Since the 1960s, Brazilian foreign policy has an undistinguished history, and has gradually been reduced to the pursuit of ideological leftism. This was not always the case.
During the imperial regime (1824-1889), Brazilian diplomacy policy was known for the high-quality of its members, for their ability to read politics, for negotiating talent and, above all, for their fidelity to the interests of Brazil. Paulino José Soares de Sousa, the Viscount of Uruguay, Honório Hermeto Carneiro Leão, the Marquis of Parana, José Maria da Silva Paranhos Jr, the Baron of Rio Branco, Jose Osvaldo de Meira Penna, Osvaldo Aranha, Roberto Campos, Guimaraes Rosa and Rui Barbosa (whose achievements earned him the title of Eagle of The Hague), were not only diplomats. They were also statesmen, thinkers, renowned writers and people who thought of Brazil as a project of a nation that needed to be established and built.
Oddly, it was during the military dictatorship (1964-1985) – more precisely in the government of Ernesto Geisel from 1974 to 1979 – that the Brazilian diplomatic tradition began to shift towards leftism. According to the conservative thinker and former Brazilian diplomat Roberto Campos, it was Antonio Francisco Azeredo da Silveira, Geisel’s Minister of Foreign Relations, who introduced third-world internationalism into Brazilian foreign policy: a vision of world affairs according to which the third world countries should create a policy jointly and independently of the interests of the United States and the Soviet Union. In practice, however, this philosophy of international relations was a Trojan horse of international communism. Brazil ended up adopting anti-American positions and even supported the communist takeover of Angola in the 1970s.
The Workers’ Party government (2002-2016) accentuated this pattern but created a new fact. Together with Fidel Castro in 1991, Lula da Silva founded the so-called Sao Paulo Forum, an organization aimed at re-orientating the Latin American left after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
When Lula da Silva became president of Brazil in 2002, Brazilian foreign policy adopted an automatic alignment with leftist movements throughout Latin America. Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina created a kind of Latin American axis of leftism with the goal of being to combat American imperialism and advancing the Bolivarian revolution.
The president-elect of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro made foreign policy a priority of his campaign, something unusual in Brazilian politics. Bolsonaro promised a non-ideological foreign policy in favor of a more realistic view of international issues. Brazil, he believes, must seek to expand the number of its commercial partners and no longer adopt an automatic alignment with the third world.
There are three areas in which he has made changes to Brazilian foreign policy clear. First, anti-Americanism is out of Brazil’s agenda. Second, he will pursue a rapprochement with Israel, not least by recognizing Jerusalem as its capital. Third, he has repudiated Venezuela’s neo-communist experience.
Bolsonaro’s foreign policy, however, goes beyond this. Bolsonaro is a nationalist who believes that the nation-state is the political model whereby the elementary liberties achieved in the Western world may be secured. For Bolsonaro, it is the historical experience of the Brazilian people as part of the Judeo-Christian cultural civilization that best explains the country’s past and paves the way to his nation’s future. Therefore, we can place him side by side with other leaders that have repudiated globalist political project in favor of a world of nations.
Perhaps, the best way to understand the foreign policy that will be adopted by the government of the next Brazilian president is to look at the work of Ernesto Henrique Fraga Araujo, the recently appointed Minister of International Relations. A conservative nationalist and a former student of the Brazilian philosopher Olavo de Carvalho, Araujo explained his interpretation of the world in a paper called Trump and the West.
Trump and the West seeks to explain why the world is “upside-down” and outlines a possible alternative to the globalist agenda. Entirely different from anything that is taught in schools of international relations, this interpretation of international politics is at the same time holistic, seeking to deal with the problems of human political experience as a whole, and insightful, since it tries to answer the basic question of political modernity from an unusual perspective.
Through the pages of his essay, we see Araujo applying to the international relations concepts of Rene Guenon’s traditionalist philosophy, Thomas Molnar’s conservative Catholicism, Jose Ortega y Gasset’s vitalism, Carl Schmitt’s political science and Eric Voegelin’s philosophy of order. This eclectic group of thinkers, all distant from the university mainstream, is united by the interpretative framework created by Carvalho in his book The Garden of Afflictions (1996).
Araújo believes that the concept of the West exists beyond the geopolitical dimension. As a matter of fact, this word expresses a historical experience that unites different peoples under a common denominator, that of civilization. Civilization, then, has a spiritual meaning that conveys the existential character of a people or a community of people in alliance with a transcendent reality. History, music, dance, and literature, for example, are expressions of this relationship. They express by more visible means the difficult relationship between man and the divine. For Araujo, therefore, it is essential to understand not only the relation of men to the transcendent, as Voegelin did, but to follow the action of God himself in history. God is not, therefore, seen as a passive agent of human history, but as an active part of the human political reality.
The decadence of Western civilization is a recurring theme in the essay, but it is not central. Instead, the restoration of civilization is the main theme of Araujo’s essay. He believes that the modern liberal international order’s internal contradictions have already begun to break the dike created by globalists over the past decades. The rise of patriotic nationalism is the main sign of this change.
Patriotic nationalism does not seek territorial expansion nor military conflict. Instead, it focuses on the rebuilding of the international order into a community of independent and harmonious nations. President Donald Trump is the unlikely but leading representative of this new trend in international relations. For Araujo, Trump’s speech in Warsaw during his 2017 visit to Poland shows that Trump understood two things: 1) the need to see the world as civilizational blocks; and 2) the imperative of reversing the liberal experience that made Europe a “politically correct amusement park.”
Araújo seems to be the right man at the right moment of Brazilian politics. Bolsonaro made his political career through relentlessly attacking the hegemony which the left has exerted on the culture for so long and, consequently, on how people interpreted the world. By announcing Araujo as Brazil’s new minister of International Relations, Bolsonaro has begun to fulfill what he has promised: realignment of Brazil with a new international order that still needs to be built and which is based on a Christian worldview.
Homepage photo credit: Encontro do Assessor de Segurança Nacional dos EUA John Bolton com Presidente Eleito do Brasil Jair Bolsonaro Presidente Eleito do Brasil Jair Bolsonaro recebe o embaixador John Bolton, assessor de segurança nacional dos EUA, no Rio de Janeiro. / President-elect Jair Bolsonaro receives Ambassador John Bolton, U.S. National Security Advisor, in Rio de Janeiro. (Photo: U.S. Consulate in Rio).Wiki Commons.