There is no doubt about Jair Bolsonaro’s neoliberal project and his interest in completely submitting Brazil to American domination. However, the speed with which the agenda of the Brazilian president advances is surprising to any political analyst. At the beginning of March, Bolsonaro decided to rekindle his rivalry with the Venezuelan popular government by expelling all Caracas’ diplomats from Brazil and demanding a reciprocal attitude from Nicolás Maduro, just at a time when the crisis between the two countries did not seem to be so deep. The breakdown of diplomacy is an extreme attitude, which is not taken by any simple sign of disagreement between two countries, but when dialogue between nations becomes impossible through a rational and peaceful way.
Bolsonaro’s interest in creating unnecessary international tensions stems from a number of factors. First of all, the Brazilian government has a clear project of total alignment with the US, as became clear in a recent publication by the Ministry of Defense. Searching for this goal, recently, the government carried out the greatest act of subordination to Washington ever recorded in Brazilian history: a general of the Brazilian Army was subjected to direct command by the American Army. Brigadier General Alcides Valeriano will join the US Southern Command as a deputy commander this March. This command is responsible for the American military presence in the territories of South America, Central America and the Caribbean, which makes clear the intention of the Brazilian government to make the country a regional monitor of American interests.
In August last year, Donald Trump named Brazil as an “major non-NATO ally”. The nomination was received simultaneously with joy and disappointment by the Bolsonaro government. The possibility of including Brazil in NATO was – and remains – a major agenda item for Bolsonaro and his followers. Certainly, Bolsonaro enthusiastically hoped that his policies of total alignment would result in a reciprocal approach of Washington, which, however, does not seem to occur. Trump did not facilitate Brazilian international ambitions to join the Western military alliance and promoted Brazil to the role of “non-NATO ally”, which in practice means that Brazil’s value to the United States is below of any NATO member. Another sign of the complete absence of reciprocity in relations between Brazil and the US was the decision of the Brazilian government to ban the visa requirement for the entry of American citizens into its territory. Trump not only did not return the Brazilian “kindness” but also initiated a massive deportation of illegal Brazilians from the US, which resulted in the return of more than 450 immigrants in recent months. Immigrants report scenes of torture and extreme suffering during imprisonment and deportation, something quite different from the treatment received by Americans when in Brazilian territory – even if in an irregular situation.
Bolsonaro, however, rejoices in the crumbs of his American idol and at no time resigned in the policies of alignment. Content with the secondary role assigned to him by Donald Trump, the Brazilian government decided to take a regional pivotal attitude towards the US military presence in Latin America. Last weekend, Bolsonaro and Trump met for the fourth time in just over a year. These are the words of the Brazilian president: “I am very happy to be here. It is an honor for me and for my country. I am sure that in the near future it is very good to have a good right-wing relationship.” Trump also praised his partner’s policies stating that “the US loves Bolsonaro”.
Bolsonaro’s confidence in his partnership with Trump sounds not only irresponsible, but even unhealthy. The unwavering belief in Brazilian regional military supremacy makes it project the country as an aligned regional power. However, it is the geopolitical imprudence that really impresses in all these events. Venezuela has already received direct international support from Russia and China, constituting solid cooperation with these countries. This does not seem to matter to Bolsonaro and his military advisers, who see the open opposition to Caracas as the only solution to regional tensions, instead of friendly diplomacy between neighboring countries.
From experts outside the government, the president’s actions are criticized all the time. For Ariane Roder, Brazilian political analyst, “(…) Brazil is adopting positions of automatic alignment with the United States in spite of strategic and pragmatic calculations of how this alliance can have negative impacts on trade relations, the effect on the image that the country has an international scope and that it built diplomatically. I think that these are the biggest diplomatic damages that we have to reverse and this will take decades”. In the same sense, Flávio Rocha Melo, a specialist in geopolitics, questions about the submission of a Brazilian general to the command of the United States: “The general, as part of this chain of command, will make what decisions? What decisions will he submit to within the chain of command of the United States? Is there a plan A, plan B or plan C for this? Are all these decisions in our interest? ”
Pragmatism and realism, however, do not guide current Brazilian foreign policy. The costs of this policy of deep and automatic alignment will arrive soon and, in fact, they have already begun to show signs of their dimension. This Monday, the Armed Forces of Venezuela carried out a new stage of a major military test entitled “Bolivarian Shield 2020”, consisting in a sort of surprise exercises, without any prior warning, which makes clear the alertness of the Venezuelan Defense, to which Bolsonaro, in his arrogance, believes himself to be so superior with the supposed American military support in an eventual conflict – a support that in no moment is confirmed by Donald Trump.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.