighboring country, followed immediately a visit to Washington to reaffirm Brazil’s commitment to its historical relationship with the United States.
Lula 2003… Lula 2023… Has the man changed?
The political “thief”, as some like to call him, it’s not an insult but rather a description of his clever and sometimes cunning political style, both domestically and internationally.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, often simply referred to as Lula, returned to the helm of Brazil’s leadership after a tumultuous journey that paralleled events in the United States.
But before delving into recent events, let’s take a step back.
Lula’s first ascension to power in Brazil was in 2003, back then it was a major triumph for the country’s poor population.
This man, with his humble background and revolutionary socialist leanings developed during his years of struggle against the military rule in Brazil, represented a significant turning point in the country’s direction.
His policies to combat poverty were highly commendable and respected.
On World Peace stage, he worked to halt arms manufacturing and played pivotal roles in shaping international relations, including his involvement in sensitive international issues like Iran’s nuclear program and the climate change.
One of his most important contributions was advocating for bold ideas to achieve global balance.
After leaving the presidency in January 2011, Lula, a heavy smoker for over 40 years, was diagnosed with a malignant tumor that required chemotherapy.
He eventually made a full recovery and returned to political life.
In July 2017, due to political upheavals in Brazil, Lula was charged with corruption and money laundering by the Brazilian judiciary, allegations seen by some as part of a right-wing campaign against him.
Lula was sentenced to nine years and six months in prison but was released in November 2019 after serving one and a half years.
Upon his release, he headed to the headquarters of the Metalworkers’ Union in São Paulo, which he had previously led.
There, he was greeted by enthusiastic supporters eager to embrace and shake hands with him.
This marked the beginning of his journey back to the presidency, as he announced his candidacy to challenge the right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, narrowly won the presidential elections in October 2022.
Much like the tumultuous events in the United States after controversial elections between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Lula faced a similar situation in Brazil.
However, stability was quickly restored, allowing the returning “Tio Lula” to organize Brazil’s political landscape, especially its foreign policy, after a period of right-wing rule.
Some observers believe there has been a change in Lula’s style and policies since his return to power, attributing it to the various challenges and experiences he has faced since leaving office in 2011.
These experiences include battling cancer, imprisonment, witnessing the global Covid-19 pandemic’s effects, which by the way, Brazil was heavily affected by, and running for and assuming the presidency once more.
All these events undoubtedly have an impact, along with the evolving international landscape, on any political leader who seeks to wield power from the center, and as the very nature of Brazilian foreign policy, in particular, will presents challenges.
In general, Lula hasn’t fundamentally changed, but if the right-wing returns to power in Washington and Donald Trump returns to the White House, this could shift the balance.
Those who perceive a change in the policies and orientations of the Brazilian president at the moment may find themselves facing a revolutionary leader if someone like Donald Trump returns to the White House.