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What happened to Brazil’s Foreign Policy during Dilma Rousseff’s first mandate?

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The end of the Cold War imposed new dynamics to the world. International Relations no longer have the ideological bias from the Cold War times, and have therefore become more flexible in the sense that states begin to establish relationships with key strategic partners taking into account their national interests, which are not guided by the bipolarity of the system. The Brazilian Foreign Policy, after democracy came back, in 1985, has also changed: Brazil is a more active international actor in key issues of the international system’s agenda.

While in the 1980’s Brazil was a country that participated in discussions together with developing countries, deciding to be distant from the established powers and international institutions, in the 1990’s the Brazilian Foreign Policy goes through an “aggiornamento”. The so called “autonomy by distance” becomes “autonomy through participation”. It is during Fernando Collor’s presidency that Brazil hosted the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Rio 92), at the time when the presidency and the chancellery sought to change the perception of the world in relation to Brazil, especially regarding environmental issues, which were a delicate matter to the country during the military dictatorship. The country seeks therefore to sustain an attitude of openness to dialogue both bilaterally and multilaterally. Gradually, the logic of the Brazilian Foreign Policy shapes itself pari passu to the world, which was also adjusting its modus operandi after the Cold War.

One can note that the mandate of Fernando Henrique Cardoso continued the “autonomy through participation” from his predecessors Fernando Collor and Itamar Franco and expanded its scope, establishing strategic partnerships with established powers such as the United States, the European countries and Japan; moreover he prioritized South America, foreseeing a Common Market of the South (Mercosur), possibly to the molds of the current European Union. The nomenclature “autonomy through participation” is then updated and it becomes “autonomy through integration” in Fernando Henrique’s mandate, which was essential for Brazil ‘s presence in the world in that specific time.

The solidification of the international presence of Brazil came, however, during Lula’s government. The President and his Foreign Minister, Ambassador Celso Amorim, understood the new dynamics of international relations and deepened Brazilian credentials abroad. The presidential transition between relatively antagonistic parties, PSDB (right) and PT (left), did not impair the continuity of the Brazilian Foreign Policy, on the contrary, strengthened its position in the world. The Brazilian Foreign Policy has never been homogeneous, but the continuity of its basis was maintained from the post-dictatorship period, that is 1985, to the second Lula government, that is 2010. One example was the evolution of the term autonomy coined by International Relations analysts. “Autonomy by distance” became “autonomy through participation”, soon after became “autonomy through integration” and finally it consolidated in “autonomy through diversification”, which briefly translates Lula’s Foreign Policy.

The “autonomy through diversification” was a symbol of high Brazilian self-esteem internationally. The President and his Foreign Minister, Ambassador Amorim, privileged the Brazilian Foreign Policy by strengthening bilateral relations and South-South coalitions (BRICS, IBSA, G-20, BASIC), by having cooperative, proactive and purposeful attitudes (Reform of the Security Council), by trusting traditional partners (US and Europe) and by focusing on regional integration (MERCOSUR and UNASUR).

However, it can be said that during Dilma’s mandate Brazil’s Foreign Policy has not evolved in the same way that had evolved over the past years although belonging to the same party as Lula da Silva (PT). For the first time since the 1990s, there was a change of priorities in the continuity of the Brazilian Foreign Policy. There is no evidence that the term “autonomy through diversification”, represented by Lula da Silva’s government, has been cited by analysts to characterize Dilma’s Foreign Policy. The employees from the Ministry of External Relations as well as opinion makers perhaps have implicitly represented President Dilma’s Foreign Policy as “autonomy by the indifference”. The Foreign Ministry, for example, suffered from cuts in both its budget as well as in the number of places offered to access the diplomatic career (from 100 per year during Lula da Silva’s government to 18-30 diplomats passing the public exam per year during Dilma’s mandate).

Contrary to claims about Rousseff’s lack of interest in foreign affairs, the Group of Reflection in International Relations (GR-RI), in an analysis of the presidential speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2014, shows that the Brazilian leader had given an active speech as well as her predecessor, Lula da Silva, in which she mentions important issues to the international agenda, such as solidarity in humanitarian affairs and internet governance — one can note that the latter was never brought forward properly. GR-RI’s article also mentions that new informal alliances, such as the BRICS, which “express an effort and an ability to create new policymaking procedures” — the BRICS are, in fact, the consolidation of multilateralism of reciprocity that Brazil searches in the international arena, the turning point of Dilma’s mandate concerning Foreign Affairs was even the creation of the BRICS Development Bank, which will be based in Shanghai, China, however, statistics and analysis put Brazil as one of the weakest economies of the group.

The change of priorities, although bad for the image of Brazil, can serve as a lesson for future foreign policy makers. Brazil urges to have concrete goals in the international scenario. Foreign Policy thus should be treated as a state and not a government policy. Although international relations are dynamic, Brazil needs to define its objectives to be part of the international system in the most effective way. Foreign Policy is as important to the development of a country as national policies are.

Although the adverse change of priorities has recently occurred in the Brazilian Foreign Policy, the country has always sought – and has been seeking since – to have a prominent place in the international scenario. Integration, diversification and other progressive synonymous must again be adjectives for Brazil’s Foreign Affairs. However, this does not mean lack of priority in urgent internal structural changes such as the creation of social policies and the reduction of economic disparities in the country. Overcoming internal challenges is key to Brazil. The coordination of both internal challenges and external objectives must be achieved so there is a progressive continuity that Brazil’s Foreign Policy surely deserves.

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A Disintegrating Trump Administration?

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If Donald J. Trump wanted a historic presidency, he certainly seems to have achieved it — he is now the only president to have been impeached twice.

According to the rules, the House impeaches followed by a trial in the Senate.  There is precedent for the trial to continue even when the office holder has left office.  Should that trial result in conviction, it prevents him from seeking any future elected office.  Conviction is unlikely, however, as it requires a vote of two-thirds of the members present.

It has been reported that Trump wanted to lead the crowd in the march to the Capitol, but was dissuaded from doing so by the Secret Service who considered it much too dangerous and could not guarantee his safety.

Various sources attest that Trump’s mind is focused on pardons including himself and his family members.  Whether it is legal for him to pardon himself appears to be an unresolved question.  But then Trump enjoys pushing the boundaries of tolerated behavior while his businesses skirt legal limits.

He appears to have been greatly upset with his longtime faithful vice-president after a conversation early on the day of the riot.  As reported by The New York Times, he wanted Mike Pence to overturn the vote instead of simply certifying it as is usual.  The certification is of course a formality after the state votes already certified by the governors have been reported.  Pence is reputed to have said he did not have the power to do so.  Since then Trump has called Vice President Pence a “pussy” and expressed great disappointment in him although there are reports now that fences have been mended.

Trump’s response to the mob attacking the Capitol has also infuriated many, including lawmakers who cowered in the House chamber fearful for their lives.  Instead of holding an immediate press conference calling on the attackers to stop, Trump responded through a recorded message eight hours later.  He called on his supporters to go home but again repeated his claims of a fraudulent election.

Aside from headlining the US as the laughingstock among democracies across the world, the fall-out includes a greater security risk for politicians.  Thus the rehearsal for Biden’s inauguration scheduled for Sunday has been postponed raising questions about the inauguration itself on January 20th.

Worse, the Trump White House appears to be disintegrating as coordination diminishes and people go their own way.  Secretary of State Pompeo has unilaterally removed the curbs on meeting Taiwanese officials put in place originally to mollify China.  If it angers China further, it only exacerbates Biden’s difficulties in restoring fractured relationships. 

Trump is causing havoc as he prepares to leave the White House.  He seems unable to face losing an election and departing with grace.  At the same time, we have to be grateful to him for one major policy shift.  He has tried to pull the country out of its wars and has not started a new one.  He has even attempted the complicated undertaking of peace in Afghanistan, given the numerous actors involved.  We can only hope Biden learned enough from the Obama-Biden administration’s disastrous surge to be able to follow the same path.

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Flames of Globalization in the Temple of Democracy

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Authors: Alex Viryasov and Hunter Cawood

On the eve of Orthodox Christmas, an angry mob stormed the “temple of democracy” on Capitol Hill. It’s hard to imagine that such a feat could be deemed possible. The American Parliament resembles an impregnable fortress, girdled by a litany of security checks and metal detectors at every conceivable point of entry. And yet, supporters of Donald Trump somehow found a way.

In the liberal media, there has been an effort to portray them as internal terrorists. President-elect Joe Biden called his fellow citizens who did not vote for him “a raging mob.” The current president, addressing his supporters, calls to avoid violence: “We love you. You are special. I can feel your pain. Go home.”

That said, what will we see when we look into the faces of these protesters? A blend of anger and outrage. But what is behind that indignation? Perhaps it’s pain and frustration. These are the people who elected Trump president in 2016. He promised to save their jobs, to stand up for them in the face of multinational corporations. He appealed to their patriotism, promised to make America great again. Arguably, Donald Trump has challenged the giant we call globalization.

Today, the United States is experiencing a crisis like no other. American society hasn’t been this deeply divided since the Vietnam War. The class struggle has only escalated. America’s heartland with its legions of blue-collar workers is now rebelling against the power of corporate and financial elites. While Wall Street bankers or Silicon Valley programmers fly from New York to London on private jets, an Alabama farmer is filling up his old red pickup truck with his last Abraham Lincoln.

The New York banker has no empathy for the poor residing in the southern states, nothing in common with the coal miners of West Virginia. He invests in the economies of China and India, while his savings sit quietly in Swiss banks. In spirit, he is closer not to his compatriots, but to fellow brokers and bankers from London and Brussels. This profiteer is no longer an American. He is a representative of the global elite.

In the 2020 elections, the globalists took revenge. And yet, more than 70 million Americans still voted for Trump. That represents half of the voting population and more votes than any other Republican has ever received. A staggering majority of them believe that they have been deceived and that Democrats have allegedly rigged this election.

Democrats, meanwhile, are launching another impeachment procedure against the 45th president based on a belief that it has been Donald Trump himself who has provoked this spiral of violence. Indeed, there is merit to this. The protesters proceeded from the White House to storm Congress, after Trump urged them on with his words, “We will never give up, we will never concede.”

As a result, blood was shed in the temple of American democracy. The last time the Capital was captured happened in 1814 when British troops breached it. However, this latest episode, unlike the last, cannot be called a foreign invasion. This time Washington was stormed by protestors waving American flags.

Nonetheless, it is not an exaggeration to say that the poor and downtrodden laborers of America’s Rust Belt currently feel like foreigners in their own country. The United States is not unique in this sense. The poor and downtrodden represent a significant part of the electorate in nearly every country that has been affected by globalization. As a result, a wave of populism is sweeping democratic countries. Politicians around the world are appealing to a sense of national identity. Is it possible to understand the frustrated feelings of people who have failed to integrate into the new global economic order? Absolutely. It’s not too dissimilar from the grief felt by a seamstress who was left without work upon the invention of the sewing machine.

Is it worth trying to resist globalization as did the Luddites of the 19th century, who fought tooth and nail to reverse the inevitability of the industrial revolution? The jury is still out.

The world is becoming more complex and stratified. Economic and political interdependence between countries is growing each and every day. In this sense, globalization is progress and progress is but an irreversible process.

Yet, like the inhumane capitalism of the 19th century so vividly described in Dickens’ novels, globalization carries many hidden threats. We must recognize and address these threats. The emphasis should be on the person, his dignity, needs, and requirements. Global elites in the pursuit of power and superprofits will continue to drive forward the process of globalization. Our task is not to stop or slow them down, but to correct global megatrends so that the flywheel of time does not grind ordinary people to the ground or simply throw nation-states to the sidelines of history.

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Deliberate efforts were made to give a tough time to President Joe Biden

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Image credit: Todd Jacobucci/ flickr

President Trump-Administration is over-engaged in creating mess for in-coming President Joe Biden. The recent deliberate efforts are made to give a tough time are:  naming Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism, designating Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a foreign terrorist organization, Terming Iran as a new home to al-Qaida, and lifting restrictions on contacts between American officials and representatives from Taiwan.

The consequence may turn into dire situations, like a return to cold war era tension. Efforts were made to resume Cuba-US relations to normal for decades and were expected to sustain a peaceful co-existence. Any setback to relations with Cuba may destabilize the whole region. Pompeo’s redesignation of Cuba as a sponsor of state terror will possibly have the least material impact, but it signifies a personal loss to Biden and a momentous political win for Trumpism. In doing so, Trump is hitting the final nail in the coffin of Barack Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba.

Yemen issue was a creation of Arab spring sponsored by the CIA, and after realizing the wrongdoings, the US was trying to cool down the tension between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, but with the recent move to name Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a foreign terrorist organization, may open new hostilities and bloodshed. It has been designated by UNICEF as the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with more than 24 million people — some 80 percent of the population — in need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 12 million children.” Such statements may halt humanitarian assistance and may result in a big disaster.

The history of rivalries with Iran goes back to 1953 when the UK and the US jointly overthrew the legitimate government of Prime Minister Mossadeq. But the real tension heightened in 2018 When President Trump withdrew from JCPOA. But the recent allegation that Iran as a new home of al-Qaida may take a new turn and give a tough time to Joe Biden–Administration. Although there is no evidence, however, Secretary of State Pompeo made such an allegation out of his personal grudge against Iran. It can complicate the situation further deteriorate and even may engulf the whole middle-east.

Lifting constraints on contacts between American officials and representatives from Taiwan, is open violation of “One-China Policy.” Since Washington established formal diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979, it has resisted having official diplomatic associations with Taipei in order to avoid a confrontation with the PR China, which still comprehends the island — home to around 24 million people — as part of China. Chinese are very sensitive to the Taiwan issue and struggling for peaceful unification. However, China posses the capabilities to take over by force, yet, have not done so far. Secretary of State Mr. Pompeo’s statement may be aiming to instigate China and forcing toward military re-unification. It might leave a challenging concern for Joe Biden-Administration.

Raffaello Pantucci, a senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said, “The Trump administration is locking in place a series of conflicts that change the starting point for Biden walking into the office on the world stage.”

Even Mr. Pompeo had a plan to travel to Europe to create further hurdles for in-coming administration, but fortunately, some of the European countries refused to entertain him, and desperately he has to cancel his trip at the eleventh hours.

It is just like a losing army, which destroys all ammunition, weapons, bridges, infrastructures, etc., before surrendering. Although President Trump’s days in office are numbered, his administration is over-engaged in destruction and creating hurdles for the next administration. He is deliberately creating hurdles and difficulties for President-Elect Joe Biden.

President Joe Biden has many challenges to face like Pandemic, unrest in the society, a falling economy, losing reputation, etc. Some of them might be natural, but few are specially created!

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