Thursday, March 31, 2011

U.S. and Brazil

Greg Grandin has an opinion piece in Al-Jazeera about U.S.-Brazilian relations, which I think tends to over-emphasize the negative but is worth reading.

I also keep thinking about the Brazilian abstention in the UN vote on Libya, which I've written about before, and its subsequent criticism of military action:


Even before Obama landed in Rio, Brazil, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, joined with China and Germany to abstain from the vote authorising "all necessary measures" against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.  
Since then, its opposition to the bombing has hardened.  According to the Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS), Brazil's foreign ministry – still, for the most part, staffed by the diplomats who charted Lula's foreign policy – recently issued a statement condemning the loss of civilian lives and calling for the start of dialogue.  
Lula himself has endorsed Dilma's critical position on Libya, going further in his condemnation of the intervention: "These invasions only happen because the United Nations is weak," he said. "If we had twenty-first-century representation [in the Security Council], instead of sending a plane to drop bombs, the UN would send its secretary-general to negotiate."  
His remarks were widely interpreted to mean that if Brazil had been a permanent member of the Security Council – a position it has long sought – it would have vetoed the resolution authorising the bombing rather than, as it did, merely abstaining from the vote.  


If this is what Lula meant, then I am confused.  Why would the nature of your participation in the UN change the way you voted?  Why not vote "no" regardless?

Regardless, it is also worth noting that President Rousseff's foreign policy does deviate from Lula's, so it is important not to generalize too much..

5 comments:

Anonymous,  10:03 AM  

Very simple: the no vote weaken Brazil's chance to get a seat. Remember that the warlords of the 1st world (US+UK, lately France) would not see Brazil as a trusted partner...Once you are there you vote differently!

Greg Weeks 10:08 AM  

I understand that logic, but it is immediately undermined by making it public. Doing so actually makes you seem even less trustworthy than if you vote your conscience.

Anonymous,  11:23 AM  

Greg, do you really think that it would have been wise for Brazil to vote against alone? We also need the French for the submarines :-)

Luiz (anoymous)

Mike 4:08 PM  

I can't say that it made sense for Obama to come out in support of India's quest for a seat. Why compound that mistake with supporting Brazil?

leftside 6:37 PM  

I did not interpret Lula's words as they were "widely interpreted." I take it as reinforcing the longstanding UNSC critique that it is non-representative and that the permanent members weild too much influence. I just think he was saying the UN got bullied and bowled over in the rush to war.

From there, you can make the logical leap to infer that Brazil basically abstained in order to keep its chances for becoming a permanent member open. Obviously that is of a much higher priority for Brazil than putting its neck out for Gaddafi.

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