In Focus, World

Brazil, Latin America & Palestine

For some time now Brazil has been the major Latin American diplomatic force, no one disputes it, not even Mexico which has had that position snatched away from it and is now too occupied with the devastating “war on drugs” instigated by the President Felipe Calderón.

Pablo Sapag M.

What few have realized, however, is that Brazil is already beginning to be more than that, which is certainly no small feat and it is getting there after having achieved the hegemony in South America in detriment to Argentina. Brazil, as well as all that, is beginning to be a hemispheric power today, that is to say, pan American.

It is becoming an alternative to the United States, putting in check the most negative and known version of the Monroe Doctrine, the one that is summed up in the “America for the Americans” of the United States of America and rather than all Americans from Alaska to Tierra de Fuego, as it was understood in 1823 when Monroe used it to avoid the return of the European imperial powers to the Americas.

Dilma Rousseff, President of Brasil

Since then, the undisputed arena for American foreign policy has been the Western Hemisphere, the pan-American reality. It has exercised absolute control so much and many times with ill-fated consequences, a power however, never challenged seriously due to the lack of individual and collective capacity of the other American States. Up to now, but Brazil is changing that and not out of chance.

Forthe last half century Brazil has orientated its foreign policy towards achieving its goal of becoming an alternative hemispheric power to the United States. That means playing a role even beyond the physical borders of the American continent. Brazil intends to be a global player, not a polarising force on a global scale, but to strengthen its opportunities on the political playing field of most interest to itself: the Pan- American hemisphere.

In recent Itamaraty,In recent times Itamaraty, the powerful Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (wrong word order here) has given proof of it. Reacting to the refusal of the United States to force Israel to stop constructing Jewish settlements on the Palestinian-occupied West Bank, Brazil dealt a huge diplomatic blow by recognising the State of Palestine with its previous border divisions set out before the Six Days War in 1967, the same war that marked the beginning of the Israeli occupation and the subsequent illegal annexation of Jerusalem.

The Brazilian development is not insignificant. The real consequences are already visible. Immediately, the once-powerful rival Argentina in the South American arena did the same thing. Uruguay will do the same shortly. The Chile that accommodates the most extensive Palestinian colony in the world outside the Middle East with more than 350 thousand Palestinian out of a total of half a million Chilean Arabs has considered itself obliged to do the same. A difficult test for the president Sebastian Piñera, whose Minister of the Home Office and vice-president is a member of the reduced but extremely powerful Jewish minority, influential in all parties and at all levels.

Recognising the Palestinian State with those borders, Brazil has had an effect in the global scene but above all in its own hemisphere. Not long ago a political challenge like this towards Washington would have been unthinkable if not unproductive. Even if the Brazilian move would have motivated another by other Latin American States.

But things have changed now. Brazil has an evident leadership capacity and not only in Latin America. It has demonstrated it in a larger field, in the hemisphere, with its role in the OAS, the leadership of the United Nations’ mission in Haiti or the crisis triggered by the coup d’état that occurred a couple of years ago in Honduras.

The move has without doubt had an impact in Washington. Firstly, because it is the final confirmation that Brazil is now an alternative hemispheric power to the USA. Secondly, because the decision of Itamaraty, backed by Argentina that is also a member of the G-20, exerts pressure on the European Union which disagrees with the pro-Israeli partiality of US politics in the Middle East.

Due to that, the EU up to now has not dared move towards recognising the State of Palestine for fear of angering Washington and Israel which, due to a guilty conscience, the Europeans accept in their organisations, from the Western European Group of the UN to Eurovision or UEFA. All that without mentioning the free trade agreements it has with Israel and through which products from Jewish colonies that Israel sustains in occupied Palestinian territories enter the EU.

The Brazilian and Latin American advance puts the EU in a complicated position, as it is losing all its international presence because of its economic weakness and the advance emerging states, which by its own rights certainly includes Brazil.

Brazilian diplomacy demonstrates various examples of that. Firstly, from a strategic viewpoint it is possible to make its foreign policy independent and put a Latin American stamp on it, without excluding any issues, as complicated as they may be.

Secondly, as it has already begun to demonstrate, with its independent vote from Chile and Mexico in the Security Council of the UN when the American proposal to attack Iraq was rejected; Washington is not now the only player to line the other American States up in its favour.

Thirdly, the fifteen million Latin Americans of Arabic origin have managed to give the Middle East conflict visibility and have a presence in the diplomatic agendas of Latin American countries, something to which Washington and Tel Aviv have always been opposed.

(Translated by Piers Jarvis – piersjarvis@hotmail.com)

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