Brazil’s Foreign Policy Pragmatism

“[Brazilian President Dilma] Rousseff’s ambivalent tone on human rights in Cuba disappointed those hoping she would take a more public stand. But it will surprise few who watch her closely,” says  The Financial Times.

“As Brazil emerges as one of the new powers of the 21st century, the country is at once seeking to assert itself and its values, broadly those of any western democracy, while wrestling with its deeply entrenched traditions of non-interference in the affairs of other countries, no matter how reprehensible they may appear to be.

“This stance served the country well when it was grappling with its own demons of runaway inflation, and currency and debt crises. But the country’s economic growth over the past decade is leading to more pressure on Brazilian leaders to take a stand on global issues.

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Brazil, Eyeing UN Seat, Is Silent on Syria and Others

“Amidst the clamor of international outrage in the wake of the failed United Nations Security Council vote for regime change in Syria, Brazil has remained conspicuously silent,” writes Alex Gibson in Eurasia Review.

“Aspirations for a permanent spot on the UN Security Council are keeping Brazil from taking a bold and assertive stance on human rights and democracy in the Middle East. Commercial concerns with China and Iran, both key trading allies with Brazil who oppose intervention with Syria, are of course also on the minds of the Brazilian leadership.

“A ‘pragmatic’ sense of ‘global promotion’ has been Brazil’s predominant tack regarding the Arab Spring since it began last winter. In a subtle effort to elbow out India and South Africa from the pool of eligible contenders for a permanent UN Security Council post, Brazil has made its biggest waves by saying nothing.”

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Cuban Dissident Denied Exit Visa to Travel to Brazil

“Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez says she has again been denied permission to leave Cuba. Ms Sanchez said it was the 19th time the government had turned down her request to be allowed to travel abroad,” reports the BBC.

“She had been granted a visa to Brazil, which had raised her hopes the Cuban government would allow her to travel.

“Ms Sanchez writes a popular blog with a wide international following in which she is often very critical of the Communist authorities in Cuba.”

 

Many of Brazil’s Poor Left Behind in Growth Spurt

“Over the last few years, the Brazilian economy has powered forward, pulling tens of millions out of poverty and creating a new middle class. Indeed, just across the well-paved street from the wreckage of [the Pinheirinho favela violent raided and bulldozed by the police] is a strip mall that would be recognizable in Southern California,” says The Los Angeles Times.

“Nearby São Paulo is now the most expensive city in the Western Hemisphere, surpassing New York and London.

“Yet GDP per capita is still about a fourth of that in the United States. The minimum wage is less than $400 a month. And the violent razing of the Pinheirinho settlement — seemingly to the benefit of real estate investors in São Jose dos Campos, a middle-class suburb — brought a storm of criticism that some of the poor and marginalized are being cast aside in the race to profit from growth.

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Poor Communities in Rio Destroyed in Preparation for Olympics, World Cup

“Rio de Janeiro is giving [Maracanã, its flagship stadium] a $63.2 million facelift as it prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Maracanã will be the jewel crowning both events, with the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and the final World Cup matches held within its storied blue and gray walls,” reports AP.

“[Neighboring] Favela do Metro does not fit in that picture. It’s being bulldozed; hundreds of families have been bought out as part of a “revitalization” process for the big events and the hordes of foreigners they will draw.

Says one evicted resident:

“They’re destroying our neighborhood for a game.”

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Brazil, World Champion in Agrochemicals

“Since 2008, Brazil holds first place in world rankings of agrochemical use, even though it is not the largest agricultural producer,” says Counterpunch. “Brazil’s 2011 Human Rights report … explains that each year 5,600 people are poisoned with agrochemicals while only half the cases are reported.”

The Brazilian Ministry of Labor says in a study:

“Scientific evidence shows that exposure to pesticides can cause irrevocable health damages. For example, advanced neuropathy is a result of overexposure to organophosphates. Indeed, exposure is associated with a long list of symptoms and with significant deficits in neurobehavioral performance and abnormalities in nervous system functions.”

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Rousseff in Cuba to Discuss Trade and, Perhaps, Human Rights UPDATED

“Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff began a tour of Cuba on Monday in a visit emphasizing trade and economic cooperation … Her office said the trip would seek to bolster trade between the two nations, which rose 31 percent from 2010 to hit a record $642 million last year,” says the AP.

The heavy public accent on trade and investment does not preclude potential private conversations about human rights: earlier this month, Brazil granted a tourist visa to Yoani Sánchez, a dissident Cuban author.

“President Raul Castro on Tuesday in the capital and also tour the nearby port of Mariel, which is being expanded with the goal of turning the facility into a base for industry and oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Brazil has financed almost 80 percent of the port project’s $683 million price tag.”

UPDATE

“Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said Tuesday that her country acted properly in granting an entry visa to Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, but that it’s an internal matter for Cuba as to whether Sanchez is allowed to leave the island,” reports the AP.

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Gay Brazilian Congressman Earns Wrath of Religious Right

Jean Wyllys, Brazil’s first openly gay member of Congress, has become a hate figure for the country’s growing religious right, reports The Guardian.

“It is a confrontation that some have compared to the culture wars in the US, and one in which Brazil’s reputation as an open and tolerant rainbow nation is undermined by firebrand pastors who conduct exorcisms of lesbians and gay men and pronounce that African-Brazilian religions are the work of Satanás.

Says Wyllys:

“These churches are advancing on hearts and minds. For a long time they advanced silently – and now we are starting to realise the political force they have become.”

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Brazil Grants Visa to Cuban Dissident

“Brazil granted a tourist visa on Wednesday to Yoani Sánchez, a dissident Cuban author and blogger, ahead of a trip to Cuba this month by Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff,” reports The New York Times.

“The request by Ms. Sánchez to travel to Brazil for the screening of a documentary had emerged as a test of Cuba’s restrictive travel policies for its own citizens and Brazil’s willingness to prod a friendly government on a prominent human rights issue.”