Friday, November 09, 2018

Bolsonaro's International Priorities Do Not Include Argentina

Jair Bolsonaro announced his first trips as president: he will be going to Chile, Washington, and Israel. Dilma Rousseff's first trip was to Argentina, which makes sense given the historical importance of the bilateral relationship, and it's a common choice for either Brazilian or Argentine presidents. But Bolsonaro is not particularly interested in Argentina or Mercosur.

All three are highly ideological choices. There is an obvious affinity between Bolsonaro and Trump, even though their ideologies sometimes take them in diametrically opposed directions. Both are nationalist, which puts up an automatic barrier to trade discussions even as they agree on many other things. Israel (and where embassies are located) is just part of the same ideological track. Chile is more pragmatic--Sebastián Piñera is not an ideological soulmate, but Bolsonaro's Economic Minister is a fan of the Chicago Boys and in fact Bolsonaro once praised Augusto Pinochet and said he should have killed more people.

For the moment, this leaves Argentina behind. Mauricio Macri is conservative but the economy is not doing well and Bolsonaro does not want to be tied to it. Interestingly, the Argentine and Brazilian militaries show signs of wanting to deepen relations, which can occur regardless of the presidents' priorities, just as U.S. military to military relations continue no matter what's going on at higher political levels.


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