President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s statement that he intends to sever diplomatic ties with countries with leftist governments and close the Brazilian embassy in Cuba was met with concern among diplomats.
“What business can we do with Cuba? Let’s talk about human rights? It was agreed four years ago, when Dilma was president, that if someone asked for exile – in Brazil, like the Cuban doctors – they would be extradited. Is it possible to maintain diplomatic relations with a country that treats its people in this way?” said the president-elect in an interview with Correio Braziliense newspaper and Rede Vida television on Friday.
Former ambassador Rubens Ricupero classifies the closure of the Brazilian embassy in Cuba as a setback for Cold War times.
“It’s a return to the spirit of the Cold War that ended more than 30 years ago. The Cold War ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism. At that time there was that kind of attitude. Brazilian foreign policy has always had as its principle with the universality of relations. We seek to have relations with all countries, whatever the orientation of each. It is an imperative of coexistence among nations,” said the diplomat in an interview with Agência Brasil.
Former ambassador Rubens Barbosa points out that Brazil has commercial interests with Cuba and advocates that diplomatic relations be evaluated based on Brazilian interests.
“Brazil has a tendency to have relations with all countries and, in the case of Cuba, we have interests there. We export to Cuba and we invest there. Cuba owes a debt to Brazil, so we must put Brazil’s relations with Cuba and all other countries within a greater interest of Brazil. Taking the case of Cuba, we are interested in receiving the money that Brazil lent,” he told Agência Brasil.
Barbosa believes that, as a government with a clear right-wing position, there will be a change of emphasis with respect to foreign policy.
“We have to wait for the government to take over to see the intensity of this shift in emphasis on foreign policy. We have to wait to see if there is a greater interest in Brazil. It is not an ideological issue, it is not just a political issue. There are also economic and financial consequences for Brazil. This will all have to be assessed when the government takes office,” he said.
Rubens Ricupero also believes that there will be a reassessment around these issues when the new government takes office, but considers that the foreign policy so far presented by Bolsonaro is based on the ideological point of view.
“I hope that with the choice of the foreign minister, the moment the president has taken office, knowing the issues better, he will have a different orientation. But so far, it seems a very ideological policy in contradiction with what he himself says. He stated that he would have a pragmatic, non-ideological orientation as he understands it had been in the past,” he points out.
In the diplomat’s view, the intentions declared by the president-elect for countries like the United States and Israel demonstrate the ideological bias of his foreign policy. Bolsonaro said he intends to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“As stated during the campaign, we intend to transfer the Brazilian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel is a sovereign state and we respect it,” he wrote in his Twitter account last Thursday.
For Ricupero, this decision does not support itself from the pragmatic point of view. “In this region of the Middle East, there are large Brazilian interests, especially the export of chicken and beef. They are all concentrated in the Arab countries, which are against this attitude,” he explained.
In relation to the political alignment with the United States, the diplomat also points to an ideological component.
“The United States has interests different from Brazilian interests, in many things they are even competitors from Brazil. In trade, for example, in soybeans, beef, beef, pork, chicken, the United States compete with Brazil for markets outside. So an attitude like this, aligning with the US is an ideological attitude,” pointed out Ricupero.
Among the statements made by the president-elect regarding foreign policy, the statement that “China wants to buy Brazil” has also generated repercussions in the diplomatic environment because of the important trade relationship between countries, with China now the largest market for exports Brazilians.
Sérgio Amaral, Brazilian ambassador to Washington, emphasized the importance of the relationship between the two countries, in an interview with Fox News on Friday.
“China has a lot of investments in Brazil and it has become our most important trading partner. But the difference between the China-Brazil relationship and the relationship has with other countries is that whenever we say something, they accept. This depends much on us and we have to decide on the kind of policy we want to have with China., and there is no reason why we should not continue complying with that,” said Amaral.
Ricupero believes that any attitude of harassment of China by the new government would have serious economic consequences for Brazil, especially in relation to exports of soybeans, iron ore and meats.
“There is no other market of this size because, in this area, the United States competes with Brazil, especially in soy and meat. So, again, this would hurt foreign trade. If the new government follows this line, in a short time we will lose a good part of our markets, without being able to compensate with others. I believe that this would bring a gigantic loss to the Brazilian economy,” said Ricupero.