Brazil’s shift to the right-wing has been lauded by the US, which is still not over its penchant for foreign meddling in Latin America. Jair Bolsonaro, who has made news headlines for all the wrong reasons, notably disregard for climate change, indigenous rights and education, has altered the previous diplomacy by prioritising global investment over regional ties, thus facilitating the country’s exploitation.
For the US, of course, this is welcome news. An unnamed US official declared, “Even the friendliest of Brazilian governments was never really that friendly. Here we have now a government in Brazil we truly consider an ally.”
The tactics may have changed – there is enough history of US-backed dictatorships in Latin America to have fomented fractured societies, to the point than a shift to the right-wing through elections was only a matter of time. Brazil was no exception in this regard – the country having followed suit after countries such as Chile and Argentina saw a return to right-wing governments and practices reminiscent of the dictatorship-era. The neoliberal framework was not extinguished – it was just gathering momentum.
For the US and Brazil, Bolsonaro and US President Donald Trump represent an opportunity to cultivate a diplomatic and economic engagement which will impinge upon stability in the region, notably in relation to Venezuela. Following the US lead, Brazil asserted its stance in favour of the Venezuelan opposition, although it has ruled out supporting military intervention against the current President Nicolas Maduro.
Bolsonaro is also the first Brazilian president to have visited the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) earlier this year. Bolsonaro’s son, who is being touted as the new ambassador to the US, described the agency as “one of the most respected intelligence agencies in the world.” For millions of people in Latin America, the CIA represents decades of involvement in dictatorships which resulted in torture, killings and disappearances of the region’s left-wing, notably during Operation Condor in the 1970s and 1980s, in which Brazil attempted to secure a more prominent role.
During the celebrations for the US Independence Day at the US embassy in Brasilia on July 4, Bolsonaro availed himself of the opportunity to highlight what he deemed “a problem … which is not just ours, but of all of us who love freedom,” with reference to the political instability in Venezuela, while eliminating all reference of US interference and plans to overthrow Maduro.
According to Trump, the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is a result of socialism. During the bilateral meeting at the G20 summit between Trump and Bolsonaro, Cuba was singled out to be targeted for possible sanctioning of its support for Venezuela.
Meanwhile, what Bolsonaro has achieved so far back home is reminiscent of the historical neoliberal plans which run contrary to indigenous demands. At the World Economic Forum in January, Bolsonaro declared his intent to open the country to international investors. Increasing deforestation is just the beginning of an invitation for rampant exploitation of Brazil’s natural resources.
During an event in Washington DC last March, Brazil’s Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque expounded upon the global importance of the Amazon rainforest, “in terms of its riches.” A recent report titled “Complicity in Destruction” notes how Europe and North America in particular are reshaping “Brazil’s socio-economic landscape … to our collective detriment”.
Politically and economically, Brazil is set on a trend that has many precedents. Together with other right-wing governments in Latin America, it is continuing a macabre legacy that will now be implemented through methods which the international community has normalised and is only concerned with finding solutions for, rather than halting.