Marcelo Rech, from Rio de Janeiro
Former minister of Foreign Relations in the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the ambassador Luiz Felipe Lampreia is author of the book “Brasil e os ventos do mundo” (in English: “Brazil and the winds of the world”), in which he shows his personal experience of 40 years in the diplomatic career and analyses the last 50 years of the International Relations, principally of Brazil.
In an almost educational form, he points to the rights and wrongs of the foreign policy and defends a greater participation of Brazil in operations of peacekeeping and in the negotiations about the climatic changes. Read the interview below:
Brazil and the winds of the world?
Brazil has opened and, so, the winds of the world are reaching Brazil more clearly, but it is necessary to watch closely what that means. It means that we have today a much more open and competitive economy, we have more presence of our enterprises abroad, we adopt measures of defense against the disloyal competition. On the whole, Brazil starts to be more present in the international scenario, as long as its voice is stronger.
Is that connected, for example, with the climatic changes?
Brazil is one of the greatest emitters of greenhouse gases and, therefore, it has an international responsibility, besides a moral responsibility with its citizens. If Brazil had remained in the position that it had previously, of intransigence regarding the discussion of the theme, the country would become inevitably isolated. The emission of greenhouse gases is something that damages the whole world. And Brazil realized that and began to act with more strength, had a prominent role in Copenhagen and is more and more in a frontline in this negotiation.
How do you see the acting of Brazil in the international plan as a whole?
This is something that is still not clear. In some cases, like in the episode of Iran, Brazil is trying to drive the game and it was defeated by 12 to 2 in the UN Security Council. That shows that Brazil, before acting more intensely, needs to know where its influence will be practiced. There are situations where Brazil has no capacity of influencing or acting.
Did the involvement of Brazil in case of Iran put the political capital of the country in risk?
It was partially lost. Brazil had no justifications to enter in this scenario. Iran is a country with which we have weak relations, it is a remote country for us, isn´t a supplier of oil, and is a country that is considered the greatest threat to the world currently. The photo of Lula raising the arm of the Ahmadinejad is a completely unnecessary stress.
Does the image of President Lula legitimize a regime that is accused of defrauding the elections and of violating systematically the human rights?
Imagine if I appear in a photo hugging the leader of the traffick of the Rocinha favela, for example. The one who loses credibility is me. Lula already has the worst image. Lula hasn´t the power of legitimizing Ahmadinejad. And the advantage that Iran took from this situation lasted only two days. They were intending to use Brazil and Turkey to gain time, no doubt.
In the book, you wonder if there will be temptation in Brazil for the development of nuclear weapons. What conclusion did you reach?
I don´t believe that there is this intention, but the preoccupation exists, since it is in the mouth of Vice President José Alencar and of Minister Samuel Pinheiro Guimarães, which say that very clearly. Others don´t say, but certainly they think. The former Minister of Science and Technology, Roberto Amaral, defended that Brazil had nuclear bomb.
You joined the diplomatic career in 1963, but already at 15, you were sure that you would be a diplomat. There were 40 years of service. In any moment, did you have doubt about the career you chose?
We had some moments, like during the military regime, that were very disappointing. For the career itself, no. There were 40 quite interesting years, I experienced many historical moments and negotiated with many outstanding people.
Recently, we spread an inquiry showing that the United States loses more and more influence in the South America. Is Brazil able to use this moment to be established as regional leader?
Brazil is becoming a paradigm. The Latin-American countries know of our economical and political importance and many of them wait Brazil define itself so they can take a stand. In general, Brazil is knowing how to take advantage of this moment. There is a problem that concerns the familiarity with very aggressive messianic leaders, like Hugo Chávez, for example. He isn´t subordinated to the Brazilian leadership in no way and frequently challenges this leadership. This posture obliges Brazil to adopt a posture very often acquiescent or passive. Even so, Brazil is a natural candidate to occupy more space in the region.
Your management as Minister of the Itamaraty is accused to have been subservient to the United States, but, in your book, you narrate several episodes in which you defended the opposite: a greater self-sufficiency regarding the North Americans. From where does this reputation come?
This is a thing of the propaganda of the PT (“Party of the Workers”). The PT has a very active and efficient machine of propaganda and marketing. That ended being “bought”, especially by the ones who don´t know the reality of the facts. Only in two periods of our history we were subservient to the United States. One with Lauro Muller, the successor of the Barão, for whom Brazil should march with the United States always (Barão used to say that it was necessary to march whenever possible). And, after, with Castelo, with the alignment of the soldiers who had fought on the Second World War beside the North Americans. Otherwise, there was never alignment. This is a lie that was turned into fact of so much being repeated.
In the current management, is said that Brazil diversified the markets and, therefore, it has less dependence of the United States.
That also isn´t true. Brazil hadn’t even conquered anything relevant, in terms of trade, with India, for example. What has been happening is that, in some markets, the trade that used to be expressionless grew 100 percent, going out from 1 percent to 2 percent. China buys soy and iron ore not for ideological-political decision, but for necessity, because it is a consumer market. This South-South business is a sort of trick for the old “third-worldism”, former anti-Americanism, which permeates the foreign policy of the current government.
Is Brazil acting right when prioritizing the conquest of a permanent seat in the UN Security Council?
As a goal, of course it is very important. To conquer a chair in the UN Security Council is a political trump of great value. However, the obsession of Celso Amorim already lasts 20 years and it implicates in the expense of the diplomatic capital in something that isn´t going to be discussed so early. On the other hand, enterprises like that one of Brazil in defense of Iran only damage the Brazilian project. Currently, there isn’t any condition of that to happen. We have to work for the future and position ourselves regarding the future. It is a good goal that mustn´t be pursued with keenness.
Why isn´t discussed the onus of a country by having a permanent seat in the Security Council?
It isn’t discussed in public because it is a complex and difficult question. Besides, it happens because it is not a prevailing theme, since Brazil isn´t in conditions of joining. This seat requires a wide discussion about our capacity of participating of a bigger number of peacekeeping operations, of Brazil to be positioned with clarity on affairs that perhaps doesn´t interest to the country to do it, as in the case of the Middle East. Not to interfere to don’t “get burned” was always a traditional rule in the Itamaraty. Brazil is a geographically peripheral country. Possibly, it isn’t an interest to Brazil to adopt too much categorical postures about Afghanistan, for example.
In this case, should Brazil invest in actions that indirectly contribute with the project of the Security Council?
Undoubtedly! And that was our posture. Brazil participated of peace missions in Mozambique and Angola in the government of Fernando Henrique. We had a battalion, in each country, of 1.200 men who, in a rotary form, acted in service of the United Nations.
In 1988, you were in Moscow and were already realizing that there would be a collapse of the Soviet Union. How the United States didn’t predict that?
Sometimes, it is an incomprehensible thing. The phenomenon happens again with the Iraq when all the intelligence services were saying that there were mass destruction weapons that until today weren´t found. At 100 meters from the Kremlin people were walking with empty bags, had money, but there was nothing to buy. The great thing Gorbachev did was to put an end to the communism, and because of that he is admired abroad and hated in Russia.
Brazil had a prominent role in the resolution of the conflict Ecuador – Peru. Can that example be repeated currently in the region?
I believe so, even because it is a classic process of diplomacy. We led two countries that spent 200 years hating each other to reach the peace. And that isn´t made with marketing, but with patience. All the time things looked like about to collapse. Diplomacy is this, it isn´t a pretty speech, but the construction of a process of understanding. At present, there is no trace of the past between the two countries. Interestingly, of the two presidents who signed the agreement, Fujimori is in jail and Jamil Mauad is exiled, prohibited to return to Ecuador. It was our greater conquest in the government of Fernando Henrique.
The conflict started practically with the arrival to the power, in Brazil, of President Fernando Henrique. Wasn´t it a risk to be protagonist in this situation?
We were very lucid on the risks that ‘leading that movement’ were implicating. We had just “arrived” to the government and we called a meeting for Rio de Janeiro. We knew that the region needed understanding. These conflicts are a hindrance.
Can we have problems, principally with those countries with which we have borders?
The borders aren´t sources of problems; on the contrary, they are sources of opportunities. We had no frontier disputes in the last 100 years. Barão solved them all.
And about the Mercosur, why enthusiasm and disappointment?
The Mercosur was too ambitious. They wanted to do in Brazil in five years what Europe took 50 years to do. Completely unrealistic goals were planned and nobody believed that too much. Brazil didn´t do sufficient effort to open its market to the neighbors and others did even less. The Mercosur was also a victim of this cleverness and closure.
Isn’t there a profusion of acronyms in the region with mechanisms that, in the end, claim the same thing?
When we analyze the Latin America, we have to consider that the imagination here is fertile and has lots of magic realism. All these things are escapes forward with new institutions, new acronyms. That isn’t the way it should be done. If it was a role of the UNASUR to solve the conflict Peru – Ecuador, the war would be happening until today.
Does it make sense to create a mechanism that excludes the United States, Canada, Portugal and Spain, as it is intended with the Community of the Latin-American and Caribbean States?
This CELAC comes to fill out a necessity that is only rhetorical. I don´t believe that it has organicity or future. An international organization will be what its members want it to be. It is not a supranational entity that imposes its will to the member-States.
What’s good and bad in the Brazilian foreign policy?
The Brazilian foreign policy had, up to little time ago, less than one year, a correct line of approximation with the Latin America and then, with the South America, priority to the multilateralism, rules of international trade; but from one year ago, it became more partial, more ideological, more “petista” (term used to refer to the members and partisans of the PT) and, in this sense, we made some mistakes. That travel to the Middle East was target of international jest. The case of Iran also is very serious. Brazil never lost a resolution in the Security Council by 12 to 2. Only that, says everything. We had against us: the United States, the Europeans, all the Africans… Everybody was against Brazil.
Does Brazil head to the Left?
Brazil is already there. The government of Fernando Henrique was of Left-Center. Lula deepened this scheme. With Dilma, this line will be strengthened. But we won´t have an alignment with the Venezuela of Chávez. The base of Chávez and of Morales in Bolivia comes from the poor people, from those who haven´t any expectation. That doesn´t happen in Brazil. Our reality is different.
Would the Brazilian society accept a more radical yaw?
No. The society is mature and the resistance would be enormous. The Brazilians mustn´t accept breaks.
Which is the international role of Brazil?
That is still not clear, but Brazil mustn´t worry in being a military power. I don´t see any reason for Brazil to invest lots of money in weapons. Brazil must have the corresponding weight to what it is in the areas of greater interest for us: negotiations in the WTO, in the defense of non-proliferation, climatic changes, and international humanitarian law. There is an excess of hunger to mediate conflicts, wanting to appear without having the elements to appear yet. Since we have no elements, we don´t achieve results and we lose credibility.