LIKE voters in most democracies, Brazilians pay little heed to foreign policy when choosing leaders. Yet the presidential election on October 26th matters not just to Brazil but to the region. Over the past two decades Latin America’s giant has overcome its introversion and wielded growing influence in its backyard. And on foreign policy, as on economics, there is a clear gap between President Dilma Rousseff of the centre-left Workers’ Party (PT), who wants a second term, and her rival, Aécio Neves, of the centre-right Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB). Brazil’s greater assertiveness began under Fernando Henrique Cardoso of the PSDB in the 1990s and continued under the PT’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the president in 2003-10. Both gave importance to the Mercosur trade block (founded by Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), to South America and to ties with Africa and Asia. Both had reservations about a 34-country Free-Trade Area of the Americas, a plan that Lula helped to kill. But there were differences, too, partly because of Brazil’s changing circumstances. Lula put far more stress on “south-south” ties and on the BRICs grouping (linking Brazil to Russia, India, China and later South Africa). In Latin America he emphasised “political co-operation”. Relations with the United States were cordial but distant, especially after Lula tried brokering a nuclear deal with Iran which the White House opposed.
While distancing herself from Iran, Ms Rousseff has otherwise followed Lula’s script. She welcomed Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela into Mercosur, which now, critics say, is more about solidarity among leftist governments than about trade. The failure of that vision of South American integration was highlighted by the formation of the rival Pacific Alliance linking free-trading Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico.
Ms Rousseff’s main foreign-policy achievement was to host a successful summit on internet governance. Her effort to mend fences with the United States was blown off course by revelations from Edward Snowden, a renegade American contractor, that her phone had been tapped.
Full Article: Bello: Brazil and its backyard | The Economist.