Argentina received high-ranking officials from Joe Biden's government for the second week in a row. Last week the visitor was the Head of the Southern Command, Admiral Creig Faller, while this week the Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere, Juan GonzÃ¡lez and the Acting Assistant Secretary of the State Department, Julie Chung were part of a South American tour that also includes Uruguay and Colombia.
The official information from both visits is that neither of them included Brazil in the tour. This supports the hypothesis that Jair Bolsonaro was isolated following Donad Trump's departure from the government, since the Brazilian President and Joe Biden did not even have a phone conversation.
The theory above was highlighted by the Brazilian media. For example, Globo immediately covered Feller's visit to Argentina and Uruguay: "Biden's approximation with Argentina, which includes pandemic support, widens the differences in the relationship with Brazil." The article states: "After being one of the first Latin American presidents to call Biden after his victory was confirmed in 2020, Argentina's head of state, Alberto FernÃ¡ndez, has received gestures of solidarity from the White House that contrast with the coldness of the US-Brazil relationship."
"In terms of the pandemic, the numbers are significantly scarier in Brazil than in the neighboring country, but to date there has been no direct communication between Biden and Bolsonaro," the article read.
Another newspaper that echoed this situation was Folha, stating: "Both Thursday's donation and the direct dialogues are signs that Argentina is one step ahead of Brazil in its relationship with the new US administration, since President Jair Bolsonaro only exchanged letters with Biden, and there were no U.S. government officials travelling to Brazil. Behind the cold relationship is a series of enmities between the two leaders, since the Brazilian president publicly stated during the campaign that he supported the re-election of Donald Trump, Biden's rival in the 2020 U.S. election race."
"Bolsonaro was also irritated by the Democrats' criticism of increased deforestation in the Amazon and called it an unfortunate statement by the current U.S. leader in the presidential debate. At the time, Biden said he would guarantee $20 billion for forest preservation and threatened with 'economic consequences' if there was no progress in the environmental sector," added the newspaper from Sao Paulo.
LPO spoke with Camila Souza, who has a degree in International Relations from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, who said Biden's decision not to send officials to Brazil "is a clear gesture towards Bolsonaro, considering that the issues addressed, according to the White House announcement, are precisely those for which Brazil has always been a benchmark in the region , and which have been critical points in the policies of today's government: the health crisis, environmental and climate issues, security and development." "Brazil would naturally be included in normal contexts for both these issues and trade, especially in the case of the first contact of the new management with Latin America, which is very symbolic. It's like Brazil is being grounded," she added.
Souza considers Bolsonaro isolated after Trump's departure and said "rarely in the history of Brazilian foreign policy has the country faced an automatic alienation. And in Bolsonaro's case, much of this stance was due to a common agenda with the United States, guided by scientific negativism and conspiracies. This resulted in controversial positions in multilateral meetings and forums, offensive speeches, problematic statements, things that not only tarnished the Brazilian diplomatic image, but also impacted relations with many of our partners."
"All this, until then, did not seem to matter in the face of American backing; but with Trump offside and considering allegations of voter fraud against Biden (and the delay in acknowledging his victory), Bolsonaro lost the only asset he had in the international arena," she said.
Finally, Camila Souza noted that "since the United States is an important market for Brazil and is especially interested in the environmental issue, it is very likely that the government will change its tone, as was the case with China. Bolsonaro may give his statements and attacks, but in the end the interests of the groups that make up the basis of government (agribusiness and entrepreneurs) weigh heavily." "But I think that change will come mainly from domestic policies on the environment, not from a concession as broad as the agreement on the Alcantara base, for example, which would annoy the military as well as the government," she said.
The reality is that geopolitical changes and the low popularity of poor management of the health crisis forced Bolsonaro to replace his Diplomat, Ernesto AraÃºjo, a known follower of Trump and his anti-globalist project, for Carlos Alberto Franca, who has a wider multilateral vision than his predecessor.
However, the changes that the United States intends from Brazil in environmental policy are not yet in view. A diplomatic source spoke with LPO and said that "there are 2.9 billion reais donated by Norway and Germany to the Amazon Fund that remain paralyzed with the BNDES." "The reason for this is that in April 2019, a Presidential Decree annulled the joint governance arrangement involving civil society, sub-national governments and federal agencies, the so-called Amazon Fund Guidance Committee. Without public governance, social control has declined and donor confidence in the settlement has been undone," the same source added.
This issue is the subject of a Direct Action of Unconstitutionality for Non-Compliance (ADO) brought by opposition parties in June 2020 before the Federal Supreme Court (STF). "In the context of extreme shortages of budgetary resources for environmental policy, the government's inaction on these resources is unacceptable," the same source added.
Brazil is at a crossroads when it comes to international politics. The distance with the United States and Europe is growing and there seems to be no sign of a truce, since Bolsonaro considers the views of other governments on the Amazon to be a foreign intervention that undermines Brazil's sovereignty.
Another substantial difference is the management of the pandemic and the denial of Bolsonaro regarding Covid-19, while his country remains the epicenter of the virus and the origin of new variants that are affecting neighboring countries. This is a topic of global discussion, since Brazil is being considered a risk to the world.
In this respect, as LPO revealed that governors of the States of the Amazon region opened a dialogue channel with the ambassador to Brazil to negotiate directly with Washington the arrival of vaccines in exchange for environmental commitments. This had an important precedent following the ruling of the Supreme Court judge, Ricardo Lewandowski, who granted an injunction requested by the governor of Maranhao, Flavio Dino, for Anvisa to analyze the application for imports of the Sputnik vaccine until 28 April.
Bolsonaro has also shown tensions with China, which, despite being one of the most important trading partners, received continuous criticism from the government's ideological wing, which now finds itself in a complicated situation after the departure of AraÃºjo.
The Argentine government argues that these differences between Brazil and the United States represent an opportunity to negotiate with White House officials in South American territory, the lithium agreement and balance out the relationship with China as well as the crisis in Venezuela, under a more multilateral view.
Finally, the internal scenario can also be decisive. The Senate has just set up a commission to investigate Bolsonaro's criminal consequences during the pandemic and maintains an open confrontation with the Supreme Federal Court. While the facts for a political trial are not yet there, the current situation may continues to affect the president's image and impact international alliances.
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